Our top 5 resources for up-to-date statistics

We get a lot of questions from our advocates about up-to-date statistics. Where do we go?  These 5 places are where we always go first and are easy for you to get the latest facts too!

 

EAPPI around the world: Australia

EAPPI is a world-wide network.  Our EAPPI national coordination offices in 26 countries work hard to recruit EAPPI human rights monitors and coordinate their advocacy when they return home.  Today, we begin a series in which we get to hear from these dedicated supporters of EAPPI all over the world.

Rod, of EAPPI Australia, shares his personal story of involvement with EAPPI.

The Sunset over Gaza. September 2013. Photo: Rod Benson.

The Sunset over Gaza. September 2013. Photo: Rod Benson.

Tell me how you first got involved with EAPPI

My first visit to Israel-Palestine was in December 2007 with a delegation of Australian Heads of Churches, sponsored by the Jerusalem Heads of Churches.  As well as many meetings in Jerusalem, we visited Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin and Ramallah, and were briefed by various human rights groups including EAPPI accompaniers who led us on a tour of Hebron and the al-Arroub refugee camp.

On my return to Australia, there was significant opposition to our public statements from the local Jewish community, and it became clear that I should respond in a measured and peaceful way, not only with words but in actions.  At the same time, an investigation group commissioned by the National Council of Churches in Australia was developing a proposal to create a national EAPPI presence in Australia.  This was approved in March 2008 and I was invited to join the new committee.

Six years later I am still here, better informed, better equipped, and more passionate than ever to seek justice for Palestinian citizens of Israel and an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

What has surprised you most about working with EAPPI?

EAPPI representatives from many of the 26 countries visit bedouin villages in the Northern Jordan Valley. September 2013. Photo: Rod Benson.

EAPPI representatives from many of the 26 countries visit bedouin villages in the Northern Jordan Valley. September 2013. Photo: Rod Benson.

First, it is so inspiring to witness volunteers from remarkably different national, religious and ethnic backgrounds joining together to provide accompaniment for powerless and voiceless people who struggle every day against sometimes overwhelming hardship and injustice.

Second, I like the clear focus of EAPPI’s mission to provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace.  We don’t provide financial aid, or material support, or engage in education and training.  We just do accompaniment, and no other agency does this.

Third, an enormous amount of work is done by the ecumenical accompaniers, and by the dedicated staff based at the Jerusalem office, with quite limited human and financial resources.  I am very grateful to those who stretch budgets and work diligently and sacrificially to ensure that the field programs continue to operate, problems are resolved, numbers are crunched, and justice is served.

What’s your personal philosophy on what should be done to end the Israeli occupation and achieve peace in Israel and Palestine?

Peace will come when there is no more need for the Separation Wall, the segregated roads, the existential fear of violence and reprisal, and other symbolic and actual barriers to freedom and harmony between people.  The situation today is complex and in my opinion has deteriorated since my first visit in 2007.

We must always insist on non-violent means to end the occupation and achieve peace.  Diplomacy, advocacy, economic measures of pressure, education, aid and development, art and sport, accompaniment, modeling alternative communities – all have their place in the pursuit of peace.

The future lies with the children, and it is they who must renew hope in the hearts and minds of disillusioned parents and grandparents, and dare to imagine that another world is possible.

What do you find the most challenging about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict?

It seems clear that both Israelis and Palestinians perversely rely on the ongoing conflict in order to assert and give shape to their personal and political identity.  Neither side shows any credible sign of willingness to commit to peaceful coexistence, despite the enormous power imbalance that exists in the region and the terrible human cost of occupation and subjugation.

What do you wish other people knew about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict?

I was raised in a religious community profoundly committed to Christian Zionism.  I wish my Christian friends could see the fallacy of such an approach to theology and geopolitical history, and instead become champions of justice and peace, expressing their faith through service with groups like EAPPI.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about joining EAPPI?

If you are passionate about justice and adventure, I cannot think of a more rewarding investment of your time and savings than as an ecumenical accompanier.  The experience will change you, inspire you, and equip you to be and do what you never imagined possible.  The people of Israel and Palestine need you.  Go!

Rod Benson is an ordained Baptist minister in Sydney who works as Ethicist and Public Theologian at Morling College, and Public Affairs Director for the NSW Council of Churches.

What can WE do?

At the end of his term in Yanoun, Rafael reflects on what EAs can do when they return home

by Rafael, Yanoun team, Group 49

EAPPI, Israeli, and other activists help build shelters for residents of Mak-hul after the demolition on September 20th. Photo EAPPI/R. Marques.

EAPPI, Israeli, and other activists help build shelters for residents of Mak-hul after the demolition on September 20th. Photo EAPPI/R. Marques.

In the middle of last century George Orwell foresaw that “Big Brother” would dominate our lives completely. In his book “1984”, the author tells the story of a fictional country controlled by a government matrix that decides from the clothes you will wear to what kind of information you can get from the media. The control is justified by the constant threat of an external enemy that you have never seen.

Those who are controlled seldom realize this. In the context of the Israeli occupation, the awareness of the Israeli people about what is happening is amazingly close to zero. But for every rule there is an exception.

The events of Mak-hul

The community of Mak-hul, in the Jordan Valley, Palestine, was demolished on September 16th, affecting at least 12 families. On September 20th, several organizations joined efforts to deliver shelter and tents to the village through the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED). EAPPI joined the delegation to provide protective presence to the community and help with the shelters.

Several diplomatic representatives were also present. The army took the truck with the humanitarian aid by force. Some clashes then occurred between the villagers and the army.

