Newstalk Interview- About ¼ way through
Justice for all peoples. One world, one love.
30 Sep 2016 Leave a comment
Newstalk Interview- About ¼ way through
09 Sep 2016 Leave a comment
Dear Blixa and Teho,
Since the beginning of this campaign, we have been pondering the fact that Blixa has made a film for television on the ex-Israeli musician and activist Dror Feiler, which is due to air on the Arte TV channel four days before Blixa’s own planned concert in Tel Aviv on 15 September.
It is commendable that this film will shine a light on Dror’s activities, which most significantly include his participation in several of the flotillas to break the Israeli government’s brutal siege of Gaza. However, Blixa’s planned concert in Tel Aviv, four days after the broadcast of this film, would completely negate any positive impact coming from it, and would amount to both an affirmation and amplification of Israeli propaganda. The proximity of the broadcast to Blixa’s scheduled breach of the Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) call inevitably gives the impression that the former in some way is expected to justify the latter. The Israeli government, by viewing “culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank”, has created a zero-sum game scenario, the iron logic of which allows for no ambiguity and can only be successfully opposed by a boycott. By weaponising culture itself, the Israeli government further compels artists to decide between providing it with further ammunition or refusing to be complicit in this. It is precisely for this reason that Palestinian civil society has called for a cultural boycott of Israel.
In addition, while the tension arising from the broadcast of the film and the breach of the boycott immediately afterwards appears to give rise to an interesting dialectic, this scenario is achieved at the expense of Palestinian suffering. It seems, therefore, that Blixa is instrumentalising Dror Feiler, but also, and more importantly, the wider political situation as a whole purely for effect. By the same process the Israeli government will be able to instrumentalise Blixa for its own propaganda aims. We wonder if Blixa feels comfortable being used by a state that employs culture as a weapon while also using physical weapons such as cluster bombs and white phosphorous against the Palestinian people, killing and maiming thousands.
Furthermore, artists should not think that in using their performances in Israel as a platform to criticise the state and its policies they are constructively contributing to the Palestinian cause. They are doing nothing of the sort, but rather they facilitate Israeli government in its propaganda by allowing it to portray itself as a democracy tolerant of criticism, when, in fact, this is not the case.
Nor is the argument valid that there are other states in breach of international law, the point is that the Palestinian people have called for a boycott, just as those struggling against South African apartheid did. All that is being asked of you is that you not cross the Palestinian picket line.
Even if there is no direct government involvement of funding in this particular gig, PACBI’s guidelines stipulate “In general, PACBI urges international cultural workers (e.g. artists, writers, filmmakers)… where possible and as relevant, to boycott and/or work towards the cancellation of events, activities, agreements, or projects involving Israel, its lobby groups or its cultural institutions, or that otherwise promote the normalization of Israel in the global cultural sphere.” And “It must be emphasized that a cultural product’s content or artistic merit is not relevant in determining whether or not it is boycottable.”
The reality is that for Israel any show that isn’t cancelled because of BDS appeals is considered a political victory over the Palestinian struggle and international solidarity with it. Hence any artist that’s been appealed to and refused to boycott is a win for Israel, in the view of the state.
Performing in Tel Aviv means playing for a segregated audience, on ethnically cleansed land, can you really see yourselves doing that?
For these reasons, we must repeat, with added emphasis, what so many international groups wrote to you in their first letter: “The call to boycott Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights was first made in 2005, by over 170 (now over 200) Palestinian civil society groups. The boycott is a non-violent tactic against oppressive state power. It would be extremely disappointing if artists of your stature chose to break this call for solidarity with the Palestinian people, particularly at a time when Israel is escalating its daily attacks on them.”
In all of this the plight of the Palestinians is once again pushed into the background and the foreground struggle becomes that of yet another high-profile western artist refusing to use their position of privilege to stand in solidarity with people who have only asked that they do no harm. Therefore we would like to conclude by quoting the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel’s letter to you:
“We are asking you to not side with the oppressor by performing in Tel Aviv 15th September. Don’t let your music normalize the racist brutality and the ethnic cleansing Palestinians suffer from day in day out under the control of the Israeli Apartheid regime. Instead, let your music stand on the right side of history. If you do so, you will look back with a clean conscience when the day arrives that we Palestinians are granted the same human rights as anyone else.”
