#SpreadSolidarity: Popular COVID-19 prevention efforts get underway
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#SpreadSolidarity: Popular COVID-19 prevention efforts get underway

The initiative, launched by the Land Defense Coalition (LDC), the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, in addition to other local campaigns commenced a comprehensive campaign to provide the basic sanitizers and first aid kits to help protecting Palestinian families in the isolated areas, designated as area ‘C’, near the illegal settlements, in agricultural and Bedouin areas. This effort builds on decades of popular organizing experience that has taught the Palestinian people that solidarity and mutual care are vital  in challenging times.

Report on Emergency Action to prevent COVID-19

The initiative will provide support as well in areas located near the Israeli military checkpoints, where Palestinian workers have to pass through to enter and exit in order to reach their work in Israeli factories or inside the illegal Israeli settlements.

Bags were filled with sanitizers and first aid kits, as they were being prepared as part of the efforts to keep villages and towns save and prevent that spread of COVID-19, especially in places where there are no public or private clinics in the area, or where the lockdown and the quarantine have cut off villages from other nearby villages where they might have a clinic.

Even before the pandemic, Palestinians living in area ‘C’ have been enduring the relentless apartheid and ethnic cleansing practices depriving them of the basic infrastructure and health facilities.  Israel prohibits Palestinians in these areas any construction, be it for education, infrastructure or healthcare as a way to coerce them into leaving their lands. Restrictions on their movement are always imposed and the lockdown has made it even harder for them to move.

Area ‘C’ is a definition introduced in the Oslo Agreements that the Palestinian Liberation Organization signed with Israel. They make up some 60% of the occupied West Bank and were supposed to be the areas that would be returned under full Palestinians control only in the final stages of the implementation of the agreement. As the Oslo Agreements came out to be essentially a ploy to gain time and land for the Israeli occupation, today they are the areas most threatened by land confiscation, displacement and annexation. This campaign seeks to strengthen the steadfastness of the communities living in area ‘C’ amid the spread of COVID-19, which made the situation there even more intolerable. The campaign is also an attempt to resist the Israeli occupation’s policies to isolate and marginalize area ‘C’ more by taking advantage of the quarantine to annex Palestinians’ lands there, while popular struggle is heavily restricted and media are focused elsewhere.

Day 1: People join hands in action

Volunteers from the LDC and the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, the local committees in the targeted areas, and other youth committees from the Palestinian Youth Forum (PYF) in different locations distributed the first aid bags and other sanitation tools to families that are in need and to emergency groups at the checkpoints and the entrances of the villages close to the checkpoints.

On the first day, the campaign took place in Burin, Madama and Asirah Al-Qablyah, south of Nablus, since these villages are being attacked by Israeli settlers on a daily basis. We also distributed sanitizers and first aid kits in Al-Faraa’ Refugee Camp, and four other villages near Salfit, in addition to two more villages near Tulkarm, Shwaikeh village and Irtah, since there were some cases diagnosed with COVID-19 there.

The groups formed from the youth committees and the PYF distributed the kits to the families in need. The Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission supported them in this providing them with everything they needed for the campaign and contacting also other committees and Emergency groups.

Day 2: Nobody remains isolated

On the second day, the initiative moved to the Bedouin communities in the northern Jordan Valley, including Bedouin communities, Bardala, Kardalah, Ein Al-Baida and Farush Beit Dajan villages. The activists provided bags with supplies to local volunteer and emergency groups at the entrances of villages, as well as to families in need. As for the Bedouins, the volunteers focused on the communities that were hard to reach, like Hadidiya, Samrah, Makhoul, Hamsa Al-Fouqa, Ein El-Helwe, and Al-Maleh. We were able to reach all of the families in the small communities. However, we have not been able to support all those in need. Some communities are formed of 120 families, such as Ras Al-Jora, where we provided aid for about 30 families. All the families there are besieged and in desperate need of support and solidarity. They informed us that we were the only group of volunteers who reached them. Yet, they are still in need for other necessities such as marketing their dairy products, and providing them with food.

Day 3: COVID-19 aggravates structures of injustice 

On the third day, the campaign targeted villages and towns which are close to the checkpoints for workers, including Ni’lin, Medya, Shuqba, Beit Sira and other villages north west of Jerusalem. In these areas many people work for Israeli employers and some of them have been infected with COVID-19 in their workplace. They are in need for urgent help in all aspects.

People in these villages are at risk of contracting the virus as some workers from these villages working as wage-labor in Israeli illegal settlements have been tested positive for COVID-19 and mixed with other people. In Biddu village, north-west of Jerusalem, an old lady died shortly after contracting the virus from her son who works in an illegal settlement. This death case and the spread of the pandemic almost on a daily basis scare these communities a lot. Moreover, in some of these villages, like, the Israeli occupation intensified their attacks during COVID-19 pandemic. In Ni’lin Sofyan Al-Khawaja was shot dead on March 22nd while his cousin was maimed. Therefore, supporting such communities fighting on two fronts – the escalated violence and the pandemic – is a way to mitigate their suffering and scare and to build solidarity.

This campaign comes for all the participants on top of the ongoing daily struggle against Israel’s occupation. It is a social responsibility to unite our people and provide them with the best help to face the COVID-19 pandemic.

Next steps

The campaign will be focusing in the coming days on other locations south of the West Bank, especially the communities living to the east of Hebron, and south east Yatta. There are around 225 isolated Bedouin communities and villages, in addition to some villages and families that are located near the apartheid Wall and illegal settlements. The campaign will collaborate with all of the local groups to provide the best of the basic needs for the Bedouin communities. The campaign also aims to make the Palestinian Refugee Camps part and priority to all of our solidarity campaigns.

The importance of this campaign in facing the pandemic lies in the fact that the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), have been escalating their attacks on Palestinians; in one of the Bedouin communities the Israeli military even demolished a clinic that was supposed to help Palestinians in those isolated areas in facing the pandemic. While Palestinians are facing the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also facing increased attacks from the Israeli occupation. Settlers are using the emergency state imposed on Palestinian cities for their attacks, such as in the case near Bethlehem, where settlers burnt 300 olive trees last week. Israeli authorities advance the construction of the apartheid Wall in Jabal Mukabbir in Jerusalem and continue their arrests of Palestinians from Jerusalem and other cities in the West Bank.

While the world is facing the COVID-19 pandemic, Palestinians have to collaborate in different ways and extend help as much as they can, since they have to face two different dangers, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Occupation, which affect their lives in different ways.

The campaign still considers that we are still at the beginning of the challenge, as this pandemic requires a collaboration with all the efforts to reach all the locations that need help, and the campaign organizers confirmed that they themselves and the volunteers are ready to provide all the volunteering services to stand with our people, especially those who are facing this pandemic in the isolated areas, as they are being attacked by settlers every day in addition to the pandemic.