24 Mar 2013 Leave a Comment
14 Mar 2013 1 Comment
When I visited Gaza in January this year, there were many really memorable moments. One in particular really moved me and stayed with me. On our first day we were down town in Gaza city, just wandering around, soaking it all up. Some of the lads stopped to buy nuts and we were waiting around for them just by the old gold market. Two women came up to me and asked if I was from Dublin, that their brother lived there. I explained I was from Limerick and asked their brother’s name, it was Abraham Deeb. I said I didn’t know him and we chatted for a minute or two. The women went off about their business, but a few minutes later one of them came back and gave me a gift, a pretty, handmade keyring with the Palestinian flag on it. I was touched by this gesture, it was so lovely, I really can’t imagine it happening anywhere other than Palestine. To come across such warmth and unsolicited kindness just walking around a new place is really unusual, not in Gaza it seems….
So I had my keyring as a special memento of my first visit to Gaza and I remembered the man’s name. Last week a friend posted a link to Dervla Murphy’s upcoming talk about her book, A Month By the Sea, Encounters in Gaza on the IPSC page and someone posted this under it: “Would love to be able to go to this talk but I am in Gaza at the moment and I would strongly recommend my friends in Dublin to go.” His name? Abraham Deeb!
I saw the post and commented: “Abraham, are you from Gaza? When I was there in January, a woman came up to me on the street and asked if we were Irish, I said yes. She told me her brother lives in Dublin, I’m sure it was your name, and she gave me a little gift. A beautiful Gazzawi encounter “
His response: “Hi Zoe, yes I am from Gaza and yes that was my sister! She told me the story but she didn’t have your name. How beautiful!!”
Mine: “Wow! Mash’allah, that’s amazing! Please say hello to her, it was one of the highlights of my trip. What is your sister’s name?”
Abraham Deeb: “That is really an amazing coincidence. My sisters told me this story when I came over couple of weeks ago without knowing who you are. However, they were my 2 sisters, Aida who spoke with you initially and Nahla who gave you the token gift. They both send you their regards and say you welcome to come back and visit them next time. I sent a message to IPSC wondering if there are any Irish people in Gaza at present and got message back that a group might be coming in June. Unfortunately, I’ll be back in Ireland by then as I am leaving Gaza at end of March. I met some Irish people here and we will be celebrating Paddy’s day next Sunday. I would like to post this story on my FB if that’s ok with you? With best regards.”
Me: “That’s amazing Abraham, and please say hello to Aida and Nahla – I will meet them the next time I’m in Gaza insh’allah. There are a few Irish people there at the moment – I will message you. Of course you can share – I love this story!”
Such a brief encounter, such a coincidence…a real taste of how Gaza gets under skin – it’s the people – every time.
Hopefully I’ll meet Aida and Nahla in Gaza some day and Abraham in Dublin. And again, I love this story.
29 Jan 2013 4 Comments
(These are thoughts, some fully formed – many rambling, most disjointed. It is a bit all over the place, but it is what I have for now.)
Gaza has been on my mind, in my heart and in my plans for years- like all of Palestine. But I never could quite get there. My first time in Palestine coincided with the pull out of the settlers from Gaza so I couldn’t go. Since then I’ve tried to march there (Gaza Freedom March) and sail there, along the way meeting detention, sabotage, kidnapping and imprisonment. So this time was to be straightforward – permission secured from the Egyptian authorities…. After some wonderful days in Cairo wandering around, seeing the changes from being there during the Mubarak regime, when thousands of police and soldiers were deployed to stop a solidarity action with our Palestinian sisters and brothers in Gaza, chatting to, and being inspired by the revolutionaries; we headed for Rafah. We being my friends and comrades from Gaza Action Ireland, which was formed by Irish activists who were involved in Irish Ship to Gaza both on board the MV Saoirse and as shore team. The aim of the group is to highlight and help undermine the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Watching the sun come up driving through the Sinai felt unreal, in fact nothing felt real until we got into Gaza which felt more real than almost anything I’ve ever experienced. At the Rafah crossing the mayhem and delays that people are put through were patent. It is outrageous that people living in Gaza have no way of their own to exit their country and that they can’t get into the rest of their country, it is criminal. We had a couple of hairy hours there as there was some issue with our paperwork and three of us were told initially that we couldn’t cross into Gaza. Having had very little sleep and having so much invested emotionally in this, I was totally freaked out until, thanks to our friend Claudia, we eventually got our clearance. We used some shekels that we had been given by Irish embassy staff when in Givon prison in Israel in 2011 to pay some of our taxi fare from Rafah, I sure enjoyed spending them that way.
Our purpose in going to Gaza was to create links with civil society groups there with the intention of raising awareness of the effects of the siege in Ireland and also doing what we can to help break the isolation that people are being deliberately subjected to. The visit was also to inform ourselves so that we can be better advocates in Palestinian solidarity. Personally, every time I’ve been to Palestine I’ve come back invigorated and determined to do my best to support the Palestinian struggle. This time will be no different I guess.
