Irish participant on ‘Freedom Flotilla’ comments on Israel’s “faux-apology” to Turkey

Gaza Action Ireland
PRESS RELEASE, 24/3/13, 13:00
Reacting to Israel’s apparent rapprochement with Turkey on Friday – and the much-publicised ‘apology’ issued for the murders of nine human rights activists on the Mavi Marmara on 31 May 2010 – Gaza Action Ireland national coordinator FINTAN LANE has described himself as “disappointed and unimpressed by Israel’s faux-apology. This is cynical geopolitics rather than a genuine act of contrition. It is about power politics and getting Turkey back on side.”
Fintan Lane was one of a handful of Irish citizens who participated in the Freedom Flotilla and was on board the vessel Challenger 1 when the six-ship aid convoy was attacked by Israeli forces while on its way to Gaza. Lane subsequently took part in Freedom Flotilla 2 and Freedom Waves to Gaza flotilla, both of which tried to reach Gaza in 2011. He is National Coordinator of Gaza Action Ireland (formerly known as Irish Ship to Gaza).
Commenting on Israel’s apparent apology for the killings on the Mavi Marmara, Lane said: “This so-called apology has been issued simply to mend relations with Turkey, but the Turkish state had nothing to do with the Freedom Flotilla, which was organised by civil society organisations from across the globe. An apology needs to be issued to all those on board all of the ships that were attacked and, most importantly, the root issue needs to be addressed – Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza. The choice of words is revealing in that Israel speaks of possible ‘errors’ and ‘mistakes’ in their assault on the Mavi Marmara, but what happened was no mistake. I was alongside the Mavi Marmara when it was attacked and saw the ferocity of the Israeli operation – it was very deliberate and it was inevitable that people would die. They also attacked our vessel using a great deal of violence and several people were injured. Let’s be frank, the violence used against the Freedom Flotilla was designed to intimidate and dissuade international human rights activists from launching further flotillas. It was a calculated act of international terrorism.”
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(Monument to the nine people murdered on the Mavi Marmara by Israel in Gaza seaport.  Zoë Lawlor)
He continued: “Since this so-called apology was made, Israel has made it clear that the siege of Gaza will continue. That is what people should focus on. Our nine colleagues were killed in international waters by heavily armed Israeli commandos while non-violently attempting to undermine Israel’s blockade. We must ensure that this is never forgotten. The illegal blockade of Gaza should be completely ended. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip must be allowed to rebuild their lives and their local economy – that necessitates an ability to import and export, which is being denied them by Israel.”
There were four Irish on board Challenger 1 (including Irish-Australian journalist Paul McGeogh). Two of those – Fintan Lane and Shane Dillon – are now active with Gaza Action Ireland.
*’Gaza Action Ireland’ was formerly known as ‘Irish Ship to Gaza’.

Imagining Death – RTÉ and its coverage of Gaza

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 war crimes 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 Martin in 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’.

Photo AP/Bernat Armangue

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 for 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.

Tánaiste’s Response to Attack on Gaza Criticised

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
Israeli towns.

See: http://www.dfa.ie/home/index.aspx?id=88779#top

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
Palestine.”

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

Gaza on my mind

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.

Irish activists condemn Gaza attack

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.

Despite their breach of the Palestinian boycott call, Red Hot Chili Peppers campaign is a BDS success.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers played at the Pic.Nic festival in Israel on September 10th 2012.  Although the Red Hot Chili Peppers chose to play in Israel and ignore the Palestinian boycott call, the campaign calling for them to cancel has been very successful and is testament to the growing BDS movement.

From the time of  learning of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ plans to play in Tel Aviv, members of the global BDS movement embarked on a campaign to reach out to the band, led as always by PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel). Thirteen groups wrote open letters to the band, over 7,300 people signed a petition asking them to cancel and over 1,200 people joined a Facebook page calling for same.