02 Sep 2016 1 Comment
Dear Blixa and Teho,
We are very dismayed to see that you have a concert in Israel on 15th September this year and are writing to ask you to reconsider playing there and breaching the Palestinian picket line.
Many principled musicians chose to take a stand and cancelled their gigs in Israel and we hope you will join them. As Thurston Moore explained after he cancelled last year: “It was with serious deliberation that I eventually arrived at the personal conclusion that to perform with my band in Israel was in direct conflict to my values. With the realization that a cultural and academic boycott is central to its purpose in exposing a reality of brutal human rights violations – including those accompanying Israel’s discriminatory laws and occupation of the West Bank – I felt the need, with humility, to cancel the engagement.”
Many artists of conscience have chosen not to play there since Palestinians are denied their most basic human rights by Israel. They have heeded the Palestinian call to boycott which was issued in 2005 and has the support of more than 200 civil society organisations.
Large swathes of Palestinian land have been stolen and ethnically cleansed for the development and expansion of illegal Israeli settlements. Currently over 500,000 illegal settlers live in the West Bank in direct contravention of international law.
Palestinians are denied their fundamental right to freedom of movement. A vast matrix of checkpoints, roadblocks, walls and fences separates local villages and towns from each other, and sometimes even cuts entire towns in half. Israeli settlers face no such restrictions, they travel on Jewish-only roads and live in illegal Jewish-only settlements at the expense of Palestinians. This Israeli government policy of segregation has had a devastating effect on the livelihoods and family life of millions of Palestinians and is uniformly condemned by human rights groups. Many of those who resisted and protested South African apartheid are horrified by the brutality of Israeli apartheid and how it is used against the Palestinians. You will be playing to a segregated audience if you play this gig.
In 2014 Israel’s bombardment of Gaza’s dense civilian population killed over 2,200 Palestinians, with 550 children murdered and thousands more injured. Over 100 thousand people have been left homeless. Israel carried out similarly devastating massacres in 2012 and in 2008-2009. UN reports have found significant evidence of war crimes in these attacks including the use of white phosphorus – a chemical weapon, and the murder of unarmed civilians carrying white flags. Of course, no sanction has been invoked against the perpetrator of these crimes which is why it is so important that civil society act.
To compound the misery, virtually no building materials are allowed due to the ongoing Israeli siege of Gaza which controls what commodities enter, even down to the amount and type of food and medical supplies, and leave the territory.
Palestinians are also subjected to mass imprisonment. The Israeli military has detained around 750,000 Palestinians since 1967. The Israeli army tries prisoners – including minors – in closed and unaccountable military courts, denies them access to lawyers, subject them to tortures and abuses, all in contravention of international law.
Further to the situation of the 4 million + Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, the 1.5 million Palestinians having Israeli citizenship face racial discrimination enshrined in more than 50 Israeli laws that systematically, directly or indirectly, discriminate against them. There are also approximately 5 million Palestinian refugees scattered worldwide who are denied their right to return to their homes.
Since October 2015 220 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the militarily occupied West Bank.
This Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign, modelled on the boycott against apartheid South Africa, is supported by over 1,000 culture workers in the UK alone and many more artists worldwide. The boycott has been respected by many artists, including: Leftfield, the Killers, Thurston Moore, Lauryn Hill, Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, Mira Nair, Ken Loach, Massive Attack and Alice Walker.
Israel is all too aware of the power that artists wield. Since 2006 it has been running an aggressive PR campaign it calls ‘Brand Israel’, deliberately using culture as propaganda. This PR campaign seeks to promote an image of the state as a peace living, fun and vibrant liberal democracy, and obscure its violent and racist reality. The aim is to promote a false image in order to distract from the harsh realities of occupation, dispossession and wanton destruction.
Israeli promoters and propagandists for Israel tell musicians that art should not mix with politics and that artists do not play for the government but merely entertain ordinary people. But in fact, Israel has been using artists who breached the boycott as a means of legitimising their crimes against the Palestinian people.
You face a choice – you can stand up for human rights and against oppression and injustice by respecting the Palestinian boycott call. Or you can allow yourself to be cynically used for the whitewashing of apartheid.
