Trade Union Palestine Solidarity Conference, April 18th, 2009

Trade Union Palestine Solidarity Conference, April 18th, 2009

Inspired by National Union of Journalist’s strong policy on Palestine – I attended the Trade Union Solidarity Conference in Liverpool last week. I was there in an individual capacity – and – I believe the only member of my union who was present.

In the above picture there are three delegates on the podium. As I remember two of these were: Steve Farley, North West TUC and Palestine Campaign for Solidarity, Manawel Abdel-Al, Palestinian Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).  

As I explained to the other delegates in the Trade Union networking group – if you have a press card – as I do – it is extremely unlikely you will be allowed in to Palestine, and even more unlikely you will be able to access the information you need to report back properly. The NUJ made a statement back in January which indicated this state of affairs raises serious questions about the neutrality of reports which we receive in Britain. The International News Safety Institute who provide crisis zone training to journalists, reports that to their knowledge at least four Palestinian journalists have been killed in the past three months alone.

Even more important then, sadly, to be aware of first-hand eye witness accounts such as that contained in the talk by Sameh Habeeb, journalist and blogger. You can find a transcript of what Sameh said on Saturday on his website.

The quality of my picture in this post is not good – I was distracted – shortly after arriving at the conference I was given some tragic news and had to decide quickly what to do with the information. 

A demonstrator had been shot the previous evening in a place called Bilin in Palestine. I came straight out of the conference to the lobby to conduct a short interview with a member of Liverpool Friends of Palestine and then passed the news on to NUJ headquarters colleagues. Later that day I learned the news had also gone out on Facebook. Liverpool Friends of Palestine said:

“A young Palestinian man from the West Bank village with links to Liverpool has been killed by the Israeli army while taking part in a peaceful protest against the illegal barrier, which separates families from their farmlands.”

“The village of Bilin, located Northwest of Jerusalem on the border between Palestine and the occupied West Bank was last year linked to Liverpool Friends of Palestine and in December three members of the group spent a week visiting the village”. One of the three John Airs said: “I was horrified to hear of the killing for everyone we met showed us nothing but warmth, generosity and in fact, gentleness, in the face of extreme hardship.”The peaceful protests have taken place every single Friday afternoon for the past four years and protestors are joined by supporters from all around the world, including Israel.”

“We went to Bilin to gather information on building bonds between the people of Liverpool and the village” Airs said, “but we were also looking for ways to support their struggle against the wall which has been declared illegal in international law. Whilst there we joined one of the protests and were amazed at the determined yet peaceful way in which the villagers confronted armed soldiers week after week.”

“Bessem Abu Rahmeh, aged 29, was part of the protest last Friday when he was struck in the chest by a tear gas canister and died later in a Ramallah hospital. A video of the protest on Youtube shows he was actually some distance from the barrier carrying a Palestinian flag when soldiers fired upon him.”

(I believe this is the video in question. F.L.)

“A memorial service for Bessem will be held by Liverpool Friends of Palestine, at their regular vigil on the first Saturday of the month on the steps of St. Luke’s church at the bottom of Myrtle Street.”


Transition – Part II

April 15, 2009

Welcome to my new website. There are a few teething problems – but I hope you’ll bear with me on that one. I’m in the process of archiving some of my features and articles – follow the links on the right.

Frances Laing, Freelance Writer and Journalist

Hi there, I’m building this new site.  Thanks for your patience – I’m in transition.