By Roddy Keenan- PNN/Bethlehem
A town in Ireland has completed the first step towards twinning with Beit Sahour in the occupied West Bank.
Kerry County Council has passed unopposed a motion to link Tralee, in County Kerry, with the Palestinian municipality.
Councillor Pa Daly of the Sinn Fein political party, who proposed the motion, said that he had the idea of twinning with a Palestinian town after the killing of more than 60 Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces on Nakba Day.
Councillor Daly subsequently spoke with activists in a local Palestinian support group who put him in contact with Nidal Abu Zuluf, manager of the Joint Advocacy Initiative of the East Jerusalem YMCA, which is based in Beit Sahour.
“We felt that Beit Sahour would be appropriate, as it is a medium sized town like Tralee, and we share an old Christian heritage and history of colonisation,” explained Councillor Daly to PNN. “We believe that we have a lot to learn from each other, and the twinning can break down barriers and help share experiences.”
Mr Abu Zuluf explained how the process will work. At present, both parties are working on a memorandum of understanding to outline the towns’ shared values. While initially it will deal with cultural exchanges, Mr Abu Zuluf said the memorandum shall remain a work in progress as different areas of cooperation are developed.
The impact of such cultural visits will enable the people of Tralee to experience life in Palestine and witness what it is like to live under Israeli occupation. It will also enable them to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Palestine and develop a close partnership in support of the Palestinian right to self determination.
Mayor Jehad Khair of Beit Sahour municipality has welcomed the initiative, and is enthusiastic about developing links with Tralee. The mayor said he looks forward to developing strategic relationships to facilitate real and meaningful collaboration in as many areas as possible, such as tourism, agriculture, local industry and investment.
‘We give the green light to any form of cooperation that Tralee wishes to engage in,’ said Mayor Khair
Ireland has a long history of solidarity with the people of Palestine. Both nations have experience of occupation and colonization at the hands of British imperialism, and even today, the northern six counties in Ireland remain under British occupation.
Tralee’s move is the latest demonstration of Irish support for Palestine. In July, the upper chamber in the Irish parliament passed a bill in support of boycotting Israeli settlement products. That bill will now go forward to the lower chamber of the Irish parliament where MPs will vote on the issue.