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Young Palestinian girl urinating in fear as she is taken away by Israeli soldiers

Today is Palestinian Prisoners day, Khader Adnan gains his freedom today. But as we rejoice in his freedom , lest we forget those still imprisoned. So when we take part in solidarity events across the world in today in support of the Palestinian prisoners, it is important to point out that there are hundreds of child prisoners being subjected to inhumane treatment and administrative detention.

“The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom

a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing”
~Poem by Maya Angelou

Here is the story of a few of those child prisoners.

The room is barely wider than the thin, dirty mattress that covers the floor. Behind a low concrete wall is a squat toilet, the stench from which has no escape in the windowless room. The rough concrete walls deter idle leaning; the constant overhead light inhibits sleep. The delivery of food through a low slit in the door is the only way of marking time, dividing day from night.

This is Cell 36, deep within Al Jalame prison in northern Israel. It is one of a handful of cells where Palestinian children are locked in solitary confinement for days or even weeks. One 16-year-old claimed that he had been kept in Cell 36 for 65 days.

The only escape is to the interrogation room where children are shackled, by hands and feet, to a chair while being questioned, sometimes for hours.

Most are accused of throwing stones at soldiers or settlers; some, of flinging molotov cocktails; a few, of more serious offences such as links to militant organisations or using weapons. They are also pumped for information about the activities and sympathies of their classmates, relatives and neighbours.

At the beginning, nearly all deny the accusations. Most say they are threatened; some report physical violence. Verbal abuse – “You’re a dog, a son of a whore” – is common. Many are exhausted from sleep deprivation. Day after day they are fettered to the chair, then returned to solitary confinement. In the end, many sign confessions that they later say were coerced.

These claims and descriptions come from affidavits given by minors to an international human rights organisation and from interviews conducted by the Guardian. Other cells in Al Jalame and Petah Tikva prisons are also used for solitary confinement, but Cell 36 is the one cited most often in these testimonies.

Between 500 and 700 Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli soldiers each year, mostly accused of throwing stones. Since 2008, Defence for Children International (DCI) has collected sworn testimonies from 426 minors detained in Israel’s military justice system.

Their statements show a pattern of night-time arrests, hands bound with plastic ties, blindfolding, physical and verbal abuse, and threats. About 9% of all those giving affidavits say they were kept in solitary confinement, although there has been a marked increase to 22% in the past six months.

Few parents are told where their children have been taken. Minors are rarely questioned in the presence of a parent, and rarely see a lawyer before or during initial interrogation. Most are detained inside Israel, making family visits very difficult.

Human rights organisations say these patterns of treatment – which are corroborated by a separate study, No Minor Matter, conducted by an Israeli group, B’Tselem – violate the international convention on the rights of the child, which Israel has ratified, and the fourth Geneva convention.

Most children maintain they are innocent of the crimes of which they are accused, despite confessions and guilty pleas, said Gerard Horton of DCI. But, he added, guilt or innocence was not an issue with regard to their treatment.

“We’re not saying offences aren’t committed – we’re saying children have legal rights. Regardless of what they’re accused of, they should not be arrested in the middle of the night in terrifying raids, they should not be painfully tied up and blindfolded sometimes for hours on end, they should be informed of the right to silence and they should be entitled to have a parent present during questioning.”
Mohammad Shabrawi from the West Bank town of Tulkarm was arrested last January, aged 16, at about 2.30am. “Four soldiers entered my bedroom and said you must come with us. They didn’t say why, they didn’t tell me or my parents anything,” he told the Guardian.

Handcuffed with a plastic tie and blindfolded, he thinks he was first taken to an Israeli settlement, where he was made to kneel – still cuffed and blindfolded – for an hour on an asphalt road in the freezing dead of night. A second journey ended at about 8am at Al Jalame detention centre, also known as Kishon prison, amid fields close to the Nazareth to Haifa road.

After a routine medical check, Shabrawi was taken to Cell 36. He spent 17 days in solitary, apart from interrogations, there and in a similar cell, No 37, he said. “I was lonely, frightened all the time and I needed someone to talk with. I was choked from being alone. I was desperate to meet anyone, speak to anyone … I was so bored that when I was out [of the cell] and saw the police, they were talking in Hebrew and I don’t speak Hebrew, but I was nodding as though I understood. I was desperate to speak.”

During interrogation, he was shackled. “They cursed me and threatened to arrest my family if I didn’t confess,” he said. He first saw a lawyer 20 days after his arrest, he said, and was charged after 25 days. “They accused me of many things,” he said, adding that none of them were true.

