Progress in understanding, a petition from our MPs

Highlighting the continued relevance of international law and human rights

Several important moments are happening while the world seems to stand still. Election campaigns are in progress, negotiations about trade and workers' rights. Our food security is in doubt. letter to parliment

The effects of the global pandemic are felt in every country. Those with less economic means are not able to isolate, they need to work. Therefore they are more at risk of catching and transmitting Covid-19, with less chance of treatments or access to medicines the effects are compounded. Some arrangements have been made to allow Palestinian workers access to or the chance to stay in Israel to reduce need for travel. Both countries depend on each other economically, Israel needs workers and Palestine wages, yet the largest burden falls on the poorer members of the communities.

The American proposal for Peace trough Prosperity fails to identify the causes of Palestinian hardship, the ongoing occupation. The proposal is now being recognised not only as ill-founded but illegal and immoral as well. 127 British MPs putting their names to a letter in recognition of this. No move by Israel to annex occupied territories is possible without breaking international law. While it will also be held accountable, by the International Criminal Court, for any war crimes.

A judgement by an Israeli court holds the Palestinian Authority liable for some $2billion relating to unlawful killings of Israelis by Palestinians. If we are to see the equality that recognition of Palestine should ensure this would mean that many times that figure is owed by the Israeli Government for civilian deaths caused by their actions and intent, something that is an ongoing reality. This unfortunately follows the flawed logic of the American Peace for Prosperity Plan. Assuming that all disagreements may be settled by a simple cash payment fails to recognise the true harm caused by deprivation of land, livelihood, basic freedoms and continual terror of the Israeli occupation. No cash payment can substitute for the basic rights which are needed to forge a peaceful future.

It is therefore reassuring that such a strong petition, signed now by 142 MPs, should come now. This petition is a recognition of the fundamental importance of human rights and international law. It is essential that we are able to depend on mutual respect for understanding the ability to speak up when we can recognise such blatant injustice.

This petition is an act of solidarity long overdue that does recognise some of the inequalities we witness most explicitly in the geopolitics of the Middle East. As now more than ever we need expressions of friendship and support and being made more possible.

As our network continues to grow we look forward to seeing significant steps in building a stronger understanding and more significant gestures of friendship. Join us in making friends and building bridges.

Keeping in Touch to Share a Little Hope

Online While the World is in Lock Down,

Sir Vincent Faen hosts a discussion about the ongoing role of Britain in Palestine, 2nd April 3pm British Summer Time

The response from many governments around the world to the current global crisis has shown how to turn a tragedy into a pandemic of epic proportion. Curfews around the world are now stopping business and normal social activities in the wealthier countries. It is thought that countries without the ability to shut down, isolate to prevent spread of the virus and medical infrastructure to treat the most vulnerable the pandemic will wreak havoc.

Palestine has been shut down many times by military curfew and restrictions on travel. Palestinians understand the feeling of isolation, yet they are not shut off from the effects of CoVid-19. Nor are they immune to the abundance of misinformation that is circulating about it. The internet allows all sorts of stories to be shared without knowing the background or truth behind them. Responding to the threat of the spread of the virus in Palestine has seen telecommunication companies sending SMS messages to keep people informed about news. Social influencers have been recruited to counter misinformation. Yet the truth is the effect of this pandemic will be based on factors beyond their control. There may be little we can do to solve many of these issues but as friends we can reach out, show that we still are here for each other.

We may have a lot to learn from Palestine and their response to crisises. The Freedom Theatre, Jenin, has been sharing dailyonline. story time for children while many online meetings have been hosted to keep up to date with developments.

Britain and Palestine than and now One opportunity to join in this discussion may be had on the 2nd Aprill, 2020, when Sir Vincent Faen speaks about how Britain is continuing to play an important role in the ongoing occupation.

Register here to join in.

Stay in touch, let us know what you are doing to reach out at this time of international crisis. Share your stories and a little hopepalestinetwinning @ yahoo.com.

2020 A prosperous year for the Twinning and Friendship Network

Kennington Bethlehem hosted our annual confernece celebrating the many successes of last year and looking forward to some more significant milestones.

