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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

Widyan Sha'at Director of Ethar with Sinead MacLochlainn, Alanna Campbell and women of Ethar

My Dear friend Mags O’Brien (SIPTU & TUFP and Irish Ship to Gaza comrade) who lives in Dublin contacted me around the beginning of March 2012 just before UNISON’S International women’s day festivities which would be held on March 8th 2012 in Belfast. She said that a quilt had been made by women in Ireland who were members of the trade unions and they wanted it delivered to Gaza, was I up for doing it. I said “yes!” and agreed to meet her in Belfast on 8th of March for International Women’s day.

March 8th arrived and I boarded the bus form Derry as Mag’s boarded the bus from Dublin. I was excited about the prospect of delivering this message of love and solidarity to our sisters in Gaza. As I was already planning to travel out to Gaza on March 28th, delivering the quilt on behalf of Irish women could easily be added into my schedule.

International Women's Day Belfast

We both arrived in Belfast and attended the woman’s day march and speeches after. During the speeches I couldn’t help but think to myself “here we are in Ireland as women standing free, exerting our rights as women, marching for what women have achieved and what women will achieve as our struggle continues to move forward” yet, back in Gaza our sisters are struggling in a way many of us here cannot comprehend. See for yourself the reality of life in Gaza for poor women who have lost their homes and/or husbands in Cast Lead.

This woman and her children barely exist in this tiny one room space, nothing else

Barely enough room for one person let alone ten!!

Women with children forced to live in refugee camps, in tiny 3 metre areas that more resemble a stable or a shed rather than a inhabitable home created by a brutal inhumane collective punishment siege! Women who have had to watch their homes destroyed in a flash of white light from Israeli drones or F-16’s. Women who have had to watch their own children die for lack of medical supplies, or parts, and still others have been forced to watch as their child lies dying needlessly before their eyes, simply waiting for a little permit to be approved by Israel for the child to leave Gaza to go to a specialist hospital in Egypt or Israel. Women who have lost their homes and their husbands in Cast Lead and are now left to fend for themselves in the streets of an open air prison. The refugee camps will haunt you, cramped and filled with women and children, so many children. With horrible sewage problems because Israel won’t allow pipes in to fix the bombed out sewer system. The smell of this is a constant reminder and it is never far away, even the sea is polluted with sewage, and the tap water is nothing but contaminated sea water with waste in it. This is life in Gaza, this is a man made disaster of epic proportions which is being ignored by most of the world. And the women are suffering the most. So I was very happy to facilitate this Quilt with a message of Solidarity to our sisters in Gaza from women in Ireland.

“We call for the immediate and complete lifting of the blockade on Gaza. The ongoing siege is a denial of dignity; it is a denial of rights for a people, particularly its women, who yearn to be Free!”

The quilt was sponsored by UNISON and in 2011 it was taken from Belfast in small pieces down to the Women’s Seminar in Cork where women began working on it. The Quilt was then brought back up to Belfast where the finishing work was carried out by Vivien Holding of the Communications Workers Union. Vivien put it together and laboriously sewed the binding and backing.

Mag’s and I met up with Patricia McKeown the Regional Secretary of UNISON in the North of Ireland who facilitated us in making our way to the UNISON building for the remainder of the day’s events and speeches. As we made our way to the UNISION building we discussed with Patricia the possibility of Irish women doing some solidarity work with our sisters in Gaza.

Upon arriving at UNISON the quilt was presented to myself and Mags by Taryn Trainer of UNITE and the Chair of the Woman’s Committee in the North. In a message from Pauline Buchanan regarding the quilt, she said “ The women of Ireland thought that the quote which takes pride of place in the centre would appropriately express to our sisters in Palestine that we support them, and that we will continue to work towards the realization of their human rights.”

Taryn Trainor presents quilt to Mag's O'Brien and Sinead MacLochlainn

From the quilts idea and inception by women in Belfast shortly after Cast Lead, the quilt began its life in Belfast, travelled down to Cork where more women worked on it, then it travelled back to Belfast where still more women completed it. The quilt has travelled across Ireland, then by air across England, France, Italy, Greece to Cairo, Egypt. Where it then began the 7 hour ride across the Sinai desert where on March 28th it crossed into Rafah, Palestine, and then travelled to Kahn Younis where it was received and presented to Widyan Sha’at the Director of Ethar Woman’s Initiative. It is home now.