Eventually Shabrawi confessed to membership of a banned organisation and was sentenced to 45 days. Since his release, he said, he was “now afraid of the army, afraid of being arrested.” His mother said he had become withdrawn.

Ezz ad-Deen Ali Qadi from Ramallah, who was 17 when he was arrested last January, described similar treatment during arrest and detention. He says he was held in solitary confinement at Al Jalame for 17 days in cells 36, 37 and 38.

“I would start repeating the interrogators’ questions to myself, asking myself is it true what they are accusing me of,” he told the Guardian. “You feel the pressure of the cell. Then you think about your family, and you feel you are going to lose your future. You are under huge stress.”

His treatment during questioning depended on the mood of his interrogators, he said. “If he is in a good mood, sometimes he allows you to sit on a chair without handcuffs. Or he may force you to sit on a small chair with an iron hoop behind it. Then he attaches your hands to the ring, and your legs to the chair legs. Sometimes you stay like that for four hours. It is painful.
“Sometimes they make fun of you. They ask if you want water, and if you say yes they bring it, but then the interrogator drinks it.”

Ali Qadi did not see his parents during the 51 days he was detained before trial, he said, and was only allowed to see a lawyer after 10 days. He was accused of throwing stones and planning military operations, and after confessing was sentenced to six months in prison.The Guardian has affidavits from five other juveniles who said they were detained in solitary confinement in Al Jalame and Petah Tikva. All confessed after interrogation.

“Solitary confinement breaks the spirit of a child,” said Horton. “Children say that after a week or so of this treatment, they confess simply to get out of the cell.”

The Israeli security agency (ISA) – also known as Shin Bet – told the Guardian: “No one questioned, including minors, is kept alone in a cell as a punitive measure or in order to obtain a confession.”
The Israeli prison service did not respond to a specific question about solitary confinement, saying only “the incarceration of prisoners…is subject to legal examination”.

Juvenile detainees also allege harsh interrogation methods. The Guardian interviewed the father of a minor serving a 23-month term for throwing rocks at vehicles. Ali Odwan, from Azzun, said his son Yahir, who was 14 when he was arrested, was given electric shocks by a Taser while under interrogation.

“I visited my son in jail. I saw marks from electric shocks on both his arms, they were visible from behind the glass. I asked him if it was from electric shocks, he just nodded. He was afraid someone was listening,” Odwan said.

DCI has affidavits from three minors accused of throwing stones who claim they were given electric shocks under interrogation in 2010.

Another Azzun youngster, Sameer Saher, was 13 when he was arrested at 2am. “A soldier held me upside down and took me to a window and said: ‘I want to throw you from the window.’ They beat me on the legs, stomach, face,” he said.

His interrogators accused him of stone-throwing and demanded the names of friends who had also thrown stones. He was released without charge about 17 hours after his arrest. Now, he said, he has difficulty sleeping for fear “they will come at night and arrest me”.

In response to questions about alleged ill-treatment, including electric shocks, the ISA said: “The claims that Palestinian minors were subject to interrogation techniques that include beatings, prolonged periods in handcuffs, threats, kicks, verbal abuse, humiliation, isolation and prevention of sleep are utterly baseless … Investigators act in accordance with the law and unequivocal guidelines which forbid such actions.”

The Guardian has also seen rare audiovisual recordings of the interrogations of two boys, aged 14 and 15, from the village of Nabi Saleh, the scene of weekly protests against nearby settlers. Both are visibly exhausted after being arrested in the middle of the night. Their interrogations, which begin at about 9.30am, last four and five hours.

Neither is told of their legal right to remain silent, and both are repeatedly asked leading questions, including whether named people have incited them to throw stones. At one point, as one boy rests his head on the table, the interrogator flicks at him, shouting: “Lift your head, you.” During the other boy’s interrogation, one questioner repeatedly slams a clenched fist into his own palm in a threatening gesture. The boy breaks down in tears, saying he was due to take an exam at school that morning. “They’re going to fail me, I’m going to lose the year,” he sobs.

In neither case was a lawyer present during their interrogation.

Israeli military law has been applied in the West Bank since Israel occupied the territory more than 44 years ago. Since then, more than 700,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been detained under military orders.

Under military order 1651, the age of criminal responsibility is 12 years, and children under the age of 14 face a maximum of six months in prison.

However, children aged 14 and 15 could, in theory, be sentenced up to 20 years for throwing an object at a moving vehicle with the intent to harm. In practice, most sentences range between two weeks and 10 months, according to DCI.

In September 2009, a special juvenile military court was established. It sits at Ofer, a military prison outside Jerusalem, twice a week. Minors are brought into court in leg shackles and handcuffs, wearing brown prison uniforms. The proceedings are in Hebrew with intermittent translation provided by Arabic-speaking soldiers.

