Friday 21 April 2017

Palestinian Prisoners' Day Demonstration in Trafalgar Square

We know that a lot of Palestinians are arrested and jailed unfairly. We know that the conditions of imprisonment are very bad. We also know that Israeli soldiers tend to jail children. We must organise actions to make people aware and to protest against those facts.

On the 20th of May, we went to Trafalgar Square, on the stairs of St-Martin-in-the-Fields to protest against the way Palestinians are treated regarding the imprisonment.

We were about 15 people, almost all CADFA's volunteers, but we also had two people from the International Jewish Antizionist Network (IJAN) who brought their own placards. Before the event, we made several signs with CADFA's volunteers and we gave them to the people who wanted to demonstrate. They were about the different injustices Palestinians have to face within this issue. Some of us were blindfolded. We also distributed around 500 leaflets to people in the street.

Trafalgar Square is always very busy and we decided to set up at 4:30pm, when people begin to go out the offices. So we reached a lot of them and the reacts were, as always, very disparate. Some were insensitive (but at least they have been reminded or educated), other were aggressive. One woman insulted us. But we have been given support by lots of people as well and we held very interesting discussions. We also met Palestinian people, very recently arrived from Palestine. They very happy about what we were doing.

We think that action was effective. We plan to organise another one very soon, about the same topic.

Here are some pictures from this demonstration.

Friday 10 March 2017

Turmoils within a CADFA event.

Last Sunday the 5th of March, CADFA organised an event in St Pancras Church Hall to celebrate the International Woman's Day. It was a real success and one of the best event organised by CADFA to whom I had the opportunity to attend so far. However, without the tenacity of the members of CADFA, especially Nandita, this evening would have been cancelled.

Indeed, the celebration was initially planned in the Kentish Town Community Center, old friend of CADFA with whom we maintain very good relations and where was held numerous CADFA events. However, following of the general outcry aroused by the week of the Israeli apartheid, somebody complained to the Camden Council about this evening by pointing at the main speaker, Jenny Tonge.

Jenny Tonge has been a MP for years and is a fervent defender of the Palestinian cause. She was forced to resign from the Liberal Democrat party after some of these words were described as controversial. She was even accused of anti-Semitism although her judgments have always been directed towards the policy of Israel and never to the Judaism. It is not the first person to experience that though.

The reaction of the Kentish Town Community Center (KTCC) was really disappointing. To avoid any problem, they preferred to withdraw very quickly from the celebration and informed us that this one could not take place in their premises. This is very disappointing because the KTCC knows CADFA very well and is aware that any form of racism, the anti-Semitism included, is not admitted by CADFA. This kind of attitude is not to help small organisations as CADFA who fight for worthy causes, here human rights. One must show solidarity. However, it is a common situation in particular when it is about the Palestine issue and the KTCC, which tries to protect itself, remains less to blame that the person(s) who complained using false arguments. Complains were also received by the St Pancras Church Hall which chose to ignore them.

This situation engendered quite a lot of worries to the association and to the participants who had already bought them tickets for the most part. We even organised a meeting during the preparation in case we would have had to face ill-intentioned people which would have wished to enter the room. We also decided to film the celebration to prove the reality of a CADFA event.

To be honest I found Jenny Tonge's speech very moderate, really far from any form of anti-Semitism. Although it is very frequent, I still do not understand why defenders of Palestine such as Jenny Tonge are demonized, defined as extremists or accused of anti-Semitism. To criticise the policy of a country has to be part of free speech.

Aside from those incidents, the event was very pleasant, Jenny Tonge's speech was very interesting and we could enjoy of a magnificent show of Dabkeh and a delicious Palestinian meal.

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Annual Conference and AGM of the Britain/Palestine Friendship and Twinning Network.

On the 28th of January, I went to Hounslow, West of London, with Nandita and Ursula, volunteer in CADFA. We attended to the annual conference and AGM of the Britain/Palestine Friendship and Twinning Network. CADFA is one the creators of this network.

The most part of this conference was a series of presentations and speeches from different people, representatives of both the organisations and the government. However, there was time for discussions and questions and we close the day with working groups.

The presentations were very interesting even if most of the issues and facts seems to me to be trivial, given the fact that I am no more surprised to hear about the difficulties that Palestinians have to face daily.

Something that stroke me was the age of the participants. Ursula and me were the only two people in their twenties, almost all of the others were retired. It means two things. First, all of them were volunteers and secondly, without them, UK which would lack of associational network, would not have real twinning links with Palestine. What is more, it means that there is no associative workforce to sort this issue out, they are no employees. Is it something specific to the associative sector in UK? Or is it more about the topic? Worries about the difficulties to involve young people in the process were raised.

