Palestinians Prepare to Stand Up for What Matters

RAMALLAH - While the international community concentrates on final status negotiations between the Palestinian government and Israel, the Palestinian people plan to stand up Oct. 17 to show the world what really matters to them.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are expected to take part in demonstrations highlighting poverty and inequality in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Palestinians in the territories number three to four million.

Oct. 17 has been picked as the United Nations-recognized International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

The demonstration will be part of the larger Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), a banding together of international NGOs, social movements, trade unions, women's organizations and other civil society actors in an attempt to draw attention to global poverty.

This call to end poverty is especially relevant in the Occupied Palestinian Territories - 46 percent of all Palestinians do not have enough food to meet their basic needs, according to the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA).

In Ramallah, the de facto capital of the OPT, a large procession will take to the streets through the city center. Peaceful demonstrations have also been planned in small villages, towns and large population centers throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, along with a number of his ministers, is expected to address the crowds in Ramallah.

Later in the evening, a myriad of cultural events will be held at the Palestinian Cultural Palace. These events will include traditional dancing, singing, and performances by Palestinian youths.

In Nablus, 500 students from al-Najah University, the largest in the northern OPT, will assert their right to education by holding a rally on campus.

"We will give speeches, show pictures, and discuss the issues that really matter to us. We want to educate ourselves freely and without restriction. Education is a right that everyone must have," Mohammad Khareis, a resident of Nablus and organizing member of the student rally told IPS.

In Gaza, a conference will be held on the right to work and to social protection. The conference will conclude with the submission to the United Nations of a petition highlighting the specific troubles that citizens of the Gaza strip face daily.

While the majority of activities will take place on Oct. 17, some events will last a week or more.

One of these will be the provision of free medical services over a period of two weeks. Funded in part by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), this will include free medical consultations, medical examinations in mobile and stationary clinics, and a move to raise awareness on general health issues.

Ahmad Ayesh, member of the Palestine Medical Relief Society (PMRS) and one of those helping to coordinate the medical services, says Palestinians face huge difficulties in accessing medical care.

"The illegal wall that Israel is building has cut off many villagers from their agricultural land. They are very poor, and cannot afford to go to the doctor, and because of the checkpoints they can't reach the medical centers very easily either," he told IPS.

"We hope to touch the people who suffer the most," he said.

In Tulkarem, 45 km from Ramallah, textile workers plan meetings on issues such as job security and the ability to obtain work permits in Israel.

And across both the West Bank and the Gaza strip, schoolchildren will assemble on playgrounds to stand up against poverty. Candlelight vigils will be held in solidarity with people across the globe.

"Our voice will be combined with voices from around the world, united in achieving our goals," Khareis said.

(c) 2007 Inter Press Service

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