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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

Derry Friends of Palestine member Clr Gerry MacLochlainn and Jennifer McCann MLA part of CEPR delegation to Gaza

Clr Gerry MacLochlainn of Derry Friends of Palestine along with Jennifer McCann MLA were invited by the Council for European-Palestinian Relations (CEPR) to take part in the largest International Delegation to Gaza. The delegation of more than 100 government officials and advocates includes representatives from Ireland and 40 other countries and is the largest group of national officials yet to visit Gaza.

Saying it is long past time for the international community to step in and force Israel to end its siege on Gaza, a global coalition of statesmen and NGO representatives issued and adopted a unanimous resolution demanding immediate action through all diplomatic, cultural and economic means possible.

Before drafting the resolution, the delegation considered reports from experts documenting the following facts:

• Israel continues to maintain complete control over Gaza’s territorial waters, preventing all movement of people and goods by sea and limiting fishing to a distance of three nautical miles from the Strip’s coastline. Fishermen who defy the ban are shot at and /or their boats are confiscated. An estimated total of 4,5000 residents who had previously supported their families by fishing have thus been stripped of their livelihoods and the entire population of 1.5 million have been deprived of a vital source of natural inexpensive nutrition.

• Likewise, Israel prevents access to a 300-1,500m “buffer zone” along its border with Gaza, cutting residents off from one-third of their most arable land.

• All exports from Gaza continue to be virtually prohibited. Although a minimal amount of strawberries, flowers, peppers and tomatoes were allowed to be shipped out between November 2010 and May 2011, the average rate of export during that time was two truckloads per day, compared to Israel’s commitment in 2005 to allow the export of 400 trucks per day. Since May 12 of this year, no trucks have been allowed to leave the Strip. Without exports, it is impossible for Gazans to build anything close to a healthy, self-sufficient economy. Thus, the official unemployment rate now stands at 25.6%.

• Imports of construction materials continue to be severely restricted, when allowed in at all. Each month since January 2011, approximately 17% of the materials that entered monthly in the years prior to June 2007 (when the siege began) has been allowed in. One consequence is a shortage of 250 schools.

• The resolution calls for free excess for both people and goods by land, sea and air, through both Israel and Egypt.

Resolution

The time for words is past. Governments and human rights organisations worldwide must employ all peaceful powers at their disposal to force an end to the siege. These actions should include economic sanctions, cultural boycotts and diplomatic actions such as ambassador recalls.

Specifically, the International Delegation calls for all governments and NGO’s to use these measures to demand:

• An end to the prohibition on exports.
• An end to all import bans and restrictions related to consumables, healthcare and industry/business.
• The lifting of all control of Gaza’s territorial waters.
• The opening of the “buffer zone” along Gaza’s border with Israel.
• The free flow of people in and out of Gaza, limited only by reasonable security checks and document requirements.
• International acceptance of the Palestinian people’s democratic choices in the next elections, and a commitment to constructively engage with their elected representatives.

Delegation members will work through their own networks to lobby for the implementation of this resolution.

PLEASE JOIN AND SUPPORT THE WORK OF DERRY AND THE IRISH FRIENDS OF PALESTINE IN SUPPORT OF THE RESOLUTION TO END THE SIEGE!! FIND US ON FACEBOOK HERE

Press Release – Nov 2nd

Irish and Canadian ships challenge Israel’s illegal blockade with Freedom Waves to Gaza

Responding to an urgent call for international solidarity from 46 civil society organisations in Gaza, an Irish ship MV Saoirse and a Canadian ship Tahrir have successfully reached international waters in the Mediterranean Sea on a mission dubbed Freedom Waves to Gaza. The boats, two civilian vessels carrying 27 passengers from nine countries, are currently en route to Gaza, Palestine. They will sail from international waters directly to Gaza, and will not pass through Israeli territorial waters.