The Israeli prison service told the Guardian that the use of restraints in public places was permitted in cases where “there is reasonable concern that the prisoner will escape, cause damage to property or body, or will damage evidence or try to dispose of evidence”.

The Guardian witnessed a case this month in which two boys, aged 15 and 17, admitted entering Israel illegally, throwing molotov cocktails and stones, starting a fire which caused extensive damage, and vandalising property. The prosecution asked for a sentence to reflect the defendants’ “nationalistic motives” and to act as a deterrent.

The older boy was sentenced to 33 months in jail; the younger one, 26 months. Both were sentenced to an additional 24 months suspended and were fined 10,000 shekels (£1,700). Failure to pay the fine would mean an additional 10 months in prison.

Several British parliamentary delegations have witnessed child hearings at Ofer over the past year. Alf Dubs reported back to the House of Lords last May, saying: “We saw a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old, one of them in tears, both looking absolutely bewildered … I do not believe this process of humiliation represents justice. I believe that the way in which these young people are treated is in itself an obstacle to the achievement by Israel of a peaceful relationship with the Palestinian people.”

Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan, who witnessed the trial of a shackled 14-year-old at Ofer last month, found the experience distressing. “In five minutes he had been found guilty of stone-throwing and was sentenced to nine months. It was shocking to see a child being put through this process. It’s difficult to see how a [political] solution can be reached when young people are being treated in this manner. They end up with very little hope for their future and very angry about their treatment.”

Horton said a guilty plea was “the quickest way to get out of the system”. If the children say their confession was coerced, “that provides them with a legal defence – but because they’re denied bail they will remain in detention longer than if they had simply pleaded guilty”.

An expert opinion written by Graciela Carmon, a child psychiatrist and member of Physicians for Human Rights, in May 2011, said that children were particularly vulnerable to providing a false confession under coercion.

“Although some detainees understand that providing a confession, despite their innocence, will have negative repercussions in the future, they nevertheless confess as the immediate mental and/or physical anguish they feel overrides the future implications, whatever they may be.”

Nearly all the cases documented by DCI ended in a guilty plea and about three-quarters of the convicted minors were transferred to prisons inside Israel. This contravenes article 76 of the fourth Geneva convention, which requires children and adults in occupied territories to be detained within the territory.

The Israeli defence forces (IDF), responsible for arrests in the West Bank and the military judicial system said last month that the military judicial system was “underpinned by a commitment to ensure the rights of the accused, judicial impartiality and an emphasis on practising international legal norms in incredibly dangerous and complex situations”.

The ISA said its employees acted in accordance with the law, and detainees were given the full rights for which they were eligible, including the right to legal counsel and visits by the Red Cross. “The ISA categorically denies all claims with regard to the interrogation of minors. In fact, the complete opposite is true – the ISA guidelines grant minors special protections needed because of their age.”

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told the Guardian: “If detainees believe they have been mistreated, especially in the case of minors … it’s very important that these people, or people representing them, come forward and raise these issues. The test of a democracy is how you treat people incarcerated, people in jail, and especially so with minors.”
Stone-throwing, he added, was a dangerous activity that had resulted in the deaths of an Israeli father and his infant son last year.

“Rock-throwing, throwing molotov cocktails and other forms of violence is unacceptable, and the security authorities have to bring it to an end when it happens.”

Human rights groups are concerned about the long-term impact of detention on Palestinian minors. Some children initially exhibit a degree of bravado, believing it to be a rite of passage, said Horton. “But when you sit with them for an hour or so, under this veneer of bravado are children who are fairly traumatised.” Many of them, he said, never want to see another soldier or go near a checkpoint. Does he think the system works as a deterrent? “Yes, I think it does.”

According to Nader Abu Amsha, the director of the YMCA in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, which runs a rehabilitation programme for juveniles, “families think that when the child is released, it’s the end of the problem. We tell them this is the beginning”.

Following detention many children exhibit symptoms of trauma: nightmares, mistrust of others, fear of the future, feelings of helplessness and worthlessness, obsessive compulsive behaviour, bedwetting, aggression, withdrawal and lack of motivation.

The Israeli authorities should consider the long-term effects, said Abu Amsha. “They don’t give attention to how this might continue the vicious cycle of violence, of how this might increase hatred. These children come out of this process with a lot of anger. Some of them feel the need for revenge.

