Ten activists from various Catalan entities went to the West Bank this September in a strategic visit organized by Suds and SCI
SCI Catalunya is very concerned about what is happening in Palestine. It is essential to know the structural causes to understand the current situation of violence: we are not talking about a conflict between equals, but about a colonial and apartheid situation perpetuated by the state of Israel. It is essential that the international community, the Spanish State and the Catalan institutions take immediate measures to guarantee the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people. A people that for more than 75 years has been subjected to a process of ethnic cleansing perpetuated by the State of Israel. In September we went to the West Bank, where we could see with our own eyes the process of ethnic cleansing perpetuated by the state of Israel. We want to send all our support and solidarity to our partners in this and many other peace education projects in these very complicated times. We wrote this chronicle of the strategic visit to the West Bank:
Ten activist of Consell Nacional de Joventut de Catalunya, Consell de la Joventut de Barcelona, Casals de Joves and Crida LGBTI have attended a strategic visit to the West Bank organized by Suds and SCI Catalunya. Members of the technical team of both organizing bodies have also participated.
From September 25th to October 2nd, the participants were able to learn about the context in the West Bank from the hands of various organizations and activists who have shared their experiences, knowledge and struggles. In Ramallah the group met with the women’s political movement Talaha, created in 2019 and which brings together women from all over Palestine, whether they are in Gaza, the West Bank or Palestine ’48. Talaha highlighted the role of women in the struggle for the liberation of Palestine and remarked that “there will not be a completely free Palestine if women are not free as well. We refuse to be a priority for when Palestine is free; it’s now.”
In Ramallah the participants also met with the BDS National Committee, which promotes Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions to Israel. The movement seeks to end apartheid and occupation, protect and promote the right of return and achieve equal rights. In addition, it points to European responsibility and complicity with the occupation of Palestine by the State of Israel. BDS was created out of the broad consensus of 171 organizations in Palestinian society and has branches around the world.
Later, the group visited the Jalazone refugee camp, where around 18,000 people live. One of the problems highlighted by the inhabitants of the refugee camp is the existing housing crisis, since Israel denies building permits for houses to stifle the natural growth of populations. Thus, many people and families find that they cannot build a house of their own and that Palestine is one of the countries where land is the most expensive in the world. The residents emphasized the importance of family and community relationships to survive and move forward in this very adverse context.
The group of Catalan activists then met with several members of criminalized Palestinian organizations in October 2021. These organizations, despite working for the defense of human rights, were declared terrorists by the State of Israel. They claim that the State of Israel wants to eliminate the work of activists who work for the human rights of the Palestinian people and that it terrorizes them through arbitrary arrests and torture. Thus, they denounced administrative detentions, a type of detention carried out by Israel that goes against human rights, as the detained person does not know when they will be released from prison or what they are accused of. Currently, there are 1,264 Palestinian in administrative detention according to Addameer. Activists also denounced the inhumane treatment of Palestinian detainees in detention centers, ranging from medical neglect, restricted visitation regimes, torture, or the denial of permits to attend funerals relatives. They further emphasized that Palestinian people are under military law, while Israelis are under civil law.
The organization To be there gave a session on the historical context in Palestine, explaining in depth the colonization, occupation and apartheid to which the State of Israel subjects the Palestinian population. In this sense, it was pointed out that Israel denies the existence of Palestine, since “if you deny the existence of a population, you deny your crimes and it is as if the genocide did not happen.” In addition, the entity said that “legality is not about justice, it’s about power”, since it is technically legal to confiscate land from Palestinian people, among other racist laws. In addition, another way was explained how Israel tries to make Palestinian identity disappear and fragment by calling them “Israeli Arabs” in ’48 or “permanent residents” in Jerusalem. The organization explained the different apartheid regimes to which Palestinian people are subjected in Gaza, Palestine ’48, Jerusalem and the West Bank and pointed out that all of them ensure the superiority of Israeli Jews over Palestinians. They also noted that Israel is the only UN state that has not officially presented its borders.
