Human shield reports on Palestinian situation
by Vic Williams At a meeting at Curtin University in WA Rodney Vlais exposed the repression and poverty of the Palestinians from the Israeli domination. He had volunteered as a human shield in Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement. It is an organisation for overcoming the problems in a non-violent manner. The volunteers, working with Palestinians, took children to school and back home; in affinity groups of three to six, they tried to prevent destruction of homes; helped to remove roadblocks; rode in ambulances, and kept checkpoint watches. But in seven months 3000 homes had been destroyed by bulldozers and missiles, 150,000 olive and fruit trees uprooted, vital as food for the Palestinians, and 30 ground wells were confiscated. With settlements and the fence, 45 per cent of the land of the West Bank has been taken away from the Palestinians. In the Gaza Strip 40 per cent of the land has been taken. The security wall of reinforced concrete, eight metres high with turrets, ditches and barbed wire, has annexed seven to eight percent in its construction of 350 kms around the West Bank. Below poverty line Two thirds of the Palestinians live below the poverty line, with average income of US$1000 a year. This is compared with the Israelis on US$18,000 a year. Unemployment of Palestinians is 65 per cent. In the Gaza Strip 1200 people were examined. It was found that 93 per cent had been teargassed, 42 per cent beaten and 19 per cent detained. Ninety-seven per cent had seen shooting, and 23 per cent had members of their families wounded or killed. It is no wonder that Tel Aviv University found 70 per cent of children suffered from stress disorders. In answer to a question Rodney said that with the war in Iraq, curfews and provocations had increased. Rodney could see reason for hope. The vast majority used non-violent resistance and that included many in Israel. There was strong support in both areas for a peaceful two-state solution. The international support coming through ISM and other organisations had some good effect but the pressure needed to be increased. It would be very hard to get a solution unless the occupation was ended.