Report on the Week of Solidarity Against the Apartheid Walls in Palestine and the Siege of Gaza (9th – 16th November 2009)
By Kevin Squires & Freda Hughes
The Ireland Palestine
Solidarity Campaign took part in this year’s International Week of
Solidarity called by the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall
An international call to activists was put out to launch a week of global mobilisation against the walls of apartheid in Palestine from November 9th to 16th 2009. The IPSC used this opportunity to highlight the necessity of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, with specific reference to the ongoing role of Irish construction company CRH (formerly Cement Roadstone Holdings) in the building of the Apartheid Wall and illegal colonial settlements in the West Bank.
In addition, we also highlighted the ongoing brutal medieval-style siege of Gaza and the devastating aftermath of Israel’s winter offensive on the tiny coastal strip which left over 1,400 Palestinians dead and thousands wounded and homeless.
Our aim was to promote as many different voices showing solidarity with the Palestinian people as possible, and to raise awareness among mainstream Irish civil society of Israel’s apartheid policies, the ongoing plight of Palestinians, and their heroic struggle to resist ethnic cleansing.
To this end we hosted a series of film screenings, public meetings and fundraisers in Cork, Tullamore, Limerick, Belfast, Maynooth, Galway, Kilkenny, and Dublin. We also hosted a National Demonstration in Dublin on Saturday 14th November.
Below are brief reports from the various events.
Screenings of Bassem Abu Rahmah – Story of a Martyr (2009)
Bassem Abu Rahmah was a nonviolent anti-Apartheid Wall activist from the West Bank village of Bil’in. On April 17th 2009 he was murdered by the Israeli military when he was shot at point blank range in the chest with a tear gas canister. This film looks at the situation in Bil’in through the lens of Bassem’s short life.
The film was watched by captive audiences in Cork (9th), Dublin (10th), Maynooth (11th), Galway (12th), Belfast (13th) and Limerick (15th). At all screenings (except Cork) International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activists Evie Soli and Pete St. John-Jones gave presentations and answered questions about the non-violent struggle in Bil’in.
Evie Soli is 26 years old and studies Social Anthropology in Trondheim University in Norway. Last year she worked in a refugee camp in Palestine. Since then she has actively worked for an academic and trading boycott of Israel through “the Committee for Palestine” in Norway. This year she worked as an activist in Hebron, Al Quds (Jerusalem) and mostly Bil’in with grassroots resistance movements. She is now working on the creation of ISM Norway, and continuing to raise awareness and promote the boycott.
Pete Jones is 25 years old and has been involved in Palestinian solidarity since his undergraduate days, campaigning in the UK through student movements and later, in Paris, through various affinity groups. He spent two months in the West Bank this summer, in Nablus and Al Quds (Jerusalem) for a short while but doing most of his work in Bil’in. He is involved with the ISM network in London, planning and executing direct actions that aim to raise awareness of the exploitation and oppression of Palestinians by the occupation forces as well as to convince complicit companies and governmental agencies to cut their
ties with Israel as part of the on-going effort to establish a full and proper boycott until such a point as the occupation is ended.
They spoke with passion about their experiences in Palestine and of the need for international support in order to continue to resist the ongoing Israeli Apartheid practices in Palestine.
Pete stated that: “Over the past few months Israeli repression against the people of Bil’in has escalated. No longer are military actions confined to ‘policing’ the Friday demonstrations and the occasional incursion to arrest or harass activists. Since July 2009 there have been regular night-time military raids into Bil’in aimed at instilling fear in the people and destroying the Bil’in Popular Committee. The Israeli authorities have arrested members of the Committee as well as teenagers and young boys from the village in order to obtain forced confessions against Committee members.”