To be there accompanied the group to the Aida refugee camp. Like this one, there are 60 more spread across the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Jordan. The camp was established in 1950 to accommodate 1,200 refugees who were expelled from their homes by Israel, and although the camp has continued to occupy 0.071 km2, its population has grown to house 5,500 people today. The camp is surrounded by the separation wall, an Israeli military base and seven watchtowers. At the entrance to the camp is a large key that symbolizes the right of these people to return to their homes. Later, they visited the separation wall in Bethlehem and the organization noted that “the wall is not a border because the same state rules on both sides; the wall separates the Palestinian people, not the Israelis.”
The group also visited the Jordan Valley, where they met with the Jordan Valley Solidarity Movement. The activists explained that in the Jordan Valley, which comprises a third of the West Bank, there are 36 illegal Jewish settlements according to the UN. Although the Jordan Valley is Palestine’s second largest potable water reserve, Israel does not allow access to the Bedouin communities who resist there. It is another tactic of the State of Israel to expel them and confiscate their land. The group also met with a Bedouin shepherd who explained how they are persecuted and coerced by the Army to leave their lands and explained how they destroy drinking water tanks, entire communities, establish check points at every corner to make their life impossible and they are forbidden to graze their cattle on the lands that have been appropriated. For this reason, this Bedouin shepherd said “we don’t need Europe to send us water tanks and solar panels, we need them to put pressure on Israel to end the occupation”. The group then visited a Bedouin woman entrepreneur who teaches other women in the community how to make artistic products from recycled materials and how to sell them to generate income for themselves and achieve economic independence.
In Hebron the group took a political tour of the historic center, in which a guide explained the situation under which Palestinian people live in the old part of the city, called the H2 area, under direct Israeli military control. In the old part of the city there are 400 settlers, 2,000 soldiers to protect them and 100 check points. Israeli settlers have weapons permits, military training, are protected by the military and under civilian law. Instead, the Palestinian people are under military law and are constantly harassed by the army and settlers, who make life impossible for them by throwing stones, dirty water and acid at them, among other things. Walking through the streets of the historic district, the group was able to see streets that used to be commercial areas closed for “security reasons”. Really, this is how they cut off access to the 4 illegal settlements of Jewish settlers, where the Palestinians can’t even get close. The group was also able to see how there are streets where Palestinian people are forbidden to pass and how the streets that are right below settled buildings are protected by bars and plastic tarpaulins because of everything the settlers throw from above. Through this inhumane treatment, the State of Israel seeks to expel Palestinian people from the historic center of Hebron to ensure its control.
Finally, the group visited Jerusalem accompanied by the organization Grassroots Al-Quds. During the visit, the organization spoke about the specific case of Jerusalem and delved into the great difficulties imposed by the State of Israel on the Palestinian population of Jerusalem to be able to live there. Israel prevents this right by means of several racist bureaucratic hurdles, among which we find the ‘absentee property law’, which allows the withdrawal of the ‘permanent residence permit’ and the expropriation of homes from Palestinian people if they spend more than 4 consecutive years living outside Jerusalem or 8 years throughout his life; this permanent residence permit is only granted to people of Palestinian origin, to whom Israel grants a Jordanian passport, and is expressly very difficult to maintain. Jewish citizens of Jerusalem, on the other hand, have Israeli passports and have to prove absolutely nothing to maintain their right to reside in Jerusalem. This is another of the strategies that the State of Israel uses to expel Palestinians from their lands, which takes on a different dimension in this city due to its historical and political importance.
To close the strategic visit, the activists met with Boycot from within, a group of anti-Zionist Israeli Jews who support BDS and the Palestinian cause from Israel. From the group, they explore ways to carry out the boycott of Israel from within, such as encouraging young people to refuse compulsory military service. Another of its goals is to legitimize the Palestinian anti-Zionist movement by supporting them and criticizing the State of Israel from its position of privilege. One member of the group noted that “fights should not be fought just because you think you can win them, but because you cannot afford to look away while human rights are being violated.”
Thank you to all the Palestinian people and organizations who have shared with us their experience, knowledge and stories of struggle and resistance. The Nakba continues, so does the resistance!