“You see children who are totally broken. It’s painful to see the pain of these children, to see how much they are squeezed by the Israeli system.”

source: Guardian

http://youtu.be/R7U2nuyTjao

The free bird thinks of another breeze
an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

Gazans Living in the Darkness CLICK to see



Message from Sinead MacLochlainn , Chair of Derry Friends of Palestine:

The first (of many more) Freedom & Friendship Irish Delegation to Gaza was a big success, we covered so much. As an organiser of the delegation, I think we delivered for our members an experience they wont soon forget. As we all begin to attempt to settle back into “normal” life, bits and pieces of the long trip begin to find their places in my memory. We will, of course, eventually post reports on all the meetings we had with various Universities, NGO’s, Schools, and the main political parties. But I first want to tell our supporters about the frustration and anger of the experience.

Israel only allows 6 hours of electricity within each 24 hours. And as even more cruel punishment, this 6 hours can occur at any time within that 24 hour period, day or night, morning or middle of the night, always at israel’s discretion. This is done to demoralise the Palestinians even more, so that they cannot plan for anything in their lives with any assurance that they will have electricity available. It’s all about keeping them suffering, always keeping Israel in control of most aspects of Palestinians lives, making sure the people of Gaza are unable to control even the simplest of activities in their lives, like when they can flip a switch and a light comes on, or when they use a washing machine, or when they can charge their computers or phones, or when their children can study or play. For those who can afford it, tiny Generators and candles are what they mostly rely on.

University Student studies using Tiny LED light

So night after night as we returned to our hotel, we climbed the 5 flights of stairs, usually in darkness, up to the top floor Cafe which seemed to have generator power most nights. We came in search of an internet signal, or a cup of tea, or just to unwind and digest the realities of what we had witnessed that day. So we often sat on the top floor café which is an open space with a balcony which faces the ocean and the Gaza seashore which was in front of us. As you stand on the balcony and look across the darkness, the most amazing fact will hit you, as you stand there in Gaza and look across the water, you can, within a matter of minutes see the entire desperate sad story of Palestine encapsulated into one glance across the ocean.

Once, long ago, Jews, Christians and Muslims lived side by side in the land across the water, before Zionism took control of the Jewish religion and the region. For as I stood in the darkness on the balcony in Gaza and I cast my gaze across the water, I can see lights, millions and millions of lights twinkling in abundance. So what was once part of Palestine, it is lit up like a giant Christmas tree or Disney Land in the distance, welcoming the world to the now Jewish State as the people of Gaza suffer with candles in the darkness. This is the story of the “haves” and the “have nots” the occupiers and the occupied, the land stealers on one side, and on the other side in the darkness, those with the keys still in their hands.

And, what will strike you the most about Palestinians, is the smiles on their faces, and that they have nothing and yet want to give what they have to you to thank you for just visiting them, for just validating their story, and their existence. Because that is what this is really all about, Even the smallest child knows what the real battle is about, it’s the land, it’s always about the land, their land, their existence. They are fighting so as not to become a people without a land, they are fighting for their very existence in this world.

We must all redouble our efforts to help them in this noble fight for their existence!

Existance is Resistance

The Greatest Gift Will Free Palestine

Although this is Christmas Eve, this post is for all our friends no matter what your religion, because we have all received the greatest gift of all. This gift is not Muslim, Christian, Jewish or any other religion. It belongs to all of us and can be found in every religion on earth.

The gift comes from many places. It comes from Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Libya, Italy, Spain, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, America, Australia, Malaysia and many more countries, far too many to list here.

The gift cannot be bought for all the money in the world, and you can find it equally among the rich and the poor, it can never belong to just one person, but in fact it belongs to all of us. And best of all, this gift cannot ever be taken away from us, it will always be ours for as long as we choose to keep it. It will not tarnish, rust, nor fade with time. It shines like a diamond, its light brighter than a star. It can outlast the mountains and it is more vast than the sea. It covers the world like a blanket; it warms you when you are cold. It will laugh with you in times of joy, and in times of sorrow it will hold your hand, and your heart. And I believe this gift will ultimately be the gift that will bring about a free Palestine in the future.

Look at all the people we have met around the world, from countries we have never been to, and may never see. People from all walks of life, the rich and poor, the old and young, and from many different religions, speaking many different languages. But, we all have one thing in common, and this is the gift we speak of.

If you are like us you will have met most of these people through working for the cause to bring about a Free Palestine. And just as our friends are growing exponentially, so is our determination to see an end to the siege and the brutal occupation of Palestine., and to ultimately see a free and sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem Al Quds as its capitol.

