Olive Picking in Palestine – Keeping Hope Alive

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A reader returned from Palestine after taking part in the Olive Picking Programme organised by the YMCA and YWCA of East Jerusalem. This Joint Advocacy Initiative was from 13th to 22nd October.

On an earlier visit she helped to plant olive trees

She writes:

It was such a wonderful experience that I feel like sharing some of it with my friends and fellow activists in the UK and further afield.

The Olive Picking Programme offers an opportunity to show solidarity with the people of Palestine living in the West Bank who are under Israeli military occupation. All aspects of their daily life are controlled, which include access to their own fields. Palestinian farmers often depend upon their olive harvest for their livelihood and it is essential for them to have access to their fields to tend their trees, plant new saplings, and harvest their crops in time.

The presence of internationals deter Israeli settlers from intimidating Palestinian farmers and preventing them from reaching their fields, harming them whilst they are at work, or destroying their property. This also applies to Israeli soldiers who are known to act in this manner. The programme offers help particularly to families who are vulnerable in this respect. Joining it is a tangible way of showing solidarity with the people of Palestine and is a great encouragement to them in their struggle for justice.

This year’s programme consisted of four mornings and one whole day of working in the fields. We had all been issued with sun hats and T shirts bearing the programme’s logo, and most of us had also brought our own light, gardening gloves. Thus equipped, two batches, each of a goodly company of 55 or more internationals from about 20 counties, set off from our hotel or host families at 8am. Before leaving we had to load our bus with ladders, plastic sheets, buckets and plenty of drinking water. By 9 am we reached our field which was in the vicinity of Bethlehem area. We had to unload our equipment and on some occasions walk some distance as the road was not suitable for the bus to drive all the way.

The owners welcomed us and showed us trees which needed harvesting. Our first task was to spread huge plastic sheets around the base of each tree. Then we set to work, attacking the trees at the front of the field and working our way towards the end. As many as eight or ten of us would work on one tree, starting from the lower branches and then working towards the higher ones. Each branch was thickly covered with plump green or dark purple olives, the purple ones being the ripe ones. We were asked to pick them all. It was wonderful to slide our fingers down a branch and see the olives falling effortlessly on to the plastic sheet, with a rhythmic clop-clopping sound.  Some trees were very dusty and a dusty cloud assailed us as we worked. Where the crop was thick, it took almost half an hour for one person to work on a single section, with six or seven others working around different branches. There were others who diligently collected the fallen fruit into buckets and emptied them into huge sacks which would eventually be taken to the local press. As the lower branches were stripped, the higher ones were reached by ladders and some climbed up where the ladders fell short. I confined myself to working on the lower branches, moving on to another tree when one was done.

There was a great sense of camaraderie and cooperation as we worked together, and at intervals stopped for coffee which came around provided by the owners. We worked until 1 pm when lunch was announced, which was more than welcome. Lunch was provided by the host farmer’s family and was usually a simple dish of rice cooked with lentils – absolutely delicious, salad and yoghourt and plenty of beverages. Only on one day did we work after lunch. Our best pickings in a single field amounted to 100 kg of olives. An average tree produces about 9 kg of olives yielding 2 litres of oil. Most of the oil produced is for family or local consumption and not for export. Trade restrictions imposed by the Israeli government make it difficult to do so.

On our half days, we visited places which gave us a better understanding of what life under military occupation is like.  One of our most moving visits was to the Bedouin community of Khan Al-Ahmar which has been in the news. This Bedouin community is semi-nomadic and has been living on its land for generations and centuries. Yet, the Israeli government has issued an order to demolish the school which serves its children. There were Palestinian as well as Israeli human rights activists keeping a 24 hour vigil to prevent its demolition. It was a privilege to meet and talk to these dedicated men and women. The demolition has not gone ahead, although it could go ahead at any time. There were visits to Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Hebron, not in the usual touristy fashion, but with a view to highlighting our awareness of life under occupation for its residents.

