Hazzard Visits Palestine And Talks To Education Minister And Key Figures

South Down MLA Chris Hazzard (Sinn Féin) paid a recent visit to the trouble torn Middle East and was in Palestine this week as tensions in the region continue to rise in response to Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and incursions on the holy islamic site of the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

[caption id="attachment_59734" align="alignleft" width="390"]Mr Chris Hazzard MLA meets with Palestinian Education Minister Dr Sabri Saidam in Ramallah, Palestine.  South Down MLA Chris Hazzard met with the Palestinian Education Minister Dr Sabri Saidam in Ramallah, Palestine. [/caption]

The local MLA met with various political and social leaders including the Palestinian Education Minister, Dr Sabri Saidam and the Irish Ambassador to Israel, Ms Alison Kelly.

Mr Hazzard said: “It was heartbreaking to see the level of oppression inflicted upon the Palestinian people in east Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank, with Palestinians being forced from their homes to make way for the illegal settlement of more than 650,000 Israelis.

“Indeed unless I had seen the oppression with my own eyes I would have found it impossible to believe. On top of a huge amount of civil restrictions including not being allowed to travel freely in their own country; it is illegal for Palestinians to own a home in various locations, they are not allowed to drive on certain roads, and they have to pay at least twice as much for utilities such as water and electricity.

It is horrifying that the international community would tolerate such apartheid in 2015.

Mr Hazzard added: “In recent weeks, more than 1100 school children have been shot by Israeli forces, with many of these children dragged from their classrooms at school. In response Dr Sabri Saidam, the Palestinian Education Minister has pleaded with the Israeli government to sign up to the UN Safe School Declaration.  But Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to refuse.

“I have subsequently now raised this matter with the Irish Ambassador to Israel, Ms Alison Kelly, who will be pursing this development with her Israeli counterparts. Children throughout the world are entitled to be educated in a safe environment free from torture and death.”