Saturday 25th November, King Street Halls, Kirkwall. Shared supper 6.30 – 7.30pm. Event finishes 9.30pm
By Bryan Milner
The end of November, is a particularly appropriate time to be thinking about Palestine because Nov 29th is the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. It was on that date, 70 years ago, that the United Nations passed its resolution for the partition of Palestine.
Despite all that they have experienced since then, Palestinian people retain a positive, vibrant culture which is vividly demonstrated by their tradition of Dabke dancing. Here’s a sample from the Lajee Dabke Troupe who visited Orkney in June 2016 as part of their UK tour and gave an unforgettable performance.
In addition to 2.5 million Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, 1.5 million confined to Gaza and 1.5 million who are 3rd class citizens in the state of Israel, there are over 7 million Palestinians outside Palestine, many in adjoining countries such as Jordan and the Lebanon but also scattered all over the world.
At a supper event a couple of years ago we heard Rafeef Ziadah, a Palestinian poet who lives in Canada, performing one of her poems “We teach life, Sir!” Here she is with another equally spirited performance – “Shades of Anger”
How did things in Israel/Palestine get to be the way they are. Regrettably, we in the UK contributed significantly to the problems as we did elsewhere in the Middle East. One particularly important contribution was the Balfour Declaration of November 2nd 1917, i.e 100 years ago this very month. Here’s an account of the Balfour Declaration and its aftermath over the past century.
That’s the story of how the UK contributed to the situation in Israel/Palestine has developed since 1917. What about the situation today? Alistair Carmichael MP for Orkney and Shetland supports the work of Amnesty and of Orkney Friends of Palestine (OFoP), and first visited there over 10 years ago. Alistair made a further visit during August of this year and is going to share with us some impressions from that visit of how things are today for Palestinians in Israel and Palestine.
So, life remains challenging for many Palestinians and one of the most challenging places for Palestinians to live is in the Shu’fat Refugee Camp, near Jerusalem. One of our members, Gaynor Jones, spent a month there in 2016. The 2017 OFoP campaign is to raise £3,500 to help fund a project for young people with disabilities in that camp. Thanks to many donations, including two of £500, one of $500, and three of £100 plus numerous smaller donations and the proceeds from the sale of donated paintings we’ve reached £3,500 and will probably raise closer to £4,000. A big “Thank you” to everyone who helped in any way.
Actually getting money to Palestinians, especially if they are in refugee camps and/or in Israel, is something of a nightmare.
Gaynor re-visited Shu’fat this month and – after a lot of hassle – was eventually able to transfer the initial £3,500 to the Shu’fat Disability Group, via her own account, whilst she was over there.
To finish the evening, we’ll have a little more poetry, music and dancing.
First, a poetry slam involving co-operation between a Muslim and a Jew .
In 2013, Mohammed Assaf, a young singer from Gaza, managed to get to Cairo to compete in the Arab Idol singing contest and – to the great delight of Palestinians everywhere – won. There’s a fine 2015 feature film, called The Idol, about his trials, tribulations and eventual success. Here’s his winning performance which has been viewed over 60 million times on YouTube.
To end the evening, we’ll return to what we started with –Dabke dancing – this time out-of-doors with several hundred Palestinian schoolgirls giving an exuberant and uplifting display.