This is the 11th attempt to break the siege of Gaza via the sea, with five missions arriving safely in Gaza between August and December 2008. The remaining six were violently intercepted by Israel. In May 2010, Israel attacked passengers participating in the first Freedom Flotilla in international waters, killing nine civilians and injuring over 50. Israel’s actions were widely condemned and led to protests around the world. Efforts to bring a second flotilla to Gaza were thwarted by the government of Greece last July following pressure by Israel and Western governments. The Irish vessel, MV Saoirse, was sabotaged while in port in Turkey when its propeller shaft was gouged in a manner almost identical to damage suffered by the Swedish ship. The Irish ship has since been repaired, with funds raised via small donations from Irish citizens in all of the 32 counties. In total, the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign has raised over €140,000 for its mission, a clear sign of the depth of support among ordinary Irish people for the beleaguered people of Gaza.

Throughout the week Palestinian activists in the West Bank and inside Israel will be organizing solidarity actions with the Freedom Waves to Gaza, including a presence outside the UN compound and rallies across West Bank towns. Israel has intensified its aerial bombardments on Gaza in the last few days, killing at least nine people, underlining the need for international solidarity initiatives such as this one.

“The Freedom Waves to Gaza emerged from the Freedom Flotilla initiatives,” says Irish Ship to Gaza organiser Fintan Lane from on board the MV Saoirse. “While the Freedom Waves to Gaza will be delivering some much-needed medicines, our primary goal is to help free Palestinians from their inhumane isolation in what is in effect an open air prison.”

Also on board in this civil society to civil society initiative are delegates from Canada, Australia, the US, Greece, Palestine, Poland and Egypt. “We have just entered international waters and hope to reach the shores of Gaza in a couple of days. The only obstacles in our way are Israel’s military, but international public opinion is behind this effort, and so is civil society in Gaza.”

“The Palestinians living in Gaza want solidarity – not charity. They have made it clear to the world that their primary demand is for freedom. While humanitarian aid is helpful, Palestinians are still prisoners with no freedom of movement,” adds Ehab Lotayef, the Canadian boat organizer. “Israel’s illegal blockade prevents not only imports into Gaza, but exports as well. And the blockade prevents Palestinians from moving freely between Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of fundamental human rights.”

The Freedom Waves to Gaza Initiative is a non-violent, civil society movement the primary aim of which is to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Bios of delegates are available at http://irishshiptogaza.org/

There will also be various media outlets reporting on developments aboard the Tahrir, including Al Jazeera and Democracy Now.

A press conference will be held in Dublin on November 3rd at 11.30am. Details to follow.

ENDS

Irish Ship to Gaza media contact for the North:

Derry/Belfast
Aoife McLaughlin local 0788 652 4999
outside Ireland 00 44 788 652 4999

Clr Gerry MacLochlainn, John Mallon and Charlie McMenamin sailing on the MV Saoirse just minutes before deadly sabotage was discovered. Photo by Phil McCullough

On Monday the ships 3 crew members along with Clr Gerry MacLochlainn, Charlie McMenamin (both from Derry) with John Mallon and Phil McCullough (both from Belfast) set sail on the MV Saoirse for re-fueling.

On the way back Pat Fitzgerald ship’s engineer noticed that something was very wrong with the boat. Upon returning to the dock the first inspections began, it was then we realised that sabotage had been done to Ireland’s boat.

Pat and the crew then hired experts to dive down and inspect the damage closer, upon their return to land it was noted that the boat has very serious damage done and that a piece was missing from one of the propeller shafts. The boat was then removed from the water and inspected on dry land (videos below) where the deep cuts inflicted onto the propeller shaft could be clearly seen and photos taken for evidence, the shaft was also very bent. These things together create a very dangerous life threatening situation for those who had just been sailing on the ship. The sabotage was intended to endanger and/or inflict injury or death on Irish citizens as the went abou their lawful right to sail on the high seas.

Clearly the terrorist divers had come up under the boat and intentionally cut out pieces of the propeller shaft, thus weakening it so that it would shear off and sink the boat or kill people onboard. As the boat’s engine placed stress on the shaft it would have given way and the propeller would have come up through the bottom of the boat, causing flooding in the engine room and the boat to sink. Moreover, any Irish passengers standing nearby when the propeller came through the deck could have been killed immediately, or seriously injured.