Ethar Initiative-Gaza

Sinead MacLochlainn made the presentation on behalf of the the Women’s Committee Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ and a mention of the ICTU, NIICTU, UNISON, UNITE, Communications Union Workers as well. Ms. Sha’at speaking on behalf of Ethar Initiative said she wishes to thank the women of Ireland for their solidarity, especially Taryn Trainer and the Women’s Committee in the North, Pauline Buchanan of ICTU and Patricia McKeown of UNISON and Vivien Holding of the Communications Workers Union. The quilt will stand as a reminder to women here in Gaza of the friendship and solidarity between Ireland and Palestine.

The Ethar Initiative will be sending a personal letter of thanks to the ICTU/NIICTU and to those organisations and women who participated in this project of solidarity by creating and sending the Quilt to Gaza.

The Ethar Initiative was set up by women, for women, and is run by women who get no salary, all donations go to the poor women and children that Ethar helps. Ethar is a labour of love run by our sisters, who need our help!! So, please check back on this website as we will be doing an entire report on the Ethar Woman’s Initiative and we hope all the women of Ireland will get on board and get invovled with the campaign to help woman in Gaza by working with our sisters at Ethar. Coming soon in solidarity we will be launching an all Ireland Initiative for women to work with our sisters in Gaza dubbed the “Ireland Gaza Woman’s Initiative ” and we hope Irish women will join us in working directly with our sisters in Gaza! Bookmark our coming website here and check back to learn about the new Initiative between Ireland and Gaza.

We Stand In Solidarity with Our Sisters

The Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) has welcomed home Pat Fitzgerald, one of its members who sailed on the Saoirse as part of the Gaza flotilla. Pat, who is also a Sinn Féin councillor for the Tramore area of County Waterford, said he was disappointed that sabotage had aborted the trip.

A motor mechanic and marine engineer, who spent 20 years at sea on deep sea tramp steamers, container ships, fishing vessels and North Sea oil rigs, he said he had “no doubt at all that the vessel’s propeller shaft was sabotaged”.

Pat took part in the Gaza flotilla because of his involvement in other campaigns for justice. “I suppose it was during my life at sea that my social conscience was awakened. When you travel between poor countries and affluent countries you see the glaring social divide”.

TEEU General Secretary Eamon Devoy said; “The union unreservedly condemns this attack on Pat and other Irish citizens participating in a peaceful protest at the treatment of the people of Gaza. It is clear from talking to Pat that the ship would not alone have been disabled but sunk if it had put to sea without the damage being spotted.

“The Irish Government must make it clear to the Israeli government that these illegal acts of war must stop, he added.

Source SIPTU

IRISH SHIP TO GAZA by Carlos Latuff

IRISH SHIP TO GAZA by Carlos Latuff

The Irish Ship to Gaza Campaign wishes to thank the great resistance cartoonist Carlos Latuff, for his very kind donation of artwork for the Irish Ship to Gaza and for all his support for our efforts to send an Irish ship to Gaza.

Carlos has done some great work on the BDS campaign and his work is known around the world. He said he has a great love for Ireland and also Palestine, and that it was an honour to create work for Ireland and Palestine together in one cartoon.

Those who comprise the Irish Ship to Gaza Campaign represent Irish people and organisations that aim to break this inhuman siege by being part of the Second Freedom Flotilla. We are fundraising to ensure that an Irish ship is among those that set out in October 2010 to break the illegal siege of Gaza.

Please help us ensure that Ireland is fully represented in the Freedom Flotilla 2 to break the siege on Gaza by donating to the Irish Ship to Gaza fund below.



AIB Bank
P.O. Box 96A, 7/12 Dame Street, Dublin 2
Sort Code 93-20-86
Account Number 33077059



Tomorrow (Friday) 27th August, Dr Fintan Lane of the “Irish Ship to Gaza” all Ireland committee will be speaking in Limerick at the Absolute Hotel, 8:00PM the public is invited to attend.

