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Sunday May 16, 2010 11:34 AM (EST+7)
International activism grows village economies

Read more: economy, settlements, Wall, international activists, foreign activists, activism, Bilin, Maasara

RAMALLAH, May 16 (JMCC) – International activists visible at Palestinian demonstrations against the Wall and settlements are welcome additions to small village economies, Palestinians say.

Jamal Jumaa, coordinator of the Palestinian campaign against the Wall says, “In addition to the importance of international activists in supporting Palestinians in their struggle against the construction of the Wall and settlements on their land, they have also contributed in one way or another to reviving the economy in these areas, which were highly marginalized.”

Jumaa says that the constant presence of international activists in areas of the Wall has created work and small investment opportunities for many Palestinians.

“In Bilin village, for example, many Palestinians opened groceries due to the presence of internationals. There was increased turnout at the groceries from internationals and Palestinians who join the protests, which helped turn the wheels of the economy.”

Rateb Abu Rahma, coordinator of the popular committee against the Wall in Bilin, not far from Ramallah, says that his village “has until recently suffered a lot.” He cites a neglect of the infrastructure, the lack of paved streets, and water shortages.

While Abu Rahma doesn’t credit pro-Palestinian internationals with obtaining government funding to repair the village’s infrastructure, he does say, “we can be certain that their presence by our side, and the media momentum our weekly protests generated have helped in getting the government’s and the international community’s attention.”

Abu Rahma also says that international presence in the village means that stores stay open longer – sometimes late into the night – which increases residents’ incomes.

Maasara village near Bethlehem has seen similar economic growth due to the influx of tourists and activists, says coordinator of the popular committee against the Wall, Mohammad Brejyeh.

“Sometimes it’s true that the misfortune of some is for the benefit of others.”
He says that large international organizations have had the entry of their officials banned from the occupied territories, forcing the organizations to find Palestinian representatives to work for them.

The media’s focus on these villages has also provided jobs to Palestinians who guide international press and provide them with news. “With time,” Brejyeh says that these Palestinian guides “end up being reporters in the area, also creating job opportunities.”

International activists, most of them from Western countries, come to the occupied West Bank to support Palestinians in demonstrating against the Wall.

Their goal, they say, is to draw attention to the Wall, a series of fences, cement walls and patrol roads snaking through the West Bank, and the suffering it has caused Palestinians.







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