Blair meets Christian peacemakers in West Bank

By staff writers
March 23, 2009
Christian Peacemaker Laura Ciaghi with Saber Hereni, At-Tuwani mayor, and Tony Blair

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has met with Christian peacemakers working in the West Bank, which is currently under Israeli military occupation.

Blair, who is representative of the Quartet on the Middle East, was visiting the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani, located in the southern West Bank.

He said his reason for visiting was "really to draw attention to the fact that without a new and different system applying in Area C [the area in the West Bank under Israeli military and civilian control], then it is very hard for Palestinians to enjoy the standard of living that they should enjoy and be able to develop their land as they should be able to develop in freedom."

Mr Blair met with the mayor of At-Tuwani as well as members of Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove, who described the attacks and harassment that Palestinians experience from Israeli settlers and soldiers when Palestinians attempt to access their land.

Their conversation also highlighted Israeli government inaction toward settler aggression, exemplified by the government's failure to follow through with the demolition orders on the illegal Israeli outpost of Havat Ma'on. When asked what he would do about the situation, Mr. Blair answered, "It's got to be stopped, hasn't it? This is what should happen. But it needs to be done in a systematic way so that the whole way this area is looked at and administered is changed to make it fair."

Under the Oslo Accords, the village of At-Tuwani is in Area C, leaving it under Israeli military and civilian control. Israeli authorities have refused to provide electricity and running water to the village, despite the fact that the Israeli settlement of Ma'on, less than a kilometre away, has access to these utilities. The Israeli government also refuses to grant building permission to Palestinians in At-Tuwani and surrounding villages. Consequently, Palestinians frequently face the threat of demolition of their houses, mosques, schools, clinics, and wells. In contrast, Ma'on and Havat Ma'on and other settlements and outposts in the area continue to expand outside of regulations.

Over recent years, At-Tuwani has received increased media attention due to its residents' commitment to nonviolent resistance. Palestinians in At-Tuwani and the surrounding villages have successfully used nonviolence to reclaim their land and freedom of movement and to highlight the violence they experience under the Israeli occupation.

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