A local HPSC member spent September to November 2014 volunteering for the International Women's Peace Service, staying on in Qalandia. The IWPS helps vulnerable farmers with their olive harvest and makes reports about the continuing annexation of the Salfeet region (see map below).

She had been joining the weekly demonstrations in Nabi Saleh; and later worked with the Qalandia Women's Handicraft Cooperative.

Selling carpets at the checkpoint, Christmas Tree Lights and Jingle Bells!

Palestinians never cease to amaze me with the variety and vibrancy of their different activities.

On Sunday, I travelled back from Jerusalem via the obligatory checkpoint to see the Christmas Tree Light Event in Arafat Square and the surrounding streets, On the way, from the serviis, I snap a carpet seller; street selling is part of Palestinian 'entrepreneurship' and he is taking advantage of the roundabout to display his wares and the slow moving traffic to entice buyers.

Getting to Arafat Square, a large, excited crowd is already gathering. In Ramallah Christians and Muslims live peaceably side by side and often share each others celebrations. The proceedings kick off with a march of some of the local scout bands. Then, classical music is performed on the stage and there are a few speeches from politicians and church leaders, but not too many!

The message from Laila Ghannam, the female Governor of Ramallah was to turn on the light of justice on the darkness of the Occupation. The lights are switched on - after a bit of a hitch - and the crowd joins in singing Jingle Bells!



The internet is full of pictures of English shoppers frantically bargain hunting while, here in the West Bank, two people I know are hospitalized after being shot by the IOF (Israeli Occupation Force). One is a boy from Nabi Saleh, the other an Italian activist volunteering with the ISM.

In Nabi Saleh, a couple of hours before the Palestinian boy was shot here, Bassem shows me an x-ray picture of his wife Nariman's leg injury from last week. Shot with live ammunition by the IOF, she now has metal staples above the knee to help the femur fracture to heal. A call on his mobile and Bassem learns that Nariman is to be discharged and he leaves for the hospital saying, ' I don't think there will be a demonstration today as we are tired.' His remark surely is an understatement of their feelings, the villagers must be: tired of protesting against 60% of their land being stolen, tired of trying to get to their village spring; tired of getting shot at when marching to protest against this; tired of their children growing up under occupation. As I leave I spot some boys roaming around and, though I don't know the exact circumstances, later on, a stand off with the IOF puts one of them in hospital, shot in his thigh as Nariman was.

At Kufr Qadum there is at a protest march. Here Patrick, the Italian, was shot by the IOF and is still in hospital. ISM spokesperson reported that at the time he was wearing a hi-visibility jacket and was there as an observer. His injuries are the upper body which is against IOF guidelines for shooting at unarmed civilians. Nine others, all Palestinian, are injured too, but no names are tweeted; either for anonymity's sake or because it is so usual for them - a European shot and it's news, on social networks anyway.

So back to Qalandia where I am living. The checkpoint resembles the Gates of Hell, blackened concrete of the Wall, the gulag style watchtower. But 'normal' life goes on: cars either speeding through or backed up amidst the tear gas. At the same time the shebab are moving around ready to use their sling shots or bowl stones; fuelled by a mixture loathing of the army and youthful high spirits.

I don't want to give the impression that shopping isn't a feature of normal living here, whether hunting for bargains at the market or, for the better off, making boutique and patisserie purchases. And even though it is Friday, the equivalent to our Sunday in the 'West', this is what people are engaged in, even just a stones throw from the Qalandia shebab up against the Wall (excuse the puns!). A juxtaposition of consumerism and resistance unique to the West Bank.

Last Friday Hamas made a call for protests across the West Bank, focussing on the oppression in East Jerusalem and Al Aqsa mosque.

I wanted to join the proposed march from Ramallah which did not seem to be happening so I went back to Qalandia. Near the checkpoint, camera crews, equipped with bullet proof vests, hard hats and gas masks, were congregating around a open sided 'hut' in the centre of the road ready to get into position for any action.

A ladder had been erected against the Apartheid Wall by a few shebab (youths) who were climbing up to throw stones, young kids the youngest seemed to be about 7. I took a picture and returned to the press 'hub'. They were mainly international...Italian and Canadian, though Pal TV did turn up later. The awaited action did happen about 10 minutes later when more shebab appeared in the road from the camp and set fire to a tyre in the road as is their custom. The army appeared from their positions behind concrete blocks and the crews sprang into action, positioning themselves at one side of the road and then the other to dodge the worst of the tear gas.


