In the wake of the UK and Ireland tour by Israeli peace activist Miko Peled, I want to write about an email exchange I had with him and reflect on left wing Israelis profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Though troubling, the dialogue was straightforward enough. Miko posted his plans for his UK and Ireland lecture tour on his Facebook page. After I heard he was charging for his Irish leg of the tour, I asked him on Facebook how much he was charging. He asked me to email him – he clearly did not want his fees disclosed in the public Facebook space. This was the email exchange, on March 31.
Miko: “I usually ask for $1500-$2500. During my UK tour coming up I asked 500-1000 pounds. Why do you ask?”
Me: “I am asking because it rankles with me that you are making a living from the oppression of Palestinians, I suppose”.
Miko: “This is a cynical thing to say, and quite foolish, and considering my work it is totally uncalled for. Still, you can be rankled all you like, I am not the one oppressing the Palestinians, nor am I the one making a living off of their oppression.
I have a message that people want to hear, many people and I think it is an important one. I had to decide whether to sell my business and spread the message or stay home. I opted for the former I cannot afford to do it for free. Unlike others, I am independent, self employed and there is no institution or government that will pay to spread the message that I convey. It is excruciatingly hard work, to constantly travel and speak, there is plenty of money out there and I don’t see why it has to be done for free”.
Talk given at an Anti Deportation Ireland public meeting, 11 April 2013
Culture of incarceration
According to a recent book on coercive confinement in Ireland, Ireland locked up one in 100 of its citizens in Magdalene laundries, industrial schools, mental hospitals and ‘mother and baby’ homes, where women pregnant out of wedlock were locked up and forced to give their babies for adoption. At any given time between 1926 and 1951 there were about 31,000 people in these institutions – only a small fraction of whom had committed any crime. This also applied to children – one child in every hundred was enslaved in an industrial school. Children in industrial schools, run by female and male Catholic orders, were treated with cruelty, not given proper food or education, made to work for the nuns or the brothers and were often physically and sexually abused. Their sole ‘crime’ was belonging to what would now be called ‘problem families’.
This history of incarceration, Fintan O’Toole writes, was Ireland’s way of establishing religious, social and moral “purity” by locking up and “correcting” potential deviants. This level of “coercive confinement” is extreme for any democratic society. In 1931, the Soviet gulags held about 200,000 prisoners – from a population of 165 million. The Irish system held 31,000 people – from a population of three million.
And this continues today. Between 2000 and 2012 Ireland locked up in direct provision hostels 51,000 asylum seekers, whose sole ‘crime’ was legally applying for Geneva Convention refugee status. In total, between 1991 and 2012 there were 68,847 asylum applications, of which only 4,130 or 6 per cent received positive answers. In November 2012, the last month for which figures are available, 4,822 people were incarcerated in these hostels, 75 per cent from Africa. Although intended to hold people for a maximum of six months, the average length of stay in these ‘holding camps’ is 44 months – almost four years, and many have been incarcerated for up to six years. Continue reading “Deportations and the culture of incarceration”