In early September, as a result of a strong campaign,  Mashrou’ Leila cancelled their scheduled opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Lebanon.

There can be no doubt that the RHCP were aware of the campaign calling for them to stand with the Palestinian people and against apartheid. Indeed on Friday 7th September, Chad Smith (@RHCPchad) tweeted this: “In any city of any country we play..Our sole purpose is to uplift people thru our music. Nothing more. Nothing less ..that’s it.”

Numerous BDS campaigners tweeted to Chad Smith, as they had been doing for the entire campaign, to let him know that playing in Israel is never just about the music and appealing to him and his fellow band members not to cross the Palestinian picket line.

On Sunday 9th September, the Israeli government (@GPOIsrael) made the very case that the BDS movement always stresses, that it is not possible to separate music and politics, by tweeting: Boycott calls unlikely to cool Red Hot Chili Peppers’ first concert in Tel Aviv, Israel – Times of #Israel http://buff.ly/PTQWpv  #music

That the RHCP not once either acknowledged the campaign or engaged with any of the organisations calling on them to cancel is a terrible indictment of them on a personal level and illustrates the poverty of their socially aware image. Calling for the freedom of Pussy Riot, while admirable and necessary, is not difficult –  it is a very mainstream campaign, however, calling for the freedom of the Palestinian people takes courage, something they manifestly failed to display.

BDS continues to grow as a tactic to use pressure to hold Israel accountable to international law and to gain equal rights for the Palestinian people. In their summary report of the 7 year anniversary of BDS, the Boycott National Committees estimate that “the global reach of the BDS movement is maybe best highlighted by this year’s edition of the BDS Global Day of Action which took place in 23 countries and the fact that the 8th annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) was organized this year on campuses in 202 cities across the world, causing near panic in the Israeli public diplomacy ministry, which scrambled 100 envoys to counter IAW around the world.”

Thus, while it is unfortunate that the RHCP chose to play apartheid Israel and not to join the growing list of artists who have taken the principled decision not to play today’s Sun City, the campaign has contributed to a growing awareness both of the BDS movement and of the reality that the Israeli state does take artists playing there as an endorsement of that state’s policies.

For the future we can hope that more and more artists join those who have refused to be used to whitewash apartheid, artists of conscience such as Faithless, Leftfield, Gorillaz, Klaxons, Roger Waters, Massive Attack, Gil Scott Heron, Santana, Pete Seeger, Pixies, Tindersticks, Elvis Costello, Ken Loach, Cat Power and many more who have refused to condone occupation, apartheid and war crimes.

BDS, it’s unstoppable!

Unprecedented cross-party call by Irish politicians for an end to the Israeli siege of Gaza

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!