He also spoke of the various legal cases taken by the Popular Committee: “ The construction of Israel’s wall in the West Bank was declared illegal by the International Criminal Court on July 9th 2004. In a celebrated decision, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on the 4th September 2007, that the current route of the wall in Bil’in was illegal should be dismantled. Unfortunately, this ruling has never been implemented. On 25th June 2009 the village of Bil’in took two companies registered in Canada to court for participating in war crimes by building settlements on Bil’in’s land under the 2000 Canadian Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Statute. “
Evie spoke of the innovative and creative nature of the demonstrations (such the Children’s March, the building of a mock settlement which was dismantled by the Israeli military as – just like the illegal settlements – it had no permit, and the use of balloons and music during demonstrations). She told audiences of the way she had been inspired by the peaceful resistance in Bil’in.
Evie also encouraged all those concerned with obtaining justice for Palestinians to get involved in campaigning in their own countries, cities and localities. She stressed the power that organised campaigns can have at influencing all levels of society.
Screenings of Erased: Wiped off Map (2009)
On December 19, 2008 a group belonging to International Solidarity Movement, deparated from Cyprus bound for Palestine. Their objective was to break through the Israeli blockade on the Gaza strip. They were the last group of foreigners that were able to enter in the territory. None of them dreamt what they were going to live through in the following weeks.
The film received its premiere screenings in Limerick (11th) and Dublin (15th), and left some audience members in tears and others visibly shaken at the atrocities and inhumanity they had witnessed happening to the people of Gaza in the film. These were eyewitness scenes that not many people in the West had never had the opportunity to see before. Yet all who saw the film left determined to take action in support of the Palestinian struggle for human, civil and political rights and to end the Siege of Gaza.
Screenings of Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority (2006)
Occupation 101 is multi-award winning 2006 documentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The film focuses on the effects of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and discusses events from the rise of Zionism to the Second Intifada. It includes interviews with scholars, religious leaders, humanitarian workers, and NGO representatives.
Occupation 101 was shown by the IPSC’s two university branches in NUI Galway (5th) and NUI Maynooth (10th). The IPSC would like to commend these two university branches on reinvigorating our campaign work with the start of this academic year (2009-10).
Screenings of CRH plc: Tear Down the Wall (2009)
This short documentary, made by David Mottershead and Daniela Gross (whom the IPSC would like to thank), is about the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s BDS campaign seeking CRH (the Irish construction materials giant) divestment from Israel and an end to their complicity with the oppression of the Palestinian people.
The short six-minute film was screened before showings of the other films around the country and was greeted with a
very positive reception.
Tullamore Public Meeting: Breaking the Walls of Apartheid, Opening the Doors of Solidarity
On Friday 13th November John Hurson of Free Gaza and John Dorman, IPSC Divestment Officer spoke in Tullamore at a meeting chaired by Cormac Lally of the IPSC.
John Hurson talked about Quinn Cement’s pledge to endorse and support his new charity initiative ‘Where Do The Children Play?’ in bringing construction supplies into Gaza.
John Dorman spoke about about the IPSC’s campaign seeking CRH (the Irish construction materials giant) divestment from Israel and an end to their complicity with the oppression of the Palestinian people via their failure to comply with international law. He said CRH was in breach of international law as a result of its awareness of, proximity to and financial benefit derived from the construction of Israel’s illegal Apartheid Wall, colonial settlements and settler only roads and
light rail system. He also encouraged people to sign the IPSC petition to CRH on this subject – the petition is online here: http://www.ipsc.ie/crhdivest.
John also highlighted the issue of Ireland purchasing arms from Israel. He encouraged everyone to write to Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea expressing their disgust at this insidious contract. This issue was also recently raised in the Seanad, on Monday 9 November, by Senator David Norris, to whom the IPSC are grateful. To see Senator Norris’ comments please go to this link:
Kilkenny Public Meeting: Breaking the Siege of Gaza – Viva Palestina and Free Gaza Activists Speak
Ger Cassidy of Viva Palestina and Alan Lonergan of the Free Gaza Movement spoke at a public meeting in Kilkenny on Wednesday 11th November, chaired by John Heddon of the IPSC. They spoke about their plans to take part in the international siege breaking convergence on Gaza that will coincide with the anniversary of Israel’s 2008/09 winter attack on the besieged coastal strip.