While there we were busy, we met the PNGO, members of the BNC (Boycott National Council), Al-Helal football club, people from the UNRWA medical teams, the Palestinian Olympic Committee, the fisherman’s union, artists, paramedics, playwrights, friends and of course our wonderful hosts the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR).
Before going, I found it hard to visualise life going on in Gaza amid the terrible war crimes perpetrated by Israel on the people there. It was the same before I visited Al Quds and the West Bank, I couldn’t imagine ‘normal’ life amid the checkpoints, the wall, the apartheid. It’s so far from our privileged experience living in Ireland that even though you know it, read it, hear it all the time, it’s difficult to get your head around. That’s one of the most inspiring things about Palestine, and this was brought home to me again in Gaza – the people are so unbelievably resilient. There is so much life and vibrancy, the history and culture of the place is striking. Visiting the museum, walking the streets, seeing the hustle and bustle in the main square, Gaza comes to life and boy is it great. The minute I got to the city I smelled Palestine, a smell I love, I saw Palestine, a country I love and I met Palestinian people, a people I love and admire so much.
Something that came up a lot in conversations and in meetings was that people there do not want Gaza to be seen or represented as a separate entity – it is as much part of Palestine as Jerusalem, Nablus, Bethlehem… I guess being part of a group called Gaza Action Ireland, we could be construed as solely Gaza focused but we are in solidarity with the people of Palestine, all of Palestine. The blockade and Israel are what attempt to set Gaza apart from Palestine but just as the people there resist that, so must we all. To me it is everything, Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza – all of Palestine from ’48.
Before I sailed on the flotilla in 2011, I visited the parts of Palestine I could get to as I knew I would get a 10 year ban if picked up on the Saoirse. My main impression then, even more than on a previous visit, was of how Israel is trying to divide Palestine into three separate entities and make it impossible for the people in the different parts to be with each other, to be unified. The opinion was expressed often that Israel wants to push Gaza into the Sinai, the West Bank into Jordan and to cleanse Jerusalem. What we also heard time and time again was that they are going nowhere, this is their land and they will stay, they will resist and apartheid will end. This is the will, the sumoud, the resistance that makes the Palestinians so strong and underlines how, despite this decades long and brutal occupation, they continue to live, to breathe, to love, to exist. Sumoud is my favourite Arabic word, it shows me the soul of the Palestinian struggle.
There is hope, there is immense strength but there is also terrible pain and suffering, all imposed by apartheid Israel. At our first meeting with our hosts the PCHR, the director Raji Sourani gave a talk that would grab you by the throat. Burning with the injustice of it all, he outlined the brutality and inhumanity of the siege, describing the restriction of movement, war crimes, the prevention of the sewage treatment system being repaired, the disaster that is the water situation and so many more examples of Israel’s barbarity. He likened the situation the people of Gaza have been put in to Animal Farm, this is very resonant to me as I have long felt that what is being perpetrated on Gaza is a cruel and brutal social experiment. For sure weapons are tested on the people there too. The evidence of the most recent Israeli attack on the Strip is everywhere, as is that of the murderous 22 days of 2008/09.
On our last morning we saw the shell of a house that was bombed during the last attack on Gaza, the owner of the house had gotten a call from the Israeli military telling him his house was about to be bombed, he got his family out but didn’t have time to warn his neighbours and five people were killed. This kind of state terrorism is routine, straight from the apartheid playbook. In Rafah there is a mini museum to the November assault with some graphic pictures of the dead and injured. One picture really struck me, it is of an old man sitting in the midst of rubble, gripping his walking frame and looking utterly lost – it is heart wrenching.
So, while I am happy to have experienced and to write about all the vibrancy in Gaza, I can’t gloss over how all-pervasive the siege is, how it impacts almost every aspect of people’s lives. There are so many instances, so many stories of how the last attack, or the one before that or the blockade, hurt people, harm their lives. From the dire medical situation, the high rates of anaemia among children and pregnant women, the unemployment, the students studying whole years without books, the siege damages and blights lives and it has to end.
Meeting with the fishermen at Gaza Seaport was powerful, their experience is so raw and their job so elemental. Through their spokesman Zakaria Bakr, they told us of how they are subject to constant terrorism by apartheid Israel. Their boats are routinely thrashed, they are beaten, detained and shot and have seen their livelihoods decimated. We met a man who had been shot by the Israeli navy, detained and then dumped on the road two days later, left to crawl back to his home from Erez untreated. These men come from long, proud traditions of fishing and just want to fish safely, freely and with dignity. What kind of abnormal situation prevails whereby people are prevented from going about their daily lives by brutal military assault? How is it possible for this to happen, to continue? I honestly believe that if people outside the solidarity community realised the extent of the violence of Israel’s actions against the Palestinian people, they would be campaigning for this to end. The media just gives skewed snapshots with the Palestinian narrative painted out and then goes away again until they report on the another Israeli atrocity- all through the prism of ‘balance’ of course.
The setting of Gaza Seaport was especially resonant as it was where the MV Saoirse would have sailed into. Fintan Lane GAI co-ordinator had been sailing alongside the Mavi Marmara when Israel murdered nine of its crew in 2010, the monument to those nine men there is a real testament to solidarity .