Yours sincerely,

  1. Martina Anderson, MEP (Sinn Féin)
  2. Nessa Childers, MEP (Labour Party)
  3. Paul Murphy, MEP (Socialist Party)
  4. Marian Harkin, MEP (Independent)
  5. Maureen O’Sullivan, TD (Independent)
  6. Ciaran Lynch, TD (Labour Party)
  7. Robert Dowds, TD (Labour Party)
  8. Patrick Nulty, TD (Labour Party)
  9. Tommy Broughan, TD (Labour Party)
  10. James Bannon, TD (Fine Gael)
  11. Thomas Pringle, TD (Independent)
  12. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, TD (Independent)
  13. Clare Daly, TD (Independent)
  14. Joan Collins, TD (People Before Profit)
  15. Richard Boyd Barrett, TD (People Before Profit)
  16. Joe Higgins, TD (Socialist Party)
  17. Mick Wallace, TD (Independent)
  18. John Halligan, TD (Independent)
  19. Finian McGrath, TD (Independent)
  20. Gerry Adams, TD (Sinn Féin)
  21. Michael Colreavy, TD (Sinn Féin)
  22. Seán Crowe, TD (Sinn Féin)
  23. Pearse Doherty, TD (Sinn Féin)
  24. Dessie Ellis, TD (Sinn Féin)
  25. Martin Ferris, TD (Sinn Féin)
  26. Mary Lou McDonald, TD (Sinn Féin)
  27. Sandra McLellan, TD (Sinn Féin)
  28. Pádraig MacLochlainn, TD (Sinn Féin)
  29. Jonathan O’Brien, TD (Sinn Féin)
  30. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, TD (Sinn Féin)
  31. Aengus Ó Snodaigh, TD (Sinn Féin)
  32. Brian Stanley, TD (Sinn Féin)
  33. Peadar Tóibín, TD (Sinn Féin)
  34. Senator Ivana Bacik (Labour Party)
  35. Senator Fiach MacConghail (Independent)
  36. Senator Katherine Zappone (Independent)
  37. Senator David Norris (Independent)
  38. Senator Jim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
  39. Senator Domhnall O Briain (Fianna Fáil)
  40. Senator Darragh O’Brien (Fianna Fáil)
  41. Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Féin)
  42. Senator Kathryn Reilly (Sinn Féin)
  43. Senator David Cullinane (Sinn Féin)
  44. Pat Ramsey, MLA (SDLP)
  45. Conall McDevitt, MLA (SDLP)
  46. Colum Eastwood, MLA (SDLP)
  47. Martin McGuinness, MP, MLA (Sinn Féin), Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland
  48. John O’Dowd, MLA (Sinn Féin), Minister for Education
  49. Carál Ní Chuilín, MLA (Sinn Féin), Minister for Culture, Arts and
  50. Michelle O’Neill, MLA (Sinn Féin), Minister for Agriculture and Rural
  51. Mickey Brady, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  52. Willie Clarke, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  53. Declan McAleer MLA (Sinn Féin)
  54. Phil Flanagan, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  55. Bronwyn McGahan, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  56. Gerry Kelly, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  57. Sean Lynch, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  58. Fra McCann, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  59. Jennifer McCann, MLA (Sinn Féin), Junior Minister
  60. Raymond McCartney, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  61. Barry McElduff, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  62. Daithí McKay, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  63. Mitchel McLaughlin, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  64. Oliver McMullan, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  65. Alex Maskey, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  66. Rosie McCorley, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  67. Francie Molloy, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  68. Megan Fearon, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  69. Maeve McLaughlin, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  70. Cathal Boylan, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  71. Cathal Ó hOisín, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  72. Michaela Boyle, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  73. Sue Ramsey, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  74. Caitríona Ruane, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  75. Pat Sheehan, MLA (Sinn Féin)
  76. Mark Durkan, MP (SDLP)
  77. Pat Doherty, MP (Sinn Féin)
  78. Michelle Gildernew, MP (Sinn Féin)
  79. Conor Murphy, MP (Sinn Féin)
  80. Paul Maskey, MP (Sinn Féin)

 ENDS

For further information, contact:

Fintan Lane (Gaza Action Ireland): 087 1258325

Claudia Saba (Gaza Action Ireland): 086 3938821

Appropriating a Culture to Whitewash Apartheid

It’s a hard sell you know, the ol’ apartheid. It’s not easy to market a huge, illegal wall, checkpoints, soldiers everywhere, guarded colonies, segregation. Israel has managed to do it to a degree and there are thousands of visitors who go there and keep their eyes shut to the oppression of the Palestinians. Many of them have ideological blinkers and many of them have their wallets fattened and egos stroked sufficiently by the apartheid state so as to ignore its reality.

But it is becoming increasingly difficult to market apartheid Israel both for the tourism market and, more importantly,  abroad as the image of Israel internationally is very tainted – that would be the war crimes….

Because of its own crimes against the Palestinian people, the growing racism within Israeli society and the success of the BDS movement,’ brand Israel’ is taking a hammering and moves are constantly underway to rectify this.  Bringing artists to play there is a major part of this attempt to normalise apartheid and sending Israeli artists abroad to represent the brand and create “a positive image for Israel”  is the ‘export’ end of the process.