One of the other obstacle that the organisations have to face, lies in their work with the schools. Indeed, it seems to be difficult de maintain links. It could be explained by the work itself which implies to solicit continuously the participants, though it is not the sole reason. This difficulty is the result of lots of complains and fears from the parents (current atmosphere and terrorism) but also the outcome of direct actions from some of them (Zionists?) who try to block. Schools prefer to give up. 

Monday 9 January 2017

Visit to Palestine

Thanks to CADFA, I went to Palestine at the end of November. The trip lasted around 10 days. This stay was organised by the “Higher Council of Youth and Sports” (HCYS), a Palestinian government’s body. The HCYS had asked several international organisations to be part of the project. CADFA was one of them. Therefore, we were about 200 international young people and we could have been more, if the Israel’ supervisory bodies did not refuse visa to a consequent amount of us. My work was first to help and to prepare some CADFA’s participants before the departure, then I had to lead with two others “leaders”, around 20 participants during the trip itself. To achieve this task, the leaders arrived before the others and participated to a training for 2 days in Jericho, oldest city in the world. That was my starting point in the discovery of the Palestinian territories.
Unfortunately, the HCYS chose to take the lead and to impose a strong frame. I do not know if this choice was either planned or decided during the training period. In any case, it has altered the experience on several aspects. First, the housing: boys and girls have been separated which prevented everybody to discuss with half of the total group during free-time. The housing itself and the rules imposed by the HCYS created lots of protests (prohibition of leaving the camp, questionable hygiene and food…). Besides these problems that everyone can endure for some days, what troubled me the most was the total control of the HCYS on the trip. The visits were clearly chosen, we saw specific places and others were hidden, we pass through Israeli’s checkpoints without difficulties… What is more, the HCYS wanted to use the participants’ image to fuel its propaganda (which means the government’s one). The young people were both filmed and photographed almost every time. For those who tried to preserve their image, it was very difficult. The behaviour of the HCYS was the subject of many conversations and created some conflicts. Several participants even decided to leave the camp before the end, which is a pity. I have even heard that it could has been an agreement between the Palestinian and the Israeli governments, I do not know what to think about it. However, I am still aware that this camp was the first, that the situation requires a lot of precautions and I am sure that the staff did his best. I only regret the sort of fake aspect of this youth camp, I would have enjoyed more reality. I believe I can find it if I visit Palestine with CADFA as the only organiser.
The Palestinian territories constitute an overview of what could be Palestine without the Israeli occupation, because it is a real occupation and not a conflict like presented sometimes. The territories which should belong to Palestinian, according to the Oslo agreement, are weaken by the Israeli presence. You just need to take one of the rare roads of the West Bank to assess the large amount of settlements with their European-style roofs, checkpoints and military camps. I went to Jericho, Bethlem, Ramallah, Nablus, Jerusalem, Hebron, and everywhere I came across Israeli soldiers, gun in hands, ready to act. It impacts directly on Palestinian life, it appears very difficult for them to move. Some families have been separated for years, people are slowed, arrested or shot on the way to work, to school or going to hospital. Besides the human tragedy of this and the actual disrespect of human rights, I felt that it is a big waste for everybody. To illustrate this, let’s take the example of Jerusalem, nerve centre and very important city for the three religions of the book, loaded by holy places. This city lives and breathes both history and spirituality. It could be a place of meeting and cooperation for believers of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Instead of this, it is an inexhaustible source of conflicts and tragedies. My visits to Jerusalem leave me a bitter taste, I do not know if I were delighted by its beauty or deeply disgusted by the situation. After discussing with several Palestinian, it appears to me that they want to enjoy a normal life for the most. No hate towards neither Jew nor Israeli, just the need to enjoy a life that they have lost for decades. I am sure that it is the same for the majority of Israeli people, unfortunately the only contacts that I had with Israel’s citizens were with soldiers or control agents in the airport.
When you arrive at Tel-Aviv’s airport, even before to walk on Israel ground, you face the reality of a segregationist policy. Foreigners have to wait for hours before to give their passports. If you look Arabic, if your name or your last name sounds Arabic, you are asked to wait again in a specific room until your passport is examined and it does not matter your birth country. For instance, me, with a French name and a French passport, a white skin and with a letter from the British Council, I passed through the control without any problems, even if I was not clear about the reason of my visit. By contrast, my colleagues, with a British passport, the same letter but with an Arabic name were asked to wait in this specific room. I joined them in it, of course the room was loaded of Arabic people. Some would speak about security, I would rather speak about racism or discrimination. Indeed, the notion of security applied to this case, implies that it is admitted that all Arabic people are potentially dangerous and terrorists, which is racism.
When I left the country, our coach, which was driven by a Palestinian, was stopped at the last checkpoint before to arrive to the airport. Which follows was a confiscation of our passports, a search of the vehicle, a first scanner or our bags and an aggressive series of questions: Why were we in Israel? How long had we known each other for? What did we do here? How long? Then we have been escorted to the entrance of the airport and we had to pass through lots of different controls, scanners, search of our bags, shoes and clothes, confiscation of mobile phone and laptop, degradation of food (you are asked to open your packs to know if you hide weapons in it). Eventually, you get your passport back and you are given an authorization to leave the territory and a pretty barcode which indicates your dangerousness level. The first number goes from 1 to 6, the more it is high, the more you are dangerous. I had 6, ME! To crown it all, I had the pleasure to find that my hold luggage was also searched and had this lovely barcode. I do not know what is the purpose of this all, especially when you are about to leave the country, but I could experience a segregationist policy for a while. I was, according to them, someone dangerous, an enemy of Israel.
I would like to say that I will keep good memories of this trip. Welcoming people, amazing views, places full of history and a food that has changed my life… But the situation of this country can be defined as apartheid, clearly. Like CADFA, I do not support any political organization and I do not discuss the right to exist of Israel, but I care about human beings. Speaking of this, human rights, whatever we can think about them, are far from being respected and abuses are common.

