RAMALLAH DIARY

Index of Diary Days: 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13

INTRODUCTION

This is an on-the-spot record of a two-week visit by a member of Oxford Palestine Solidarity Campaign (Oxford PSC) to the West Bank in June 2003. Reports were written daily and posted by email. It gives an immediate eyewitness view. The visit was in two parts with different aims as explained below. Photos are also by the author, Tony Richardson (a car worker).

1) Ramallah: 2 - 8 June

Ramallah has similarities to Oxford: a similar sized population, universities, schools and hospitals, and many civil society groups as well as commerce, trade unions and cultural ventures. Everyday life is very different, of course, because it is subject to military occupation by the Israeli Defence Force.

The project of forming friendship links between Oxford and Ramallah originated in March 2002, when Israeli tanks rolled into Ramallah. Volunteer observers from Oxford who were in Ramallah at the time called for support. So we formed the Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association (ORFA) which includes people from Oxford and surrounding area, representing a wide range of organizations.

Our main aim is to build grass-roots links, to offer people in Ramallah support in terms of making their stories known and other practical ways, and to reduce their sense of isolation and desperation.

As you will see from Tony's diaries, people he met had concrete ideas of ways we could help, such as the trade unionist who wants training workshops on how to increase democracy in their trade unions.

It's a two-way gain, of course. We have much to learn from the resilience and ingenuity of our counterparts in Ramallah who manage to continue with daily life against sometimes devastating odds.

Another delegation is going in September 2003 to build further links between Oxford and Ramallah.

2) Nablus: 9 - 14 June

Having undergone training in London with the ISM (International Solidarity Movement), Tony went on in his second week to Nablus, a town to the south of Ramallah which had been under occupation and curfew for large parts of the past year.

The aim of ISM observers going to the Occupied Territories is to try to reduce the level of violence and humiliation handed out by the Israeli Defence Force, for example at checkpoints. Volunteers help with the olive harvests and try to prevent settlers beating up Palestinian farmers. They stay with families in houses that are threatened with demolition. Readers will probably know about the death of Rachel Corrie, a young American who was crushed to death by a bulldozer that had come to demolish the house of a pharmacist in Rafah, a town in the south of the Gaza Strip. Despite this and other deaths of "internationals" many volunteers continue to come forward.

In this second part of the diary, Tony is with the ISM in the refugee camp of Balata attached to the town of Nablus, and a nearby village called Tel.

Organisations to contact for further information:


Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association: contact email: coxhead@onetel.net.uk

Palestine Solidarity Campaign: www.palestinecampaign.org

International Solidarity Movement: www.palsolidarity.org

Israeli Campaign Against House Demolitions: www.icahd.org

Palestine Monitor: www.palestinemonitor.org

Rapprochement: www.rapprochement.org