Yesterday we celebrated a rebuilding camper’s birthday with a spontaneous bout of dancing to Frank Sinatra over breakfast! We then spent the day away from the rebuilding site and went first to Ramallah to get to know the Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq, one of the oldest human rights organisations in the Middle East, established in 1979. It is currently looking at corporate complicity in human rights concerns related to settlement goods and trade agreements. Al Haq also has fantastic resources and papers on their website that can be used in lobbying political representatives and providing statistics and legal grounding in international law.
After a stroll through the busy trading city of Ramallah our next appointment was with Military Court Watch. Gerard Horton provided brilliant analysis of Israel’s methods of collective punishment and creating fear through mass intimidation by arresting people during nightly raids, including many children. We heard that 163 young people (between the ages of 12 – 18) are currently held in Israeli prisons, and that the most common offence is for throwing stones. Gerard believes that the two cases that should be brought before the International Criminal Court becuase there would be no dispute of the facts are the construction of settlements, which constitute a war crime; and the forcible transfer of prisoners. The second part of the presentation was given by the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling . We learned about the traumatic repercussions that juvenile arrests have on Palestinian families and especially, of course, on the young ones themselves.
Next we went to visit the Taybeh beer factory where we learned about the impact that Israel’s occupation has on this business. Taybeh is a rather old and quite beautiful Christian village which made beer-brewing possible. The Khoury family started the business in 1995 when the Oslo agreement started, a time which set high hopes. Though Oslo failed, the beer soon became popular and today is exported not only to Israel but also to Europe and Japan. However, the occupation pays its toll, and we heard of how the cost of transport to Haifa can be twice as much as that from Haifa to Japan. Sometimes the beer is withheld by the Israeli authorities and misses the ship it was meant to be on, and a case was given about how the order sat at the border for a whole week. The checkpoints for commercial use between Palestine and Israel are open only for certain hours, which causes many problems.
We had dinner at Peter’s Place, a fabulous restaurant in Taybeh where we enjoyed more traditioanl Palestinian food and the cool beer. It is brewed in accordance with the German purity law of 1516.
– Claus, Germany