We hope that you will cancel your planned gig in Israel on September 15th and refuse to entertain Israeli apartheid.
Many thanks for reading, in solidarity,
DPAI (Don’t Play Apartheid Israel)
We are a group, of over 1700, representing many countries 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.
21 Aug 2016 Leave a comment
They came, they saw, they conquered – every match and every heart. The boys, coach and chairman of Al Helal Football Academy, Gaza City finally made it to Ireland, and it was beautiful.
The Gaza Kids to Ireland project has been years in the making and has been majorly stalled a few times, not least after apartheid Israel’s vicious attack on Gaza in 2014 where more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 556 children, were murdered. We launched officially with Brian Kerr in late 2014 but it was only early this year that things started moving. The logistics of trying to get out of Gaza are very complicated. The group needed Irish visas, permits for Jordan and most problematical – permits to leave Gaza, these granted or not by Israel. Palestinians are the only people who need permission to leave their country. One of the major hasbara tropes trotted out by Israel is that it pulled out of Gaza and no longer occupies it, rubbish – Israel controls most aspects of life for the Palestinians in Gaza, and it controls whether they can leave or enter the Strip.
Freedom of movement is a fundamental right and those of us lucky and privileged enough to have it should recognise its importance and fight for everyone to have it. From seeing the terrible difficulties Palestinian friends experience and spending time with people on the move through Fortress Europe, I’ve never been more aware of how crucial this is to our shared humanity.
This was definitely the case for this project, the visa/permits processes took months. We had huge difficulties regarding permits – the group was initially to be in Ireland on the 13th July but their permits weren’t granted so we had to reschedule the entire programme. Eventually the permits were granted but one player from the 15 – Karam Zedan (who had been injured in 2009) – wasn’t given a permit and neither were 5 of the adults due to travel, including the only woman. The utter cruelty of Israel denying one child from 15 the opportunity to travel to Ireland bears further consideration, it really is unspeakable. Imagine how a 13 year old boy must have felt seeing his friends and teammates going on a big adventure that they had all been preparing for together for months. To stop just one child from the whole group is purely sadistic. Of course, in the massive catalogue of Israel’s crimes against Palestinian children, this is at the lower end of their scale of violence, but it’s still brutal and needless and rotten. Karam was injured by the 2009 Israeli attack on Gaza and it’s likely they didn’t want him as living evidence of their war crimes. However, despite not being in Ireland, Karam was in everyone’s thoughts throughout the trip and the children remembered him, making videos singing “We are all Karam” everywhere they went, he was always with us. But he should have been with us in person as well as in spirit. Another cruelty inflicted on a Palestinian child by the apartheid state. Why do they do it? Because they can.
Israel also prevented five adults from travelling with the group, the only woman, Hadeel, a specialist in children’s mental health, two coaches Mohammed and Eyad, a journalist Mohanad, and administrator Salah. Not allowing these adults to travel is again cruel and needless, it’s an assertion of control and power. Imagine how they must have felt, having Israel’s absolute control reasserted so cruelly. It’s beyond my imagination because of privilege, and I want it to be beyond everyone’s, because of justice.
Preventing them from travelling was also designed to cause maximum disruption to the trip. The journey from the Erez crossing to Amman airport in Jordan is long, difficult and full of checkpoints. That journey for only two adults with fourteen children is extremely tough and it is testimony to Ayed and Mohammed that they made it and indeed undertook the whole trip for the sake of the kids. I can’t say enough about these two men, they are fantastic. The Israelis were strategic, they allowed only one coach, one English speaker and no woman, with a group of boys who had never left Gaza before. But despite these obstacles, they coped, they thrived and they were brilliant.
And they arrived! Right up to the minute I heard they had boarded the plane, I couldn’t believe it would happen. It happened. And they arrived, 14 really cute children with big brown eyes and bigger smiles wearing hot pink jerseys came to Ireland for an unforgettable ten days.
The kids played football, they danced, they sang, they were on the telly, they walked down Grafton St like celebs, walked the beach in Bray, went to the funfair, to SeaWorld, they dazzled with their feet in Dublin, Galway, Tipperary and Limerick. They went to parks and castles, went swimming and horseriding, they played hurling and rugby, went on boats and unicycles. They went mental in the shopping centre in Limerick. They did the guard of honour for Galway United versus Dundalk, played at half time to the delight and cheers of the Palestinian flag waving GUFC ultras. Oh, and they met the President of Ireland there.
