Category Archives: palestine

Reflections from an Irish Activist with the ISM in Palestine

ismarticle.jpgThe following is the first part of an article by Irish peace activist Damien Moran, whom some of you may remember as one of the Pitstop Ploughshares.  To read Damien’s reflections in their entirety, please go here.

The following is not intended to be an attempt at a comprehensive analysis of the current situation in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. Instead, it is a reflection on the past few weeks I have spent with the International Solidarity Movement in the city of Hebron and its environs and what brought me here in the first place. It is completely subjective and deliberately intended to be so. It is merely a personal reflection, and therefore should not be taken as representative of the views of the ISM.

I am a firm believer that the shortest distance between a person and the truth is a story. Many stories I have heard and read about regarding resistance to occupation, capitalism, imperialism have formed my sense of what is right and wrong – and on which side of the fence I am on. So if you manage to read through this lengthy piece of writing, I hope the stories of resistance I have encountered over the past few weeks will inspire you also to keep on fighting the powers that be, wherever and whenever you encounter them.

Part I

It’s 8 a.m., Tuesday morning, and the city of Hebron – in the southern region of the West Bank of Palestine, has awoken. The initial morning calls to prayer from the surrounding mosques have well passed, a few Palestinian workers are wiping sleep from their eyes and some seem like they are in sleep-walking mode as they journey to work on foot from the heavily-militarised H2 Israeli district to the Palestinian Authority controlled H1 section.

It could be any other city in the world given the evident rituals of work, rest, and play – that is apart from the blatantly obvious fact that the city of Hebron is under a brutally repressive, 6,000 Israeli soldier strong, military occupation. And these soldiers are here to ‘protect’ the 600 or so settlers who live in the H2 area, which makes up 20% of all Hebron. Approximately 40,000 Palestinians lived in the area in 2005 but this number is steadily decreasing due to ever-increasing repression and violence

It is the first time I have ever lived in an occupied country. Even though I am from Ireland, the occupation of the Northern part of our country was a universe away for most of us who grew up in the southern Republic. Images that flashed on the screen on a daily basis when I was growing up remained just that – flashes on a screen. The impact of the Northern Ireland conflict on Irish society as a whole was nowhere to be seen, and was especially far removed from my home town, 130 kilometres away from the border. Yet, for those who have resisted imperialism and capitalism in the North of Ireland, the symbols of the Palestinian people and their struggle – which can be found in Republican areas of Northern Ireland – embody the universal spirit for true freedom. Fights against oppressive conditions tend to identify with each other easily and employ each others’ symbols in a clear manifestation of mutual solidarity. Hence, one can also see the Kurdish flag and Basque flag in a variety of districts in Belfast and Derry. That said, I have yet to see a tricolour here! But once one says they are from Ireland the amazing hospitality and friendliness of Palestinians elevates to even higher levels than normal.

Despite the fact that this is my first time in the Middle East, I have had previous voluntary experience in Haiti, where I worked for 3 months in early 2001. The stark poverty there and amazing spirit of survival manifested through their great sense humour and generosity was a significant eye-opener for a 21 year old from the midlands of Ireland. Haitians taught me many valuable lessons then about simple living, just as Palestinians have been teaching me invaluable lessons about their struggle since I arrived here almost 4 weeks ago. The domestic societal pressures I and other Westerners face, from San Francisco to Warsaw, Oslo to Madrid – whether to choose Nike or Adidas, Levis or Wranglers, Coca Cola or Pepsi – seems like such bullshit falsity when measured against the fact that it is people like ordinary Haitians who slave labour for our commodity overload and Palestinians who bear the brunt of our nation’s obsession with weapons sales to the Apartheid Israeli State.

Thankfully, groups like the ISM, Christian Peacemaker Team and many others exist to counter the exploitation and violence perpetuated by the political powerbrokers, cynical warmongers, and the ubiquitious capitalists.

In my own case, on return to Ireland after volunteering in Haiti, I had to decide whether I was to conform to the Irish Celtic Tiger economic expectation of attaining a brand-new 2.6 litre car, producing 2.3 children, constructing an 8 room house (3 times more than required), signing up for a 35 year mortgage in a cramped urban space with few social services, and putting aside a sufficent quantity of disposable income for 2 sun holidays a year in order to make up for the eternally falling rain in Ireland – and all by the time I would have reached 27 years old. Yes, I know, sounds pretty boring! And yet many feel forced into such economic and social traps, and of course not just in Ireland, by well-groomed real estate charmers, loan sharks and city councillor land rezoners, just because they want to start a family and bring up their kids in a secure environment.