The event is organized by the Limerick branch of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) who are delighted to have Dr. Fintan Lane, Irish activist from the Freedom Flotilla and Free Gaza Movement speaking. He will be discussing the next Freedom Flotilla which is to sail in October.

There will be an Irish ship taking part in the Freedom Flotilla 2 and Fintan will be outlining plans for the Irish Ship to Gaza and discussing how people can participate in this action to break the siege on Gaza.

Fintan was on board the Irish boat the Challenger 1 when it was attacked and hijacked by Israeli forces on May 31st during the first Freedom Flotilla. The attack resulted in the murder of nine aid activists from the Turkish boat the Mavi Marmara.

This is a great opportunity for the people of Limerick who protested in their hundreds at the brutal invasion of Gaza which left hundreds dead including children, and the recent flotilla attack in international waters. This is a chance for the people of Limerick to get involved with the Irish Ship to Gaza and participate in this unique solidarity initiative which will take place across the island of Ireland.


TIME: 8:00 PM




There will be a public meeting of the Irish Ship to Gaza initiative in Galway this SATURDAY 28th August at the Nun’s Island Theatre at 4:00 PM. Everyone is welcome to attend.

We encourage all those in the Galway area who support ending the siege on Gaza to attend this public launch in order to find out how Galway can participate in this unique all Ireland initiative to send an Irish Ship to Gaza on the Freedom Flotilla 2 in October.

Let the siege be broken and let Ireland be there.


TIME: 4:00 PM


Derry Friends of Palestine JOINS THE FREEDOM FLOTILLA 2

We have several important updates for our supporters which will be posted here over the next few days:

First update: Our associates at the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG) have invited Derry Friends of Palestine to participate in the next Freedom Flotilla to Gaza.

Sinead MacLochlainn, the Chair of DFOP is assisting the ECESG in organising the “Women4Gaza” boat and she will also be a passenger on the “Women4Gaza” boat. In addition, our friend Mrs. Hedy Epstein who recently spoke here in Derry at the DFOP “Gaza Speaks to Derry” event as part of the Feile, will also be joining Sinead on the Woman4Gaza ship! They will be travelling together to break the siege and stand with the women of Gaza!

Having an all women’s boat as part of the Freedom Flotilla 2 makes an important statement. We ask you to support us in our all Women’s ship destined for Gaza in coordination with the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza as part of the freedom flotilla 2, with your backing and support we will show the world that women of the world, and especially here in Ireland, fully support the women living in Gaza who have suffered so much. Help us show them that we all support their right to a dignified life free from the oppression and tyranny of the Israeli state.

We urge the people of Derry and Ireland, but especially the women of Ireland, to contact aid organisations in your area and encourage them to either sponsor or organise fund raising events for the Freedom Flotilla 2. See end of post for Donation information. Also please help us spread the word on Facebook and your blogs, join us for live updates from the ship as DFOP members sail to break the siege on Gaza, join our new DFOP Freedom Flotilla 2 Facebook page HERE and stay up to date, and don’t forget to post your efforts and show your support on the international “Women 4 Gaza” Freedom Flotilla 2 Facebook page HERE as well.

A special message to the Women of Gaza :
We are coming to stand with you side by side to support you in your daily struggle; we admire and respect your strength and resilience in the face of food shortages, lack of medical care, and lack of jobs under an unjust and indiscriminate blockade.
Please donate to the Derry Friends of Palestine, Freedom Flotilla 2 campaign below:

Bank of Ireland
account# 45463260
Sort Code 90 49 74
Strand Road, Derry

Israeli commandos on 31 May 2010 stormed the Mavi Marmara and its accompanying flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip carrying pro-Palestinian activists and tons of humanitarian aid after the Israel Navy intercepted the ships and tracked them for several hours. At least 10 foreign activists were killed

Today’s post will focus on two more speakers. Dr Fintan Lane, a member of two organisations in Ireland; the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) based in Dublin and also the Free Gaza Movement. During the event he will be speaking on behalf of the Free Gaza Movement and an upcoming Flotilla to Gaza. I want to mention here, that the IPSC has a great boycott campaign going on right now that Derry Friends of Palestine is supporting 100%, please visit them HERE to see how you can help! For information no the Free Gaza Movement go HERE.

