Three of the four Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) hostages in Iraq of whom a video was released today have been in Palestine working as Palestinian Solidarity activists.Tom Fox (54) worked with CPT Hebron and participated in demonstrations against the apartheid Wall in Jayyous.
Harmeet Sooden (32) a Canadian citizen who had been living in New Zealand, came to Palestine to join the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in December 2004 and stayed until January 2005. He worked in solidarity with local Palestinian people, mostly in Nablus and Jenin. While in Jenin, he worked with a group of ISM activists who planted Olive trees on the ‘Swithart’ farm outside Jenin, He was committed to come to Palestine for three months to join the ISM again at the beginning of December 2005 as a long term activist for the liberation of Palestine from Israeli occupation, but first decided to join a two week CPT delegation to Iraq.James Loney was in Palestine five years ago as an activist with CPT Hebron.
Palestinians in Ramallah will hold a demonstration tomorrow at 3pm in solidarity with all four kidnapped peace activists and to appeal for their release. The demonstration will be attended by notable Palestinian religious and resistance figures.
Mustafa Jayyousi a local Palestinian activist in Jayyous who knew Tom said: “When he worked in Jayyous, Tom was part of a group who went down to the gates everyday with local farmers to help them access their lands made inaccessible by the wall. He also participated in demonstrations with the people of Jayyous against the apartheid Wall in Jayyous”.
Mohammed Ayyesh a local Palestinian activist in Balata camp, Nablus said of Harmeet: “I was touch with Harmeet and was looking forward to him coming here to work next week. We must do everything we can to secure his release”.Basem Abu-Bakar a local Palestinian activist in Jenin said: “Harmeet came as a volunteer in solidarity with the people of Jenin. He supported the Palestinian people and the people of Jenin with his presence here, and with his work in New Zealand”.
In an email to his friends Harmeet described the purpose of the four-person team’s work in Iraq as: “providing humanitarian aid in the form of training and documentation of non-violent responses to lethal inter-group conflict. We will also record the current conditions in Iraq, meeting with representatives of NGOs, Christian and Muslim clerics, Iraqi human rights groups and others”. He also recounted a story from Iraq: “A little 3-year old girl, Alaa, ran up to me and gave me a big hug me yesterday. She reminds me of my niece. She, however, does not see as my niece sees. She sustained severe shrapnel injuries to her abdomen and micro-fragments peppered her eyes, face and body during a US military attack in May on al Qaim, Iraq. Her mother lost an eye. She lost two brothers and several other relatives”.
Some of his friends who worked with Harmeet in the ISM appealed to the kidnappers for his release:
Donna: “Since he was back in New Zealand, Harmeet formed a new Palestinian Solidarity Group on Auckland University campus and organised speakers and forums about Palestine. He is a very shy, quiet guy, but very committed and hoped to return to Palestine next month.”
Asa: “Harmeet is a great person - we worked in solidarity with the Palestinian people together. He cares deeply about the plight of all oppressed people and is unequivocally against the occupation of Iraq and Palestine. He has also been involved in work around the conflict over Kashmir and in favour of the right of the people there for self determination. He would never act as a spy for any government. He is a sound peace activist.”
Patrick Connors: “I know Harmeet from when he volunteered with ISM in Palestine last winter. Harmeet is a very good, serious, committed person. CPT is a solid organization, with serious training and procedures, that does great things.”
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