They played football against Ballybrack FC, Kinvara United, Nenagh AFC, Nenagh Celtic and Pike Rovers. They played on pitches, beaches and in parks. A highlight was their game in Ballybrack where the Palestinian community came out in numbers and reacted as if they had won the World Cup, it was raucous!
They won every game, they played beautiful football, they dazzled. Everyone remarked on their skill, their footwork, speed, their ability to keep hold of the ball. They are really good players. While their size compared to their Irish counterparts was a concern – and the siege of Gaza causes nutritional issues for the children there – their skill made up for it and they beat all comers!
They are fun and funny, kind, talented boys and it was a real privilege to spend time with them. Everyone who met the kids was delighted by them, they really lifted people’s hearts, the amount of love around the trip was special. Because there were only two adults let travel, I stayed with the group every night and this really allowed me to get to know them and enjoy their company, I loved it. The kids’ energy and enthusiasm is infectious. The evenings were spent moving mattresses around so they could camp in together (a nightly slumber party!), waving hello to their parents and family on the phone, begging them to go to sleep and helping them to pack! My greatest achievement of the trip is being the butt of two running jokes, in English AND Arabic. These kids know how to slag. I loved their camaraderie, how they looked after each other, especially if anyone was a little homesick, how they respected their ‘captains’ and how they interacted with everyone here. They really are great kids, brilliant representatives of their families, of Gaza, of Palestine.
It was also a privilege to spend time with Ayed and Mohammed who had to take on the mantles of guardians, coaches, organisers, translator, media people and coordinators during the trip. They did it with smiles throughout, they are lovely men.
It was great too to hang out with my Gaza Action Ireland fam and marvel as they pulled events together at the last minute and were as solid and decent as they always have been. They rock.
This project was intended as an act of practical solidarity with Gaza and to further build civil society links between there and here. We wanted to give the children a break from life under siege and for people here to have the opportunity to meet them and to see the richness of Palestinian culture, life, sport. We want all the time that people in Gaza know that they are in our hearts, on our minds, that we want to fight against the siege that deprives them of their rights, their freedom, that they are important to us, that we are inspired by their struggle, that we will do our best to show solidarity with them. Ayed said a few times that this trip was a window to the outside world for the friends and families of the kids, trapped as they are by the Israeli siege. And the kids were always taking photos and filming everything to show their families, they were that window.
As much as the visit was a window into the world outside Gaza for the kids, it was also a window into Palestine for us. A window into the strength and resilience of Palestinian culture, the incredible collective memory. Ayed described how when they were travelling from Erez to Amman the children were asking about their original homes, towns and villages and how he was pointing them out to them. It’s really beautiful how this memory of the home, the land is passed down through the generations, from those expelled in the Nakba to today’s children. Beautiful and tragic. They will return.
I was overwhelmed by the solidarity and love shown to the kids by people here, everywhere they went, it was very special to see the Palestinian communities here so happy to meet them. We could have brought them to every county and it still wouldn’t have been enough. So many people wanted to meet them, host them, feed them, do activities, just brilliant. It bodes well for future visits.
Since the kids went back to Gaza I’ve read missed them, much more than I could have imagined. I talk to them online all the time and endure the jokes being sent repeatedly in Facebook recordings! They got under my skin and I want to see them again and for all of them to be safe and happy always. And we have to work as hard as we can so that they don’t have to live under siege and under threat, the siege has to be lifted.
It’s almost impossible to get into Gaza and it’s almost impossible for people there to get out, that denial of freedom of movement and human connection, so often between families in Gaza and other parts of Palestine, is one of apartheid Israel’s greatest crimes, it has to end.
When the permits were denied, I was talking to Mohammed Abuaita who wasn’t allowed to travel. He wrote these beautiful words and has let me put them here.
“We know that we live in a big prison
This is our destiny..
Let me tell you something..
From the center of the siege .. we make Hope
We draw a smile to the world.”
Palestinian resistance is poetry.