As many of you already know, Fintan was one of the Irish passengers aboard the Irish Free Gaza Movement’s Challenger boat during the recent Freedom Flotilla to Gaza. He was an eye witness to the brutality inflicted on the flotilla by the armed Israeli army commandos who attacked the boats in the middle of the night in international waters.

Armed Israeli Commandos Attack Freedom Flotilla

Armed Israeli Commandos Attack Freedom Flotilla

They murdered civilian humanitarian workers, specifically targeted Muslims on the ship. No one should have to die trying to bring humanitarian aid to help people in Gaza under an illegal siege. But many did die and many were seriously injured:

Aid worker shot by Israeli Commandos onbard Freedom Flotilla

Aid worker shot dead by Israeli Commandos on the Freedom Flotilla

The commandos then arrested the remaining members, passengers and crew, towed the boats to Israel, then beat them, jailed them, and deported them from Israel where they were taken against their will. Israel still retains all the ships and boats, including the 3 Irish ones, along with all personal property that belonged to all the passengers. Computers, mobile phones, clothing and passports, all stolen and kept by Israel. People were sent off and deported to various countries with nothing but the clothes on their backs! This is an outrageous act of piracy and brutality on Irish citizens travelling in International waters, posing no threat what so ever to Israel in their attempt to travel to the country of Palestine and dock in the city of Gaza.

Also speaking on the day, Issam Ben Ali, a Libyan-born Irish citizen and one of the activists caught up in the Israeli commando raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. Mr Ben Ali gave an account of what he had witnessed and his treatment at the hands of Israeli officials. Another Libyan-born Irish citizen, Al Mahdi Alharati, was on one of the two Greek ships in the flotilla. Israeli commandos fired plastic bullets and used tazers during the raid, many of the activists were beaten. Issam witnessed his friend Mahdi Alharati when he was struck in the face with a rifle butt. He was hospitalized on his arrival in Ankara after being arrested and deported to Turkey by Israel.

Other speakers we have already covered are, Hedy Epstein, flying in to Derry from America; she is a Jewish holocaust survivor and a tireless activist for Palestine and Gaza. You can read about Hedy HERE. We have also written about Yousef Al Helou, the presstv correspondent who lives in Gaza and whose reporting under fire during Operation Cast Lead exposed to the world the horrors inflicted onto the population of Gaza. You can read about Yousef HERE. And just yesterday we reported on Dr Saeb Shaath from the Irish Medical Aid for Palesine charity, responsible for building the James Connolly surgical theatre in Gaza! Read about him HERE.

More speaker announcements to come check back daily!! We hope everyone will come out and show your support for the people trapped in an open air prison called Gaza. Come and hear their voices live on Screen via a live video link up during our event. Our “Gaza Speaks” event is THIS Sunday 25th July at the Guildhall, upstairs in the Great Hall from 1-5PM. Admission is FREE and everyone is welcome to attend. Music, raffles and many great stalls with lots of information from many organisations plus some GREAT Palestinian Items for sale!!!


The day is fast approaching for “Gaza Speaks” the kick off for Feile 10 at the Guildhall this Sunday 25th July form 1-5PM FREE ADMISSION. Check back everyday as we continue to update those appearing at the event! And on Friday we will publish the full list of speakers here on this website, including those speaking on screen from inside Gaza during our live link up between Derry and Gaza!

In this post we will focus on more speakers who will be taking the stage in the Guildhall during the event. We have already covered two of our main speakers, Hedy Epstein, flying in to Derry from America; she is a Jewish holocaust survivor and a tireless activist for Palestine and Gaza. You can read about Hedy HERE. We have also written about Yousef Al Helou, the presstv correspondent who lives in Gaza and whose reporting under fire during Operation Cast Lead exposed to the world the horrors inflicted onto the population of Gaza. You can read about Yousef HERE.

Today we report on Dr Saeb Shaath a speaker on Palestine, and his Irish Medical Aid for Palestine organisation. Supported by the Irish people. IMAP and Dr Shaath are doing wonderful things for Palestine and Gaza and have built the “James Connolly Surgical Theatre” in Gaza.

