A slide show talk in the Moat Centre on Thursday night, on the conflict between Israel and Palestine, received high praise from the audience.
Richard Barnes, a retired head teacher from the Lake District, has been to Israel and the occupied West Bank twice in the last eighteen months with ICAHD – the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. And he first went to Israel 50 years ago, to work on a kibbutz as a student.
Richard described what he had seen last summer in the Galilee in northern Israel, which has a large Palestinian population. He showed slides of some of the more than five hundred Arab villages depopulated and then destroyed by Israel in 1948.
He then talked about the ICAHD study tour and rebuilding camp he had taken part in. He explained in detail the problems faced by Palestinians living under occupation, for example the huge concrete Wall which separates farmers from their fields and towns and villages from each other. The house which he helped rebuild in the West Bank last July, which had already been knocked down and rebuilt five times, was demolished again in November by the Israeli army. These demolitions break international law, like the Wall and much else that the Israelis do in the occupied territories.
A lively discussion with the audience followed. Some wanted more details; some asked what were the prospects for peace; some tried to link British policy in Palestine up to 1948 with the situation in Ireland.
Everyone was pleased the meeting had taken place, and many wished that more people could have heard about this deeply troubling situation.