Much of the strategy to whitewash apartheid is dependent on compliant media and this is bolstered by government funded trips where journalists are wined, dined and shown around. When I say ‘shown around’ I’m lying as we can be guaranteed that these guided tours will absolutely avoid the reality of Israel and will be hasbara fests par extraordinaire, perhaps with some ‘peace groups’ thrown in for authenticity. They are certainly reaping the fruits in the Irish press where hardly a week goes by in the Sunday Independent without some eulogy to Israel’s democracy appearing.

The latest target of the Tourism Ministry is the foodie world, specifically food bloggers, who are brought on paid trips to Israel where their senses are dulled by stolen hummus and they go home and gush appropriately about what they have seen.  Indeed, “David Lebovitz, an American writer and pastry chef living in Paris whose food-centric personal website receives nearly 2 million unique visitors per month, wrote seven posts about the trip, all of which presented Israel (and its cuisine ) in a positive light.”  How’jya like them apples BDSers?

It’s hard to keep up with all the initiatives the hasbara brains trust is developing to try to market apartheid. From whitewashing to pinkwashing to musicwashing to this. When I’m feeling optimistic, I see it as desperation in the face of the strength of Palestinian resistance and international solidarity. When I’m feeling pessimistic…. well I rant on a blog…!

This food one has me floored though,it’s like The Gathering and Bord Fáilte on acid. Scatter gun…what can we sell? How can we sanitise? Where’s the latest whitewashing going to come from?

The cynicism of inviting food bloggers to a state which has put the people of Gaza on carefully calibrated rationed ‘diets’ to ensure they remain above starvation level is staggering.  While Palestinian prisoners undertake hunger strikes to fight for their most basic rights, imprisoned as many of them are without charge, food bloggers will be feasting on hasbara. While Gaza remains under illegal siege with freedom of movement extremely restricted, the message of Israel as a tourist destination for foodies, musos etc is  being pushed. These attempts to attract travellers to apartheid Israel are transparent and cynical in the extreme, let’s hope people stop falling for it.

Hey world, want a gay friendly destination? Want a gay friendly destination with good music? Want a gay friendly destination with good music and great food? Want a gay friendly destination with good music and great food where you can practise your shooting skills? We got it ALL here in apartheid Israel. It’s hasbara central.*

*Sentient beings need not apply.

 

 

Gaza in 2020, ‘A Liveable Place?’ – Abject Cruelty

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.

Sean Jones Quintet, Bring Hope, Love, Justice

Sean Jones Quintet, Bring Hope, Love, Justice

Sean Jones Quintet is being asked to bring hope

to people through heeding the anti-apartheid boycott.

Dear Sean Jones, Tim Green, Orrin Evans, Matt Clohesy and Obed Calvaire,

You are probably aware by now that your plan to perform in Israel is a controversial one.  We hope you will take a stand as musicians of conscience and honour the Palestinian boycott call until Israel complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights, this call was made in 2005 and calls for a cultural, academic and sporting boycott.  We hope this letter will provide you with some of the information you need to make the choice to side with justice and human rights.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine determined last fall in Cape Town, South Africa, that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid.[1] Artists who would have refused to perform for white South Africa during apartheid there should easily understand why the current anti-apartheid boycott is so important.