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún after here visit to Gaza strip, Dr Saeb Shaath and Sinn Fein Assembly Member Alex Maskey

Irish Medical Aid for Palestinians (Irish MAP) is an Irish registered not for profit organisation, established in 2007 with the overall aim of providing the necessary help and support to the Palestinian people in order to protect, maintain and improve their health.

Objectives of Irish MAP

The relief of sickness and ill health amongst the Palestinian people in the Middle East The protection, maintenance and promotion of health of the people of Palestine The advancement of education and training of health care workers in Palestine

Irish MAP believes that good health is a basic human right and, therefore, access to appropriate health care is an integral element of that right. Furthermore, Irish MAP believes that the Geneva Conventions on Human Rights should be applied to the Palestinian people and that they should be entitled to peace, security, freedom, clean water, education, health, employment, proper housing and prosperity, all of which are determinants of health.

Below are photos of the James Connolly Surgical Theatre built by Irish Medical Aid for Palestine and funded by the people of Ireland. More on IMAP after this:

James Connolly Surgical Theatre in Gaza

Medications and medical supplies also from Ireland and IMAP:

Supplies donated by IMAP

Supplies donated by IMAP

Supplies donated by IMAP

Irish MAP will work with all sectors of Palestinian society and with sister organisations from outside Palestine for the improvement of health in Palestine. Irish MAP will co-operate and co-ordinate its work with other charities and non-governmental organisations to maximise its effectiveness and efficiency.

Irish MAP has set up systems for health needs assessment and project development based on evidence. This system will allow Irish MAP to judge how and where to maximise its effort. The most important principles employed are: meeting unmet and identified need, value for money (following the maxim of greater health effect on the greatest number of people with the least amount of money) and sustainable development.

Is there a need for Irish MAP?

Most Palestinians live as refugees either in their own land or, in the main, in surrounding countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. Those living in the occupied territories (including the Gaza strip) are enduring hardship and poverty. In the last two decades their health status has deteriorated. According to the recent survey carried out by Near East Consultancies, 31% suffer from mental ill health. Christian Aid reported increasing levels of chronic malnutrition amongst children. Life expectancy is some years lower than in Ireland. Furthermore, the current health services are ill equipped and the demand exceeds capacity to deliver. People who do not call on the service state that the reasons are: inability to pay, long waiting times and poor expertise and facilities. Most state that the occupation, through its systematic obstruction to every day life (including the erection of permanent and ad hoc barriers as well as the system of licensing the movement of people) is the biggest obstacle to achieving health. Moreover, the Palestinian Authority and the various Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations are not able to provide adequately to meet the health needs of most Palestinian people.

For more information contact:
Fitzwilliam Hall
Fitzwilliam Place
Dublin 2
Telephone: +353 (1) 6694603
OR Email:

Yousef Al Helou reporting during the Israeli invasion


Keep up to date by visiting our website here as we continue to focus the spotlight on some of the many speakers, NGO’s groups and individuals in the run up to our 25th July Event, who will be speaking at this FREE Event!!

As part of the Feile10, we will be hosting a major gathering in Derry’s Guildhall 25th July, from 1-5PM in the great hall, upstairs, where the people of Gaza will be speaking live via video link up directly to those gathered in Derry. This is a FREE EVENT!!

The day will be filled with international speakers on stage at the Guildhall who will discuss their work and how Ireland can help Gaza. Also speaking live to Derry from Gaza will be Senior Palestinian representatives among them a Woman MP.

In the build up to this event we will feature various speakers who will be coming to Derry to appear on stage at the Guildhall. Today we will feature a report on someone who was instrumental in exposing the world to the horrors of the 22 day onslaught by Israel on Gaza. 1400 were killed, many were women, and almost 400 were children. As Israel banned reporters and journalists from entering Gaza to film the daily killing and destruction, one person was already there, on the ground. That person was Yousef Al Helou a man I was honoured to meet when I visited Gaza. A Palestinian resident of Gaza, he works for Presstv as a correspondent. It was his work during the invasion that many of us watched. Derry Friends of Palestine are so very proud to announce that Yousef will be traveling to Derry to speak on stage during our event on 25th July, after the live link up with Gaza. And now we introduce Yousef and some of his prior work:

Gaza Children: A Gloomy Future
By Yousef Al-Helou – Gaza City

Children of Gaza collect rubbish to Survive

The devastation left by the Israeli war on beseiged Gaza means youngsters now make a living by sifting through piles of rubble. Children as young as five collect metal and plastic to sell to scrap dealers. So poor are the families they come from that they miss school in order to provide minimal support for their brothers and sisters. Missing school for even a day before the recent massacres was considered a shame, not going at all due to desperation is in danger of becoming a norm.