The passengers from Derry and Belfast who were onboard the ship travelling to the re-fueling point were a bit un-nerved when told the possibilities of what could have happened on that short journey they had just returned from.

The terrorists have now struck twice, in two different countries! This same type of sabotage was done to another vessel in Greece only days ago. We have the videos below of both the ship in Greece and the Irish Ship which was located in Turkey. Followed by a short video of Pat Fitzgerald the ship’s engineer after inspecting some of the damage.

This was a vicious attack on Irish property by terrorists against a boat flying the Irish flag. The ship is so damaged it will now be unable to take part in the Flotilla. However arrangements are being made to find seats on other ships for as many Irish passengers as possible including members of Derry Friends of Palestine. We will continue to keep you updated on this website regarding the Irish passengers who will be travelling now on other ships.

GREEK SABOTAGE DAMAGE

MV SAOIRSE SABOTAGE DAMAGE

Ships engineer Pat Fitzgerald inspects the damage, note that the damage was meant to sink the boat and would have cost Irish lives

Lia Tarachansky from RealNews interviews Israeli Defence Force Lieutenant Colonel Avital Liebovitz, Ray McGovern, a retired CIA officer on board the US boat to Gaza the “Audacity of Hope” and Gerry MacLochlainn, an Irish politician and member of Derry Friends of Palestine, from on board the Irish boat the MV Saoirse.

Flotilla members spoke about the pressure the US and Israeli government put on Mediterranean countries to stop the Flotilla from sailing. Lieutenant Colonel Avital Liebovitz states that the IDF will avoid “personal contact” with passengers on the Flotilla.


More at The Real News

Irish Ship to Gaza passengers John Mallon, Phil McCullough and Charlie McMenamin send messages from on board the MV Saoirse:

Message from Belfast Friends of Palestine committee member John Mallon:

Well folks hope you are all good, everythıng ıs goıng well over here we are wıth the rest of our friends and comrades onboard the MV Saoirse. The Irısh flag ıs flyıng ın the wınd on your shıp which was paid for by the people of Ireland North and South. Please come out and support our comrades ın Derry and Belfast on Tuesday and Wednesday and above all else, STAY HUMAN :)

Phil McCullough from West Belfast
Message to Family and friends:

Charlie McMenamin from Derry
Message to Family and friends:

The passengers on board the MV Saoirse are asking for your support back home. Please, take ONE minute out of your day and ring the office of Eamon Gilmore, Tánaiste and Foreign Minister, to protest against the Israelis stopping our people from sailing. Tell him loud and clear to deliver a message to the Israelis to “LET THEM SAIL”

Eamon Gilmore’s office
+353 1 618 4037
Email:
eamon.gilmore@oireachtas.irlgov.ie

Steve Amsel at Desertpeace conducted an interview with Sinn Fein Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn who is currently in the Mediterranean getting ready to set sail on the MV Saoirse, the Irish Ship to Gaza.

Sinn Fein Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn with Dr. Fintan Lane on board the MV Saoirse

Gerry MacLochlainn is a Sinn Fein Councillor in Derry. Active in the Irish Civil Rights campaign, Gerry took part in the Burntollet Civil Rights march which was brutally attacked. Gerry is a former Maths teacher, he studied philosophy and maths at University College Wales, Aberystwyth. He is a former Irish Political Prisoner in England. On his release he headed up the Sinn Fein office in London and was active in the struggle to release of the Guildford 4. In 2009, Gerry led the 2nd convoy into Gaza after the invasion and he co-founded Derry Friends of Palestine. During operation Cast Lead he persuaded Derry City Council to support a boycott of Israeli goods until Israel withdraws from the occupied territories. Derry was the first city in Ireland to pass such a motion. He returned to Gaza again to bring the Mayor of Derry to meet with the Mayor of Khan Younis to begin a twinning process between the two cities. Gerry was a keynote speaker in Geneva at the first International Conference in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli Jails, organised by U-Free. He is a member of the International Steering Committee of Freedom Flotilla 2 – Stay Human and a member of the Irish Ship to Gaza national committee.

*

DesertPeace: According to the inroduction, I believe this will be your third trip to Gaza. After the brutal attack by the Israeli navy on the Mavi Marmara a year ago, are you in any way concerned for your personal safety this time?