There are many more words, but for now I miss the shebab from Al Helal and I am immeasurably enriched by spending time with them. I wish them to be safe with every part of myself, body and soul. Kol she tamam? #COYBFG
Shukran shebab! Khaled, Mohanned, Abdelatif, Tamer, Raed, Shabiba, Yousef, Khalifa, Zizou, Hassan, Damo, Abunajie, Amjad, Ayoub. #COYBFG
11 Aug 2016 Leave a comment
A wrap-up statement on the kids’ visit for all of you who have done so much over the last two weeks, and before that!
This stage of the Gaza Kids to Ireland project has drawn to a close with the group’s safe arrival home – to a rapturous reception in Gaza that underlines the importance of their journey.
The initiative, long in the making and supported financially and logistically by many groups and individuals, has been a real success, full of fun and football. The warmth and solidarity shown to our visitors by thousands of people all over Ireland has been overwhelming: they met a huge welcome wherever they went. Indeed, we could have brought them to every county in Ireland, such was the interest in and enthusiasm for their visit.
Bringing the group from Al Helal football academy was always going to be complicated, but it became really onerous due to obstacles Israel put in our path.
Initially a group of 22 travellers was due to arrive in Ireland for a 12-day visit on July 13th, flying from Amman, Jordan, via Istanbul; but their permits to leave the besieged Gaza strip weren’t granted by Israel, necessitating the postponement of the programme. When the permits were finally granted in late July, we had to try to reschedule everything very late, for a shorter visit – July 29th to August 8th.
Worse than the delay was the cruel refusal to issue permits to the entire group. One child from the group of 15 players, 13-year-old Karam Zidan, was prevented from travelling to Ireland, as were five of the seven adults due to travel: two coaches, a journalist, an administrator and the only woman, a specialist in children’s mental health.
Apart from the sad blow this represented for us and them, having just two adults with 14 children who had never before left Gaza, and who spoke very little English, made things very tough. If Israeli authorities intended to cause maximum disruption to the project by this decision, they very nearly succeeded. However, the travellers and those left behind decided the trip should go ahead; and due to the brilliance, kindness and boundless energy of Al Helal chairman Ayed Abu Ramadan and coach Moammed Alrawagh, alongside the voluntary efforts of many people in Ireland, the kids had constant support. We were also very lucky that Azeez Yusuff from Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI) joined us for the duration of the trip, as a coach, mentor and friend.
Those prevented from travelling were never far from our thoughts, especially Karam. He was wounded in the 2009 attack on Gaza, so it seems likely the apartheid state didn’t want people in Ireland to hear about his injuries. Left behind, however, he was an even more vivid reminder of what was done to him, and what is done to thousands of other Palestinian children, by Israel. “We are all Karam” was a constant refrain.
The kids from Al Helal football academy played games against Ballybrack FC, Kinvara United, Nenagh AFC, Nenagh Celtic and Pike Rovers (and beat them all!). They were also guests of Galway United for their league win over Dundalk – that night, the boys were the guard of honour, played on the pitch at half-time and met the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins!
The Palestinian Community in Ireland and the Palestinian diplomatic mission here, including Ambassador Ahmad Abdelrazek, were enthusiastic supporters throughout the visit. SARI and Shamrock Rovers helped create a great evening of beach football on Dublin’s Sandymount Strand. Existing organisations such as Nenagh Friends of Palestine, who hosted the children for half their visit, and the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, in Limerick and elsewhere, were vital to the project; more ad-hoc groups in Ballybrack, Kinvara, Wexford and Sandymount worked quickly and tirelessly to organise events. There weren’t enough mealtimes to visit all the restaurants that offered to feed the children!
Gaza Action Ireland hopes to continue working with Al-Helal and with football in Gaza, including supporting the development of the game for girls in the territory. We hope more visits, in both directions, will become possible.
This grassroots project couldn’t have happened without widespread support for fundraising, organising and hosting. It’s been absolutely brilliant. We couldn’t possibly name them all, but we thank everyone who played, donated, fundraised, fed, and lavished the children with gifts, hospitality and love.
Photos Felim Egan
03 May 2016 Leave a comment
Gaza Kids to Ireland are finally coming!
This July, the kids from Al Helal under 14s football team are coming to Ireland to play football and meet you! Al-Helal’s clubhouse was damaged in the Israeli assaults of 2012 and 2014. It stands close to the beach, but the sea there is usually too polluted with sewage for the children to play in.
