|Sam Macartney at the |
Yasser Arafat memorial
This group, with ties to some trade unions, assists many groups in the city and continues to help children who are forced into work even at the age of 12 to 14 years old. These children need help and support with employers who care nothing for age and exploit them daily.
Violence and harassment are common place with 12% of children spoken to stating they have been subjected to ill-treatment. Israeli employers seem indifferent to child protection laws.
We had to leave too soon to make our next meeting with the BNC (Palestinian National Boycott Committee). The group is led by the very capable Omar Bhargouh, chair of the BDS committee, who advised us of their ongoing battles with a government hell-bent on destroying the BDS movement. Recently a senior Israeli cabinet minister threatened Omar with 'civil assassination(?)' and over the last month 1,400 workers have been arrested and taken to court in handcuffs for alleged working without a work permit. This is life under occupation.
We continued our day with a meeting with the Palestinian Authority minister for home affairs who give the delegation an update on issues relating to Gaza and confirmed that Gaza is a ticking time-bomb.
She also shared her frustration with us as the EU and the UN continue to play games on the issue of Palestine recognition as a full member state and doing nothing to stop the continued land grabs - settler house building - with the blessing of the Israeli government.
We were informed that after much pressure the UN have agreed to provide a list of companies providing and selling service to Israel. We look forward to getting this information .
Next stop was a brief but informative meeting with the PGFTU (Palestine General federation of trade unions) who informed us of their attempt to get an agreed benefits system in place to provided workers with social security benefit and better contract protection.
Gaza as always is an ongoing issue as water and food are in very short supply and the union has been given no access to Gaza.
Our final delegation took us to meet KSTI (knowledge and socialist thought institute) at Birzeit University. This is an excellent incentive to train young people to learn skills for life and work which hopefully will encourage them to remain in Palestine and help build a better future for all. Many great ideas were mooted and a great willingness to learn and support communities in and around Ramallah and beyond.
We wish them every success in this endeavour with the support of trade unions and local government in Ramallah.
My view, coming to Palestine you know not what to expect or expect what you find. An open mind is a bonus and friendship will be your reward.