We had one free day with a choice of visit to either Ramallah, Jericho, or Nablus and people were free to arrange their own programme. I opted to visit my friend of nine years standing in Ramallah and it was a joy to see her twin sons now 5 years old, and the latest addition, a son nearly two years old who I had not seen before.

Evening meals were at our own hotel or with host families, and were followed by a talk or a documentary film. They covered topics such as the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, and information about various organisations working for justice and the rights of Palestinian people. Truth to tell, we were often exhausted by the end of the day, but it cannot be denied that they gave us valuable opportunities to learn more about the struggle of the Palestinian people to live in freedom and with dignity and ways of supporting their struggle from our own countries.

On the last evening, we had a splendid meal in a local restaurant, accompanied by folk dancing in which our active participants joined. There was a great sense of comradeship, and of having shared a meaningful experience which would stay with us for a long time. There was sadness too, knowing that the local Palestinian people still had to face the harsh realities of life under military occupation. But we knew that we were leaving with a heightened awareness of these realities.

 Email addresses were exchanged, and goodbyes were said as people had to leave later that night or early next day. I am sure that in one way or the other, each one of us had been touched and many were returning with a renewed resolve for working for justice and freedom for the brave people of Palestine, back in their own countries.

For more information about the Olive Harvesting and Olive Planting Programme, visit their website: http://www.jai-pal.org/en/campaigns/olive-tree-campaign/olive-picking-program. For alternative tours visit their website on www.atg.ps

 

 

 

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Highland Home Industries: a first-hand account

Editor: In 2011, I saw sturdy knitted jerseys and cardigans with the label ‘Highland Home Industries’ in the Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop – and wanted to know more. Finding out about the work of those long gone – then discovering that the tradition continues – proved to be an effective antidote to gloom.  The story I pieced together from a range of contradictory accounts online, with some links now inactive, has been read by over three thousand visitors to the site. It was top post this week on the statistics page. One of those visitors, E. Mairi MacArthur, has first-hand knowledge of the true story of Iona’s heritage and has kindly sent an absolutely accurate ’insider’ account.   

 Mairi MacArthur is from an Iona family and, from many childhood holidays spent at her grandmother’s house in the 1950s and ‘60s, remembers the Highland Home Industries shop in the Nunnery gardens – run at that time by Mrs MacCormick and Mrs Maclean, who presided over counters full of colourful tweeds, knitwear and Celtic jewellery.  

In the 1980s Mairi was a postgraduate at the School of Scottish Studies in Edinburgh where she undertook a study into the crofting and parish history of Iona; this led to several books on the island’s story, followed by the setting up of the Iona Heritage Centre to house much of this material and, later, by the publication of Iona Celtic Art, Mairi’s book about the life and work of Alexander and Euphemia Ritchie (left).  She continues to research and write about aspects of Iona’s story and the lives of its people.

Mairi takes up the tale …

The Highland Home Arts and Industries Association – to become known by the shorter title of Highland Home Industries – was an exhibition network formed in 1889, after a successful Industrial Exhibition was held in Sutherland two years earlier. The aim was to revitalise the skills of home-based textile and other craft workers in rural areas and promote the display and sales of their goods (below right, a galley pendant).  I am indebted for these details to a book ‘Hand Heart and Soul. The Arts and Crafts Movement in Scotland’ (Birlinn, 2006) by Elizabeth Cumming. This is a fascinating read and I recommend it to anyone wishing to know more about the broader historical context of handiwork at local level. There is a chapter entitled ‘Craft and Community’, for example, plus a comprehensive bibliography.

Information on the Highland Home Industries itself does seem harder to find and I don’t know of a book devoted specifically to its story.  But old sales catalogues occasionally come up for sale online and Companies House would have information on the administration of the business – which, in its earlier form, had wound up by the early 1990s as far as I can gather, although the name has continued.

There were certainly commercial HHI outlets in Edinburgh and Inverness, with depots farther afield to collect and distribute home-produced work – eg the Am Baile site has an attractive illustrated postcard of the depot in Ullapool, a wooden building on Shore Street, later a house.

