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Transcript of BBC World Servce interview with Mary Baxter

This BBC interview relates to Mary’s arrest in Tel Rumeida on December 17th

Mary: On this occasion some children who were going up at the very top of Tel Rumeida were being stopped from going home from school. For some reason at the top of the hill on private Palestinian land there were a whole lot of settlers having a picnic, a lot of them children. They were being guarded by a number of soldiers. The Palestinian children who were forced to use that way because they are not allowed to go up the street past the Tel Rumeida settlement, and have been told by the army that is the way they’re to go, were not being allowed past to their homes. Now this is against the Israeli law. They rang me because I’ve been there so long and understand the situation and the law to some extent although I’m not a lawyer. The officers are not very keen to talk to me, they expect me to respond to barked orders as though I was some sort of a dog at times but they will not discuss anything with me.

Interviewer: So you protested, you tried time after time to get some official response to what you saw as a breach of Israeli law by stopping these children. What happened eventually?

Mary: The police came. Now the police over the telephone to someone else had already admitted that it was their job to protect the Palestinian children but the police had not come to do so, so I told the police that they were breaking Israeli law if they did not help these Palestinian children get home. They refused to do that. Instead they said I must get in their jeep and they would take me to the police station and when I protested they said they would take me to the police station and come back to look after the Palestinian children but they did not go back and help out in this situation at all, they stayed at the police station.

Interviewer: Mary, you are 75. Why would you, a widower of a former Anglican priest, want to put yourself through this, why would you want to be in that conflict zone.?

Mary: I think it’s a call from God, but in Australia we don’t talk about God much, but that’s what I think it is. The thing that really keeps me there is that Palestinians tell me time and time again that my being there makes a difference to their lives. I do take risks and I go further with the children than either the army or the settlers want me to go.

Interviewer: Have settlers ever attacked you?

Mary: O yes, lots of times. They attack me outside my house. I don’t have to go up near their settlement to be attacked.

Interviewer: And what kind of attack?

Mary: I’ve been knocked over when I’ve been trying to protect children. Just on the 18th November three different settler women punched me when I was trying to stand between them and Palestinian children.

Interviewer: Can you ever get any sense from those settlers who are so angry with you, why they think that there shouldn’t be Palestinians there?

Mary: No, no, what they do if they talk at all rather than scream, is to rant at you. The men rant, very often with a finger right in my face, that I’m not objective but they are free to attack Palestinian children and they are somehow objective. It just makes absolutely no sense.