Ger who decided, along with several others in Cork, to form Viva Palestina Cork in order to send essential supplies to the people of Gaza. Their convoy will leave Ireland on December 1st bound for Gaza. Dave Curran, of VPC, will be driving an old Irish ambulance decorated with graffiti and filled with medical supplies and aid to the Rafah crossing. For more info see:
Alan spoke of his intention to sail on the next Free Gaza mission bringing aid and supplies to Gaza. He is a Free Gaza Ireland Coordinator and previously entered Gaza in October 2008 with the Free Gaza Movement. He also gave a powerful presentation on current conditions in Gaza.
UCD Public Meeting: The Future for the Middle East
Sameh Habeeb came to University College Dublin on Monday 16 November for a talk on campus organized by the just-founded Irish Anti-War Movement-UCD Student Branch, in association with the IPSC. The talk also featured speakers Andy Storey, Kieran Allen and Julien Mercille, all lecturers at UCD.
The event was a major success and attracted about 60 students and was quite important in that it was the first event
organized by IAWM-UCD, which is planning to focus its activities on Palestine among other things in the future. Sameh talked about the attack on Gaza last winter and this generated much interest from the audience. We agreed to continue collaboration and possible future visits.
Fundraisers & Cultural Events
Dublin: Table Quiz
On Thursday 12th November the IPSC in Dublin held a very enjoyable table quiz in Brokers Bar. We would like to thank everyone who participated and who donated prizes, and David Hughes for being a most affable quizmaster.
Dublin: Palestinian Night in Seomra Spraoi
On Friday 13th November, the IPSC in association with the Seomra Spraoi Friday Night Re-Sessions hosted a very successful Palestinian cultural and social evening, with over 80 people in attendance. There was music, gorgeous food (thanks to the People’s Kitchen posse for this) and lots of craic. Thanks to everyone who came along to support the evening, the IPSC and Seomra Spraoi. Special thanks to Bas, Mark and Darren for organising it.
For more about the Re-Session Nights, please see: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=141351294362
Belfast: Palestinian Night in the Workshops Collective
The Palestinian Benefit night in Belfast was held in the Workshops Collective, Lawerence St. The night will start with a showing of the film “Bassem – Story of a Martyr”. ISM activists Evie Soli and Pete St. John-Jones who lived in Bi’lin also addressed the
crowd, as did Ger Cassidy of Viva Palestina and Ronan Nolan, Vice-Chair of the IPSC. On the night there was also Palestinian food, music and shenanigans.
The Workshops are a self-funding arts collective which have often been involved in social movements on both local and global levels. We’d like to thank the Workshops for their support in making the night a massive success, and look forward to
working with them in the future.
Information and Awareness Raising Stalls
Throughout the week the IPSC hosted stalls all around the country providing informational leaflets, DVDs, books and hand-woven crafts from Bil’in. Thanks to everyone who helped staff the stalls over the week.
IPSC National Rally Against Apartheid in Palestine and the Siege of Gaza (followed by Public Meeting)
On Saturday 14th November 2009 hundreds of Palestinians and solidarity activists rallied in Dublin to protest against Israel’s apartheid practices in Palestine. The rally – part of an international week of global mobilisation against the walls of apartheid in Palestine from November 9th to 16th 2009, called by the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign – was compèred by Freda Hughes (IPSC PRO), Caoimhe Butterly (renowned Irish human rights activist), Ger Cassidy (Viva Palestina), Sameh Habeeb (Gazan Journalist and human rights activist), John Hurson (Where Do the Children Play?), Pete St. John-Jones (International Solidarity Activist in Bil’in).