Meeting the kids of the Al-Helal football club was sweet and lovely – they presented us with mini jerseys and we watched them training. Earlier that day we had watched some of their senior team’s match where the Israeli settlements used to be. Going to matches is something I do a lot, and with the sun shining, this was an idyllic setting –that’s part of what makes Gaza so difficult to process. There is so much ‘normality’, so much of people trying to live as best they can, yet it is in the context of this totally abnormal and crippling siege. The dissonance is big. Israel’s aim is to stop all the ‘normal’ stuff, to make it impossible, yet watching the kids running around, the people strolling through the city square, the life of it all, you realise they can’t make it impossible, the Palestinians won’t let them. This is “we teach life sir” country and it has power.
There’s so much more to report, meeting the incredible human rights defenders, the young BDS activists, meeting new friends – all of it was intense, informative and rewarding. I loved being brought around, breaking bread, having arghile and chatting to people. We went to the reading of a play, Tales of a City by the Sea, by Samah Sabawi and a brilliant questions and answer session afterwards, we walked the beach and watched the fishing.
It’s hard to know what will happen, the prevailing view of people we spoke to was of short term pessimism but long term optimism. The imminent situation there is dire and precarious, the Israeli war machine is unpredictable but global solidarity is growing and the people’s will is unbreakable. All I know for certain is that those of us who are privileged to live in safety, who have the choice to move, to be secure, to go there but to leave – we have to do our very best, work as hard as we can to support the Palestinian struggle, to campaign hard, to work for BDS because this has to end.
Being in Gaza was my dream, it was beautiful, it was shattering. The people we met were so great, I am honoured to have met them and overwhelmed by their kindness and courage. My friends and comrades on this journey are brilliant, they are fun and funny and good. One of the most positive things about being part of this movement is the people you meet along the way – I guess it comes from walking in solidarity with the very best of people.
But Gaza is also grim, it is hard, it is beyond my imagination and a visit is just that and I returned to my safe life with all that entails. The siege is brutal and the isolation from the rest of Palestine and the world wrong, the very concept of it is cruel and twisted. You wonder how the people can bear it but they do. They have sumoud.
24 Nov 2012 Leave a Comment
Imagining Death – RTÉ and its coverage of Gaza
The media reporting on Israel’s latest deadly attack on Gaza has been appalling. I’m not sure if it is worse than usual but it is certainly dreadful. Irish media has tended to report from the Israeli perspective more or less constantly. The news bulletins lead with Israeli government or military statements, they focus on rocket attacks from Gaza, they refer to Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants. They describe Hamas targets being hit. They rarely talk of the Palestinian people in terms of our shared humanity, they don’t have names, jobs, lives – they are numbers, and inaccurate ones at that – “around 140 Palestinians”. “….in what Israel says is a response to rockets….the Israeli military says….the Israeli cabinet today…”
Friday 23rd November on RTÉ radio 1, Pat Kenny said the number of dead Palestinians in Gaza after Israel’s murderous assault (my words) is “over a hundred”. That’s 62 “over a hundred” Pat, that’s 162 people – that’s a lot more than a hundred. That’s people, you know – human beings.
On Sunday 18th November an entire family, the Al-Dalou family was murdered by Israeli bombs, four children, five women and two men were killed. There were other atrocities that day, in two separate missile attacks, two fathers and their young sons were killed, they were distributing water and maintaining the water service.
I was in Dublin that day where we had a report from a friend just back from Gaza. Among the many harrowing things he described was the strain that the hospitals are under due to the siege. I got into my car that night, turned on the radio to hear the news and listened to Richard Crowley’s report. Having described the deaths of the family, he then went on to imagine Israeli deaths – he said “They’ll increase the aerial bombardment, they’ve done that today. The hope is to destroy as many Hamas targets as possible before any ceasefire and the danger of course is as they do that is that the civilian casualties in Gaza will rise and we saw evidence of that today with the death of about ten members of one family including several children. Now equally civilian deaths on that scale on the Israeli side could equally collapse the talks. Remember the Israelis have been very lucky so far with very few deaths, so really what the Israelis are hoping to do is to force Hamas to keep their heads down and reduce the numbers of rockets…”
So, instead of for once focusing on the actual Palestinians killed, Crowley hypothesised about the consequences of imagined Israeli deaths. We know that in the orientalist prism that these journalists operate, Israelis have primacy over Palestinians but for imagined deaths to take precedence over real deaths is astonishing.
The RTÉ Six One News that Crowley’s report comes from gave us this analysis: “11 people thought to be civilians were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a Gaza apartment building. At least four children are reported to have been among the dead. It’s now thought that the Palestinian death toll has climbed to 65 but the Israeli president says that a supreme effort is being made to avoid civilian deaths.” Now this report was accompanied by footage of dead children being taken from the rubble of their home so either RTÉ is disputing that those children are civilians or the editor isn’t even listening to the script.