It is not unusual for jazz artists to refuse to play in front of the segregated audiences at the Red Sea Jazz Festival.  In 2011, Eddie Palmieri [2] and Jason Moran [3] both quietly cancelled their gigs.  Six member band Tuba Skinny cancelled, stating …when we agreed to play the festival we were not aware that it was largely state sponsored, or that people on the other side of the wall would be denied entry.[5]

In April, Cassandra Wilson graciously bowed out of headlining an Israeli woman’s festival that would have ignored the suffering of Palestinian women and honoured only Israeli women.  Wilson said “I identify with the cultural boycott of Israel.” [5]

Roger Waters recently wrote:

Where governments refuse to act people must, with whatever peaceful means are at their disposal. For me this means declaring an intention to stand in solidarity, not only with the people of Palestine but also with the many thousands of Israelis who disagree with their government’s policies, by joining the campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel.  This is [however] a plea to my colleagues in the music industry, and also to artists in other disciplines, to join this cultural boycott.  Artists were right to refuse to play in South Africa’s Sun City resort until apartheid fell and white people and black people enjoyed equal rights. And we are right to refuse to play in Israel.[6]

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has this view:

I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid.[7]
“International Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against the Apartheid regime, combined with the mass struggle inside South Africa, led to our victory … Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong … to perform in Israel“.[8]

Today, due to the boycott call and its international magnitude, it is impossible for any international artist to play in Israel in a political vacuum.  Your performance will be interpreted, especially by supporters of Israel, as an endorsement.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said, in 2005 that  “We see culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank, and…do not differentiate between propaganda and culture.”[9]

The Red Sea Jazz Festival’s top sponsors are the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sport as well as the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

We urge you learn about the boycott, especially by reading the article Educators can’t stay silent about Israeli apartheid by J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Robin D.G. Kelley, Bill V. Mullen, Nikhil Pal Singh and Neferti Tadiar. These courageous professors stated:

We refuse to be silent or passive in the face of gross violations of principles of universal human rights that both Israel and the US publicly purport to uphold. As was the case with the US removal of tribal nations, the US South under anti-black “Jim Crow” laws, or South Africa under apartheid, Palestine today is the measure of the meaning and value of human rights in our time.[10]

Learn about why Alice Walker supports the boycott by reading Interview with Alice Walker after She Declines to Publish with Israeli Publisher.   Walker writes:

When I was in the West Bank it was shocking to see the apartheid wall, which is immense and forbidding.  And to realize that it’s purpose is not only to enforce segregation between Palestinians and Israelis but that it also steals huge amounts of Palestinian land. Land Palestinian farmers need to work in order to feed their families.  I sat with a family of four and watched a huge Volvo digging machine dig the deep trench directly in front of their drive that the wall will be placed in.  The noise was deafening and the vibrations shook the small house. The children, two young boys, will have to cross three check points each morning to go to school.  The youngest boy had been severely beaten the week before our arrival by an Israeli soldier and was still so frightened he hid during most of our visit.[11]

Sean Jones, the boycott is about turning away from the policy of appeasement of the oppressor and instead, standing in solidarity with the oppressed.  Please stay true to your words [12] that you want to bring hope to people via sound.  By cancelling your two planned performances at the Red Sea Jazz Festival (July 31 and August 1), you would be helping greatly to bring hope to the Palestinian people that there will come an end to this unjust  apartheid soon.

Warmest Regards,

Don’t Play Apartheid Israel
We are a group, of 850 members, representing many nations around the globe, who believe that it is essential for musicians & other artists to heed the call of the PACBI, and join in the boycott of Israel. This is essential in order to work towards justice for the Palestinian people under occupation, and also in refugee camps and in the diaspora throughout the world.