That course of life may seem good to some, and more power to them if they can enjoy themselves and be active citizens at the same time. But for those of us who have had the privilege to form relationships with those who struggle to survive in their daily lives, whether amongst the poor and oppressed of the Global North or South, our responsibilities to respond through sharing some of their experiences and refusing to descend into slumber are to the fore of consciences. And that is exactly why I decided to come to Palestine (I know, it has taken me a while to get to this point) – to reignite my sense of responsibility towards the other, to develop mutually beneficial relationships with those having to confront occupation and violence in their normal daily rituals – of work, rest, and play

Anyhow, enough about soldiers. Thankfully I was free to come here, albeit for a short period of time, having no mortgage, kids (the only part of this triangle I would like to have) nor gas-guzzling car – and having a very understanding and supportive girlfriend and family to support me. I look upon it as a huge privilege and yet great challenge and responsibility to be able to travel and exerience resistance against occupation by the people here. They have much to teach us who live in countries ridden with individualism and materialism.

Even though I’m from Ireland, for the past two years I have been residing in Poland, teaching English and desperately struggling to learn the nightmarish Polish language. So when I decided to initiate contact with the ISM about the possibilities of working alongside them in Palestine, I started to recall previous stories of theirs which I had followed. A good friend of mine had been shot in the leg by an IOF soldier in 2002 while others had volunteered as short-termers. Last year I attended a very well produced play in Ireland which was based on the journals by the very inspiring ISM’er Rachel Corrie. And before I left Poland by train to make my way here I just managed to finish reading Jocelyn Hurndall’s book about her son Tom, fatally shot by an IOF soldier in the Gaza Strip in 2003, just shortly after Rachel had been murdered.

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Filed under human rights, ireland, Israel, middle east, palestine

Irish Congress of Trade Unions call for Divestment and Sanctions against Israel

From the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign:

IPSC warmly welcomes the strong Palestinian solidarity motion passed at the biennial Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) conference last weekend. This resolution called for boycott and divestment from Israel and companies such as CRH who are building Israel’s apartheid Wall, and for support for beleaguered Palestinian trade unions.

The motion authorized the leadership of the Irish trade union movement to undertake a wide range of measures to oppose Israel’s oppressive actions and to show solidarity with Palestinians. These include a commitment to “actively and vigorously” promote a policy of boycott and of divestment, to make direct representations to government and to the EU, and to mobilise EU-wide trade union solidarity action. Conference also called upon ICTU to send a senior delegation to the Palestinian territories to establish solidarity links. It also welcomed the establishment by ICTU of Trade Union Friends of Palestine.

As Eamon McMahon of TUFP commented, ‘ICTU is the largest mass organisation of the Irish working class. It represents all sections of labour – from low-paid to senior management – and all sectors of industry and employment.  It is highly significant that there was no opposition at all to any of the motions, despite the fact that they represent what must be one of the strongest positions adopted by any trade union congress in the world.

He continued, ‘Today’s conference demonstrates that the people of Ireland – north and south –   are steadfast in their commitment to stand in solidarity alongside their long-suffering and heroic Palestinian brothers and sisters’.

This is the latest in a series of trade union support for the international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. In Britain, the TUC has recently passed a boycott resolution in response to previous resolutions by journalists and university lecturers unions, in addition to the general union UNISON. Large unions in places like South Africa and Canada have also supported this campaign. In Ireland last month NIPSA (the Northern Ireland Public Sector Association) unanimously supported a call for boycotts and sanctions. There is little doubt that in passing this resolution, ICTU accurately represents the mood of its members and of the Irish public in general.

IPSC recalls the important role that trade unions played in the boycott of Apartheid-era South African goods and is gratified that they are to the forefront in the boycott of yet another Apartheid state. We call upon all Irish people, not just members of unions, to heed ICTU’s progressive call and join this growing boycott of Israeli goods till Israel abides by international law and respects the basic human rights of Palestinians.

You can read the full text of the ICTU’s resolution here.

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Belfast studied for clues to uniting fractured cities

I read this article in the Guardian a while ago and I’m only now getting around to posting it.  I found most of what the article said and didn’t say quite irritating–perhaps because it raises more questions about the premise of the study and the political nature of the subject that they’re undertaking.  Apparently a group of researchers plans to study the regeneration of Belfast “for possible solutions to ending the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem.”  Hmm.

The project by the University of Cambridge will look at how changes to the layout of cities can help to overcome decades of political and religious unrest.