The next day, when twin babies and their parents had been killed (they had named one of the boys, Mohammed after his brother who they lost in Israel’s twenty-two day assault on Gaza in 2008/09) and in the wake of the Al Dalou family massacre, the RTÉ news website report on its front page had a picture of Israelis running ‘for cover’ in a shopping mall in Tel Aviv, this is incredible. There is obviously an element of laziness, of incompetence but there is also a clear agenda being operated here. Editorial decisions are obviously being taken to give the Israeli narrative of victimhood and to depict the Palestinians as violent and terroristic.
As well as increasing amounts of journalistic fallacy and inaccuracy, there is an utter lack of both empathy and context. Why are Palestinian voices not heard? Why are the numbers of their dead irrelevant? Why are they not at the forefront of reporting when they are the victims of overwhelming Israeli aggression?
Where is the context? Gaza is under illegal siege, the people there have nowhere to go to, they have rights as an occupied people, they don’t have an army, an airforce, there are no bomb shelters for people to go to. The people of Gaza are mostly refugees from Israel’s ethnic cleansing. Collective punishment is illegal under international law. These are not opinions, these are facts yet they are not mentioned by journalists ‘covering’ this.
It must be noted that until the ceasefire Crowley reported from Jerusalem, we are not told why he wasn’t in Gaza. Although he was able to interview Israelis there and in Tel Aviv and worry about the tourist industry, he never managed to report about the three Palestinians murdered in the West Bank by the IOF as they protested the massacre in Gaza. Conclusions. Draw them.
Among the many warcrimes committed by Israel in this attack, the targeting and murder of three journalists chimes. The apartheid state has long tried to eliminate those who would expose their crimes, they allowed no journalists into Gaza in 08/09. There has been almost no mention of the murder of colleagues by the Irish media.
On 19th November on the news, Richard Crowley says that Israel’s “targeted assassinations can go horribly wrong”. To anyone, journalists especially, it should be obvious that bombing one of the most densely populated places on the planet can ONLY have the result of mass murder. This IS Israel – it is going horribly right. While we hear constantly about Hamas targeting civilian populations, or firing ‘indiscriminate’ rockets, we never hear this about Israel’s war crimes.
Tuesday 20th November, RTÉ finally get around to interviewing a Palestinian woman living in Ireland. Fatin Al Tamimi’s sister lives in Gaza with her family. In order to provide the dreaded B.A.L.A.N.C.E that only seems to be required when Palestinians are finally given a voice, an Israeli woman who has nephews called up into the army was on too. Fatin’s segment was also heavily edited, leaving out much of her main points.
I am focusing on RTÉ as it is the state broadcaster, by far the most influential broadcast media in Ireland and is publicly funded and supposed to have a public service remit. There are huge issues with the print media and other radio and television outlets too, they are for another day.
Tuesday 20th on the Mary Wilson presented Drivetime, she interviewed Gisela Schmidt Martinin Gaza, working for the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Martin gave a very articulate interview which conveyed the horror the people of Gaza were being subjected to and then Mary Wilson put the Israeli side to her, she said that the Israelis would say they were responding to rockets. Not only was it unnecessary for Wilson to give the Israeli perspective, it is hardly off the airwaves, but she had just interviewed an equally articulate Israeli professor and at no point did she feel compelled to present him with the Palestinian narrative. This is constant.
Turned over to Matt Cooper on Today FM who was interviewing an Israeli whose mother had to move to another room because of rockets from Gaza. Now there are two things here: obviously I don’t want anyone afraid or threatened, but she has another room to move into and her government is the aggressor. I can bet everything I have that Matt Cooper would never interview a Palestinian with family in Gaza in such a sympathetic fashion. He would not allow them to assert, as he did this guest, that the Irish media is biased against his ‘side’ and that his government is not effective at getting the story of their victimhood across. Then I went to a vigil for Gaza.
On Friday 23rd the RTÉ news carried a report from Gaza where Crowley said this: “Yesterday evening the bodies of two more members of the Dalou family were found in the rubble of their home bombed in error by the Israelis four days ago.”
IN ERROR? In fucking ERROR?
The Israelis have already stated that they wanted to kill a Hamas member in that building, that they targeted it deliberately. As Palestinian life is of no consequence to the Israeli war machine, they don’t make mistake, they just kill – sometimes it’s the ‘right’ person, sometimes not – whatever. But we hear all the time from our media about Palestinian indiscriminate rocket fire, but the few times they kill people are not referred to as ‘errors’.
Why are these journalists so desensitised to the Palestinian people? Why do they refuse their humanness? Why don’t they look, really look at the facts? It’s an agenda, but is it that they have been pressured by the Israeli embassy? The government? What is it? Because it’s either incompetence or some form of extreme bias, or a lethal combination of the two.
While Hamas are demonised and depicted as unreconstructed terrorists who wish for the destruction of Israel, the truth of negotiations, of efforts to create and maintain ceasefires are ignored. Al Jabari’s role in the release of Shalit? His work on negotiating a ceasefire? Doesn’t fit the agenda, doesn’t get reported.
