We need to talk about Palestine
Our first Conversation Circle of 2020, 'We need to talk about Palestine', (19 Feb 2020) focussed on two perspectives from the region: Fatin Al Tamimi, the chairperson of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and Patricia Owens, who recently returned from three months with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).
Fatin is a Palestinian/Irish citizen, living in Ireland since 1988. Her main goal is to raise awareness and work on ending oppression, inhumanity and injustice in the world and strive for peace in Palestine. Fatin believes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement, is one of the most effective ways to promote Palestinian rights and achieve justice.
Patricia has worked in the area of education for a number of years. In August 2019 Patricia volunteered in Yanoun, a small rural village in the North of the West Bank for three months with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). As an EAPPI volunteer, she provided a protective presence and monitored human rights abuses.
The event opened with a presentation from Patricia on her three months as an ‘EA’ (Ecumenical Accompanier). She reminded us that the Occupied Palestinian Territories are roughly the same size geographically as Co. Galway with a population which is 25 times the size of Co. Galway. She shared her experience of Yanoun which is a very vulnerable community of an small and ageing population is close proximity to new Israeli settlements and outposts. In Israeli law, outposts are distinguished from settlements authorized by the Israeli government. This distinction between illegal outposts and "legal" settlements is not endorsed by international law, which considers both a violation. There has been an international presence of EAPPI in Yanoun since 2002. Patricia volunteered accompanying farmers and shepherds who were grazing their flocks on their own land outside the village, and were often approached aggressively by Israeli settlers who wanted to push them back into the village.
Fatin shared her work with the IPSC, who are not aligned with any political party. It aims to promote awareness of Palestine as a human rights and justice issue, as well as celebrating Palestinian culture and showing solidarity with Palestinian refugees all over the world. The IPSC is also promoting the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement which is a civil society action since 2005. The Occupied Territories Bill* is another way to support justice for Palestine and it is currently passing through the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The conversation focused on the importance of an international connection with Palestine, and the hope this can give people living in Palestine. The situation can often appear to be hopeless and people living in Gaza and the West Bank demonstrate huge resilience in the face of occupation. The EAPPI programme provides for ‘principled impartiality’ to uphold human rights and international law. Another example provided was of the EA team accompanying Palestinian children to school where they must pass Israeli soldiers and trying to maintain calm in a tense atmosphere.
As Development Educators, we are urged to keep Palestine on our agenda as a global justice issue. We have an important role to play in raising awareness of the lived realities of people in Palestine and the affect on their access to education and employment. Showing solidarity with Palestinians can happen through school-twinning initiatives, volunteering in Palestine, raising the issue with our elected representatives and considering the BDS movement within our own organisational procurement policies and personal lives as consumers.
*Trócaire has a guide of FAQ on the Bill here: https://www.trocaire.org/news/what-you-need-know-about-occupied-territories-bill