The children will play against teams from Dublin, Tipperary, Limerick and Antrim during their visit and will participate in family events. We want to show them some hospitality while they’re here so we hope you’ll come out to our events and support them.
If you want to give some money to the project, please do so here: Donate!
These are some upcoming events, please support and share. If you want to organise a fundraiser too that would be brilliant, please email us. And, as ever, please give our social media a twist, thanks!
July 9th Gig for Gaza Kids! 8.30pm The Hotspot Music Club, above the Beach House, Greystones Harbour, Greystones, Dublin
July 10th Afternoon Tea Party and Family Fun Day 1pm Christchurch Hall, Sandymount, Dublin
July 16th From Gaza to Ireland – John Spillane, and Inny-The Moat Theatre Bass
May 12th Gaza Kids to Ireland Quiz Night
May 20th Ballad Session Nenagh
June 10th Auction 8pm Teachers’ Club, Dublin
We have a number of brilliant paintings, Palestinian ceramics, jewellery and books to auction. There will also be a raffle on the night. It’s going to be great! All donations welcome. Email contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
June 16th Quiz Night for Gaza Kids to Ireland. 9pm Bobby Byrne’s pub, Limerick
June 17th An Evening with Paddy Casey and friends, The Cobblestone, Smithfield, Dublin from 8.30 pm
June 23rd Concert and Poetry The Purty Kitchen Dún Laoghaire – Solarix, the Dubtones, Dave Lordan
June 24th Table Quiz Fundraiser for Gaza Kids to Ireland 9pm Hibernian Inn, Nenagh, Tipperary
June 30th Solidarity Party -Galway Grassroots Network 9pm Arus Na Gael
Facebook Gaza Action Ireland
08 Dec 2015 Leave a comment
Some thoughts and pictures and feelings from a week in Lesvos where thousands of people arrive in search of refuge every day. Where people who have already travelled great distances, displaying courage and mountains of resilience, come ashore in little boats, mostly unsafe. Where rocky beaches have become the scene of the arrival of thousands of people on the move, coming in wet and often very scared. This coastline and these waters have seen many, many deaths, much struggle and much survival.
It’s hard to talk about, seems a little easier to write about, but where to find the language for what you’ve witnessed? To describe it without appropriating it? To convey it and not to minimise one iota of it? This is just a snapshot, just a week, a glimpse into what people are being forced into – privilege enables it to be just that for me.
What strikes most is the sheer numbers of people coming, people on the move, people in boats and walking, walking. These people have been victimised by capitalism, climate change, war – western invasions, dictators, injustice BUT they are not victims, they are survivors with immense resilience and courage and if Fortress Europe opens itself up, we have so much to learn from them.
(Using the term ‘them’ makes me uncomfortable – I dont see people in such ways, but to do otherwise is to try to coopt experiences that aren’t mine)
Driving over the hills of the island, en route to pick up older people, kids, families to bring to the camps, you’re driving past the groups of young men (they always end up bottom of the heap) and they are waving, smiling and flashing the peace sign – what great stuff we could all have if we opened the borders and just let people in, let them be, let us all be, together….
What is also striking is the absence of official structures and resources – this is criminal given the magnitude of this crisis, and it is an indictment of the EU governments. The seeming randomness of volunteers doing their best to provide support is a shock to the system. But it is also brilliant and inspirational to see how much people can organise and cooperate to such a degree. And the reasons why – because they reject the othering of our sisters and brothers on the move, reject the closing of borders and minds, and want to just hold out a hand in solidarity. It is beautiful and it is how it should be.
Although you meet people for a really brief time, it is quite intense, naturally given the circumstances. So there is much hugging and much kindness – it’s incredible how people on the move, even at their most vulnerable, can give so much. Since then, always wondering how they will fare, what awaits them in Europe, will they be welcomed, embraced as they should be… Where are they now? How are they getting on? Are they ok?
The absolute injustice being visited on so many has to end.
We need safe passage for all refugees as a minimum requirement, and we need to open the borders, stop the racism embrace each other, learn from each other, live with each other, love each other.
Oh yeah, and dismantle capitalism and the patriarchy…..Until then – no borders, one love.