*

Gerry MacLochlainn: I have to be honest and yes – I am concerned and I think I would foolish if I were not. The shocking slaughter of unarmed people aboard the Mavi Marmara made it clear that Israel is prepared to cross any line to protect its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and blockade of Gaza. If you oppose, even peacefully as we are doing, Israeli policy in Palestine and against Palestinians you are fair game as far as the IDF is concerned.

But no matter how concerned I am – I have to do what is right. The governments of the world should be leading our flotilla into Gaza but they stand idly by. It falls to us then the ordinary citizens of this world to act for humanity. Someone has to step up and if not me who? I can’t leave it to others.

So we will set sail, we will strive to each Gaza, we do so publicly, peacefully and with no desire to harm to contribute to the harming of anyone, including the IDF who are threatening us with extreme violence if we do not turn back.

BUT although we are peaceful, although we threaten no-one, we will not be bullied, we will not turn back. We will not surrender our boats and we will try to reach Gaza.

We may not succeed on this occasion but the siege will be broken and the blockade will be lifted. Israel can menace, maim or even murder but it can no more stop us or those who follow than it can stop the tide.

Palestine will be free and its ports will be open to the world as are the ports of any other country.

*

DP: Are there any long term plans for activities back in Ireland once you return from this trip?

*

GM: Yes. I am a Sinn Féin Councillor as you know and my city council has voted to boycott Israeli goods. I recently brought our Mayor out to Gaza to meet the Mayor of Khan Younis, Mohammed al Farra, and we intend to build up a relationship between our two municipalities.

I am talking to business men and local community groups, schools and sporting associations to develop links with our sisters and brothers in Khan Younis.

The Derry Friends of Palestine, of which I am a member, has a programme of work to do to assist the people of Gaza. We will soon be making a significant contribution to health care in Khan Younis. The details of this intervention will be announced in the near future.

But more than that I plan to continue to bear witness to the crimes that Israel is committing in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine. Along with my colleagues, the Irish Friends of Palestine and my party, Sinn Féin I intend to continue to mobilise opinion to peaceful protest at every manifestation of Zionist aggression.

I intend to be a peaceful but very persistent opponent of Israel so longs as it refuses to deal with its neighbours as equals.

*

DP: As an elected official, do you feel that your solidarity work for the people of Palestine in any way could hurt your political career? I am aware that many people in Ireland identify personally with the Palestinians because of their own struggles for Freedom and Independence. Can you elaborate on this?

*

GM: Well I suppose the big advantage of being in Ireland, and being an Irish Republican in Ireland is that your support comes from people who know all about imperialism, about land grabs about suppression, and who know just which side they are on. Consequently advocacy for Palestine will not damage anyone’s political career in Ireland.

I well remember, during my time in jail in England as our hungers strikers died, the women of Gaza took to the streets to salute and support our comrades. They reached into our prison cells on our behalf that day and we gladly reach into theirs now.

Our message is simple, Palestine, you have sisters and brothers in Ireland. You will never have to face the enemy alone. I shout aloud – The Irish are coming!

*

DP: Sinn Fein has always been in the forefront of the struggle, are there other groups working with you on these International issues?

*

GM: Sinn Fein is of course one of the largest parties on the island and one of the two major components of the government in the north and is a major opposition party in the South. The fact that our party has a principled position in support of Palestine means that these politics are now heard at the heart of government.

But it is fair to say that the breadth of support for Palestine in Ireland spreads beyond the Republican base. Nearly every party has some support for Palestine within its ranks. This is a potential major advantage for the people of Palestine because, as their case becomes better known, the support will spread further.

We believe that we can influence Irish foreign policy to take a principled stand on the Palestine issue at an international diplomatic level. We will co-operate with the widest array of parties and trends to achieve that.

*

DP: Gerry, it’s been a pleasure. I wish you a safe trip and hopeully one day we can celebrate together in a Jerusalem that belongs to all of the people, not just the chosen few.

*

GM: Inshallah! Thank you. It has been a pleasure for me too.