Speakers highlighted the brutality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, with particular reference to the Siege of Gaza and the Israel’s Apartheid Walls in Palestine. They spoke of their efforts, both in Ireland and in Palestine, to raise awareness among
civil and political society, as well as their various efforts to help people on the ground in Palestine. Freda Hughes, the IPSC PRO, stressed the need to build a broad based social mass-movement to convey the reality of the situation in Palestine to mainstream society.
Following the speeches protestors marched around the central reservation on O’Connell Street chanting slogans in support of the Palestinian people, carrying colourful flags, placards and banners in a loud and spirited demonstration.
After the rally, an IPSC press conference was held in the Teachers’ Club. The reason for the conference was to raise awareness of the ongoing media difficulties surrounding the occupation of Palestine, to highlight the impressive role the Irish trade union movement has played in pushing for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, and to launch the IPSC’s campaign aimed at building public support to convince Irish multinational CRH to divest from Israel .
Peter McLoone, General Secretary of IMPACT, who was a member of the ICTU delegation that visited Palestine in November 2007, spoke of his experiences in Palestine during the trip. Mr. McLoone said: “There is no doubt that the people of Palestine are suffering. There is no doubt that people are dying and there is no doubt that people are living in fear. No amount of Israeli propaganda can counteract what I have seen on the ground.”
Mr. McLoone continued: “The trade union movement in Ireland is determined to take Palestinian solidarity activism to a new level. We are determined to engage with other trade unions to encourage them to adopt a policy of boycott, divestment and sanctions.”
Sameh Habeeb, Gazan journalist and human rights worker who reported prolifically and bravely during the Israeli onslaught in Dec 2008 /Jan 2009, gave an emotive account of the current situation in Gaza. He spoke of the dire medical conditions and the fact that the economy has completely collapsed. He also talked about the difficulties faced by those in education and the cripplingly high unemployment rate in the beleaguered coastal strip which is home to 1.5 million Palestinans.
Mr. Habeeb stated: “The war on Gaza was not a retaliation against Hamas rockets, the ceasefire was breached by Israel on November 4th 2008 – a fact that has been openly admitted by Israeli military sources. This was a pre-planned war. Israel’s denials regarding its targeting of civilians is propaganda and fabrication and is abhorrent in a time of such unequal conflict.”
Harry Browne, journalist and lecturer in DIT, spoke of the mainstream media bias in favour of Israel and its official sources which he said were often accepted at face value without the application of critical analysis on behalf of reporters. He stressed that some of the best and most honest reporting from Gaza came from Gazans themselves, like Sameh Habeeb, because very few Western media outlets had a presence there when the war was launched. He referred to this as “real reporting”. He also made reference to the importance of New Media such as blogs, social networking sites and independent media outlets in delivering genuine and unfiltered news coverage on an international scale.
John Dorman, the IPSC’s Divestment Officer, officially launched the IPSC’s campaign aimed at building public support to convince Irish multinational CRH to divest from Israel (For background see Note 1).
Mr. Dorman outlined the steps the IPSC are taking in this multifaceted and long-term campaign which include research, education, legal and civil aspects. He urged those concerned with CRH’s role in Israel to get involved in the campaign by contacting the IPSC, and at the very least to sign the IPSC’s petition – http://www.ipsc.ie/crhdivest
Mr. Dorman concluded: “CRH boast on their website that they adhere “to the highest standards of corporate and social responsibility” and that they state that the support the UN Declaration of Human Rights and consider human rights implications where applicable in all contracts. In light of this, we the undersigned call for CRH to immediately divest from the
Mashav Group and to end its collusion with Israel’s Apartheid Regime.”
Concluding the meeting David Landy, Chair of the IPSC, encouraged people to get involved, either at home by getting involved in the IPSC and the BDS campaign, or by visiting Palestine to see the suffering of the people first hand and getting
involved with grassroots and NGO campaigns there.