On October 11th, we returned to Mak-Hul to help build shelters for the animals and some tents. This time, several Israeli activists, especially from the organization Machsom Watch, came to the community to deliver materials and offer help.

 “Dangerous” areas

Most of them were elderly. In one conversation, one of the activists said that several members of her group have been arrested for being in Palestinian areas. She herself had been arrested. After that, she decided to seek the Israeli administration responsible for the occupation, and there she was forced to sign a document taking all responsibility for visiting areas considered “dangerous”. The entry of Israeli citizens in these areas is prohibited by Israeli law.

For its citizens, the Israeli government justifies its actions as measures necessary to guarantee security. For Palestinians, the Israeli activists are always welcome.

‘What did you do, so that others may live in peace and you can enjoy the paradise?’

Among Israelis in Mak-Hul, we found Mr. Yehoshua Rosin, now 70 years-old, who, early on, decided to oppose the occupation and the decisions of his government. Mr. Yehoshua asked us to email the photos we took that day. He, then, told us a beautiful story.

“In the past I used to take pictures myself. I am a free thinker, but I’ll use a religious metaphor. According to the Jewish religion, when a Jew dies he will be judged before God. If innocent, he will go to Paradise (Garden of Eden), but if you sin and do not repent, will be condemned to hell. So I thought I’d take photos with me to the grave and when asked ‘What did you do, so that others may live in peace and you can enjoy the paradise?’, I’ll show the pictures and say ‘That’s what I could do’. Many thanks and greetings to your group for your contribution.”

It was sad to realize that most Israelis present were of advanced age. It seems that the new generation is not listening to those who have enough experience. But, just like Mr. Yehoshua and the lady to whom we have talked, we cannot surrender to “Big Brother”. As EAs, we do our part: we record what we see and we tell others. After all, “this is what we can do.”

From the occupied Palestinian territories to the European Union

Jenny Derbyshire, previously based in Bethlehem, was part of a team from EAPPI that travelled to Brussels recently to bring to light stories of Palestinians living under siege. Derbyshire, from Ireland, used her eye witness accounts from the occupied territory to urge the European Union to support the two-state solution for peace and stability in the region.

by Jenny Derbyshire

Raba Fanoun from Nahhalin village near Bethlehem shows his olive trees destroyed by Israeli settlers. Photo: Merita Saajos

Raba Fanoun from Nahhalin village near Bethlehem shows his olive trees destroyed by Israeli settlers. Photo: Merita Saajos

In March this year, Raba Fanoun, from the village of Nahhalin near Bethlehem, discovered that Israeli settlers had come to his land during the night with hatchets and destroyed 80 mature olive trees, which his father had planted thirty years ago. This was nearly half the total number of his mature olive trees. The livelihood for his extended family depended on them. Later that day, volunteers from the EAPPI Bethlehem team visited Fanoun, to report on this destruction.

“When you plant a small flower in your house,” Fanoun said, “imagine how you feel when it dies; and think about the trees we have cared for, for 30 years.”

“This is a big attack on your livelihood,” I said.

“It’s not just our livelihood, it’s our life,” was the reply.

During my three months in Bethlehem I was often in this village, which is under constant threat from settlements on the surrounding hilltops, including the huge nearby settlement of Beitar Illit. In April we were called out to witness and report on the military orders left under stones on village farmland, confiscating another area of land for the extension of the security zone around Beitar Illit.

“When you go home, tell people in your countries,” the mayor urged us, “tell them what is happening here. This is the last of the farmland of our village. They want us to leave. They are trying to drive us away.”

As part of a meeting of EAPPI representatives with EU officials in September this year, I was able to tell the stories from Nahhalin to members of the European Parliament (MEPs), permanent representatives, officials from the External Action Service and the cabinet of the commissioner for research. We showed them a photo of the building activity that we saw taking place in Beitar Illit, right above Palestinian farmland. Such establishments lead to the extension of the security zone, and run-off from the settlement sewage system polluting the Palestinian farmland and water supply.

I was also able to show a photo of Fanoun with his destroyed olive trees and describe the impact settlement has on local people. We told the MEPs what Fanoun and the mayor shared with us.

We also brought to them words of another farmer from Nahhalin: “What they call Area C is actually the future of Palestine.” What most people in the occupied territories shared with us was that “the situation is urgent, if the two-state solution is to have any chance of success”.

For the visit to Brussels I worked as a team with two other former Ecumenical Accompaniers: Jonathan Adams from the United Kingdom and Dominika Blachnika from Poland were EAPPI volunteers in East Jerusalem in 2012; I was in Bethlehem this year and in East Jerusalem in 2012. So we also described the impact of the developments in the E1 area outside Jerusalem on the lives of the Bedouin people we had met there.

This is now a well-known issue politically, but the stories from people living there and the impact of the loss of land, water and access to Jerusalem shows the level of displacement and deprivation. We linked this with the stories from the Bethlehem villages, where Palestinian people are also threatened by forced displacement. Their farmlands are disappearing into settlement construction, is claimed by the route of the separation barrier, and comes under repeated attacks from settlers.

We shared what we had seen and passed on the words of the Palestinians we got to know during our stay; we shared maps and photos; we shared statistics. We reminded politicians that under international humanitarian law, which the EU upholds, Palestinians have a protected status and settlements are illegal. EU officials have recently taken steps through issuing EU guidelines on grants and loans to settlements. We hope that our testimonies will encourage them to continue in this direction and take the necessary actions for the resolution of the Israel Palestine conflict.

This article originally appear on the World Council of Churches website and also appeared on Christian Today.