A Bedford resident has asked the Mayor and council to support the twinning of the town with a village in Palestine to show solidarity to its residents.
Last year, the Mayor of Al Walaja, a village in Palestine, was welcomed at full council where he talked to Bedford councillors of the difficulties the village faces.
Rob Wall of Bedford Friends of Al Walaja spoke at Wednesday’s full council meeting to remind the Mayor of the meeting last year and to raise awareness of a new settlement to be built on the village’s land.
Rob asked the Mayor to condemn its construction and asked what further actions Bedford could take in solidarity with the villagers.
The Mayor replied that the settlement was “in clear breach of various UN resolutions” and he had written to our Foreign Secretary to ask what the government is doing about it.
He added “our sympathies and concern are not enough. It must be absolutely horrendous what they are going through”.
He hoped others, including other councillors, would also write to the government and to the Israeli Embassy.
Rob then asked a supplementary question, saying that one thing the villagers would see as tangible support would be the council making our twinning official, and that this would have no financial cost as all they wanted was recognition.
The Mayor replied that Bedford’s previous twinning relationships had all been run down, and that even without financial costs there could be other constraints, but that he would “definitely talk to colleagues” about this.
Finally, Rob used the opportunity to present a slide showing the multiple problems facing the village of Al Walaja, including the “separation barrier” around its built up area, the movement of the Jerusalem municipal boundary to include part of the land within this, the declaration of an Israeli National Park and the decision to move a checkpoint which would result in banning the villagers from tending their fields beyond the barrier, and finally the new settlement which will have 900 housing units.