Israel-Palestine: reality of occupation, challenge of peace

The following report on an event at Edinburgh’s Just Festival on 6Aug2013:

Submitted by Simon Barrow*) on 6 August 2013 – 3:08pm
http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/18744

“Of course Israel has a right to exist… but with Palestine, not at the expense of the Palestinians.” That was the message of an ecumenical accompanier speaking today (6th August 2013) at Just Festival in Edinburgh.

A good body of people gathered in the Persian Tent at St John’s (venue 27), Just Festival‘s most intimate venue, to hear a moving and informative talk by Tricia Griffin on her time on the West Bank.

Tricia was in the region for three months under the auspices of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), which is coordinated globally by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and in Britain and Ireland by the Quakers (Religious Society of Friends).

EAPPI promotes nonviolent observation to assist conflict reduction. It favours a just-peace to benefit all in the region. It draws on volunteers from some 20 countries in Europe, north America and beyond.

The EAPPI programme enables people to talk to both Israelis and Palestinians, to link with peace activists, and also to understand the reality for Palestinians of life under occupation, including the seizing without compensation of land, water and the means of livelihood. For example, the settlement of Efrat [OC4P’s emphasis] overflows its sewage onto agricultural land, making the produce there unsaleable. In other areas schools have been similarly effected [sic].

Both the settlements and what some call a ‘peace wall’ and others a barrier also hinder transport and travel, disrupting the Palestinian economy very seriously. The barrier is 708km, more than twice the length of the agreed Green Line. It is also built 85% on Palestinian land.

“People on both sides of the conflict naturally think they are right, and they have various opinions,’ observed Ms Griffin. “But there is also fact to contend.”

Factually, she pointed out, settlements are illegal under International Humanitarian Law, in violation of article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention – underlined in 2004 by the International Court of Justice. Israeli groups working for peace and opposing the occupation often feel marginalised, and value the chance to have their voices and concerns heard. They include Rabbis for Human Rights, Breaking the Silence (Israeli veteran soldiers), Women in Black (a group of whom also meet regularly in Edinburgh) and a variety of conscientious objectors.

Villages and settlers are very close together, and there are frequent attacks on villagers. Rabbis are among those who help with care of olive groves and other tasks to support local Palestinians. Both Jews and Arabs also work together to rebuild Palestinian homes demolished by Israeli troops.

“Peace and justice is all we ask, and to have our dignity. Our hope comes from our faith in God, our belief in nonviolence and the love of God,” said one activist.

[EAPPI] brings internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation. Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace. When they return home, EAs campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law and implementation of UN resolutions.

© Simon Barrow
NOTES and LINKS:
* EAPPI: http://www.eappi.org

* The Just Festival, also known simply as Just, runs from 2-26 August 2013 […] at St John’s Church (Princes Street and Lothian Road [Edinburgh]) and some 27 other venues, and combines artistic and performance style events with conversations, talks, films, exhibits and other ways of exploring how to live together creatively in a mixed-belief society.

* For more information on Just Festival, visit http://justfestivalnews.blogspot.com

* Ekklesia is a sponsor of Just Festival. Our news, reporting and comment is aggregated at: www.ekklesia.co.uk/justfestival

*) Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia and a media adviser for the 2013 Just Festival.

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About Oban Concern for Palestine

. . . supporting people in Palestine and Israel who oppose the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Oban Concern for Palestine are a group of Argyll residents who share an interest in Palestine, a friendship with its people and a deep concern for their welfare. And, for the sake of Israel, we want to encourage the government of Israel to comply with international law. Oban Concern for Palestine believe that the oppression of the Palestinian people is a grave wrong, that the government of Israel is in violation of international law, and that we have a duty to speak up and do what we can to bring it to an end. We welcome new members and supporters. For more information, please contact obanconcern4palestine AT gmail DOT com • +44 7747 300 062 • Oban Concern for Palestine, c/o Stronchriach, Rowan Road, Oban, Argyll, PA34 5TY, UK
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