The filthy, racist rhetoric coming from within the Israeli far right never reaches the Irish airwaves. We don’t hear about the MKs calling fro Gaza to be crushed into dust, turned into a stone age. War criminal Sharon’s son’s vile calls to flatten Gaza, to unleash a Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the people there isn’t discussed, it doesn’t fit the narrative.
There are brilliant and unbelievably brave Palestinians blogging and reporting from Gaza, even CNN manages to put them on occasionally. You will not see them in the Irish media. Why not? Our media would have us believe that the world’s fourth largest military power, a nuclear armed state backed to the hilt by the US and the EU is under attack from besieged Gaza. Pillars of propaganda.
I might never finish writing this piece, it might go on forever as the media bias accelerates. I’ll stop here, for now – but this will continue. We have to keep challenging them, insisting they report both facts and context. No ‘side’ will be required then, the truth speaks for itself – that’s why we don’t hear it on our airwaves.
To close, Friday 23rd, Richard Crowley, finally in Gaza asked a cousin of the Al Dalou family, as they pulled more of their dead from their bombed home: “Do you think you could ever forgive and make peace with the Israelis?” That was his question. In that context.
The prism? Israelis. The Palestinians? Ignored, dehumanised.
Pillars of Cloud, pillars of death, pillars of society, pillars of lies.
End the siege, free Gaza, free Palestine and BDS every minute until it happens.
16 Nov 2012 Leave a Comment
GAZA ACTION IRELAND
PRESS RELEASE, 2pm, 16/11/12
TÁNAISTE’S REPONSE TO GAZA ATTACKS CRITICISED
Gaza Action Ireland has responded strongly to the Tánaiste and
Minister of Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore’s “fence-sitting response to
Israel’s ongoing attacks on Gaza”. In a statement published on the
Department of Foreign Affairs website, Minister Gilmore suggested that
the assault on Gaza was ‘triggered’ by Palestinian rocket attacks on
According to Mags O’Brien, a spokesperson for Gaza Action Ireland,
“The ongoing assault on Gaza is part of a pattern of punishment
attacks that Israel has engaged in since placing the Palestinian
territory under blockade in early 1991. The Israeli state
systematically uses brutal violence and illegal collective punishment
to keep the people of Gaza in a state of subjugation. This is utterly
unacceptable and it is unhelpful for Eamon Gilmore to suggest an
equivalence of violence. The violence used by Israel is entirely
disproportionate and indefensible. Minister Gilmore also knows that
the Israeli blockade of Gaza is illegal under international law.”
Ms O’Brien continued: “Palestine and Israel are not two states at war.
In reality, Israel, a nuclear power, has occupied, settled and
dissected one part of Palestine and is blockading another.”
She concluded: “Israel’s attack on Gaza must be halted and it is
important that the international community puts relentless pressure on
Tel Aviv to end the violence. The Irish government needs to adopt a
more robust and less equivocal position. The minister should also be
leading the demand for economic and political sanctions against Israel
until it ends its siege of Gaza and its occupation of the rest of
A number of demonstrations are taking place around Ireland in response
to the latest Israeli assault on Gaza, codenamed ‘Operation Pillar of
Cloud’ and Gaza Action Ireland is calling on people to turn out in
support of these events.
FRIDAY 16th NOV
Limerick – 5.30pm @ Thomas Street, Limerick city
Waterford – 6pm @ Red Square, Waterford city
Belfast – 5.30pm @ The International Wall, Divis St, Belfast city
SATURDAY 17th NOV
Dublin – 2pm @ The Spire, O’Connell Street, Dublin 1
15 Nov 2012 1 Comment
Watching the latest barbarity and atrocities in Gaza perpetrated by monstrous, murderous Israel and friends from Gaza are posting about their buildings shaking, about explosions, about bombs, about F16s, about tanks, about ground invasions. They are posting about noise and fear and strength. They write about the Internet being cut off, about injuries, about hurt, about deaths. They are living in this nightmare, they are being attacked and they are still strong. It floors me.
They talk about solidarity helping to sustain them but maybe that’s just a kindness to those of us not there, trying to make us feel better because that’s what the Palestinians are like. They are strong, they take it to unimaginable levels, they have got sumoud coming out of them like a force.
I wish I could do something more, and the tears roll down. This has to stop.
Gaza will not go down. Palestine will not go down. Abide, resist, live.
15 Nov 2012 Leave a Comment
GAZA ACTION IRELAND
PRESS RELEASE, 10am, 15/11/12
IRISH GOVERNMENT MUST DEMAND SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAEL
Gaza Action Ireland condemns the ongoing assault on Palestine by Israeli forces that has so far resulted in several deaths and many injuries. Israel has threatened to continue its vicious attack on the Gaza Strip for some time.
Commenting on the Israeli onslaught, Mags O’Brien, a spokesperson for Gaza Action Ireland, said: “This is an unbearable situation for the Palestinian people and the international community cannot stand by and watch it worsen. How many people have to die before common sense prevails and sanctions are brought against Israel? These murderous attacks must cease and pressure must be brought to bear on Israel to end its illegal blockade of Gaza.”
Ms O’Brien continued: “The Irish government must lead the demand for economic and political sanctions against Israel. Minister Gilmore needs to be proactive and should move beyond words to action. Strong words are not enough unless they are backed by strong action.”
