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Visit from our Israeli partner

June marked 50 years since the Six Day War between Israel and the neighbouring states of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

During this war Israel seized control of the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan. Since then, the situation in the region has been in constant flux.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) is the oldest civil rights organisations in the region, having been set up in 1972. Its work promotes human rights in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and it represents all Israeli citizens and Palestinians under military control.

Ronit Sela is ACRI's Director of Human Rights, and she mainly works with people living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Ronit recently visited Ireland to share stories from the valuable work in which the organisation is engaged.

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The work of ACRI

ACRI's work in Gaza mainly examines the actions of Israeli military and breaches of international law.

In East Jerusalem, which is cut off from the West Bank by the Separation Barrier (a concrete wall that surrounds the city), ACRI defends and demands basic human rights for the people living there, who suffer from extreme discrimination due to poor infrastructure. An example of this is access to healthcare, for which ACRI go to the Health Ministry to demand.

Ronit's work in the West Bank focuses on Area C - an area where both Israeli settlers and Palestinians live under full Israeli military control.

'Palestinian communities are living in places that Israel would like to annex in the future.

'As a result, Israel is placing very harsh measures to limit or diminish the Palestinian way of life. They can’t develop their farming land. Instead they have to live in an area used for military training that has been declared a firing zone.'

While Ronit’s department petitions the Israeli government in relation to these cases, getting a resolution can be slow. The longest case in ACRI’s history has been in progress for 17 years.

'We submitted a petition on behalf of Palestinians living in the south Hebron hills. People were put on trucks and forced to flee, they were herding communities out.' 
 

Ronit's background has influenced her work

Ronit is from just outside Tel Aviv.

Before she went to university she had never interacted with any Arabs before, whether Israeli citizens or otherwise.

At her university, there was a project to bring together Jewish and Arab students and to better understand each other.

'I recognised that their narrative was so different to mine. To hear from them about their relatives in Gaza and the West Bank, and to recognise the gap between how I saw the world and how they did, sparked my curiosity.' 
 
This formative experience stayed with Ronit and has pushed her to work for human rights with determination and persistence despite many obstacles.

'Sometimes you go to sleep happy and then you wake up in the morning and there's another problem to solve. At this point I don't know what it feels like to be working on something where you have clear victories. Sometimes you bang your head on the wall and then you wake up and you do it again and again, and that's what we do... professional headbanging.'  
 

Christian Aid has been working with the most vulnerable people in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories since the early 1950s. Today, we work with both Israeli and Palestinian organisations to protect human rights and to build a just, lasting peace for all.


 

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