1 Mar 2009

Caroline Lucas is blogging from Palestine


Caroline Lucas is in Palestine...this is reason enough for supporting her re-election campaign...She and Jean stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine.


February 27th, 2009
An afternoon in Hebron

A revolving turnstile-like metal gate, topped by spikes, with barely enough room for one person at a time to pass through, is now the only permitted access point to Ibrahim mosque for any Palestinians living in Hebron. As our group of MEPs file through, we are greeted by several heavily armed soldiers and police. Italian MEP, Luisa Morgantini was here last month and at the time walked along a road beyond the gate into a former residential area. Today the soldiers tell us that we cannot go down this road - in other words, as far as they are concerned, it is now under Israeli control. After much discussion we are finally permitted to pass, accompanied by a police jeep. We find what can only be described as a ghost town. Children emerge from what appear to be deserted buildings. Huge slabs of concrete dangle precariously overhead and members of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee tell us that, despite having the funds, they are not allowed to renovate these homes for Palestinians to live in. There are around 400 Jewish settlers living in Hebron and we learn how the town has been split in two by the Israeli authorities - with access for Palestinians strictly controlled. We hear how Palestinian children on the way to school are attacked by settlers. How barriers have been erected throughout the centre - be they oil drums welded together or breeze blocks formed into walls - in order to prevent free movement by the Palestinians. One result is that the commercial heart of Hebron is being strangled, denying residents one of the few remaining opportunities to pursue economic independence.

Under the terms of the Oslo Agreement, no new settlements are permitted and yet, as we travel back from Hebron to Jerusalem, we see plenty of evidence that Israel is, once again, showing no respect for the promises it has made as part of the peace process. There has been much talk here of whether the election of President Obama might influence events here in the Middle East. Opinion seems divided over the extent to which he will be able to deliver any real change. As I reflect on what I have learned today, one fact sticks in my head - that the only time during recent history that Israel put its settlement programme on hold coincided with a US senate vote refusing Israel its usual package of financial support