Ann at a dinner tableLast Saturday, the Hannoun family invited us to break the fast (Iftar) during Ramadan with them on the pavement. Delicious chicken and rice apart, it was a bit surreal. They are remarkable people; their life is in ruins yet they offer hospitality to well-wishers, and manage to smile about it. That particular party continued at the Ghawis house where the weekly demo organised by Rabbis for Human Rights morphed into a Dabke knees-up with a live band. 500 demonstrators were there including a bus full of Gush Shalom activists from Tel Aviv. Among them was Uri Avnery (a kind of Israeli Tony Benn) whose weekly column I have read religiously for years. It was an honour to meet this doyen of the peace moment who writes with such clarity, compassion and (at 86) the advantage of an amazing historical memory.

But after the Tel Aviv gang were waved off like royalty and the fun died down, the reality is that the families’ houses remain occupied by settlers. Resolve is still strong but with school starting for the myriad kids, they need some normalcy. As if anything is normal here.

Netanyahu insisted in Europe that settlers had a right to ‘normal’ lives and space for natural growth! Newspaper headlines can’t really convey the enormity of what lies behind that statement. Israeli settlements don’t just spring up like mushrooms or come down from heaven like manna. According to Peace Now’s settlement watch programme, 40% of Israeli settlements in the West Bank are built on privately owned land, i.e. land taken from Palestinians, land that was being lived on, farmed, where crops were sown and harvested. In East Jerusalem, they are on land where once someone else’s house stood or where families have been evicted to make way for them. What price a ‘normal life’ and ‘natural expansion’ for Palestinians?

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