Camden Palestinian group says it’s about ‘human rights, not politics’ after anti-Israel criticism

PUBLISHED: 11:00 06 December 2013

Nandita Dowson, director of Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Nandita Dowson, director of Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association. Picture: Polly Hancock.


Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association (CADFA) will celebrate its 10th birthday on Tuesday at a party in Belsize Park set to be opened by Frank Dobson, Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras.

Over the past decade, the organisation has grown from a small collective concerned about alleged human rights abuses in Palestinian territories into a recognised charity – backed by British Council funding – that has sent hundreds of visitors to the Middle East to experience the Palestinian way of life.

Through a “twinning” relationship with Abu Dis, a Palestinian town on the outskirts of Jerusalem, CADFA has also welcomed hundreds of Palestinian visitors to Camden over the years. The charity claims to have “made Camden famous” among Palestinians.

Last month, CADFA’s work made front page news in the Ham&High, but not for reasons it would have liked.

The newspaper reported the story of Camden school friends Rachel Horigan, 22, and Harres Yakubi, 23, who were thrown into an Israeli prison cell before being deported back to Britain for attempting to volunteer in Palestinian schools.

The pair were taking part in CADFA’s three-month volunteer programme, funded by the British Council’s Youth in Action aid, offering them the chance to live and work alongside Palestinian women and children in Abu Dis’s schools and communities.

However, the pair never made it past Israeli border police at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport after their plans to volunteer were discovered.

The Israeli Embassy in London told the Ham&High the volunteers were refused entry as they did not have the permit required to enter the West Bank through Israel.

Following the publication of last month’s story, the Ham&High received a swathe of letters from readers arguing that Israel was justifiably enforcing its border policy in deporting two visitors who did not have the necessary documentation.

Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer, a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel, said: “We never know the full facts, 
although I don’t doubt it was an uncomfortable ordeal for the volunteers to go through.

“The difficulty is that because Israel has been the victim of so many attacks throughout the years, their border control is very sensitive to who is entering the country.

“Sometimes from an outsider’s point of view it can seem like Israel over-reacts but every country in the world, the UK included, has a right to control and properly police its borders.”

There was also criticism of CADFA from some readers who claimed the organisation propagates a divisive, anti-Israel message.

But Nandita Dowson, director of CADFA, insisted the charity is a humanitarian cause and strictly non-political.

She said: “We are never going to be drawn into national and religious affiliations. Our group consists of people from many different backgrounds and many different faiths and none.

“It’s about human rights which is international law – it’s about people treating others right. Our work includes talking about human rights violations committed by the Israeli army, because they happen. Unfortunately, this is what life is like there.”

For more information about CADFA, visit

Related articles


Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

Yesterday, 07:00

A mural to commemorate Prince on the anniversary of his death has been unveiled outside the Electric Ballroom, in Camden.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

It will be a relief to many that a watering hole in St John’s Wood dating back more than 200 years will stand to serve another pint on May 2.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has dismissed Liberal Democrats’ claims that they are the only opposition to the Tories and that voting for them could halt Brexit.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A group of teachers from a Muswell Hill school paid a visit to Singapore over the Easter break in a bid to expand their outlook on the teaching of maths.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The woman, aged 24, is still being treated in hospital for “life-changing injuries” five days after the crash in Elgin Avenue.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The husband of a West Hampstead mum being held in an Iranian jail has spoken of his shock after a special tree adorned with yellow ribbons for her was attacked.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Supporters of an iconic LGBT pub in Camden are set to sing songs in the street to mark the second anniversary of its closure.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A man was stabbed in the early hours after having an argument in Camden.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news


Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now