As a member of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, (travelling in a personal capacity), I was particularly interested in seeing how human rights were being observed in the region. What I found was profoundly shocking, an experience shared by the mainly Christian members of the group.
Here are a few examples of human rights denial, and oppression, meted out by the Israeli military occupation:
The Palestinian families we stayed with, only had running water three days a month, and tried to save water in canisters on the roof to eke out over the other days.
We visited an Israeli settlement, (illegal under international law), and they had constant water, including for their gardens, and bizarrely, for an aquapark.
We visited farmers who lived in the shadow of the growing settlements, and heard about the confiscation of their legally held land, to allow further growth of the settlements.
We met farmers who were divided from their farms by the Separation Wall. Some had to walk four miles to access their olive trees on the other side of the wall.
Israeli settlers have separate roads, which allow them to access Jerusalem in 15 minutes Palestinians, with distinct white registration plates, go by lesser circuitous roads, with regular roadblocks and checkpoints.
Most Palestinians are not allowed to visit Jerusalem. For those with work permits, they queue for an average of three hours at a checkpoint before commencing their day’s work.
Nuns working in the Bethlehem maternity hospital pointed to lack of doctors and outdated equipment. The modern facilities of Jerusalem hospital are inaccessible to Palestinian women.
These examples, and more, point to the inescapable conclusion that Israel is operating a system of apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Christian Churches have issued an ecumenical call to come and see beautiful and historic Palestine.
You will be shocked, but surprised by the warm welcome of ordinary Palestinians. Everywhere we went we were met with a cheerful hello and a thank you for visiting.