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
Organisations to contact for further information:
Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association: contact email: email@example.com
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