On February 29th Kennington Bethlehem hosted a full program focused on questioning the ongoing expansion of settlements on Palestinian land. Speakers included Avi Shlaim, Emeritus Professor of International Relations St Anthony's College, Oxford. Who talked about the "Zionist settler colonialism and Palestinian Resistance". While Alamara Kwaja Bettum and Shahd Hammouri, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights outlined the legal position on "Israeli expansion and International Law". Finally Dr Husam Zomlot, Ambassador and Head of Palestine Mission in the UK, gave an empassioned talk about his recent appointment and the role of Twinship and linking in realtions with Palestine.

Our delegates' workshops in the afternoon looked at sharing good practise and experiencs from the last year. A vibrant conference with many tales of growth and spreading experiences of increasing solidarity with Palestine throughout the UK.

Sheffield celebrated the raising of the Palestinian flag, as it became the first city to officially recognise Palestine as a state.

St Albans shared stories of continued resistance to settler expansiona and land confiscation. Sharing stories of destruction and displaement of Bedouin villages.

While Oxfrod Ramallah celebrated the official twinning of two municipal councils.

Looking back on an active year that included a conference in Palestine. While looking forward to some concrete plans and burdgeoning relationships. All in all a fantastic celebration of grassroots organisations,ready to face the challenges ahead.

Where is the justice in the US Proposals for Peace?

The BPFTN joins many other concerned groups recognising the US "Peace Plan" as an escalation of annexation of land and discrimination against Palestinians.

Last year alarms were raised over noises coming out of the White House. The declaration of Jerusalem of as Israel's capital was an outrageous land grab and deprived Palestine of its historic capital. The proposed "Peace Plan" united UK-based humanitarian, development, human rights and faith organisations in questioning what the implications might be.

Now the plan has been made public it appears to breach international law and controvene all UN resolutions. Advocating the annexation of Palestinian Land and excluding Palestinians from Jerusalem and denyign them a border with any other country but Israel. Such a move will further the already devastating human impacts of occupation. It is sure to increase rates of demolition of Palestinian structures and displacement of families. It will add to the already significant difficulties Palestinains face in accessing healthcare and education. There is no space within the plan for a healthy and sustainable Palestinian economy or society.

Palestinians have a collective right to self-determination. They have the right to live in peace. UN resolutions and International Law, supported by the UK government, have frequently reaffirmed this right. Undermining these institutions have far reaching implications for the value and rule of international law.

The UK has repeatedly stated that annexation of part of the West Bank 'would be contrary to international law, and works against any hope of peace'. We feel it is now the UK government needs to step up and reaffirm its commitment to international law.

The BPFTN would like to add support to the following organisations who have spoken up against this plan.

  • ABCD Bethlehem
  • Care International UK
  • Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD)
  • Christian Aid
  • Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu)
  • Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel -UK and Ireland (EAPPI UK and Ireland)
  • Embrace the Middle East
  • Friends of Birzeit University (Fobzu)
  • Friends of Nablus and Surrounding Areas (FONSA)
  • Interpal
  • Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR)
  • Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)
  • Sabeel-Kairos UK
  • War on Want
  • Welfare Association
  • Quakers in Britain

    Full text of te statement is available here.

    We would also like to recognise the efforts of Rushanara Ali MP leading a cross party group of signatories in sending a letter to the British Prime Minister. This letter highlights the affront this plan is to international law. it also reminds him of his own words as he described a stark choice' to have a two-state solution or else you have a kind of apartheid system '. Is the UK government, in welcoming this plan, endorsing apartheid?

    You can read the letter here.

    Increasing pressure should be being felt on the government as calls for "British Values"

    Oxford's New Twin Has New Sign

    Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association : an official twinning

    Looking back on 2019 for signs of progress for twinning we see a significant step for Oxford and and Ramallah. The Lord Mayor of Oxford and the Mayor of Ramallah signed a Twinning Agreement on the 11th March. Now this link is included in signs as you approach Oxford. Everyone entering the city by road is made aware of the close, active ties of friendship built by volunteers in the Oxford Ramallah friendship Association over the past 15 years.


