Palestinian delegate Tower Hamlets friendship tour

Yousef Awad meets with Palestinian Society at Queen Mary's. Pic: THJFA.

Yousef Awad meets with Palestinian Society at Queen Mary’s. Pic: THJFA.

Campaigner in Tower Hamlets have criticised the Israeli government after two delegates due to participate in a tour of the London borough were unable to leave the West Bank.

The Tower Hamlets Jenin Friendship Association (THJFA) was to host three delegates as part of a decade-long effort to strengthen links between Jenin and Tower Hamlets.

However, only one of the three delegates made it to London after Israeli forces prevented two of the party from leaving the West Bank in Jordan, according to the THJFA.

Yousef Awad, director of International Relations for the Governor of Jenin Province, Maysoun Dawoud, Public Relations Manager for the Mayor of Jenin City, and Ahmed AlQuassem, Deputy Governor of Jenin province were also expected by only Award arrived in the UK.

Sybil Cokc, Convenor of the THJFA, told EastLondonLines that the reason for them not being allowed to leave was not made clear.

“Palestinians are not allowed to use the airport in Israel, so they have to leave via Amman, in Jordan,” he said.

“In order to leave Palestine for Jordan, they have to go through an Israeli checkpoint, and the Israelis made clear on Saturday that they weren’t going to let Ahmed and Maysoun cross.”

Cokc said the association was raising awareness of the issues in Palestine among residents of Tower Hamlets, and “generating further solidarity for Palestinians” within the borough.

“One of the things we were trying to do was to get a formal twinning arrangement between the Jenin region of Palestine [and Tower Hamlets],” he added. “I don’t think that is likely to happen very soon, […] it’s a long term aim.”

As the delegation’s sole representative in London, Awad met with met with local politicians, trades unionists, teachers, lecturers and students as part of the cultural exchange.

Tower Hamlets Councillor Ohid Ahmed, who led a delegation to Jenin in 2013, said: “This visit is very important in cementing relationships between our two communities.  Our successful visit to Palestine in 2013 made us all realise the mutual benefits of twinning Tower Hamlets with Jenin.”

Cllr Ahmed’s delegation faced similar issues during his 2013 trip to Jenin, accompanied by Cllr Rania Khan.

Khan complained on Twitter that the group had been held for 10 hours in Tel Aviv, and that they were only given their Visas 8 hours after they were issued.

She claimed that this was done to “intimidate and deter” them.

“So far this journey has made me realise how important it is to raise the plight of [Palestine]”, she added in a later tweet.

Kerie Anne, Assistant Branch Secretary of UNISON in Tower Hamlets said: “We are delighted to be able to return the hospitality that the Trades Union and Councillors delegation were shown on our trip to Jenin in 2013.

“We are very disappointed that Ahmed and Maysoun were not able to join Yousef because of the actions of Israel, which controls the movement of all Palestinians.”

The Israeli embassy in London was contacted, but declined to comment.

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