Aware that only two weeks ago an Italian activist from ISM was hit in the face by a rubber bullet, I took the opportunity to join a bespectacled Reuters reporter, who couldn't wear a gas mask, and take shelter in one of the crew's cars. Although I was not wearing a keffiyeh, and could have been part of a press team, the shooting of the tear gas canisters seemed to be quite random often in the middle of the road just missing cars and the cameramen. 'Accidents' waiting to happen. We were joined by the reporter's Italian colleague, 'it is really kicking off in Hebron,' he announces reading his tweets.

At the same time as these events at Qalandia, Mahmoud Abbas was opening the IYSPP conference at the Ramallah Cultural Palace nearby, in Nabi Saleh was having its non-violent Friday demostration. The conference was televised and many internationals did come but I have yet to find any reports of the outcome or who actually attended; did they speak about the right of return (UN Resolution 194) or has this slipped off the agenda as being too contentious?

In contrast to the high level speeches, the Nabi Saleh march resulted in four injuries, the worst being Nariman's leg injury. She was hospitalised and has a fractured thigh bone. Netanayhu stated that since the murders in the synagogue, the IOF could not be relied on to be not to be trigger happy and this was certainly true for Nariman...her only 'crime' is to be outspoken against the Occupation and to demand human rights for Palestine. In the West Bank there is a huge and widening gap between aspirational and perhaps self serving politicos and what is happening on the ground.

I am going to a Rally/Celebration at the Qalandia camp so I leave the shebab and Israeli armies to fight it out and get a lift with the Reuters reporter who is based in Ramallah. The lift is only for 50 metres but it gets me clear of any 'accidental' tear gas canister or bullet flying my way. I ask him why he doesn't cover the the Rally and that there is exquisite embroidery at the Qalandia Women's Cooperative. He replies he has never been in the camp. I reflect that how ever much is reported, and although it is worthwhile that the resistance gets air time, unless the big picture is transmitted, what chance is there for change?

His driver is Palestinian and as I leave car he points out his family home ' you are welcome there anytime' - the Palestinian welcome surviving everything it seems.

It is almost impossible to reconcile the complexities of life in the West Bank. As I sit in the Qalandia Refugee Camp Women's Co-operative writing this, the employees carry out 'normal' activities around me - auditing, stock-taking, budget planning, making coffee etc. It could be anywhere in the 'civilised' world; but only 50 metres away is the notorious Qalandia checkpoint barring the way to Jerusalem, which was recently called a tinderbox ready to spark off the 3rd Intifada. In the background I hear the voices of children in the kindergarten below, happily playing; they are the the future of Palestine, but what sort of future will it be for them?

Will justice be achieved for them by conferences like that to be run by IYSPP this weekend in the in the Movenpick Hotel - the only 5* star hotel in the West Bank? Incidentally, the establishment of Movenpick was lauded by Hilary Clinton and others as a symbol of the Palestinian embrace of neo-liberalism. Ironically, it is only a couple of miles away from the Qalandia checkpoint where shebab (youth) burn tyres and throw stones at the occupying army who shoot tear gas and ammunition, both live and rubber-coated, from standpoints on the Apartheid Wall. The introductory blurb for this conference, the International Conference of Local Authorites in Solidarity with the Palestinian People - which is under the patronage of Mahmoud Abbas - states it will be attended by Mayors, international political figures, Academics and Civil Society representatives. But will it result in any postive outcomes for the ordinary Palestinians or will it just be another talking shop to be added to the stack of UN Resolutions that are ignored by Israel? Is this also a PA PR exercise that has no substance?

It is difficult to see if the UN IYSPP has had any postive effects on ordinary Palestinians who continue to try to live their lives. Certainly not in Gaza. Moreover, the recent escalation of retaliatory violence in Jerusalem gives Israel more excuse to brand all Palestinians as potentential terrorists. Note that the synagogue where 4 Israelis were killed is in the illegal settlement of Har Nof which was built on the land of Deir Yassin, destroyed in 1948 and the villagers massacred; and that two shootings yesterday, one of a teenager in the neck in a village near Ramallah and another of a 10 year old in Gaza, have gone unreported. Obama and Cameron are not wringing their hands over their injuries which could prove fatal. So it is up for us campaigners to expose hasbara, report the unreported and put things in perspective through social media and lobbying! Give Palestinians support in spite of the UN!

19 November 2014

Salfit governorate stretches from the wall in the west to the Ariel conglomerate in the east - that and the other settlements cut through and appropriate villages' land.

Wadi Qana on the map is a beautiful valley surrounded by 7 settlements on the hills. It is Deir Itsiya land but Israel has its eye on it to turn into a natural park .....20 pal farmers were there 10 years ago...now only one because of settler harassment

Click map to see it in full-size.