INTO President joined Palestine delegation

INTO President Feargal Brougham visited Palestine as part of a Trade Union Friends of Palestine delegation. He shares his experience of the visit.

Written by INTO President Feargal Brougham.

The focus of the delegation was the psychological trauma under which school children and teachers are living in the occupied territories. The delegation visited schools in East Jerusalem, Hebron and an after-school facility in a refugee camp in Bethlehem. We also had lectures from child psychiatrists and education trade unionists. Many of the pupils we met had to undergo frequent security searches and harassment on their way to and from school.

As it is almost impossible to receive a permit to build a new school in East Jerusalem, the schools we visited were based in refurbished houses. These buildings are inappropriate for modern pedagogical practices. It was obvious that the teachers and professionals working with the children did their utmost to provide safe havens for their pupils. However, this is undermined by Israeli army incursions into the schools.

The Israeli Government and defence forces have a policy of collective punishment, so if a security incident happens the whole population suffers.

The delegation visited the site of ruined apartment blocks which were demolished to make way for the massive security walls which divide communities from each other. The fragmentation of Palestinian areas in the West Bank is an ongoing policy which helps to isolate and psychologically damage Palestinian communities.

We heard from child psychiatrists that the term ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’ doesn’t apply to the Palestinian population as the situation is ongoing and, at present, it doesn’t appear that it will lessen.

The delegation also visited the Bedouin community in the Jordan Valley, where the Israeli courts have decided that the Bedouin are trespassing on the land, regardless of the fact that these people have paperwork going back to the Ottoman Empire, proving their presence there. Their camps are repeatedly targeted for demolishment by the Israeli Defense Forces.

Regardless of all the pressures that the Palestinian population are under, we were received warmly and their hospitality is astounding. Their message to us was to spread the word that they are not terrorists and that they should not be forgotten.