Gaza Action Ireland are also calling on people to support the various demonstrations and vigils being organised across Ireland this evening and tomorrow in solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza. In particular, they are asking people to support tonight’s 5:30pm demonstration at the Israeli embassy in Dublin which is organised by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
16 Oct 2012 2 Comments
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARIANS BOARD GAZA-BOUND SHIP AT SEA
S.V. ESTELLE EXPECTED IN GAZA BY WEEKEND
At noon today, October 16, additional passengers joined the SV Estelle
- Ship to Gaza, to join its mission to breach the illegal siege of Gaza.
Members of Parliament from Greece, Norway, Sweden and Spain embarked on Estelle at sea in international waters, in an action south of the Greek archipelago. A Greek coastguard vessel nearby did not interfere as the transfer occurred outside of Greek waters.
They are now together with activists and crew from Canada, Finland, Greece, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden.
Estelle is estimated to reach Gaza during the upcoming weekend.
Recently, 80 Irish parliamentarians – from north and south – joined together to support the Estelle and the Gaza flotilla movement. For the statement of support by the Irish politicians and the full list of signatures, see:Unprecedented cross-party call by Irish politicians for an end to the Israeli siege of Gaza The Estelle is carrying humanitarian goods including medicine and reconstruction materials that are banned or heavily restricted by Israel.
Reacting to today’s developments, Fintan Lane of Gaza Action Ireland
said: “Israel has no right to stop the Estelle and the ship should be allowed to bring its humanitarian cargo directly to the port of Gaza.
This inhuman blockade has gone on for far too long and must be ended.
The people of Gaza are entitled to their human rights and dignity just like people anywhere else. The Israeli siege is a politically motivated act of collective punishment and is entirely illegal under international law. The international community needs to be more robust in its opposition to this appalling blockade.”
“It is wonderful to see so many parliamentarians take a stand for human rights when governments won’t. We applaud those who boarded the Estelle off the Greek coast today.”
He concluded: “Many people in Ireland are watching the progress of the Estelle and wishing it well. In particular, those of us who were on the MV Saoirse last November when it was seized by Israeli forces in international waters are following developments anxiously. Our fingers are crossed.”
PRESS RELEASE ENDS
Contact: Fintan Lane (Gaza Action Ireland): 087 1258325
21 Sep 2012 3 Comments
GAZA ACTION IRELAND
Press Release, 21/9/12, 2.30pm
Unprecedented cross-party call by Irish politicians for an end to the Israeli siege of Gaza
EIGHTY Irish parliamentarians sign statement supporting ship, SV Estelle, now on its way to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza and call for immediate end to the siege
In an unprecedented show of support for the people of Gaza, dozens of politicians from across the island of Ireland have signed a strongly worded statement condemning Israel’s ongoing blockade of the tiny Palestinian territory and supporting a large humanitarian sailing ship, the SV Estelle, that is now on its way from Europe to the port of Gaza.
More than 80% of people in Gaza are aid-dependent as a result of the widely condemned blockade and more than 40% are unemployed. The local economy is in tatters.
Eighty parliamentarians from Ireland have put their names to the statement of support. Those who signed include TDs, MEPs, senators, MLAs and MPs from both north and south. As well as many independents, the list includes members of the Labour Party (e.g. Senator Ivana Bacik and Nessa Childers MEP), Sinn Fein (e.g. Conor Murphy MP and Gerry Adams TD), Fianna Fail (e.g. Senators Darragh O’Brien and Jim Walsh), SDLP (e.g. Mark Durkan MP and Conall McDevitt MLA), Fine Gael (James Bannon TD) and United Left Alliance (e.g. Paul Murphy MEP and Joan Collins TD).
A number of government ministers in Northern Ireland, including Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, have put their names to the robust statement, which expresses unambiguous support for the non-violent Gaza flotilla movement.
Never before has such a large number of Irish parliamentarians come together to insist on an immediate end to the siege of Gaza.
The Estelle aims to break through Israel’s illegal maritime blockade. A tall ship built in the 1920s, the Estelle sailed several weeks ago from Sweden, before stopping twice along the coast of Spain. It is now in Corsica and will head soon for Italy before sailing directly for the port of Gaza. It is expected to reach Gaza in early to mid October. On board the aid ship are reconstruction materials and other humanitarian goods that are banned or heavily restricted by Israel.
An Irish ship, the MV Saoirse, attempted to reach Gaza in November 2011 but, 60 miles from its destination, was surrounded in international waters by up to 20 Israeli naval vessels and forcibly seized. Fourteen Irish citizens were on board the Saoirse at the time.
Welcoming the statement by the 80 Irish parliamentarians, Fintan Lane, a spokesperson for Gaza Action Ireland, said: “Gaza Action Ireland would like to sincerely thank all the politicians who signed this letter. It is an important statement in that political figures from across the island of Ireland have united to say that enough is enough and the blockade of Gaza must end now. It is also a recognition that, unfortunately, little has changed since Gaza became a huge international issue – the Israeli blockade has been condemned by many governments, and deemed illegal by the UN, but nothing concrete has been done to end the suffering. Men, women and children continue to subsist in the largest open-air prison in the world.”
