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How else could I buy food and clothes?

By Tom

At Al Quds Open University Campus in Tubas we met Raed and Firas, aged 22 and 21 yrs old. They both work in the fields and packing houses of the Jordan Valley settlements to be able to survive and pay for their education. On the days that they work, they get up at 3.00am, to be bussed through the mountains and checkpoints to the Jordan Velley settlements with about 500 settlement workers from the town. They are able to do this as they have a permit to enter the Jordan Valley supplied by the Israeli settler they are working for. They work from 6.00am – 2.00pm, and for this they receive less than 5 pounds ($9.00) per day.

Raed works in Beit Ariva Settlement near Jericho. Even with a Jordan Valley permit he never knows if he will be allowed through the checkpoint at Humra or not. He is frequently searched and two weeks ago was just turned back for no reason. He picks and packs tomatoes, grapes, chilli peppers and other fruit and vegetables for Carmel Agrexco – the largest Israeli exporter to the UK. All the workers there are Palestinian or Thai – they are told not to talk to each other and have no common language that enables them to do so. The settlers are always armed, and they see them only when they are giving them work instructions.

Faed and Firas were happy for us to film them and report the information they gave us. I checked this with them carefully for fear that they could loose their jobs or face other repercussions. Faed’s response was “What else can they do to us?”

Firas is on the Student Council at the Al Quds Open University in Tubas, which was set up in 2001 to enable students to attend university without having to pass through numerous checkpoints. Students work from home, or come to the campus when they are able to. We met with the student council and they told us that 7 students from the University have been killed by the Israeli Army and 35 arrested – one of which was a girl.

Of 1,500 students, 230 come from the Jordan Valley. They are often stopped of delayed at the checkpoints on their way to the University, and this becomes far worse at exam time.

In 2001, the Army came into the University and caused a lot of damage inside the building, and they often block the gate to the University and stop the students from getting in. This last happened 5 days before our visit.

This Univsity is desperately short of money and has no library. They are looking for another acedemic institution to sponsor a subscription to an online library, as this is the only way many of the students could get access to the books they need.