Mick Bowman in a village in Palestine (Picture: From Mick Bowan)

After retirement, Mick Bowman decided to make a mammoth journey from Calais in France to the West Bank to spread solidarity for the Palestinian cause.

Arriving just days before 7 October, Mick told Socialist Worker that he witnessed Israel’s grip on the West Bank tighten firsthand.

“The purpose of my walk was to show solidarity with Palestine and refugees,” he said. I’ve been fighting for the Palestinian cause most of my adult life, and the walk seemed like a natural progression of my political activity. 

“I walked over 1,700 miles. I walked across Europe to Istanbul, then took a plane to Jordan and crossed the border into the West Bank. It took me over five months. 

“On my journey I had hundreds of conversations about Palestine. I met trade unionists in Turkey and in Jordan. I spoke to those involved in the refugee movement in Greece, who identified strongly the commonality between all those fleeing displacement around the world. 

“Admittedly some people were a bit bewildered about what I was doing. But I was met with no hostility.” 

Mick arrived in the West Bank on 28 September last year. “I planned to stay in Palestine for a month with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), but my plans changed after 7 October,” he said.

“The situation deteriorated in the West Bank so quickly, so I decided to stay. I thought I could help in a small way, especially by documenting what I saw happening around me.” 

Mick spent most of his time in Palestine in the Hebron Hills, where he said Israel is trying to ethnically cleanse people. “Terrorist gangs of settlers are being backed up by Israeli forces to intimidate and force Palestinians from their homes,” he said.

“The settler movement is an integral part of the Zionist project, and its plans have accelerated since 7 October. Along with others from the ISM, we would stand beside Palestinians who were being terrorised by Israeli forces or settlers. 

“The hope was that the violence wouldn’t be as bad because internationals were there. On occasions, I was roughed up by the Israeli forces. My phone was taken from me.

Mick Bowman in Jordan

“But the worst that could have happened to me was deportation. There’s no limits to the violence that Palestinians face. I saw firsthand what the Israeli state is doing to those in refugee camps in Jenin. A hundred-plus soldiers go in with dogs and massive bulldozers. 

“They rip up roads. Sometimes, this disturbs water pipes, leading to contamination of water sources. They also attack health facilities and intimidate staff. They murder Palestinians and have already left hundreds with life-long injuries. This violence has been going on for years, but it’s stepped up in the last few months. 

“The Israeli state targets places like Jenin and Nablus because they are centres of Palestinian resistance— they want to suppress it. 

Mick also noted that Palestinians in the West Bank, especially the younger generation, are angry at the Palestine Authority (PA). “It seemed to me younger people were disillusioned with the PA,” he said. “First over corruption— I think many see that its leaders are doing quite nicely while they suffer. 

“They also see how the PA provides security to Israel. A large chunk of its budget goes to security, not to keep the Palestinians but the Israelis safe. 

“The PA imprisons and arrests those involved with armed resistance. They really police the occupation.” 

He added that he experienced how the PA were part of suppressing protests in the West Bank to Israel’s assault on Gaza. 

“I went to a rally in Ramallah in October,” he said. “Marchers wanted to walk to the road to Nablus, where there is an Israeli military base — the road was blocked by PA security. It’s clear the Palestinians can’t rely on the PA.”

Mick said that, while the situation in the West Bank is dire, he still says there is hope in resistance. “I saw remarkable resistance from Palestinians defying the occupation in any way they could at great personal cost,” he said.   

“The Palestinians I met were doing everything possible to maintain their way of life.” 

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