He continued: “This statement is an expression of human empathy with the people of Gaza and a declaration to Israel that the Palestinian people will not be forgotten. Palestinians and Israelis are equally entitled to have their political and human rights respected. What Israel is doing to Gaza is indefensible and must end now.”
Please note: These signatures were collected by Gaza Action Ireland, which was formed in July 2012 as a successor to the Irish Ship to Gaza organization, which was behind the MV Saoirse, the Irish ship that participated in Freedom Flotilla 2 in June 2011 and later in the Freedom Waves to Gaza flotilla in November last year, when the Saoirse was hijacked by Israeli commandos in international waters some 60 nautical miles from Gaza.
THE STATEMENT AND SIGNATURES
This summer, the intensified blockade of the Palestinian people of the Gaza Strip has continued into its sixth year. The blockade – referred to as a ‘siege’ by its victims – is a violation of international law and of the fundamental human rights of the civilian population in Gaza. The blockade has devastating humanitarian consequences for more than 1.6 million people, most of them children, on this coastal strip between the Mediterranean Sea and the Negev desert.
The blockade is illegal, inhumane and—from Israel´s point of view—counterproductive; it neither stops weapons from being smuggled into the Strip or missiles from being fired, nor has it put Hamas out of power. On the contrary.
The documentation of the blockade’s inhumanity and failure to generate anything but violence and despair is mounting. A United Nations report issued in August concluded that “Gaza won’t be livable by 2020 if urgent action is not taken.”
The blockade makes it impossible to properly rebuild the hospitals, homes and water treatment plants that were destroyed in the massive bombing of Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009. The export ban prevents Gaza’s residents from earning a living and is an important factor behind the almost total dependency on aid. The “tunnel economy”, which is one of the consequences of the blockade, nurtures criminality and undermines any legitimate economy.
Family members who live in Gaza and the West Bank are denied the right to visit each other. Young people are denied access to higher education at Palestinian universities in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Fishermen are forbidden to fish outside of three nautical miles from the coast.
Throughout history, the Mediterranean Sea has provided a link between people and cultures. However, for the Palestinians in Gaza the sea constitutes a wall, just like the ones that separate them from Israel, Egypt and other parts of Palestine.
The blockade is a clear impediment to a sustainable and just peace.
However, it is evident that our politicians have fallen short when it comes to adhering to declarations on human rights and international law. It is now time for civil action.
Civil action is what the Ship to Gaza/Freedom Flotilla is offering. The SV Estelle has been sailing since the beginning of the summer. Gaza is her destination; ending the siege is her goal. We, the undersigned, express our support for non-violent actions of solidarity like the Ship to Gaza/Freedom Flotilla, an initiative in which we are committed sympathisers on land.
Our message is simple: Palestinians are human beings with human rights! End the siege!
- Martina Anderson, MEP (Sinn Féin)
- Nessa Childers, MEP (Labour Party)
- Paul Murphy, MEP (Socialist Party)
- Marian Harkin, MEP (Independent)
- Maureen O’Sullivan, TD (Independent)
- Ciaran Lynch, TD (Labour Party)
- Robert Dowds, TD (Labour Party)
- Patrick Nulty, TD (Labour Party)
- Tommy Broughan, TD (Labour Party)
- James Bannon, TD (Fine Gael)
- Thomas Pringle, TD (Independent)
- Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, TD (Independent)
- Clare Daly, TD (Independent)
- Joan Collins, TD (People Before Profit)
- Richard Boyd Barrett, TD (People Before Profit)
- Joe Higgins, TD (Socialist Party)
- Mick Wallace, TD (Independent)
- John Halligan, TD (Independent)
- Finian McGrath, TD (Independent)
- Gerry Adams, TD (Sinn Féin)
- Michael Colreavy, TD (Sinn Féin)
- Seán Crowe, TD (Sinn Féin)
- Pearse Doherty, TD (Sinn Féin)
- Dessie Ellis, TD (Sinn Féin)
- Martin Ferris, TD (Sinn Féin)
- Mary Lou McDonald, TD (Sinn Féin)
- Sandra McLellan, TD (Sinn Féin)
- Pádraig MacLochlainn, TD (Sinn Féin)
- Jonathan O’Brien, TD (Sinn Féin)
- Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, TD (Sinn Féin)
- Aengus Ó Snodaigh, TD (Sinn Féin)
- Brian Stanley, TD (Sinn Féin)
- Peadar Tóibín, TD (Sinn Féin)
- Senator Ivana Bacik (Labour Party)
- Senator Fiach MacConghail (Independent)
- Senator Katherine Zappone (Independent)
- Senator David Norris (Independent)
- Senator Jim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
- Senator Domhnall O Briain (Fianna Fáil)
- Senator Darragh O’Brien (Fianna Fáil)
- Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Féin)
- Senator Kathryn Reilly (Sinn Féin)
- Senator David Cullinane (Sinn Féin)
- Pat Ramsey, MLA (SDLP)
- Conall McDevitt, MLA (SDLP)
- Colum Eastwood, MLA (SDLP)
- Martin McGuinness, MP, MLA (Sinn Féin), Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland
- John O’Dowd, MLA (Sinn Féin), Minister for Education
- Carál Ní Chuilín, MLA (Sinn Féin), Minister for Culture, Arts and
- Michelle O’Neill, MLA (Sinn Féin), Minister for Agriculture and Rural
- Mickey Brady, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Willie Clarke, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Declan McAleer MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Phil Flanagan, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Bronwyn McGahan, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Gerry Kelly, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Sean Lynch, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Fra McCann, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Jennifer McCann, MLA (Sinn Féin), Junior Minister