The rest of my ramblings are below.
Solidarity and shared humanity. Amidst all the sadness and awfulness of the enforced displacement of so many people, there is much to fill your heart. The resilience, courage and dignity of the people on the move is extraordinary, it really is something. Much of the local population on the island is out helping, offering support and a welcome. There is incredible self-organisation among different people offering a helping hand, and among those on the move themselves. There is also so much friendship, some of it really passing and brief, but very real, some of it less fleeting but equally intense. When people are thrown together in the absence of governments, they manage pretty well even in tough circumstances. All this cooperation and common humanity – we can be together outside the war machine and the extremes of capitalism and it is good. No borders, no gods, no masters.
Incongruity – the contrast of the beauty of this Greek island, so pretty and full of character, with what it has turned into – often a grave, a place of refuge, a place of hurt and hope- is stark and strange. For the local people it must be transformative, hopefully in positive ways, but definitely in profound ways. For the people on the move, it looks like it represents mainly relief – at having survived the sea crossing, at having reached Europe and the potential that offers (if it does). Maybe it’s just a hyper magnification of this world as we live it now -riven by inequality and strife – the close proximity of ‘normality’ and privilege to enforced displacement and extreme stress. Sometimes driving people from the boats to the camps, along the beautiful coastline, I just wished they could all stay there on this lovely island and not have to keep going on that grim walk to who knows what…but….
Snapshots of Lesvos. Kindness – shared humanity. One of the main things you do on Lesvos is drive as many people as you can from where their boats come in to the first camp before they have to go for registering. On the second day we drove a lovely family from Afghanistan to Oxy camp – they were from Kabul and Kunduz. The young women were teachers and we laughed at having this in common and being in that van together. They asked us if we knew Afghanistan is unsafe and we said of course and talked about the US bombing of the hospital in Kunduz. They were planning to go to Germany and wondered if they would be accepted there. We hugged goodbye and we wished them luck – it’s an awful moment there as what we have in common ends at the camp because of privilege inequity… A minute later I was just going back to the van when one of the women ran up to me and gave me this nose ring – she had noticed I wear one. In the middle of what she and her family were going through she did that, such a beautiful act – it could break your heart.
Snapshots of Lesvos. Privilege. And luck. We’ve got them. The privilege to choose to come here, to board planes, boats, buses at will. To choose the right shoes to wear for the rocks, the warm clothes to keep the wind out, the bed for the night. To choose.
To only have to deal with the ‘normal’ hurt that life can bring, sometimes hurt which is more than enough to bear but to not have massive violence piled on top of it. To not be displaced, uprooted, othered.
To not have to witness your homeland torn apart and destroyed by dictators, by imperialist attack, by crippling poverty, by climate change, until even your home is not safe, your future not possible, not there.
To not have to walk the world being exploited by the ruthless profiteers of misery, to not have to get on unsafe boats making perilous sea crossings while others get to board ferries. To not have to endure, to keep going, keep walking in the hope of something better, anything better.
To choose when to be on the move. To choose.
On the move and on the road. When people get to Lesvos they have a lot of walking to do, on winding, dusty, rocky roads – up hills, along cliffsides, and long, very long. One of the main things volunteers can do is to drive as many people as possible to the camps. It’s a tiny part of their journey but it’s some of it at least and if you can do it together with warmth and solidarity, that’s a good thing. These roads are hard and scary to walk and also make for some very hairy driving. This will all worsen as the weather deteriorates. This can’t be allowed to continue. Open the borders.
Ways of looking, ways of seeing. On Lesvos you look at the sea differently, you scrutinise it watching out for boats coming in – it’s an anxious looking, especially at night when the journey seems so much more frightening, so much lonelier. For the people preparing to get on the water, the alteration in perception must be so much more profound. For those on the water it must be near unbearable and the shore so goddamn important. For the people who’ve already made the perilous crossing and are waiting for loved ones, it has to be torture. How we see everything has to be altered by all this movement, and how our world is operated has to change. In the meantime, open the borders.
Altered landscapes – the shoreline of the island is covered in piles of useless life jackets, there are clothes and shoes drying all along the water. It’s testament to the abject failure of all the systems we are supposed to hold up as somehow a model for others, for the ‘other’. The spoils of this rampant capitalist war machine are the visible remnants of people’s lives. It has to end and, in the meantime, open the borders.