Notes
[1] Russell Tribunal on Palestine Findings of the South Africa Session http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/RToP-Cape-Town-full-findings2.pdf
In its most recent session in Cape Town, South Africa, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine concluded that, “Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid.” http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/sessions/south-africa
[2]Latin Jazz Great Eddie Palmieri: Thank You for Cancelling Israel Performance
http://refrainplayingisrael.posterous.com/latin-jazz-great-eddie-palmieri-thank-you-for
[3]Jazz Musician Jason Moran Cancels Concert in Apartheid Israel
http://refrainplayingisrael.posterous.com/jazz-musician-jason-moran-cancels-concert-in
[4] Tuba Skinny speaks out on cancellation of show at Red Sea Festival
http://electronicintifada.net/blog/adri-nieuwhof/tuba-skinny-speaks-out-cancellation-show-red-sea-festival
[5] Singer Cassandra Wilson cancels Israel show: “I identify with the cultural boycott of Israel” http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1824
[6] Tear down this Israeli wall
I want the music industry to support Palestinians’ rights and oppose this inhumane barrier
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/11/cultural-boycott-west-bank-wall
[7] Divesting from Injustice http://www.huffingtonpost.com/desmond-tutu/divesting-from-injustice_b_534994.html
[8] Tutu urges Cape Town Opera to call off Israel tour
http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/article727749.ece/Tutu-urges-Cape-Town-Opera-to-call-off-Israel-tour
[9] http://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/about-face-1.170267
[10] Educators can’t stay silent about Israeli apartheid http://electronicintifada.net/content/educators-cant-stay-silent-about-israeli-apartheid/10928
[11] Interview with Alice Walker after She Declines to Publish with Israeli Publisher http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1942
[12] Amazing trumpeter Sean Jones talks about the making of his new CD ‘The Search Within’ (youtube)

BACKGROUND INFORMATION


Israel subjects Palestinians to a cruel system of dispossession and racial discrimination

Perhaps you are not familiar enough with Israel’s practices, widely acknowledged as violations of international law. If this is the case, then we hope you will reconsider your planned concert after thinking through some of Israel’s trespasses. Your performance would function as a whitewash of these practices, making it appear as though business with Israel should go on as usual. Concretely, Israel routinely violates Palestinians’ basic human rights in some of the following ways:

1.     Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip live under a brutal and unlawful military occupation.  Israel restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement and of speech; blocks access to lands, health care, and education; imprisons Palestinian leaders and human rights activists without charge or trial; and inflicts, on a daily basis, humiliation and violence at the more than 600 military checkpoints and roadblocks strangling the West Bank.  All the while, Israel continues to build its illegal wall on Palestinian land and to support the ever-expanding network of illegal, Jewish-only settlements that divide the West Bank into Bantustans.


2.     Palestinian citizens of Israel face a growing system of Apartheid within Israel’s borders, with laws and policies that deny them the rights that their Jewish counterparts enjoy.  These laws and policies affect education, land ownership, housing, employment, marriage, and all other aspects of people’s daily lives. In many ways this system strikingly resembles Jim Crow and apartheid South Africa.


3.     Since 1948, when Israel dispossessed more than 750,000 Palestinian people in order to form an exclusivist Jewish state, Israel has denied Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their homes and their lands. Israel also continues to expel people from their homes in Jerusalem and the Naqab (Negev). Today, there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees still struggling for their right to return to their homes, like all refugees around the world.


4.     In Gaza, Palestinians have been subjected to a criminal and immoral siege since 2006. As part of this siege, Israel has prevented not only various types of medicines, candles, books, crayons, clothing, shoes, blankets, pasta, tea, coffee and chocolate, but also musical instruments from reaching the 1.5 million Palestinians incarcerated in the world’s largest open-air prison.


Israel uses arts and culture to whitewash its violations of international law and human rights.

In December 2008 and January 2009, Israel waged a war of aggression against Gaza that left 1,400 Palestinians, predominantly civilians, dead, and led the UN Goldstone Report to declare that Israel had committed war crimes. In the wake of this assault and to salvage its deteriorating image, Israel has redoubled its effort to “brand” itself as an enlightened liberal democracy. Arts and culture play a unique role in this branding campaign, as the presence of internationally acclaimed artists from the West is meant to affirm Israel’s membership in the West’s privileged club of “cultured,” liberal democracies. But it should not be business as usual with a state that routinely violates international law and basic human rights.

Your performance would serve this Israeli campaign to rebrand itself and will be used as a publicity tool by the Israeli government.
http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1779#_ftn9

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