Our gift is a blanket of human beings around the world that Israel cannot stop. Even with all their money, all their media power, and all their military power, it cannot save them. We are growing every day. We are constantly chipping away at the legitimacy of Israel’s behaviour each day as we continue to expose their lies and brutality. We are armed to the teeth with the greatest weapon of all, solidarity. We fight against the occupation with convoys, boycotts, protests and flotillas and we cannot be beaten with all their military might.

Our gift is the greatest gift of all, and together we have the gift to free Palestine, and it is only a matter of time Insha Allah. So wherever you are in the world tonight remember our gift. And to all our friends and supporters here at home and around the world we thank you.

Our day will come

You can help, please support the Freedom Flotilla 2 and Irish Ship to Gaza vist our website HERE or our Facebook page HERE

H E Archbishop Theodosios Atallah Hanna-Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Most Reverend Monsignor Manuel Musallam Roman Catholic Church Jerusalem, Mr Constantine Dabbagh, Middle East Council of Churches

Derry Friends of Palestine were proud to send representatives to attend an event in Dublin organised as part of the International Solidarity Day with Palestine. We would like to Thank Adnan Shabab from the Embassy and Dr. Hikmat Ajjuri the Palestinian Ambassador to Ireland for the invitation. It was a pleasure to meet the Palestinian Ambassador and the event was well received by all who attended.

The event was hosted by Sadaka (in partnership with Christian Aid) and the Palestinian Embassy in Dublin. The event “Christians in Palestine” brought together the leaders of the Christian churches in Palestine. Archbishop Theodosius Hanna of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Most Reverend Monsignor Manuel Musallam of the Roman Catholic Church, formerly of the Holy Family Church in Gaza, and Mr Constantine Dabbagh of the Middle East Council of Churches.

Dr. David Mossison of SADAKA has written a report called “Palestine: A Christian Response to Occupation” which is a must read. You can find it HERE The “Chruches for Justice” represented by the Holy men visiting Ireland send a message that all Palestinians, Muslims and Christians alike, are suffering under the illegal siege of Gaza and occupation of Palestine.

Their message to the world?
“We Palestinians Christians declare that the military occupation of our land is a sin against God and humanity”

Sinead MacLochlainn Chair of Derry Friends of Palestine said “It was a great honour to meet H E Archbishop Theodosios Atallah Hanna a well respected man by both Muslims and Christians in the Middle East. Mr Constantine Dabbagh of the Middle East churches also works with Palestinain refugees as well. Coming from a Catholic background, I have long wished to meet Monsignor Manuel Musallam and enjoyed every minute I had with him. He has a great sense of humour and when he speaks he can bring tears to your eyes with his message of unity, compassion and hope. His letter to the world after the invasion of Gaza was stunning.”

These Palestinian Church leaders will be touring Ireland. The tour will include a courtesy visit with President Mary McAleese, a meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Micheál Martin, a number of meetings with senior Irish church leaders, a reception with the Lord Mayor of Dublin, a presentation to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs, and a meeting with Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and First Minister Peter Robinson in the NI Assembly. To view the photos of their Stormont Visit go HERE.

If you missed their tour of Ireland you can see them on RTE. Taken from their Mayo visit here

The Church leaders gathered in the historic setting of Ballintubber Abbey to pray for peace in the Holy Land, prayers were read by representatives of many organisations and churches and included the participation and Sheikh Khalid Sallabi a Imam of the Muslim community in Galway. The gospel was intoned in Arabic in the ancient Orthodox Christian tradition of the Middle East by Archbishop Theodosius from Jerusalem.

This service will be broadcast on RTE radio 1 on St. Stephen’s day (26th of December) at 10.45 am

H.E. Archbishop Theodosios Atallah Hanna Archbishop of Sebastia for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem

Archbishop Theodosius (Atallah) Hanna was born in 1965 in the village of Al Rameh, Galilee district, Israel. He was ordained in 1991 and since that time has held many prominent positions within the structures of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, including spokesman for the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. He held the position of Secretary General of the Clerical Lay Joint Council of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem and was appointed Professor of Church History and Arab Civilisation at the Arab Teachers College in Haifa. He is the founder of the Orthodox Youth Movement in Jerusalem and the Holy Land and is an active member of the international ecumenical movement both at local and regional level. Alongside his work towards Christian unification, he is a representative at the Geneva-based World Council of Churches. Throughout the Holy Land he is regarded as one of its most prominent religious and spiritual leaders. On the 1st December 2005 he was unanimously elected by the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem as Archbishop of Sebastia (Nablus district).

