Eye on Palestine:
Pope Francis visited Israel and the OPT last week. The Pope made headlines around the world when he made an unscheduled stop at the separation wall to pray. He addressed Palestinians in Bethlehem, calling for peace and making references to a Palestinian state – his speech is available to read here. Forming the backdrop to Manger Square where he spoke were posters of biblical scenes overlapped with modern day photographs of Palestinian suffering, an exhibition organised by the Palestinian Museum.
The Pope also arranged a meeting in the Vatican between Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres which took place this week. In their first public meeting for a year, the two leaders joined the Pope in praying together for peace.
The other major event was of course the inauguration of the new unity government, marking an end to the 7 year rift between Hamas and Fatah and the separate governance of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. William Hague congratulated the new prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, while the US and EU have both said they will work with the new government much to the disappointment of Israeli PM Netanyahu who warned the EU that providing legitimacy to the unity government was a ‘mistake’. Israel has refused 3 new ministers entry to the West Bank from the Gaza Strip. In response to the formation of the unity government, Israel has announced it will build 3000 more settler homes in the occupied territories.
The process of reconciliation between the PA and Hamas has been less than smooth, with multiple incidents of clashes between rival supporters in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank over the past week.
Following on from the news of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s petition regarding security company G4S, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has led protests at the company’s AGM against its involvement in the Israeli prison system. In an open letter published in the Guardian, Tutu as well as other notable names such as Noam Chomsky, have called on the company to stop supplying equipment to Israeli jails. It has also been reported this week that the Gates Foundation has sold its entire stake in G4S.
The UN chief Ban Ki Moon has expressed concern over the health of the Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for over 6 weeks. Many of the hunger strikers are administrative detainees who are being held without charge or trial. Several human rights organisations have written a letter to Catherine Ashton, EU representative for foreign affairs, calling on her to voice concerns over the hunger striking prisoners and pressure Israel to end its policy of administrative detention. Netanyahu is currently pushing for legislation that would allow doctors to feed prisoners against their will – something that the Israeli Medical Association opposes – read more on this here and here.
The Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riad Malki, has appealed to Catherine Ashton to condemn violent 'price-tag' attacks on Palestinians by settlers and to label as terrorists groups who perpetrate these attacks.