Saeed Dardonah, is 14- years old, his family house was destroyed by F16 rockets, during Israel’s 3-week offensive. “look at my hands’, she says showing me the palms that are dusty and covered in cuts ‘I have been looking for copper wires and plastic amongst the rubble of our destroyed house and neighbourhood. I sell what I collect for 6 shekels ($1.50) per kilogram. I have left school to support my family” he said.
Saeed was sitting on the dusty ground next to his devastated house in Ezbet abed Rabboh northern Gaza. His small hands coated with a layer of black dust. He sits with his brother Nael around fire, one he lit himself in order to melt plastic coating copper wires before selling them on to a local scrap merchant. The fumes from such fires are known to release chemical toxins. But there is little time to wonder about the long term consequences of rifling through rubble coated with phosphorous, or breathing in dust that may be radioactive when there is no milk at home for the youngest sibling.

On my way back to Gaza city, I see children scrabbling through rubbish bins; human rodents, forced to live on the detritus of war. This scene is another new post- Gaza onslaught phenomenon.
“Finding old scrap metal, shoes, dirty clothing and plastic has become harder as the residents have no money to buy new products and are then reluctant to throw out even their unusable things” the youngsters told me.

Sultan and Saber abu Khader, aged 13 and 15 have had the responsibility for their families survival thrust upon them. At an age when they should be playing football or studying for exams they express in deadened tones the certainty that they have no future.
“I wish the border crossings would open and the siege lifted, I want to have a decent life and a job,” Sultan said.

At their age such pessimism despite the never ending round of attacks and sieges Israel has perpetuated on the region, was until now rare. Yet for half a decade the unemployment level across the Gaza strip has been rising catastrophically.

Today hundreds of thousands of able bodied adult men are suffering the indignity of unemployment. Not by choice, never by choice, for here in Palestine men are proud to work, their large families rely totally on what they can provide. Yet since 2007, 95 per cent of Gaza’s factories have been forced to close due to the siege. Border closures, have meant building projects have ceased, crops cannot be exported, seeds cannot be imported. Farmers are shot at by Israeli snipers when they attempt to tend their fields. It is estimated that 35,000 chickens were slaughtered by Israeli’s aerial and ground attacks in December and January. Recent statistics show that unemployment increased to more than 70 per cent in 2008/9.

Meanwhile, Gaza’s population is one thing above all else- youthful. More than fifty five per cent of the population are under the age of 17. It is safe to say they are not enjoying the rights of their peers in the West: The right to a good standard education, enjoyed in safety; the right to live free from poverty or attack; the right to leave your country of birth and to return to it unhindered, and so on. The most widely understood definition of a concentration camp is this: a penal camp where political prisoners or prisoners of war are confined (usually under harsh conditions); a situation characterized by crowding and extremely harsh conditions. Right now in the Gaza Strip then, 800,000 children are living in the world’s largest concentration camp. A concentration camp created by Israel, approved by Europe and decimated by US-made military weapons.

Israel waged war on Gaza on December 27, 2008. More than 1400 civilians, including more than 400 children were killed. This came after a two year continuous siege which crippled the already impoverished costal enclave. Humanitarian aid is consistently prevented from entering either Eretz crossing or the Rafah border point (policed by Egypt). – Yousef Al-Helou, a freelance journalist based in Gaza City


A report on what Christmas is like for Christians living in Gaza under Israel’s illegal siege, by Yousef Al Helou:

Other speakers who we have covered so far are Hedy Epstein, a Jewish holocaust survivor coming to Derry to speak, you can read about her HERE and HERE.

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