Most Reverend Monsignor Manuel Musallam
Priest of the Latin (Roman Catholic) Patriarchate of Jerusalem

Monsignor Manuel Musallam was born in British Mandate Palestine in the West Bank town of Birzeit in 1938. He entered the seminary of Beit Jalla, Bethlehem Governorate and became a priest in 1963. He served as a priest in Jordan, then in Jenin, and finally served as parish priest of the Holy Family Parish, Gaza until his retirement in May 2009. During his time in Gaza Monsignor Manuel became known as the “Priest of the Million” in recognition of his unfailing care and concern for both Christian and Muslim alike. He also served as Director of the two Latin Patriarchate Schools in Gaza which are run as co-educational facilities providing for both Muslim and Christian children. Monsignor Musallam is currently President of the Christian World Department at the International Relations Commission and a member of the Islamic Christian Commission in Support of Jerusalem and the Holy Sites and Director of its Birzeit Office.

Mr. Constantine Dabbagh
Executive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees in Gaza

Constantine Dabbagh was born in British Mandate Palestine in the city of Jerusalem in 1938, and in 1947, fled as a refugee to the Gaza Strip. During his life he has worked for the United Nations Peace Keeping Force in Gaza and for the United Nations in the Republic of Congo (now Zaire). Constantine currently directs the provision of health care, education and community services for the predominantly Muslim population of Gaza. These services focus on mothers and babies, vocational education and the provision of psycho-social health services to an increasingly traumatised population.

Msgr. Manuel Musallam ran the Holy Family school in Gaza and was the priest at Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza for many years. After the horrific invasion of Gaza as so many laid dead and dying, Father Manual wrote a heartbreaking letter to the world which I remember reading at the time. Shortly after it was put to music and a video made. For those who have not read or seen this letter please view the letter set to music below. Titled “From the Broken Heart of Gaza” a letter by Father Musallam to the world.

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

On 6 June 1982, the Israeli army invaded Lebanon. The invasion was grotesquely named “Operation Peace for Galilee.” With the meaning of Peace for Israel and death for everyone else. Over all reports from Lebanese claim the Israeli invasion and subsequent bombing of Beirut killed 18,000 and 30,000 injuries. The majority of these were civilians.

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

Ultimately after about 60 days of fighting a cease-fire was finally agreed. With the PLO agreeing to pull out of the area, this was witnessed by a multinational team. Under the Reagan Administration, Philip Habib a US envoy was sent to Lebanon in 1981 to defuse the Lebanese Civil War. Habib negotiated a peace that allowed the PLO to evacuate from the besieged city of Beirut. Within this agreement West Beirut would fall under the control of the Lebanese army, and the PLO were given a US guarantee of security for the Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila camps once the 14,000 PLO fighters had withdrawn.

Despite the witnessing of the PLO having left the area and despite the promises of protection for the remaining civilians in the two camps by the US envoy Habib, Israel saw a big opportunity to use the situation to its ultimate goal of wiping out more Palestinians. Ariel Sharon unilaterally made the unfounded claim that “2,000 terrorists” were still inside the Palestinian refugee camps. Then, on 15 September the Israeli army moved in and occupied West Beirut. They then surrounded and sealed off the camps of Sabra and Shatila. Leaving the Lebanese and Palestinian civilians at the mercy of their captors.

The War Criminal Sharon personally directed the Israeli operation, placing himself in a vantage point at the Kuwait embassy located at the outskirts of the Shatila camp. Like a dictator overseeing his subjects from atop a six story building, he could see the camps of Sabra and Shatila and witness his orders being carried out. His plan began swiftly and by that afternoon the camps were shelled by the IDF under the direction of Sharon atop his perch. The following order was given “The searching and mopping up of the camps will be done by the Phalangists army.” Then the IDF gave the command to the Phalangist militia to enter the camps and “commence” the “mopping up procedure.” Israeli General Amir Drori then telephoned Ariel Sharon and said, “Our friends are advancing into the camps. We have coordinated their entry.” To which Sharon replied, “Congratulations! Our friends’ operation is approved.”

Over the next 40 hours the Phalangists raped, killed, and injured thousands of unarmed civilians, mostly children, women and elderly inside the surrounded and sealed camps.

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

The IDF were in full contact with the militia and could see what was taking place, yet they never intervened. Instead, they prevented innocent civilians from escaping their death and assisted the terrorist militia by illuminating the camps at night so the killing, raping and injuring could continue round the clock.

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

We can never know the exact number murdered, it ranges between the Israeli IDF counts of 800 to 3,500 by the Lebanese. Almost 1,000 people were dumped in communal graves by the Red Cross. Additionally family members outside the camps buried some in cemeteries in Beirut and lastly hundreds were buried beneath bulldozed buildings by the terrorist Phalangist militia in their “mopping up” operation.

