Between May - July 2020 we carried out some research with our member groups. We were able to contact over two thirds of our different groups to gatherng their ideas, suggestions and thoughts on twinning. Especially on how the Britain Palestine Friendship and Twinning Network can best support all of its members. The results of this research, and the plans of BPFTN as a result, are now available in a printable document.
Sharing good practise and learning from other's experiences has been a common theme of feedback. Shaping our vision to continue to support and grow our network groups' work this will form the basis for a year of reflection and dynamism. While there are many limits to activities at the moment we are lucky to have Madeleine McGivern leading a process restructuring and re-energising our work.
Building on this outline of the priorities and intentions of our groups we are glad to share some ideas for groups to work with. Both new groups and groups hoping to extend their range of activities are welcome to look at our outline for twinning activities
This is our first step in being able to better represent our groups. Helping them to be a stronger network and develop better communications with each other, Palestine and our partners there.
We hope you enjoy reading it and please do get in touch if you have any questions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
to have a two-state solution or else you have a kind of apartheid system
You can read the letter here.
Increasing pressure should be being felt on the government as calls for "British Values"
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. Oxfordâ€™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.
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.
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.
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.
The fundraising raised Â£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.