I have been active in politics for a long time and been to many meetings. The Zoom live link on Friday, to one of the weekly demonstrations by Beita villagers by which Sheffield PSC, Scottish PSC and Sheffield Labour Friends of Palestine were able to act as witnesses and discuss with Palestinians grassroot activists was one of the most moving in my life.
An Israeli settlers’ group decided to occupy a hilltop near Beita. They have no legal ownership of the land. Not under International law, not under Palestinian law not even under Israeli law. There are no state or regional plans that show an Israeli settlement. These ultra-nationalists believe the Palestinians have no rights in Palestine. They simply started building. The Israeli Army has been told to demolish the settlement. The settlers file applications, submit plans, add buildings, appeal to the Israeli courts. The owners of the land, the people from the village of Beita strongly object to their land being stolen so they protest. The army automatically sides with the illegal settlers. The result is that Palestinians get killed, including children.
An Israeli settlement at Beita further carves up the West Bank and would provide a useful link between the illegal settlement of Ariel and the illegal Israeli controlled Jordan valley. It would also cut the link from Nablus to Ramallah and the south.
What was remarkable about Friday’s programme was that we were taken to one of the regular protests. We could see the tear gas rising from the valley where the soldiers were positioned.
We could speak* to ordinary Palestinians of all ages who expressed their dignified resistance to the injustice they faced.
They did not hate Jews. They had not used violence. They were determined. What was happening was simply wrong and they wanted the world to know.
While the Palestinians did not use violence the Israeli army did.
Since 1967, the villagers have suffered 87 deaths in the face of live fire from the Israeli military. In May, two teenagers, Mohammed Said Mohammed Hamayel (16) and his friend Ahmad Zahi Ibrahim Bani-Shamsa (15) were shot dead by Israeli fire. Six children have been killed in Beita in the last year.
This in a microcosm is what is happening across the whole of Palestine. In Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah, in Al Araqib, Umm al Hiran, Hebron and so on. Israel does this because it is militarily and economically stronger. Israel does it because it is shielded from criticism. The Tory government gives military, economic and diplomatic support for Israel, while the Labour Party leadership act as cheerleaders. The various “friends of Israel” give it financial, legal, and vocal support.
Today very few people own up to having supported South African Apartheid. There will come a time when very few will support Israeli Apartheid. It is ugly and it is inhuman. No doubt some of the cheerleaders for Israel will say “we never knew that it was so bad”.
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