Despite evidence in the UN Security Council calling Sabra and Shatila a “criminal massacre,” despite the UN finding that illegal weapons were used on civilians, Ariel Sharon the man who was found to be “personally responsible” for this war crime has never been punished. Instead, the War Criminal Sharon was rewarded as a Hero by his country and was later welcomed to the White House, as a man of peace. As for the US Envoy Philip Habib who promised protection for the civilians in the camp which prompted the PLO to leave the area? Well In 1982, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom which is the highest official honor given to a US citizen by the US government.

Flash forward to December 2008, Gaza, operation “Cast Lead” and we see the same tactics once again. An area of 20 by 5 miles, surrounded by Israel with the 4th largest army in the world. We see Gaza being invaded by air, the use of illegal white phosphorous on civilians, being bombed shelled and shot at for 28 days, 1400 killed almost 400 were children, and since the so called end of “Operation Cast Lead” almost each week several more trapped Palestinians are killed by Israeli fire. With the latest victims 91 year old grandfather, Ibrahim Abu-Asad, and his 14-year-old grandchild, Hussam Abu-Asad.

91 Year Old Ibrahim Abu-Asad

91 Year Old Ibrahim Abu-Asad


Today Gaza is the new Sabra and Shatila camps, and more over, the massacre that occurred in Gaza beginning Dec 27th 2008 until Jan 18, 2009 can and will happen over and over again, at Israel’s slightest whim. The captive population has no way out, just like the people inside Sabra and Shatila camps. There is no one to protect them, and the world ignores this crisis. As Obama’s so called “peace talks” take place with only one Palestinian political party represented, there is a continued slow massacre in Gaza which has continued since operation Cast Lead. Each week without fail another Palestinian dies at the hands of Israel. Sometimes 1 person, other times 2 or 3 or more. Just as Sharon claimed those left trapped inside the Sabra and Shatila camps were “terrorists” Israel uses this same tactic when it murders Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has appointed itself to be judge, jury and executioner, without world supervision, investigation, transparency.. It’s a constant drip, a slow painful massacre that the world continues to ignore. Israel’s bloody history repeats itself and this will continue until the world demands otherwise.

BE PART OF THE SOLUTION

The situation in Gaza is not a humanitarian one, it’s a political one. The proud people of Gaza do not want to be aid dependant. In order to free the people of Gaza so they can live normal lives, it is imperative that this cruel, unjust and illegal siege be lifted. A new Flotilla is taking place very soon, the Freedom Flotilla 2. As Irish people of conscience we must step forward and help the people of Gaza together. Please support the Irish Ship to Gaza so Ireland can help break this siege on the seaport which will then allow cargo ships to bring re-building supplies, food, medical equipment and medicine to those trapped inside suffering for years and help get the Gaza economy back to work so they can get off the dole. All of us can help stop this; all of us can make a change happen. Together we can make a difference, please donate to the Irish Ship to Gaza and be part of the solution. Any amount is welcomed.
Remember what Bobby Sands said “Everyone, Republican or otherwise, has their own particular part to play. No part is too great or too small; no one is too old or too young to do something.”





Donate now; let’s help Gaza be free together

BLOODY SUNDAY 38 YEARS FOR THE TRUTH TO BE SET FREE

On 15 June 2010, the people of Derry were waiting with great anticipation for the long awaited Saville report to be released. The town was filled with people, thousands gathering and assembling at the Guildhall Square and overflowing down to Williams Street and up Shipquay Street waiting for the Truth to be Set Free. It was as if the whole town was “one” That day.

At 3:15 the first sign emerged to the thousands waiting outside, a thumbs up from the windows of the Guildhall to the crowd below,

The cheers spread across the crowd in all directions. A short time later the families emerged victoriously, with cheers of “Innocent” ringing from the Guildhall steps. I remember the faces of people in the crowd, a day I will never forget, there were cheers, tears and joy in Derry that day. I thought of the poor family members who fought for the truth to be set free for so many years, yet who had passed away never having the chance to see this day come. I noticed someone in the crowd was flying a Palestinian flag, and I found myself thinking of the hundreds of innocent Palestinians murdered, and wondered would their truth ever be set free. And I thought of how many Bloody Sunday’s, Monday’s, Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s, Thursday’s, Friday’s and Saturday’s they have suffered for so many years.

As the Truth was finally set free in Derry, and as each Bloody Sunday family member spoke of their murdered loved one, followed by the word “Innocent!” we all stood and cheered as one. But we were more than one that day.