Here is some pictures taken during the trip, credit: Emerson
These photos were taken in Hebron. Art, religion and Israeli occupation

Here, pictures taken during a visit of ancient ruins nearby Jericho: Hisham's Palace

Pictures from the visit of the Al-Quds university, close to Jerusalem. The wall.

Tel-Aviv airport, frightening place.

View of Jericho from the surrounding mountains.

Pictures taken during a visit to Ramallah. Yasser Arafat's grave, views of the city and into a refugee camp. Children keep on smiling.

Photos from Jerusalem, we can see a settlement on the second one.

Views of Nablus.

Dabkeh exhibition.

Sunday 11 December 2016


Privilege and Duty

CADFA’s UN Human Rights Day Event, Kentish Town, Saturday 10th December 2016.

On UN Human Rights Day, 10th December, I was reminded again of the importance of the work that CAFDA does. The date commemorates the day, in 1948, when the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, passing resolution 423 (V).

Article 1 of the Declaration states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Every CADFA event brings together people who care about protecting human rights in occupied Palestine. Often, you will hear from people who have visited Palestine on cultural exchange or other projects. Sometimes, too, you can hear from Palestinians who share their personal experience of living under occupation. 

The stories of Gaza, under occupation and blockade, remain marginalised in the media, aside from coverage of peaks in attacks. However, at Kentish Town Community Centre, at CADFA’s UN Human Rights Day event, we had the opportunity to hear from a young woman from Gaza who now lives in the UK.

The people of Palestine are, she said, fully aware of the abnormality of living under occupation and blockade – but continue to live, to go to school and work, as an act of resistance.

She told us of the recent experiences of her mother who desired to visit Europe to see and hold her children, as is the right of every mother. It took her mother two months of travelling from one end to the other of the Gaza Strip to finally get permission from Egyptian authorities to exit the Gaza Strip into Egypt through the Rafah Crossing.

Having made it into Europe and seen her children (though she did not make it to the UK to see her daughter there) – and seen the ease with which people can move between states – her mother had to return to the Gaza Strip.

However, in Greece she was told by Egyptian officials that she could not travel into Egypt, for the Rafah Crossing into Gaza was closed. With no option, she travelled to Jordan to try to cross into Palestine. However, once in Jordan she was denied travel further and had the uncertainty of many weeks and fruitless efforts to seek help before finally being allowed to return to her family within Palestine.

We were told by the Gazan that the blockade of Gaza by Israel, with Egyptian complicity, results in deaths of Palestinians seeking medical treatment that is unavailable in Gaza due to the ongoing blockade. She told us that two of her cousins, both in their 30s, had died in preventable circumstances because they were not allowed out of the Gaza Strip.