    The signing of this agreement was initiated in July 2018 with Oxford City Council backing the idea of a formal twinning, supported by a public petition. This became an Early Day Motion in parliament. Finally a memorandum of understanding being signed in December 2018 before the official signing in March.

    Official City twinning is seen as an act of city diplomacy intended to give people from both cities more chances to share their culture ideas and foster friendships. These friendships help develop understanding and build networks that can reduce feelings of isolation and fear, while helping to recognise and realise our common hopes and dreams. Ramallah and Oxford are similar in size, population and both have significant universities and hospitals, trade union, commerce and civil society groups.

    The Mayor of Ramallah, Mr Mousa Hadid, said “Through signing this agreement, we confirm that together we can make a difference.“

    Lord Mayor of Oxford, Councillor Colin Cook, said of the agreement, “The signing of this agreement marks a new phase in our relationship and I wish it every success in the future.“

    Nikki Marriott, secretary of the Association, said: “Our friendship links with Ramallah have helped to share cultural understanding through video, dance, youth and women's visits.“

    The agreement makes Ramallah Oxford's seventh twin city. Oxford’s other twin cities are Bonn, Leiden, Grenoble, Leon, Wroclaw and Perm in Russia. We hope that being part of this group will see 2020 the start of more projects on the ground in both Ramallah and Oxford city. Projects that will bring people together to work on issues such as the ongoing status as refugees, the struggle for self-determination, the right of return and liberation from so many years of occupation.

    2020 looks to be a very interesting year.

    Three Peaks to Raise Awareness for Palestine

    Hiking across Britain

    Last month Samiha Abdeldjebar completed the Three Peaks Challenge and was proud to fly the Palestinian flag on the highest summits of the UK's three nations: Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon.

    Snowden summit

    Travelling alone and by public transport between the three summits over a total of 6 days. Samiha climbed: 3,408metres ( 3 peaks combined ) she hiked about 24 miles ( 38.6 kilometres ) in all weather conditions - sun, fog, rain, and very strong cold winds ).

    As she travelled: approximately 1592.3 miles, mostly by train, coach and local buses; including stops in Glasgow, Fort William, Keswick, Penrith, Manchester, Llanberis and Conwy she carried the Palestinian flag to promote the twinning with Palestine.

    Scafell summit

    Aiming to raise awareness and funds promoting awareness of the activities of the Bradford on Avon Friends of Palestine and the BPFTN. Both groups work to promote, develop and nurture friendship, understanding and solidarity between British and Palestinian people.

    The funds raised will be split 50/50 between the two groups. Grassroots connections can be very powerful and are crucial for the Palestinians, who feel they have been abandoned by the international community. These links require dedication and hard work to build and maintain. Networks of friendship and solidarity create stronger, more powerful connections between us here in the UK, and with our friends in Palestine, deeper understanding and increase possibilities of action and cooperation.

    With ambitious projects for 2020 Bradford on Avon Friends of Palestine are doing all they can to support two remarkable youth projects in the West Bank with which they have long-lasting links.

    The first is in a village called Tubas and is run by two inspirational educators and youth workers Jalal Khudairi and Abed Alraziq. They visit the UK in 2015, with inspiring stories about their work. They now seek support for a range of projects involving sport, theatre and promoting higher education opportunities.

    The second is to support the amazing Ghirass Centre in Bethlehem; a haven for the youth of the city and surrounding area. Providing educational and creative opportunities, as well as psychological support to cope with the realities of occupation, and build the best possible future. Currently the Centre is facing quite a desperate situation due to swingeing cuts to its funding.

    Finally they also have an ambitious plan for 2020 to organise a conference here in Wiltshire, exploring issues around mental health in Palestine and Israel.

    Summit Ben Nevis

    The fundraising raised £1,525 for the work of our network and the Ghirass Centre. We look forward to sharing some of the projects this has helped support.

    Thank you for all the support.

