How it all began

In October 2004, a workshop on Twinning with Palestine at the European Friendship Forum brought together a number of different groups who were working on some sort of twinning project with Palestine, and people from Palestine who commented on the usefulness of this sort of project. They asked for some sort of co-ordination so that there was not repetition and that villages and refugee camps as well as the main towns could find friends and supporters in Britain.

In September 2005, the Twinning with Palestine conference in Camden brought together representatives of nearly 20 groups across Britain who were at some stage of making friendship links. This included towns with established twinning links, groups who had well-established informal friendship links with towns, villages and refugee camps, and others who were at the initial stage in making links. Palestinian visitors again told us how useful this sort of initiative was, and following useful discussion in workshops about twinning work in Britain and twinning work in Palestine, it was agreed that a small group would meet to organise a website and a new meeting for one person from each twinning group, with a view to setting up a network.

The working title for this network would be the Britain - Palestine Twinning Network.

This network is not to replace or compete with other Palestinian solidarity movements. It is specifically to help groups make friendship links with Palestinian communities. Twinning whether it be formal or informal includes a focus on grassroots links. The network aims to promote the development of twinning links, helping groups to find partners and avoid duplication; and to encourage groups to help each other through the sharing of experience and information.

Article introducing the Britain - Palestine Friendship Forum

In the words of Husam Zomlot from the Palestinian Delegation, “Town twinning is one of the most practical form of solidarity. It transforms solidarity to friendship and transcends beyond verbal support, reaching out for the other community with a sense of shared destiny”

In the words of Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, "Londoners can benefit enormously from personal links with people of other cities round the world and I hope will be enriched by the experience of closer contacts with the people of the towns and cities of Palestine. I hope these friendships help create a better understanding of the issues of peace and justice in Palestine that are important for so many communities in London and for all those who believe that justice is the key to lasting peace in the world”.

Twinning with Palestine

When the delegates arrived at the first Twinning with Palestine conference in London on 25th September, we discovered that at least twenty places across Britain were taking steps to make some sort of friendship link with places in Palestine. These took different forms: from student unions, through church groups and broad-based friendship groups to formal council twinning.

Twinning groups have started from different points. some from established Palestine solidarity groups, some from the initiative individuals, who, having visited Palestine and seen at first hand the appalling treatment of Palestinians under Israeli occupation, have returned wanting to do something and tell the world that these are human beings too.

However it starts, a twinning movement needs its dedicated group of activists that will soon grow in the area and include people from all walks of life

The rewards of a twinning movement are huge. Showing pictures, hearing stories, sharing food, and visits in both directions lead people on the British side to feel connected to another place, and desperate to make a difference. For example in Camden, in just 18 months, hundreds of people have signed a friendship statement calling for friendship and twinning links with Abu Dis, next to Jerusalem, and a wide range of people are getting involved. Twinning can involve children and teachers writing each other letters, nurses planning exchanges, youth groups, women’s groups, the scope is big.