The recent calls to expel former London mayor Ken Livingstone from the British Labour Party have created a worrying alliance between those who use accusations of anti-Semitism to silence critics of Israel and those who use them to attack supporters of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The calls for his expulsion came after Livingstone said in a BBC interview that Hitler had supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”. The claim itself was clumsy but based on historical fact – Hitler originally sought to expel rather than exterminate European Jews. As part of this, he negotiated the Haavara Agreement with Zionist organisations which allowed some Jews to escape to Palestine with some of their property in return for Zionist opposition to the global boycott of German goods. This was hardly “support for Zionism”, but Livingstone’s critics went further with fellow Labour MPs accusing him of anti-Semitism.
In response, Livingstone cautioned against “confusing criticism of the Israeli government policy with anti-Semitism”, and defended Corbyn, who had been accused of not taking firm enough action against anti-Semitism in the party, which, he said, was part of a smear campaign against the party leader.
In a letter to The Examiner, a Dr Kevin McCarthy from UCC stated, regarding the killing of Jewish settlers Eiran and Naama Henkin in the occupied West Bank on 1 October, that ‘there is nothing heroic about murdering parents in front of their children’. However, the Israeli occupation forces are being neither heroic nor moral to murder Palestinian children and adults, an everyday practice, which has escalated in recent weeks. In fact, according to the Red Crescent, at least 1,289 Palestinians have been left wounded in clashes with the Israeli occupation troops across the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem in the past few days. And in Nazareth and Haifa, inside the state of Israel, a.k.a. occupied 1948 Palestine, Palestinian citizens who were planning demonstrations have been rounded up and arrested. Furthermore, since 2000 Israel has murdered almost 2,000 children (an average of one child every three days), including a schoolboy shot dead just a few days ago.
As an Israeli Jew (and Irish citizen) who supports the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, I totally agree with Israeli journalist Amira Hass when she writes in Ha’aretz (7 October) that Israel’s PM Binyamin Netanyahu is intensifying the war against the occupied Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank with ‘orgies of collective punishment’. Zionists and their supporters claim that Netanyahu offered to open negotiations with the Palestinians ‘without pre-conditions’, but they don’t mention that these talks would not be discussing the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, the illegal settlements, Israeli control of the Jordan valley and the right of return for refugees, or refer to international law. Indeed Netanyahu’s top diplomat said last week that “[Handovers of] Judea and Samaria aren’t even on the list of options we’re offering the Palestinians”. I have little doubt that the present escalation aims to disconnect Jerusalem from the rest of occupied Palestine and provoke a third Intifada, which would provide an excuse for Israel to annex the West Bank and attack Gaza yet again. Continue reading “Israel’s war against the Palestinians, and Palestinian right of resistance”
The two-hour lecture by the Norwegian emergency doctor Mads Gilbert about Israel’s 2014 air, ground and sea assault of the besieged Gaza enclave, was for me the highlight of Palfest, a four-day artistic commemoration of the destruction of Gaza in July 2014. Dr Gilbert, who engages in the political act of solidarity medicine, mesmerised a capacity audience at the O’Reilly Theatre on July 11, emphasising the impunity with which Israel continues to occupy, blockade, attack and kill the people of Palestine. He also highlighted the role of the real heroes – the medics and paramedics working in Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, where he has served several terms as an accidents and emergency doctor, as well as the ordinary Gazans whose losses are unfathomable. He played the noise of the air bombardment, that together with his photographs of dead and wounded children, women and men brought the atrocities home to his audience. This made a Dublin-based Lebanese woman sitting next to me collapse in tears, remembering the 2006 Israeli attack on Beirut. And as she was sobbing I recalled a member of my Israeli family, a jet pilot who took an active part in the bombardment, and we hugged and cried together – victim and perpetrator united in opposing Israeli aggression.
Palfest was an incredibly effective and well attended volunteer-run initiative by Irish artists – actors, musicians, visual artists, film makers, and poets – aiming to commemorate the anniversary of the Gaza assault, support Palestine and demonstrate the solidarity of the Irish arts community with the people of Palestine.
There were many highlights during Palfest’s action packed four days, including theatre productions, poetry readings, lectures and film screenings. The ‘Sumud / Steadfastedness’ photography exhibition brought together three photographic projects about Gaza. In ‘Gaza seen by its children’ Belgian photographer Asmaa Seba showed the result of working with six children who witnessed the massacre during Israel’s previous bombardment in 2008. Anne Paq’s photographs showed the consequences for Gaza’s ‘obliterated families’, and Dublin-based Fatin Al Tamimi exhibited photos of acts of solidarity with Palestine in Ireland.
Another incredibly moving event was the ‘No more: Dublin remembers the children of Gaza’ installation on Sandymount strand, where 551 children’s vests represented the 551 children murdered by Israel during the 2014 massacre.
It is hard to be optimistic about the possibility of Gaza recovering from Israel’s most recent 51-day attack, leaving 2,251 Palestinians dead, the majority (1,462) civilians, and thousands injured, many of whom will remain disabled for life. The destruction of the tiny enclave, one of the most densely populated areas in the world with the highest (43%) unemployment rate, has been unprecedented. With Israel blocking the importation of building materials, some 100,000 Gazans remain homeless and many have been living in the ruins of their homes through the harsh winter and the current relentless heat. Despite UN reports and civil society pressure, Israel seems determined to continue the siege.
Even though optimism seems remote, Palfest’s commitment to freedom and justice for Gaza and Palestine reminded us that pessimism is a luxury none of us can afford. Many of us shed tears and felt the pain, but it was the determination of Ireland’s amazing artists, culminating on the final night in an energising concert at Liberty Hall, that strengthened our resolve to continue to struggle for an end to the Israeli occupation and siege, and for freedom and justice for all Palestinians, those in 1948 Palestine (the state of Israel), those occupied in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, those under siege in Gaza and those in the diaspora, waiting to return.