- Raymond McCartney, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Barry McElduff, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Daithí McKay, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Mitchel McLaughlin, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Oliver McMullan, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Alex Maskey, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Rosie McCorley, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Francie Molloy, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Megan Fearon, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Maeve McLaughlin, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Cathal Boylan, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Cathal Ó hOisín, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Michaela Boyle, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Sue Ramsey, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Caitríona Ruane, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Pat Sheehan, MLA (Sinn Féin)
- Mark Durkan, MP (SDLP)
- Pat Doherty, MP (Sinn Féin)
- Michelle Gildernew, MP (Sinn Féin)
- Conor Murphy, MP (Sinn Féin)
- Paul Maskey, MP (Sinn Féin)
For further information, contact:
Fintan Lane (Gaza Action Ireland): 087 1258325
Claudia Saba (Gaza Action Ireland): 086 3938821
05 Sep 2012 Leave a Comment
You run out of words to describe what’s happening in Gaza. The millions, billions of words that have already been, and most likely will be, written cover it and yet don’t cover it. For how can it be described? How can it be discussed? How can it be written about? How can it be lived? How can it be?
How many vile atrocities have engendered the “never again/no more” responses? And we know about this one. I truly believe that in the future when Palestine is free and people look back and remember with horror what was done to the Palestinian people, they will particularly focus on the siege of Gaza and wonder how it was permitted to happen and to continue.
It is an exercise in cruelty so horrible that to actually contemplate it is painful. Last week the UN issued a report entitled “Gaza in 2020 A liveable place? which looks at Gaza and projects the needs of the population there and the capacity for those needs to be met. The report examines the infrastructural, social, education, healthcare, power and food requirements and forecasts to 2020.
The contents of the report make for very grim reading, not least the fact that right now only 10% of Gaza’s water is safe for drinking and the prediction that by 2016 the aquifer, the only source of water, may be unusable. It is attached here for anyone to read but the conclusion bears quoting in full:
“In the absence of sustained and effective remedial action and an enabling political environment, the challenges which confront the people of Gaza now will only intensify over the coming years to 2020, a period in which another half a million people will be added to the present estimated population of 1.6 million. Without such action, the daily lives of Gazans in 2020 will be worse than they are now. There will be virtually no reliable access to sources of safe drinking water, standards of healthcare and education will have continued to decline, and the vision of affordable and reliable electricity for all will have become a distant memory for most.
The already high number of poor, marginalized and food-insecure people depending on assistance will not have changed, and in all likelihood will have increased.
To ensure that Gaza in 2020 will be “a liveable place,” on-going herculean efforts by Palestinians and partners in such sectors as energy, education, health, water and sanitation, need to be accelerated and intensified in the face of all difficulties.
It is essential that the inhabitants of Gaza are able to exercise and enjoy the full range of fundamental human rights to which they are entitled. They must be able to live safe and secure lives free of the various forms of violence which afflict them at present; benefit from proper health care, education and housing; elect and hold accountable representatives of government; be subject to fair and impartial justice; and have ready access to the world beyond Gaza for religious, educational, medical, cultural, commercial and other purposes.
In short the Palestinian people of Gaza must be enabled to live dignified, healthy and productive lives in peace and security, both now and in the future.”
That these recommendations have to be made is alarming, that the basic rights of the Palestinians in Gaza have been eroded to such a degree is criminal, and that’s no exaggeration – collective punishment is illegal. It is an indictment of every single politician who has any influence or power to stand against this. Every government that continues to treat Israel as anything other than a pariah state is culpable. The idea that somewhere may become unliveable due to deliberate, manmade conditions is incredible, it beggars belief, yet it is very likely unless this siege is ended.
Rights are non-negotiable and are universal, depriving people of those rights is wrong. The siege has been maintained for years, pre-dating the election of Hamas, although considerably more extreme since then. I worry that it will become normalised and the main focus becomes making it less inhumane. I worry that this has already happened.
Despite the privations and oppression, the art, music and writing (wow the writing) coming out of Gaza, out of Palestine is amazing and inspirational – it blows me away to see the sheer resistance, the brilliance, the defiance in the face of the apartheid regime. The people give me hope, they show us that this will end, that there will be justice.
Still, I wonder how many more words will we read and write about Gaza, about Palestine before that happens. I look forward to the day that Palestine is beautifully liveable for all its people.