SPSC Edinburgh 13th June 2016
West Bank - Eye Witness Report
Monday 13the June 7pm
SPSC Edinburgh Office
Presented by Gerry Coutts
In April of this year Gerry and Basia Gordon visited a village called Jayyous, Palestine in the West Bank. They were hosted by the famiy of Abdel-Latif.
Gerry and Basia travelled from Glasgow to Edinburgh to present a summary of their trip to the Edinburgh branch of the SPSC.
Accompanied by slides Gerry told us about the day to day life of the Jayyous villagers with regards to the children's schooling, their family life and their endeavours to farm and keep rightful ownership of their land.
SCHOOL & EDUCATION
The children attend school from 8.30 am to 1.30 pm. The classrooms appear sparse with nothing on the walls. There is little or no equipment and they have no computers. They have access to the internet only via their mobile phones. Ultimately they will be ill equipped for the modern world of technology.
The food provided is free and nutritious being grown and provided from their lands. There are crisps and chocolate available but they have no money to purchase them.
During their visit to the school a meeting had been arranged to discuss the support required for three children whose homes were to be demolished that day by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).
A number of the children expressed their desire ultimately to become doctors or engineers which they see as the profession most needed by their viillage.
LAND & FARMING
There is a situation of on-going relentless theft of land and resources. Access to their land is under total control of the IDF soldiers who are constantly heavily armed with machine guns. Check points open for 5 minutes in the morning and then 5 minutes in the evening. This can change at a moments notice. In some circumstances access to their land is only allowed once a year, at harvest time, therefore the land cannot be nurtured.
The Israelis sometimes use pseudo-legal means where, the "law" (as in a pre-1948 British Mandate entitles the state just to take land from its owner if it is over 50% rock-covered).
To maintain cultivation lemon trees are planted and harvested. Farmers are held up at check points on their way to the market and delayed until the markets have finished there-by being deliberately left with their crops unsold. A farmer negotiated a contract with a Jordanian company to export his crop of thyme. Just before the export, the licence was revoked by the Israelis.
Gerry was told by Abdel-Latif that the land, owned by several generations of his family, was advertised for sale in an obscure journal which he could never have had acesss to. When the sale of the land was contested by him through legal channels, the ultimate result was a one to one confrontation by Abdel-Latif and a solder, the latter stating that if he set foot on his land he, the soldier would have no option but to shoot him.
There is a recurrence of the theme of sadistic pleasure the Israelis seem to obtain in using their totally undemocratic idea of the "law" and their (again unaccountable) state power over the Palestinians not only to control every possible aspect of their lives but deliberately to demoralize them at every opportunity.
We heard the story about the villages wanting to hook up their sole water pump to the main electricity grid (since grid power is cheaper than a generator driven supply). They made prolonged. sustained efforts to obtain permission from the Israelis and, finally they were granted permission, The Israelis then waited until all of the expensive pipes and cables had been bought and delivered ready to be used before revoking permission on spurious grounds.
Gerry and Basia experienced the kindness and the hospitality of their hosts remarking that they could barely cope with the enormous amounts of food given to them at meal times. The family unit is of very great importance to the Palesinians, and children are much loved and desired.
Having been at the receiving end of Palestinian hospitality and now having returned to Scotland, Gerry said he felt all the more empowered and obligated do everthing he could to deliver effective solidarity with the Palesinaian people.