By the 1930s a Miss Jean Bruce was an HHI organiser who at some point visited Iona and found there the workshop of Alexander and Euphemia Ritchie (below right: note the silver belt, buckle and shoulder clips worn by Euphemia). Since 1899, Miss Bruce had been selling their work crafted in metal, wood, leather and textile from a hut entitled Iona Celtic Art.  She ensured that a selection of the Ritchies’ jewellery was included in a Scottish Industries Exhibition in London in June 1937.

The annual Jean Bruce Prize for Best Exhibit in Handweaving, Knitting, Spinning or Crooks from Scottish Crofting counties was presented by The Highland Home Industries Ltd again this year – a cash prize representing the free income of the fund.

After the Ritchies both died, in February 1941, their shop including stock and models was bequeathed to the HHI and Jean Bruce herself oversaw the transfer that summer.

Managing the newly renamed shop was Mrs Hannah MacCormick, married to an Iona-born joiner who had learned his trade on the mainland but then returned to the island with his wife and young family. Their son, Iain, became a teacher of technical subjects in Paisley but also ran a spare-time business as a successful silversmith, creating his own fine range of Celtic designs in the tradition of Alexander Ritchie.

Hannah herself was an adept needlewoman and tutored younger island women in embroidery, as Euphemia Ritchie had done for an earlier generation.

Another enterprise inspired by the Ritchies was Celtic Art Industries, founded by Hamish Dawson-Bowman in Glasgow in 1945 to train disabled or unemployed ex-servicemen in metalworking; Iain MacCormick was employed by CAI in their first few years and the HHI shop on Iona provided some Ritchie designs plus an outlet for finished items.

A further connection – in both the family and artistic sense – came in 1997 when Mhairi Killin (right), a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, first set up a small studio on Iona. She was greatly encouraged by Iain MacCormick, a close relative of her mother, and he also passed on to her some of the Iona Celtic Art patterns he himself had inherited.

Now in larger premises, Mhairi and her staff create and sell fine replicas of Ritchie and MacCormick items along with contemporary jewellery and larger work that draw on Iona’s culture and landscape.  The business is called Aosdana Ltd – a reference to an old Gaelic word for those who continue artistic and family traditions – and is therefore a living link with the Ritchies’ wooden hut at the gate of Iona Nunnery, later known affectionately to many as ‘the Highland Home’. In turn, long before that, it recalls the island’s fame in Early Christian and mediaeval times, as a place that nurtured stone-carvers, metalworkers and the creators of brilliantly illuminated manuscripts.

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Notes: See Mhairi Killin’s informative website (www.aosdanaiona.com) for more on the inspiration behind her work. There is also a small permanent display about the Ritchies in the Iona Heritage Centre, open Easter until October each year and the museum in Tobermory also owns a selection of Ritchie handiwork.  Or track down a copy of Mairi’s book: Iona Celtic Art. The Work of Alexander and Euphemia Ritchie – a new edition is in preparation but the 2003 edition should be in some public libraries and a reference copy is available in the Heritage Centre.
E. Mairi MacArthur (mairimacarthur@yahoo.co.uk).
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As government cuts affect public transport in Witney, a community transport co-operative is set up

A year ago there was a post on this site about the residents of Hawes who launched their own Little White Bus in 2011 to meet the trains at Garsdale station seven miles away. Today they have a fleet of 10 minibuses that rely on 53 volunteer drivers and nine part-time staff, ferrying 65,000 passengers a year. They also have a Land Rover to take children from the most remote farms to and from school.

On 20 July 2016, Oxfordshire county council scrapped all subsidies for bus services and 54 routes stopped altogether while many more were reduced. Dozens of villages in Oxfordshire had no bus service at all.

Witney’s town service had been run by Stagecoach before the subsidies were cut and The Guardian reported that local Labour councillor Laura Price who saw the strength of the opposition to losing the bus service and the distress it was going to cause, began to wonder what could be done.

