Sunday, 4 April 2010

Last lessons at the UNRWA school

Some students from the UNRWA school in Abu-Dis

Yesterday i did my last lessons at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in Abu-Dis.

It's been great working with the teachers and students there and it was a nice last day, albeit tinged with sadness, with lots of smiles, handshakes and nice words exchanged.

But after i left the warm feeling was replaced by one of anger. Anger that these children have been completely failed by the British government, and the governments of the world, who have allowed Israel to get away with building a monstrous, illegal wall through their land.

Many children at the UNRWA school live near the eight meter high concrete wall. It dominates their view which was once hills and trees. What message does this send to a young person about their place in the world and the value of their human rights?

Many more of the children at the school are growing up in poverty because the wall cuts off Abu-Dis from the center of east Jerusalem, devastating the local economy.

The center of east Jerusalem is the place where Abu-Dis children would normally be going for educational, cultural and leisure activities. To pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque, see the historic old city, use the public facilities, and walk the bustling streets like Nablus Road and Salah Ed-Din street. Before the wall families could walk there in about half an hour from Abu-Dis. Now it is a dream for most people in Abu-dis, including the children.

It must be stated again and again that, according to any sense of natural justice, east Jerusalem is the rightful capital of Palestine. According to international law, any attempt by Israel to alter the final status of east Jerusalem, which the wall clearly does, is illegal. On every level the wall is an outrage.

The wall is also a problem for the world. After this precedent, which oppressive and power hungry regime will be next to build a similar wall - ghettoising a population it doesn't like and destroying their economic, political and cultural life?

At the time of writing, if you go to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website you have to search a while to find out the UK government opinion on the wall. Higher visibility is given to the latest FCO campaign in Jerusalem, 'Speed sisters in the West Bank - the British consulate General in Jerusalem is running a campaign to encourage female participation in motor sports'.

I had a good time at the UNRWA school, but beneath the smiles of the teachers and students there is a lot of pain and sadness about what has been done to their homeland. I come away with anger at the injustice here and commitment to building solidarity with Palestine in the future.

In the next couple of weeks i will be visiting other places in the West Bank such as Hebron, Nablus and Jenin and hope to blog about my experiences there.

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