MV SAOIRSE~THE IRISH SHIP TO GAZA

The Freedom Flotilla II coalition has called on UN bodies to send officials to search the flotilla’s multinational ships, which are gearing to defy the Israeli siege and deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip next week.

The coalition challenged that the searches could be before the ship’s departure or while at sea or when they arrive to the Gaza Strip, saying the calls are aimed at assuring that the movement is a peaceful one.

Israel has threatened to use physical force to thwart the aid flotilla, claiming it a security threat to the country. Israeli naval forces intercepted the first freedom flotilla in May 2010 killing nine peaceful activists and injuring many more.

“We are determined to sail to Gaza. Our cause is just and is characterized with transparency, and our means are peaceful,” said the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, quoting Ander Dimitras, a committee member of the ship from Switzerland.

The source said the coalition would continue sailing to the Gaza Strip “until the illegal siege has ended”, emphasizing that the Palestinians besieged in the Strip have the same human and national rights as anyone else in the free world.

The ECESG, a key member of the coalition, has announced the ships will depart for Gaza the middle of next week, denying any schedule changes as rumored by some news outlets.

The flotilla includes hundreds of activists from some forty nations worldwide. Among the passengers are members of the European Parliament as well as other European lawmakers and forty media sources set to provide direct blanket coverage.

The ECESG called on states whose legislators and citizens have joined the flotilla to provide protection against a likely Israeli attack.

Armed Commandos Shooting at Passengers on board the Mavi Marmara

Israel has been called on to avoid military force against human rights activists who will next week attempt to break the Gaza blockade.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said he has told Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Boaz Modai, that any interception of the flotilla must be peaceful.

Nine people were killed last year when commandos stormed the MV Marmara, a Turkish aid ship trying to break the naval blockade. The Irish-owned MV Saoirse will sail with up to a dozen other aid vessels next week as part of Freedom Flotilla II.

Mr Gilmore said he can not advise any Irish national to participate in a venture which potentially brings them into harm’s way.” I emphasised, however, to the Ambassador that if the flotilla does sail next week, then Israel must exercise all possible restraint and avoid any use of military force if attempting to uphold their naval blockade,” said Mr Gilmore, the foreign affairs minister.

“In particular, I would expect that any interception of ships is conducted in a peaceful manner and does not endanger the safety of our citizens or other participants. I urged the Ambassador to ensure that this message was relayed to his authorities.”

Mr Gilmore said it was incumbent upon all interested in promoting peace between Israel and its neighbours to avoid any repetition of the completely unacceptable and unjustified violence which marked last year’s flotilla. “The Government will continue working with all interested parties in the coming days to ensure this is the case,” he added.

Aid ships from around the world carrying medical supplies, sports equipment and construction materials are due to meet in international waters some 16 hours from Gaza early next week.

Dr Fintan Lane, co-ordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza, has said crews plan to make it difficult for Israel to seize control of vessels through non-violent means.

source Belfast Telegraph

Community Activist Charlie McMenamin

Derry Journal
Published on Tuesday 21 June 2011 11:30

Two Derry men are travelling to Gaza this week as part of the ‘freedom flotilla’ to bring aid to Palestinians.

Sinn Féin councillor Gerry MacLochlainn and well-known Derry communnity worker Charlie McMenamin and 24 other Irish people are hoping to reach Gaza on one of the aid ships to bring medical supplies to Palestinians, who have been unable to import certain goods because of an Israeli blockade.

In May last year a similar convoy tried to reach Gaza with humanitarian supplies and a number of ships were boarded by commandos from the Israeli Defence Force who opened fire, killing nine peace activists onboard the Mavi Marmara ship.

Before leaving Derry, Mr McMenamin said he wanted to raise awareness of the situation in Gaza. “We are determined to bring world attention to the plight of the Palestinian people whose lives have come to a standstill because of the Israeli blockade of Gaza,” he said.

A number of fundraising events, including a skydive, were held in Derry in recent months to raise funds to buy supplies to take to the troubled middle eastern company. The fundraising events were organised by the Derry Friends of Palestine group, who have also been making links between local schoolchildren and children in Palentinian schools.

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