Laura Price says: “This is about real localism – us doing things for our community who would otherwise be abandoned.”

‘Frantic tin-rattling’ raised £18,000 that bought an old bus and at the start of 2017 West Oxfordshire Community Transport co-operative was set up. People paying £1 become voting members, drivers get a proper living wage, and profits are reinvested in the business.

Like the Hawes initiative, after 16 months it not only breaks even, it’s expanding. The fleet has gone from one to four buses (none less than 10 years old). The town service runs “like a Swiss watch”. Other villages petitioned the co-operative to run a service for them and this February it began running a 210 service to Chipping Norton.

 

 

 

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News from the Environmental Law Foundation

The Environmental Law Foundation Ltd is a charity which promotes the collective, good decision-making which is at the very heart of civilised, democratic and stable societies.

It does this by providing free information and advice on environmental issues to individuals and communities via its in-house and university-based law clinics, and via its network of specialist environmental lawyers and technical experts.

ELF exists primarily to help socially and economically disadvantaged communities which want to address their concerns but lack the resources or information to do so. All, however, are welcome to enquire.

This message from the Environmental Law Foundation focussed on:

  • National Planning Policy Framework Review
  • Third defeat for government on air quality
  • Environmental Crime in Europe

It included information about ELF’s assistance to a residents’ association in Farringdon which represents vulnerable social housing tenants. ELF helped the association to make their case at a Public Inquiry into the proposed building of a 180 room Whitbread run hotel and commercial area by Endurance Land.

The Catherine Griffiths and Clerkenwell Community Tenants’ and Residents’ Association (chair and members left) claimed developers are “land grabbing” Clerkenwell, and the site should be used for “useful” shops and affordable housing.

They felt that the proposals would have significant effects on an already stressed community where development was forcing the indigenous community out. There were serious concerns over the proposed loading area on traffic flows, significant light impacts of building a high rise building and the serious impacts on local historical assets, including the Finsbury Health Centre a Grade 1 Listed Building.

ELF member barrister Jonathan Metzer and Charlotte Gilmartin at 1 Crown Office Row, appeared on behalf of the group who had Rule 6 (main party) status. They led evidence from two expert witnesses and two lay witnesses. They acted pro bono through the Environmental Law Foundation, on the instruction of Emma Montlake. The inquiry lasted 7 days.

 

 

“In these troubled times, our big picture perspective helps to energise and inspire”

This invitation to the Economics of Happiness conference in Bristol, October 19-21 comes from Helena Norberg-Hodge (ISEC/Local Futures)

ISEC is working in collaboration with Happy City and the former mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson.

Jonathan Dimbleby will be chairing.

 

 

 

 

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Some reasons why the election of Imran Khan is a sign of hope for Pakistan

As the Times and Financial Times go into attack mode this morning, no doubt rattled by the economic implications of reference to an Islamic State, a more rounded picture of Mr Khan is presented.

The writer met Imran Khan at a Green Network conference (Warwick University1996) and thought that he and his former wife were likeable and well-informed. Imran illustrated a practice she had heard of in India – about visiting a farmer (in Pakistan) growing food intensively, who wouldn’t dream of eating it or offering it to a guest and kept a plot for growing food organically for domestic use. Both were knowledgeable about the various issues raised and also (in a one-to-one conversation) about the advantages of reforming the monetary system. They saw the potential of what is now called quantitative easing – if used for the common good – at a time when bankers and economist were vehemently rejecting such proposals

2005 – 2014 Imran Khan served as chancellor of the University of Bradford

The mainstream media, reporting his electoral success, has been ready to use terms like ‘playboy’ and to refer to his cricketing prowess, but completely failed to record most of the valuable actions he has undertaken. To redress the balance, some will be added, in chronological order.