The study will focus on Belfast and Jerusalem primarily, but also will look at other historically divided cities such as Berlin, Beirut, Mostar in Bosnia, Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, and Kirkuk in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

I wonder, by “changes to the layout of cities” in regards to Belfast, do they mean building 30ft high “peace lines” to separate the working-class Catholic and Protestant communities?  How successful has the Israeli apartheid wall been in overcoming political and religious unrest?

I suppose it’s what the article doesn’t say that says it all, so to speak.  Or maybe it’s this part:

“The nature of the city is helping people to overcome the old divisions, and by looking at how that is taking place it may be possible to find solutions that can be applied to Jerusalem.”

She added: “If we do not understand how people can manage to live side by side – in effect what makes such a city work at everyday level – it may never recover from years of division and conflict.”

Previous research by Cambridge concluded that the built environment plays a key role in determining whether inherent [emphasis mine] conflict in cities results in violence or lively social interaction.

inherent: adj. existing in someone or something as a permanent or inseprable element, quality or attribute
Perhaps the money spent on this 5 year study would be better spent on gaining even an elementary understanding of the roots of these conflicts? I don’t know about you, but I’d say this study is inherently flawed…

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Filed under belfast, ireland, Irish peace process, middle east, palestine

Free Alan Johnston petition

johnston_203.jpgThe BBC is currently reporting that missing reporter Alan Johnston may in fact still be alive. Apparently PA President Mahmoud Abbas has made a statement to this effect in Sweden today, stating that his intelligence services have confirmed this. Though he is aware of the group responsible for kidnapping Johnston, Abbas has not given any more details and there is not yet any definitive proof Johnston is still living.

Here are a couple of links to petitions you can sign to show your support for Johnston and to demand that he be released. To be honest, I’ve never had much faith in the power of the petition, but I’ve received so many lately that I figure it can’t hurt to spread the word. Sign the BBC’s online petition here. This is another petition that I heard about from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

April 17th was Palestinian Prisoners Day. To mark the occasion, the Gaza-based organization Mothers and Families of Palestinians and Arabs in Israeli Jails issued the following statement in response to the claim by Alan’s alleged kidnappers that he was taken to help Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails:

On Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, the Mothers of Prisoners Call for Their Release and Condemn Kidnappings in the Name of Stopping Their Continuous Suffering.

On the occasion of Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, 17 April 2007, we, the mothers and families of Palestinian and Arab prisoners detained in Israeli jails, continue to miss our loved ones and hope that they will be immediately released.

It is we who each day miss our loved ones, who have been cut off from their sons, daughters and relatives by Israeli Occupation Forces. It is we who witness their detention in jails that lack the minimum international acceptable detention standards.

As we reject the illegal detention and inhuman treatment of prisoners, we reject the claim by any group that they may commit criminal and un-national acts in the name of the Palestinian and Arab prisoners. The kidnapping of anybody, including BBC journalist Alan Johnston, is against the rights of the prisoners, it is against the love and the suffering of their mothers, it is against the whole of the Palestinian people.

As we call upon relevant local, regional and international parties to ensure the immediate release of our prisoners, we call on those who have kidnapped Alan to immediately release him. We call on them not to stoop to the level of the occupation by conducting these pernicious acts. We call on them not to violate the goodwill of the people of the world towards the well-known suffering of the Palestinian people, who have been under occupation for nearly 40 years.

Based on our heritage, morals and principles and the Palestinian proverb that says: “No one feels the pain, except those who are injured,” we, the mothers and families of prisoners understand the pain afflicted to the family of Alan Johnston, and as we call for the immediate release of our prisoners, we hope the same for our peoples’ friend Alan Johnston.

As the suffering of prisoners in Israeli jails continues, and conflicting statements appears in the media concerning an exchange of prisoners, we call on the Palestinian side to prioritize this issue and learn from the mistakes of the past in negotiations on the issue of prisoners.

We also call upon the international community to pressure the Israeli government to comply with the human justice requirements and international humanitarian law, and release our prisoners.

We further stress to the Israeli government that the continued detention and inhuman treatment of more than 10,000 prisoners does not serve the peace process. Rather it deepens doubts concerning the possibility of achieving peace. These doubts will continue as long as prisoners are still detained in Israeli jails and they and their families continue to suffer.

Peace should bring liberation of people and land rather than enhance occupation and increase the suffering of people.

Freedom for the prisoners of liberation.

Signed,
The Mothers and Families of Palestinian and Arab Prisoners in Israeli Jails

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