Hackney human rights observer heads to the West Bank

The security checkpoint manded by Israeli soldiers dividing Jerusalem from Bethlehem in the West Ban

The security checkpoint manded by Israeli soldiers dividing Jerusalem from Bethlehem in the West Bank. Photo Adam Davy, PA images. - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

A charity worker is heading to the West Bank to see the realities of the military occupation for Israelis and Palestinians.

Chris Venables

Chris Venables - Credit: Archant

Chris Venables, 25, of Navarino Road, Hackney Central, will spend three months as a human rights observer for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme (EAP), sharing reports with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies.

The West Bank is home to 2.5million Palestinians who live under the military occupation of Israeli armed forces.

Mr Venables, who works for a health charity near Old Street, said: “I am worried about the things I will see, particularly to the Palestinians who bear the brunt of the occupation.

“But, the programme I am taking part in is well-respected by both Israelis and Palestinians who value the independent voice and monitoring we provide.

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“That said, the situation is incredibly tense right now, and that certainly plays on my mind – but, it is, perhaps, more important that ever that the international community knows the truth about what is happening.”

The EAP programme began in 2002 following calls from Palestinian church leaders in Israel to send a non-violent international presence to the region, and sees teams of five human rights monitors placed in seven locations across the West Bank.

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When he returns Mr Venables will give talks across London telling the stories of the people he has met, and highlighting human rights issues.

He said: “I walk and cycle around east London every day without fear of violence, yet millions of Palestinians living in the West Bank cannot even get to hospital in an emergency because of the Separation Barrier and the military checkpoints scattered across the occupied territory. I believe strongly that we can all do something about injustice – whatever it is and wherever it happens in the world, we can all do something, no matter how small.

“I’m not a Middle East expert, yet simply by being present and listening to the stories of those there, I hope I can bring to light their suffering.”

Violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians are not uncommon, but tensions have heightened following the deaths of more than 600 Palestinians and 30 Israelis in 14 days of fighting between the Israeli army and Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip.

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