As people in our little corner of the world were rejoicing at the coming of a day they had dreamed of for 38 years, yet far away in Palestine, others were also affected by our victory that day. In our sister town of Khan Younis the news spread about what was taking place in Derry. It was soon decided that an official celebration for the people of Derry should be organized, so that the people of Khan Younis could show their solidarity in our long awaited victory, a victory they also have dreamed of, with regard to their own innocent civilians who have been murdered by their occupiers and oppressors.

And so it was that on 22nd June 2010, the people of Khan Younis came out in a show of solidarity for Derry. Hundreds assembled in front of the Khan Younis Municipality Building, a place that has fond memories. As I viewed the photos of the day’s event, it was almost overwhelming. To see the people of Khan Younis holding the placards of those faces we know only too well here in Derry, the 14 murdered on Bloody Sunday, this illustrated what our victory in Derry meant to others around the world, it represented “hope” that their day of truth would one day come as well. And this was voiced so eloquently in the speech given in Khan Younis that day, a copy of which is provided below the video.

Full Text of Speech Below:

I am very pleased to speak on behalf of the people of my city Khanyounis and all the Palestinians inside Palestine and the Diaspora to extend our hearty congratulation to and support for the people of Derry and all the Irish people on the release of the Final Report of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.
Though it is said: better late than never, it is still very sad that justice took 38 years to be served in Derry. On this historic day, the city of Khanyounis shares with Derry and the families of the martyrs of Bloody Sunday happiness that their beloved heroes were declared innocent.

We call upon all humanitarians and people concerned to exert all their efforts to bring the murderers to justice and specially Brigadier General Robert Ford who was the one to give orders to kill. It is not only Ford and his soldiers that should be charged, but all those who committed the massacres in Derry. All the soldiers that have committed atrocities against Palestinians and the people of Gaza should be charged for their crimes against humanity.

Bloody Sunday brings to mind Black Sunday in 1990 when 6 Palestinian workers were slain by the hands of a criminal Zionist who opened fire on them while trying to find work to sustain their offspring.

This event also brings to mind the Balfour declaration that resulted in the suffering and misery of our Palestinian people after he promised a home for the Zionists on our land in 1917. We take this opportunity to call upon the present British Government to apologize to the Palestinian people for the agonies resulted from this promise.

The people of Derry and Ireland have stood steadfast and in solidarity with the people of Gaza and all Palestinians that live both inside and outside of Palestine. For the struggles you have endured in the past are similar to those that Palestinians continue to face today. A humane and just world implores that all concerned humanitarians from the Irish to Palestinians, from Ireland to Gaza, and from all over the world, join together in the struggle against injustice, suppression and the innocent killing and massacre of people.

Derry and the Irish have aided the people of Gaza since the Israeli massacre of Palestinian women, men and children. The aid and, more importantly, the support given will be forever remembered in the hearts and minds of Gaza’s wee ones, as well as the old.

Like the martyrs of Bloody Sunday, one day the martyrs of Palestine including Palestinians and Internationals will be vindicated and commemorated worldwide. They will be forever remembered for their heroic actions because the voice of the voiceless will not be relent until injustice is reversed and justice is prevailed and until the Gaza siege has been completed lifted and a Palestinian state declared.

So as the Truth was finally Set Free in Derry, we must remember our friends who are still waiting for their truth to be set free. And pray it does not take another 38 years for them inshallah

Rabbi Brian Walt plants trees with Palestinain Children

DFOP Update 26, April

Derry Friends of Palestine are very pleased to announce that we will be meeting with Rabbi Brian Walt this week in Derry. For those not familiar with Rabbi Walt, he is a progressive Rabbi who is well respected worldwide and has done a great amount of work on Palestine. He has created several groups such as Rabbis for Human Rights North America and another is Ta’anit Tzedek – Jewish Fast For Gaza. Here is a little bit about the group:

The Jewish Fast for Gaza is an ad hoc group of rabbis, Jews, and people of conscience who have committed to undertake a monthly daytime fast in support of the following goals:

1. To call for a lifting of the blockade that prevents the entry of civilian goods and services into Gaza;

2. To provide humanitarian and developmental aid to the people of Gaza;

3. To call upon Israel, the US, and the international community to engage in negotiations without pre-conditions with all relevant Palestinian parties – including Hamas – in order to end the blockade;

4. To encourage the American government to vigorously engage both Israelis and Palestinians toward a just and peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s blood is being spilled (Leviticus 19:16).

As Jews and people of conscience, we can no longer stand idly by Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

He is also executive director and a founder of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America. And you can read about his recent work on conferencing with children in Gaza on his blog here

We look forward to our meeting with Rabbi Walt and we will be reporting on this later in the week. So do check back for that.

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