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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

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.


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

Interview with Rabbi BrianWalt
By Sinead MacLochlainn, Chairperson, Derry Friends of Palestine

Apologies go out to our readers for the late posting. We have been very busy working on our twinning program and have not had much time to update the site. But will have many things to report this week. Stay tuned.

In our previous post we covered the work being done by Rabbi Walt’s organisations, Rabbi’s for Human Rights and Jewish Fast for Gaza

Myself, and Stephen Crockett, one of the teachers responsible for helping to create our “Link for Learning” program, met with Rabbi Walt during Cultural Week in Derry. We would like to thank Teya, the creator and founder of “Theatre of Witness” for facilitating the meeting for us. You can learn more about Teya’s good work at this link , or at the Playhouse in Derry.

The never ending conflict that exists between Israel and Palestine is a very divisive one as we all know. When you read about the conflict, we tend to always hear the Israeli government’s views being carried in the media. And this is usually echoed by thousands of pro-Israeli bloggers and websites online. The situation looks hopeless. It would be easy to think that all Jews are of one mindset; however this is not the case.

There are progressive Jews around the world, people of conscience, who speak out everyday against the apartheid actions of Israel. They are not always easy to find, they never get the same amount of media coverage. But still, they are there. People like Hedy Epstein, Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappe and Norman Finkelstein spring to mind, and also Rabbi Walt.

So given that our own city of Derry has seen it’s fair share of division, and given that we rarely hear the Jewish perspective from a progressive standpoint, Derry Friends of Palestine looked forward to hearing Rabbi Walt’s views on various aspects of the conflict as a Progressive Jew and a someone who grew up in South Africa. So we asked the Rabbi a series of questions and he was nice enough to give us his thoughts:

Question 1
What was your vision behind co-founding Rabbi’s for Human Rights and Jewish Fast For Gaza?

Answer: It was one of principle.. Saints and Sinners, they have to make the deal. I believe there is no military solution to this conflict. It should be resolved politically and not in a military way. We are a 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.

Question 2
In Ireland any former attempts to broker peace failed because of the exclusion of Sinn Fein from the negotiating table. It was not until an American President; Bill Clinton took the step to shake the hand of Gerry Adams and began the inclusion of Sinn Fein which ultimately resulted in the Good Friday Agreement. Do you believe that all Palestinian parties, including Hamas, should be included in Peace talks and any agreement on a Palestinian State?

Yes, the Palestinian people voted for them in a fair election. All parties should be involved in talks and agreements if there is to be any success.

Question 3
What do you think of Obama’s policies, are they enough? Should he be more forceful with Israel? Should peace negotiations begin when settlements are still being built? And what is your position on Jerusalem?

Answer: Obama must be as strong as he can be. I admire him for going further than most US Administrations but it is not enough. He is on the right track in backing cessation of building settlements. What happens in Israel effect the USA.

With regards to Jerusalem; Jerusalem is the city where blood has flowed in the streets and it’s time for change. A feeling something of a transcendent importance of people being able to share Jerusalem. This is the moment it has to be shared. Now it is a divided city, but I hope it can be shared as the capitol of both a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. Israel’s actions now in Jerusalem are like South Africa, an oppressive force which inspired both liberation and prejudice.

Question 4
Since America is a super power and holds sway and by way of this, American Jews. Have you seen any change in the views of America Jews regarding this conflict, do the support Obama? What about J-Street?

Answer: There is a huge battle in the Jewish community on this issue. Many Jews support Obama, most of them do. There are Jews in Israel who support Obama on Israel. But the problem is with many Jewish organisations, such as the biggest one AIPAC who fight against him. And Obama is definitely influenced by AIPAC. Israel’s right wing is using AIPAC against Obama. I disagree with this. I support Obama but I want to push him, I am to the left of Obama. I was in Jerusalem when a Palestinian home was being demolished. There had been a protest, and even the American Consulate became involved. An official from the US embassy was trying to get the soldiers to stop the demolition, but they ignored him. This does not make sense. “What does it mean for me to be a Rabbi if I am standing on someone’s home that was demolished for my religion? “ 99% of Jews would disagree with demolishing someone’s home based on Religion. anywhere else in the world, they would think if it happend to their neighbour, it could happen to them. But this is not the case in Israel. The only reason it was being demolished is because it was the home of a Palestinian. This is a violation of the principle of the Jewish Faith.

Question 5
What roll do you see for the International community in helping to resolve this conflict? Do you support the BDS campaign?

Answer: The International community has a major role to play, especially the USA who is part of the problem and therefore must solve it. The Jewish community are major players; there is no escape from our responsibility. I support the BDS campaign reluctantly. I love Israel; I love the Hebrew Culture and the parts of Israel which brought theses things alive. But, we are living in a time of moral emergency, there is a moral crisis. So I can’t see how I can oppose a struggle for Israel to be accountable for its actions.

Question 6
Do you think cultural programs like our “Link for Learning” program school twinning project can help make a difference in the perception people have of Palestinians? Would you support what we are doing?

I support what you are doing; your “Link for Learning” Program is a wonderful program! In the Jewish Fast For Gaza organisation we make phone calls to young people in Gaza during our fast to engage and learn about how they live. Cultural links are very important.

Question 7
With your views, is it difficult for you as a Jew, and a Jew from South Africa, to see Israel’s apartheid treatment of Palestinians? How do you deal with this?

I grew up in South Africa. I grew up loving Israel, Judaism and Zionism, Ben Gurion was my idol. When I was 17 years old Ben Gurion came to speak and I was thrilled to see him. He was calm, rational, my hero. But when he was asked the question about people displaced by Jews to create Israel, he lost his temper and became angry; he banged the table with his fist, and said “No one was displaced.” That was my first awakening, since then I have been unlearning everything I thought I knew, and even today I am still unlearning things. Jews like myself, are often referred to as Self Hating Jews, or traitors. It is challenging, I don’t want to be in this type of relationship with my community. I am described as pro-Palestinian, but I am a Rabbi, I love human beings. I am pro-Human being!

Derry Friends of Palestine would like to thank Rabbi Walt for sharing his time and his insight into his life, views and the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

Anyone interested in reading other progressive Jewish websites working for Peace, below you will find links to more. Including the Refusenik site for Israeli’s refusing to serve in the IDF:
Refusing For Israel
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Jewish Voice for Peace
Not In My Name
Gush Shalom
Yesh Gvul
New Profile
Bat Shalom

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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