1972-1992

He studied Economics and Politics at Keble College, Oxford, in 1972, and was captain of Oxford’s cricket team in 1974. He led Pakistan to numerous victories all over the world, clinching the World Cup in 1992. He then devoted his time to building the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust (SKMT) Cancer Hospital in memory of his mother who had suffered from the disease. Today it is one of the leading institutions for free cancer treatment in the world and has received international recognition. He used his international profile in cricket to support health and immunisation programmes in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand and volunteered for UNICEF.

1996

He moved into politics, launching the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party,“the Pakistani Justice Movement”.

2004

The first reference to his role as a peacemaker came in TOURISM RECREATION RESEARCH VOL. 30(1), 2004: 83-91, co-authored by Professor Andrew Rigby: “Former Pakistani captain Imran Khan commented: ‘When the two countries are trying to become friendly, trying to ease tensions, then cricket plays a healing role, cricket becomes a cement in bonding the two countries together.”

2007

Imran Khan, was arrested in Lahore on 14 November and had risked the death penalty for opposing the state of emergency and military rule.

2011

On a sister site news included Gandhian non-violent resistance, a two-day sit-in on the NATO supply route near the northwestern city of Peshawar, blocking trucks carrying NATO supplies from the port at Karachi and a long march from Karachi to Peshawar in protest against the Obama-sanctioned drone attacks which began in 2009.

Pakistan’s Nation newspaper reported that thousands of people gathered at Neto Jeti bridge near Karachi port, bringing Nato supplies to a halt as Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf  party continued its sit-in against US drone attacks in Karachi, for the second consecutive day.

In ‘Pathways to Peace’, Editor-in-Chief of NewsX India, Jehangir Pocha, brought leaders from India and Pakistan to the same platform to discuss where the relations between the two countries are going, before a large audience in Delhi. Video link here.

2012 

Imran Khan leads Gandhian non-violent resistance in Pakistan. Drones had been bombing the northern border areas of Pakistan, such as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) governed directly by the federal government.2012

On the CHS-Sachetan site in was noted that Imran Khan wrote about the empathy between the people of India and Pakistan, arbitrarily divided after Independence, stressing how warmly they are received in India. Imran Khan, pointing out that he is welcomed in India as Sachin Tendulkar is welcomed in Pakistan, recently called for a new era in the relationship between the two countries.

 2013

He expressed the hope that Obama would end the drone strikes in his country. Speaking as the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf Party, Mr Khan pointed out that since the US president no longer faces the pressure of another election, he can ignore the pressure from the pro-war lobby and put an end to the “barbaric” and “counter-productive” drone attacks in Pakistan, during which the United States had been:

  • descending to a lower level than that of the Taliban
  • violating all humanitarian laws
  • and 98% killed were civilians and low level militants (Stanford University report).

Calling Obama a man of peace, Imran Khan said that he hoped that the US President will follow his instincts and no longer heed the pressures of the generals and ’patriots’.

 

10,000 demonstrators staged a protest against US drone strikes, blocking a main road, and the provincial secretary announced that Nato supply containers to and from Afghanistan via Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would be stopped at the border points. This blockade of Nato supplies would continue till US stopped drone attacks and formally sought apology for the human killings in Pakistan. The blockade has been maintained without the approval of central government and despite pressure from the US and European Union. See 2014 video – snapshot above.

2005 – 2014:

He served as chancellor of the University of Bradford and took part in the Vaulting Ambitions initiative, which saw a series of young people interviewing sports people on how sport has been used historically to encourage peace across the world.  A meeting between Mr Khan and Mia, a pupil at St Augustine’s Primary School, Leeds, was set up by the University of Bradford and the Bradford-based Peace Museum.

Mr Khan said: “It was a real pleasure to be interviewed by Mia. Her questions were thoughtful and thought-provoking and I am really encouraged by the fact that ways in which we might be able to find peaceful solutions to conflict are being addressed in a project like this involving the next generation.”

