Saturday, August 22, 2009

Italy attacking Nativity Church deportees, Fateh criticized for not addressing issue at Conference

22.08.09 - 21:54

Gaza / PNN – The Palestinians deported and exiled by Israeli forces from the Church of Nativity are still outside.

Some were deported to the Gaza Strip with instructions to not leave Gaza City and to not engage in any political activity. If they did, their fates would be more unknown than they are now.

Those exiled to Europe have had as difficult time as the Gazans, and perhaps much more so. Most cannot work and are allotted a paltry sum by the Palestinian Authority in order to survive.

It was only supposed to last a year or two, three at the most. It has been more than seven.

The concern today was issued by the deportees in Gaza who are calling to end the suffering of those exiled to Italy. It has been more than two years that the Italian government has not fulfilled the obligations it agreed to toward the Palestinians living in exile. The West Bank residents now in Gaza are asking that the Palestinian Authority pressure the Italian government.

Fahmi Canaan is a spokesperson for the Palestinians deported to the Strip. He said Saturday, “Our brothers are exiled in Italy where they are now sitting at the Palestinian embassy. The Italian government is engaged in trying to crush them and repeatedly expel them from Italy.”

Canaan also issued a sentiment that is shared by hundreds of people involved, saying that he “strongly deplores the great failure on the part of the Palestinian Authority on the issue of deportees.”

Canaan directed additional criticism of the Fateh Sixth Conference held earlier this month in Bethlehem. During all the back-slapping there was no talk of the issue outstanding since Spring 2002. “It did not address the issue of deportees at all, even though it took place in Bethlehem, the birthplace of the exiles.”

He added, “We are still suffering the pain of distance and separation from our families and loved ones.”

Bethlehem deportees: Hunger strike against Italy, not the PA
Published Friday 21/08/2009 (updated) 22/08/2009 16:01

Bethlehem – Ma'an – Palestinians deported from Bethlehem during the 2002 siege of the Nativity Church insisted on Friday their hunger strike at Palestine's embassy in Rome was meant to pressure Italy, not the Palestinian Authority.

The hunger strike, which began on Thursday, was started to pressure Italian authorities to abide by conditions the prisoners said were promised to them, including living a decent life in Italy and eventually returning to Bethlehem, following their agreement in 2002 to end their shelter inside the Church of the Nativity in exchange for guarantees they would not be killed or jailed by Israel.

The three Palestinians involved in the strike were identified as Mohammad Abu As-Sa'eed, Khaled Abu Nejmah, and Ibrahim E'beyat. They were deported to Europe as part of an agreement that would see Israel end its siege of Bethlehem in exchange for the Palestinian militants' deportation to Europe and Gaza.

On Thursday, Abu As-Sa'eed told Ma'an in a telephone interview that he and his fellow deportees would "sleep on chairs inside the embassy until our demands are met."

A similar hunger strike was carried out some two months earlier and ended upon the Italian government's promise to meet their demands, they said. But Italy's failure to abide by its commitment has forced the deportees to begin anew, they insisted on Friday.

"Our primary demand is either to return to Palestine, but if that's not possible, the Italian government should respond to our demands that we live in dignity on its soil for the period of our deportation," Abu As-Sa'eed said.

Rather than blaming the PA for their predicament, Abu As-Sa'eed said Palestine Liberation Organization negotiator Saeb Erekat and the staff of the Palestinian embassy in Rome had "supported our stance through intensive contacts [with Italian authorities]."

Abu As-Sa'eed urged media outlets to continue focusing on their plight, including that of deportee Jihad Ij'areh in Ireland, and threatened to expand the strike to all of Europe if progress is not made soon.