my brush with hamas (or not)

Well. I had been looking forward to Tuesday night’s “Palestine Today-Internal Upheaval: When is a Mandate not a Mandate” at St. Mary’s University College for quite some time. I was excited about the opportunity to hear Dr. Mohammed E. al-Madhoun, head of the office of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, talk about the current situation in the occupied territories. You’d never have an opportunity to hear someone from Hamas talk about Palestine in the US!

I can’t say I was too surprised when Tuesday came around and Dr. al Madhoun had not received his visa, but I was definitely disappointed. The Feile staff tried really hard to ensure that the event would go on…apparently Plan B meant we would watch the Dr. make his address through video link from the offices of Al Jazeera. This did not happen due to some kind of problem linking digital and analog systems. SO Dr. al Madhoun called an organizer’s cell phone, and Bill Rolston, the moderator, held the cell phone up to a microphone. I kid you not!

You could have heard a pin drop in the room–200+ people listening intently and concentrating so hard just to hear what was said. We even managed to have a Q&A. There were two other speakers- one a professor from Galway and the other the head of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Committee (or something to that effect). I took notes only on Dr. al Madhoun’s presentation.

His address was pretty straightforward, and began with recognizing the solidarity and support between the Irish and Palestinian struggles. He pointed out that the American administration’s double standard (in supporting “democracy” in the region) results in the punishment of the Palestinian people as a whole and their institutions. As American turned its back on Hamas (and therefore the Palestinian people), Israel took the opportunity to attack Palestinians and their infrastructure, and are isolating Palestinians from the outside. This has very obvious negative effects on the Palestinian economy, which is in crisis and the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. He then called for an international intervention in order to protect the lives of the Palestinian people and to facilitate a just solution to the Palestinian problem.

The Q/A was a little more interesting.  The first, which I believe was asked by Danny Morrison (but I’m not sure), was how many Palestinians have been killed under the cover of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.  Answer: 194 to date.   In answer to whether he believes the EU policy is too close to the US policy in the Middle East, Dr. al Madhoun replied that during the last 5 months, yes.  In his opinion, the EU is following American orders to punish the Palestinian people for their choice of Hamas.  Dr. al Madhoun said the best way for ordinary people to help the Palestinian people is through massive demonstrations, showing that the world does not stand with America; articles in the media can also change public opinion.  He also said it is a good idea to focus on a boycott of Israel (note: the word divestment did not seem to be a part of the local vocab in this matter).

It turned out to be an interesting event, but the cell phone really put a damper on my excitement.  🙂

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