A LECTURER at Moray College UHI has just returned from Palestine where she was visiting one of the world’s oldest refugee camps.
Katy O’Connor stayed with a family at the Aida camp, which was set up in 1948 within the town of Bethlehem.
Originally it was created to house the many Palestinians made homeless by the creation of the state of Israel.
Now, 70 years on, the canvas tents have long since been replaced by stone houses.
But, if anything, the living conditions for the camp’s occupants are worse than ever.
Katy, who lives in Hopeman, said: “People sleep in their clothes because they never know when Israeli soldiers will come around.
“A patrol can arrive outside at 2am and demand entrance.
“If the families don’t comply immediately the soldiers simply batter down the front door.”
Katy states the door of the home where she stayed has been knocked off it’s hinges three times within the past 12 months.
This month sees the 70th anniversary of the creation of Israel in 1948.
The Israelis herald May 15 as the end of the War of Independence.
By contrast, the Palestinians refer to it as the Nakba, which is Arabic for “catastrophe”.
Although largely unreported in the media, Katy says there has recently been an increase in the levels of protests, both peaceful and violent.
The last armed uprising, which lasted from 2000 to 2004, was known as the Second Intifada and was responsible for the deaths of more than 3000 Palestinians and 1000 Israelis.
Both parties caused high numbers of casualties among civilians as well as combatants.
The Palestinians carried out numerous suicide bombings and gun attacks. Te Israelis used tanks and also launched air strikes.
Katy said: “Being a lecturer in social sciences, I knew the textbook version of what is going on in Palestine, but I wanted to fnd out for myself what’s really happening.
“Living in Moray it’s easy to exist in a sort of bubble, and be unaware of the problems that are going on elsewhere.
“We’re very lucky to have our freedom.
“What I learned from going to the West Bank is that there are some fantastic people in this world.
“The generosity I encountered from people who have virtually nothing was humbling.
“Sadly, there are about 10 per cent of people on both sides – the staunch
Zionists and the hard-line Palestinians – who are making it difficult to find any solutions.”
Katy is a supporter of the BDS movement – bdsmovement.net – which is in favour of applying sanctions against
Israel until it ceases building new settlements on Palestinian land.
She gave an illustrated talk about her trip to an audience of 60 people at Moray College UHI last week, and is happy to do the same for any local groups.
Contact Katy.o’connor.moray@uhi. ac.uk.