Some of the people we met on their journeys.
A Syrian woman whose 14 year old son made his own way to Germany, she hadn’t seen him in 8 months.
A man from Syria who when I asked where he and his family were heading said: we just want to be somewhere there’s no fighting.
A family from Kabul and Kunduz in Afghanistan who told us how dangerous it is and wondered: will Germany accept us?
An older Afghan woman devastated at having to leave. Her son said: my mother is just so sad.
A typical teenager on her phone all the time, just looking for a charger, not in the least interested in us smile emoticon Iraqi and Syrian lads talking football and nervous that we were trying to kill them with my driving and then trap them when the van door wouldn’t open!
Families travelling with very elderly relatives, people with disabilities.
As you drive along the road picking people up to drive to the camps, the walkers are waving and smiling. People exhibit so much warmth, strength and resilience even in the face of this exile and the unknown roads ahead. We have much to learn from them, if we open our hearts, our lives and of course the borders. One world.
‘Modernity’ – this system of war and rampant capitalism is sending millions of people’s lives backwards. With all the means of transport available now, it is unthinkable that people are being forced to travel thousands of miles on foot, to cross seas in unsafe boats, wearing dangerous life jackets – at best to be met by volunteers, at worst by no one. War and poverty are not incidental to the system, they are inevitable and necessary for it to thrive. It has to end. And in the meantime OPEN THE BORDERS.
HOME. I’ve got a place called home and so do most of the people I love. I’ve just come to this place on a plane, through airports, with no problems, because of my white person’s passport. No one is going to run or bomb me out of here, to make it impossible to be here. No one is going to force me across the world on foot, on boats, in danger and precarity. No one is going to hurt me and stop me finding a new home. This planet is for all of us, not some of us, it’s everyone’s home – let’s make it be that way.
On night shift on the hillsides looking out with torches and night goggles for boats coming in, obviously this journey is much more dangerous and frightening at night, in the dark, in the cold. Two boats came in in the last few hours, in darkness and it’s freezing. They weren’t expected so there weren’t many people around on the beach. Thankfully everyone seems *relatively* ok but, despite buses being organised and people ferrying them, there are still loads walking long, long ways to the camps, over mountains, along cliffsides and very dodgy roads. Pics also of Karatepe camp which is only for Syrian families, and the ‘best’ camp but still is a camp, and also is right beside a sewage treatment plant spewing out toxic fumes. Even though there is immense resilience and resourcefulness in the people on the move and people trying to give a hand, the situation is wrong, full stop. It is neither right nor sustainable that people on the move are being forced into these conditions and the enrichment of ruthless traffickers is being enabled, and that it is largely being left to volunteers to try to ease the path. Fortress Europe is an abomination that can’t be allowed to continue. #openborders .
It’s difficult to find the words for what’s happening here in Lesvos and this is only one stage on people’s journeys. Yesterday boats were coming in full of cold, scared people – being handed a child off a boat by a terrified mum in the water – it’s beyond wrong that this is happening to people. Talking to a family from Afghanistan who had spent a month living in a forest in Turkey, they were on their way to Germany – hopefully and full of hope – will we be accepted there….? Jesus christ, I hope so. A woman trying to change her wet clothes up the side of a mountain, privacy is rare now. Huge walks for people up steep, steep hills. This is brutal, medieval – all the technology, the transport, everything that’s available and this is how people are forced to move. There is no dignity from Fortress Europe, it is shameful. But there is dignity and resilience in abundance in these people on the move – and much to learn. Travel safe and may you find safety and hope.
Shots of the shoreline in Lesvos today, fake life jackets sold at extortionate prices, one of the many used boats… Lots of people came in today and mercifully the weather is relatively calm at the moment so, while extremely dangerous and traumatic, it wasn’t fatal -today. It’s impossible to quantify the magnitude of what people are having to go through to reach Europe and to square that this is only one step on a massive journey. What’s behind them, what’s ahead of them and how can it be that so much human energy and incredible resourcefulness is spent in such ways? This cannot continue, we need to build a world where we are all safe in our homes and, on the way to that, we have to welcome, really welcome those who are not.