Photographs taken by Palestinian children have brought the reality of life under Israeli occupation to the House of Commons this week.
The exhibition, 'Everyday life in the Occupied Territories' captures childhood images of life in Yanoun, a village in the West Bank.
A reception for the display was hosted by Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington, and Paul Burstow, Minister of State for Care Services and Liberal Democrat MP for Sutton and Cheam.
MPs endorsed the “essential work of witness” achieved by the human rights observers who collated the photographs. The observers are volunteers working with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), a programme set up by the World Council of Churches and run by Quakers in Britain and Ireland on behalf of the churches and church organisations.
The observers, known as ecumenical accompaniers (EAs), work with Palestinians and Israelis to promote non violence, monitor human rights abuses and advocate for an end to the Israeli occupation.
Israeli peace activists addressed the reception. Albert Givol of New Profile, an anti-militarist Israeli peace group, described the contrast between Israeli children whose education prepares them for enlistment, and Palestinian children who daily queue at Israeli checkpoints in order to get to school.
Linda Ramsden of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions said that since 1967 24,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israelis in East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza and more than 160,000 Palestinians have lost their homes.
The children who took the photographs in the exhibition were given disposable cameras and have captured simple images of childhood. They live in Yanoun, twenty kilometres south east of Nablus. The village is overlooked on three sides by an Israeli settlement which is illegal under international law.
The human rights observers live in the village because in 2002 after years of harassment by settlers who assaulted the men, mutilated their animals and destroyed their crops, all 300 people fled to a nearby town. The few families who have returned say they will only stay while the EAs stay. Yanoun mayor Rashed Murrar says of EAs: “You are the medicine for our children and old people. They see you and they feel better.”
Partner churches and church-related organisations involved in the EAPPI programme include Baptist Union of Great Britain, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Church of Scotland, Church Mission Society, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, Iona Community, Methodist Church, Pax Christi UK, Scottish Episcopal Church, United Reformed Church, USPG – Anglicans in world mission.
More on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel: http://www.eappi.org/