Imran Khan agreed that sportsmen can become ambassadors for peace and has many friends in India but, asked about the possibility of peace with India, explained that, as the underlying cause of conflict is the situation of Kashmir, peace is only temporary and tension comes back again after time – and there can be no lasting peace with injustice. Read more here. – August 26, 2011

When Mr Khan stepped down in 2014, Professor Brian Cantor, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: “Imran has played a critical and important role for us as chancellor of the university over an extended period of time. He has been a truly outstanding ambassador for the university and a wonderful role model for our students. He has awarded degrees to many students here at Bradford and has also set up one of the fastest growing colleges in Pakistan, Namal College, where students also receive University of Bradford degrees.

The Drone Warfare site summarised his four year non-violent campaign in Pakistan against drone strikes

PTI chairman Imran Khan announced a long march from Karachi to Peshawar in protest against the drone attacks said to have killed thousands of people in northwest Pakistan’s tribal region. 

Pakistan’s Express Tribune reported that Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf leader, is to seek compensation for the victims of US drone strikes and vows to take their cases to parliament and the courts. Though the Afghanistan and Yemeni governments get compensation for the families of civilians killed in strikes, he said, Islamabad receives nothing from the US government and no compensation has been offered to a single victim.

“PTI will raise this issue in parliament and also go to court to get compensation for the drone victims,” Khan said at the launch of a report demanding compensation for drone victims, organised by the independent Foundation for Fundamental Rights and international legal aid charity Reprieve. No link has yet been found for this report – the nearest source appears to be news of an ‘analysis of data’ in this Guardian article.

Imran, whose PTI party has always vigorously opposed drone attacks, had earlier demanded the blocking of NATO supplies going through the country, blaming the US for sabotaging efforts to establish peace in Pakistan by repetitive drone strikes in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. He added that the PTI-led government in the province possessed the mandate to block Nato supplies.

2018

Khan wrote in his memoir, Pakistan: A Personal History, “Far from being the Islamic welfare state that was envisaged, Pakistan is a country where politics is a game of loot and plunder”.  His new party, he said, would strive to “end exploitation and ensure a society based on honesty, merit and integrity”.

This undertaking was repeated in Thursday’s well received victory speech, in which he called for national unity. One extract: “I am saying to you today, that for the first time, Pakistan’s policies won’t be for the few rich people, it will be for the poor, for our women, for our minorities, whose rights are not respected. My whole aim will be to protect our lower classes and to bring them up”.

Khan said he would seek improved relations with India and Afghanistan, where a peace process is moving slowly forward.  

Read the full text here.

 

 

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The Horn of Africa: 1 – plans to foster peace and prosperity

Two noted British researchers are combining to address the world’s most serious social and economic issue.

Improving the lives of the majority in poorer countries

As one of them recently wrote, democratic, progressive and internationalist governments should grasp the urgency of seeing foreign policy, aid and trade agreements in terms of improving the lives of the majority in poorer countries and reject the globalisation and austerity policies which have increased insecurity in many countries. This would help to minimise permanent migration, now at crisis point, which is ‘tearing European and United States politics apart’.

Germany’s social market economy, which values public welfare, human dignity and responsibility, has already taken these ideas on board.

Angela Merkel’s plan was first outlined in 2017 on the Atlantic Council* website. Like the late, great Ted Dunn in his well-received work on regional peace and development plans in the 80s, she invoked the Marshall Plan – the US aid initiative that rebuilt Western Europe’s devastated infrastructure and weakened economies after World War II.

The German government unveiled its framework for a “Marshall Plan with Africa” (Eckpunkte für einen Marshallplan mit Afrika)  with the twin objectives of increasing trade and development on the continent and reducing migration of people escaping warfare and/or poverty. The text resisted ‘cut and paste’ so a snapshot (left) was taken.

It would be good if the Africa-EU Partnership (header below), which spends approximately €20bn a year, were to oversee the whole project, working along the lines proposed by Dunn and Merkel.

*The Atlantic Council promotes engagement in international affairs and provides a forum for navigating the twenty-first century’s dramatic economic and political global challenges”.

 

 

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