Conclusion & Future IPSC Events
Although the Week of Solidarity was a huge success we feel that it is important to remind people that gross human rights
violations against the Palestinian people continue on a daily basis, perhaps best exemplified by the continuing siege of Gaza and the ongoing construction of illegal settlement colonies in the West Bank.
We would like to take this opportunity to:
1. ask you to get involved with the IPSC’s CRH divestment campaign. To get involves please email divestment [at] psc.ie or phone 01 6770253
2. ask you to get involved with, or simply donate to the IPSC to help us keep the campaign going. You can get more information on this by emailing info [at] ipsc.ie or calling 01 677 0253
We would also like to inform everyone that this December and January we will be holding a series of events and campaigns aimed at remembering and commemorating the barbarous attacks on Gaza last winter which left over 1,400 dead, thousands injured and homeless, and resulted in the almost complete destruction of the social and economic infrastructure of the tiny coastal strip which is home to 1.5 million Palestinians. Please see the IPSC website at http://www.ipsc.ie for forthcoming details of these events and activities.
1. CRH’s Israeli subsidiary the Mashav Group is to acquire Hanson Israel, Israel’s 2nd largest building materials company, which operates illegal quarries, asphalt, aggregate and cement factories in the Occupied West Bank. Added to this CRH (through Mashav) owns a 25% stake in the Nesher Cement company that provides 85% of all cement in Israel. Therefore,
the Irish company CRH is currently complicit in the violation of international law through illegal mining activities in Palestine, as well as the construction of Israel’s Apartheid Wall in the West Bank, checkpoints and settlement-colonies.
The organisers (Freda and Kev) would like to thank, in no particular order, the following people for all their help: Sameh
Habeeb, Peter McLoone, Harry Browne, Evie Soli, Pete St. John-Jones, Caoimhe Butterly, John Hurson, Ger Cassidy, Alan Lonergan, David Landy, Cormac Lally, John Heddon, Hassan Ould Moctar, Andrea Mcgiff, John Dorman, Julien Mercille, Claudia Saba, Kieran Allen, Andy Storey, Sean Clinton, Jim Bowen, Ronan Nolan, Caroline McLaughlin, Dave Curran, Derek & Jenny Graham, Niamh Moloughney, Joseph Loughnane, Cecilia Garrigan, Angela El Kadi, Ronan O’Dowd, Martin O’Quigley, Sue Esterson, Eileen Vaughan, David Motterhead, Daniela Gross, Garry Walsh, Finbar Cullen, Eugene McCartan, Séamas Ó Brógáin, Fintan Lane, Ann Clinton, Martin & Kieran O’Sullivan, David Hughes, Mark McDonnell, Robert Navan, Mark Lye, Bas C, Mark Malone, Seomra People’s Kitchen (Darren, Sian and everyone else), Paul Bowman, Conor Murphy, Eric, Bill & Oisin O’Brien, the Lawrence St Workshops Collective, the Seomra Spraoi Collective, the Progressive Film Club, the Bil’in Popular Committee,
Iyad Burnat, the Palestinian Rights Institute, the Irish Anti-War Movement, Viva Palestina Ireland, Free Gaza Ireland, Anti-War Ireland, éirígí, the Communist Party of Ireland & Connolly Youth Movement, Senator David Norris, Aengus O Snodaigh TD, Mark Grehan, Indymedia, Nigel Woods (Anna Livia FM), Ursula Ni Shion (Radio Na Life), Abdul Haseeb (Near FM) and everyone who promoted and came along to the events during the week. And of course, apologies to anyone we’ve inadvertently left out, as you can imagine it was a hectic week with many people involved.
We’d also like to thank the IPSC branches in Dublin, Maynooth, Kilkenny, Tullamore, Limerick, Galway, Cork and Belfast
IPSC Week of Solidarity 2009 Crew (minus a few)
www.ipsc.ie – 01 6770253 – info [at] ipsc.ie