She, who has not been able to see her mother or father for around three years, urged us to learn about the suppressed stories of Gaza and the West Bank and spread information and take advantage of our privilege in the UK.
In addition, the audience at CADFA’s UN Human Rights Day event had the opportunity to hear from several young people who had recently returned from a youth camp held in the West Bank. We heard of the restrictions that exist preventing Palestinians without the approved pass from entering Jerusalem and how painful this was for the British visitors to go to such a spiritual location without their new friends.
A visitor from the UK found that the segregated entrances of the Al Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem, were heavily guarded and, when she tried to enter, was challenged to recite a sura from Quran to prove that she was a Muslim, which she did reluctantly and, then, insisted that she finish when the soldier had had enough. She found that the soldiers in Jerusalem avoided speaking to her, as a tourist, but interacted with her Palestinian friends, asking them about her background.

We heard of the racial profiling that the visitors experienced on arriving in Israel, with those with Muslim sounding names being held back and questioned for a number of hours. These difficulties, however, have not, they were all in agreement, discouraged them from plans to return to Palestine.

One of the visitors told us about what she had learnt at the Prisoners’ Museum at Al Quds University, Abu Dis. She told us about the experiences of families who visit detained loved ones. They are only permitted to communicate with the prisoner from behind wire meshes and patrolling guards.

Finally, we were told that despite their guides, their visit was still a sheltered one. The harsh experiences faced by Palestinians were only heard through stories. A close encounter we heard about was of a stop at a checkpoint where the bus of visitors was turned back by Israeli soldiers. Later that day, the British visitors discovered, via a Palestinian friend, that sometime after their bus was turned away, a Palestinian schoolgirl was shot at the checkpoint.

The experience of children in the West Bank was provided to us through a video made by a Camden schoolteacher who had recently visited Palestine. We witnessed some of the apparent ‘normality’ of the children in their play and jokes, as well as their fears and hopes.
The sharing of these experiences and interactions between Brits and Palestinians renewed my sense of urgency about the human rights situation in Palestine – reminding me of how important it is, especially, to hear directly from Palestinians. It reminded me, also, of how important CADFA’s work is and how vital it is to support CADFA in these trying financial times.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

CADFA's annual report

As every year, CADFA has just published its annual report for the period 2015-2016. As a reminder, the period begins at the 1st of April and ends at the 31st of Mars.
According to the model of the previous years, we find in this report a current situation of the context in Palestine and more particularly to Abu Dis as well as a description of this one in the United Kingdom. In both cases, the atmosphere seems tense and little inclined to improve. In answer to this report, the report details the actions of CADFA in Palestine as well as on the territory of the United Kingdom.
Also, the report details the exchange projects, organised by CADFA, between the United Kingdom and Palestine, without omitting to highlight the benefits from these: expertise’s improvement, spreading of the awareness, etc...

Besides, the report focuses on certain milestones which occurred in this period, whether it is because of CADFA or of the current events.

You can also find a lot of information there: news concerning the staff, connection between objectives and results and the establishment of new objectives, review of the events... An important part is dedicated to the financial aspect of the structure. CADFA unfortunately, has to deal with some difficulties concerning this point. Nevertheless, the association is still motivated and effective to work on the problem of human rights in Palestine.

He is very interesting to read this report for whom wants to inform about the situation with an organization the expertise of which on this matter is not anymore to be proved. It also allows to understand how works an association by diving into a detailed report.

Monday 7 November 2016

Volunteering with CADFA : First impressions

While looking on the platform EVS for a body susceptible to welcome me in the realization of my professional application, which is necessary for the obtaining of my diploma (in the project management and the development aid), I founded and I decided to take part in CADFA’s activities (after being accepted off course).

I arrived in London last Friday (November, the 4th). I had found an apartment before coming and even if it is not for my taste and relatively overvalued (even in London, it seems), it is situated in Chalk Farm, very close to Camden Town, but especially close to most of the places of activities of CADFA, which is very interesting. Annika recommended me to balance the pros and the cons.

On Saturday, I participated in a meeting about the journey in Palestine which will take place at the end of the month and in whom I will take part. It allowed me to meet Nandita and some of my travelling companions. It was an interesting experience, the atmosphere was relaxed, even when we approached tender issues, what often arrives when speaking about Palestine.

Today I met Annika. We have discussed multiple subjects about the situation in Palestine and about activities of CADFA. It was very enriching, especially as we tried to determine together which could be my role within the organization and which profits I could benefit from my experience. One of the advantages of volunteering lives in the fact of building its work with the receiving organization.

I look forward to learn more and to provide my contribution to the actions of CADFA, through an experience which looks to be enriching on a professional level as well as on the human plan.