    Is there a platform for equality of speech?

    At a time where Palestine is facing a renewed violence, the onslaught on Gaza unchallenged. We witness a continuing removal of Palestinians from their lands, with simple freedoms denied. Systematicatic denial of access to water and sanitation, the ability to move about there homeland all prevented through a military occupation. We ask what is being done to uphold the value of respect and dignity we hold dear? what response is there as a vast majority of Palestinians continue living as refugees within their homeland.

    Members of the BPFTN have joined with the Palestine Platform in this time of humanitarian emergency, calling for recognition of Palestine's struggle with a legacy of injustice and ask for their their rights and welfare to be defended.

    America's disregard for any suggestion of a Palestinian presence is forcefully sidelining any dialogue as they assume territorial positions. Stealing their land at a terrifying pace and displaying a conceit for international law that prohibits any possibility of progress toward peace. We ask people to understand how our foreign policy effects the welfare all Palestinians.

    The Palestine Platform's statement is available here calls for us to honour interantional law. To uphold thevalues we hold dear in our lives, of respect and dignity. We are curious what is the response of the British Govenrment? Have we lost all sense of what a foreign policy is? What is the understanding of the political class of te plight of people suffering a legacy of oppression? The BPTFN welcomes this motion to honour the rule of law and work towards a peaceful, prosperous 21st Century.

    Please share this statement and get in touch if you want are looking to make some positive steps toward protecting human rights and dignity. Helping build a just and prosperous consensus.

    How can the British Government not condemn Israel's contniued use of Military force against civilians?

    The Britain Palestine Friendship and Twinning Network condemns the continued actions of the Israeli military. We send, on behalf of all our groups, our deepest sympathy to those in Palestine who have lost loved ones through these brutal acts. We hope those injured in the protest make a speedy recovery.

    The criminal use of live fire by military snipers against those protesting the appalling conditions in Gaza cannot be left unanswered. We uphold the right of an occupied people to resist their occupation, as the UK Government recognises the right to peaceful protest.

    We ask the British Government should immediately suspend the supply of armaments from this country to Israel. Furthermore, it should, as a matter of urgency, concert with our European partners to put pressure on the Israeli government to reach a just and peaceful settlement which addresses the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people, and respects their right to self-determination, including sovereign statehood.

    2018 - Seventy Years in Exile

    This year we have seen one hundred years since Balfour's Declaration for Palestine. Now we mark Seventy years of the ongoing Nakbe.

    As a group we are focusing on the issue of child prisoners and assymetry of justice within the occupied Palestinian Territories.

    We are pleased to release a short film looking at some of the work being done by our groups.

    Building from Education and Twinning

    Recognising the issue of Palestinian Prisoners within twinning links

    We are delighted to have hosted two successsful conferences in 2017. Our first in hounslow showed the vibrant nature of twinning in Britain and the growing number of groups that share the belief that working together in friendship building strong links between communies is the way builda stable and sustainable future. The second in Birzeit University, demonstrating the interst and diversity of our partners in Palestine. Groups representing many areas of Palestine came together to discuss ways in which benefits are acrued from investment in linking and twinning. Building understanding from the basis of personal understanding and compassion.

    We spent 2016 focusing on educaiton links. Highlighting the opportunities for official links between schools, facilitated bythe British Council's Connecting Clessrooms initiative. As well as the incresing links betweeninstitutes of higher education that allow mature students from Palestine to study for a year in British Institutes of higher education. We also acknowledge the many diverse and challenging projects that our members under take in informal education links. Bringing volunteers and youth together, lnking community organisations to share knowledge and skills, professionals of all dimension meeting and ;earning from each other.

    2017 is a significant year in Palestinian histroy. Marking 100 years since the Balfour declaration. 50 years since the Six Day War, which saw the establishment of the occupation still in place today. The challenges faced by Palestinians in their daily lives require that we examine this history to foster true understanding and cooperation in our work. For 2017 we are looking at the issues of Palestinians held in detantion under Isreali Military Law and how this impacts family and social life. Detainees include children and adults, many of whom do not have information about the length of their incarcaration.

    We hope that our network continues to grow and deepen its commitment to realising lasting bonds of friendship between many levels of our societies. We look froward to an autumn launch of a DVD to promote our groups' work and a 2018 conference in Liverpool.

    Palestine accompanied, not alone

    Andree Ryan considers some ways that we can make peaceful links of friendship with partners in Palestine:

    British voluntary organisations, in churches, towns and villages across the United Kingdom, have created links of friendship or established formal twinning ties with a partner in Palestine.

    Exchanges benefit both partners: think of art, culture, craft and cooking. There are so many diverse ways to create mutual support and mutual respect. People who participate in twining schemes make lots of friends, perhaps visit their twin and receive visitors in turn, learn new skills and find that lots of people in their community are ready and willing to support them. The scope of activities can be huge, depending on individual choice, what matters to the group.

    The Britain Palestine Friendship and Twinning Network (BPFTN) is an organisation with links to Quakers that offers support to new groups here in the UK. It has a list of prospective places/organisations in Palestine seeking friendly contact with British potential partners. In my area we have had for 5 years a friendship link with the village of Sabastiya in the Northern West Bank (www.hafsa.org)

    Why build friendship with Palestine? Palestinians have been living under Israeli military occupation for forty-eight years. They feel isolated – that is one of the many effects of occupation - and welcome contact with the outside world. Such a link helps to give them the moral and practical support they need to survive and look ahead.

    The UK has a tradition of supporting the oppressed. Friendship and Twinning Associations are a two-way street - we form lasting friendships and learn all about resilience in the face of adversity. Palestinians gain practical and visible support benefiting people on the ground, including those suffering the greatest hardship. Our activities stay away from rhetoric and “politics” to address everyday concerns, sharing experiences, breaking that artificial isolation.

    If you decide to take part in a twinning project, the choice of focus for cooperation is yours. Some groups have sent volunteers to Palestine to teach English or other skills, others have concentrated on helping communities to become economically self-sufficient (such as promoting tourism from the UK, buying chickens, or beehives, or organising training). Some have invited Palestinian artists and theatre groups to perform in the UK; others have sent football coaches. Some have offered advocacy on how to obtain support in Palestine and have lobbied our own government on practical issues affecting their Palestinian twin - often with good results. What matters is what works, for you and for your Palestinian partners.

    Andree is a member of Hanwell Friends of Sebastiya

    BPFTN: Tour of Palestine, 2015

    Jean Fitzpatrick (BPFTN Treasurer and Joint Membership Secretary) accompanied a group from the Camarthen area of Wales on a visit to Palestine exploring history, culture and potential links.

    Arriving in Jerusalem on May 11th the group spent time exploring Jerusalem and Bethlehem. In Bethlehem they visited Aida Refugee Camp and Wi'am Centre for Reconciliation. In Wi'am they found an oasis of calm, close to a check point and hard up against the wall the group learnt about the women's and children's groups activities.

    By the Wall at Wi'am The Garden at Wi'am At the entrance to Aida Refugee Camp

    Moving north the group headed to Sebastiya and a beautiful guest house. From there they visited four villages actively seeking friendship links and others who wanted to share stories of life under occupation. In Taybeh they visted schools.

    Kindergarten in Taybeh The group being welcomed in Rummameh

    In Rummameh - north west of Jenin - they again came close to the wall. At this stage the wall becomes an electrified fence, dividing families and separating people from their land.

    Burqin Church which dates from the 4th century C.E.

    In Burqin they gained an insight into the history of the land and peoples. Visiting a church founded in the 4th Century C.E.

    Commemorating the Nakba (15 May) in Sabastiya

    While all the while gaining an understanding of the difficulties which are part of everyday life. Over a week the tour touched upon some of the issues that twinning seeks to understand.

    First-time visitors were impressed and moved by everyone we have met and talked to.

    We have also widened our network of Palestinian friends and really feel the network can grow with their commitment and support.


    Contact us for more details or to start talking about tours and visits palestinetwinning@yahoo.com