Archive for June, 2012

Moving piece by Irish man Cathal Og Donnelly who also visited Gaza recently with the Irish Friends of Palestine Freedom and Friendship Delegation.

From the moment you cross the border at Rafah you realise that there is something particularly striking about Gaza. It isn’t the bombed out shells of what used to be peoples homes and places of work that struck you the hardest. It isn’t even the sounds of the fighter jets flying overhead, or the Israeli gunfire in the bay preventing Palestinian fishermen from making a living in their own waters. It isn’t the bullet holes that riddled the cities or the mad made poverty and squalor that people were forced to live in. It isn’t the hum of the spy drones overhead. It is the beauty of Gaza and the children of Palestine.

Picture Taken in Martyrs School, Cathal Og Donnelly

Gaza has a very young population. Over 44 percent of the population are under the age of 14. As you take a look around you would be hard pressed to find a street that wasn’t thronged with small children playing. The first thought that hits you is that Israel air strikes and bombs these streets and residential areas regularly. How many of these children die as a result of Israeli aggression? During the three week Israeli offensive in 2008, Operation Cast Lead, the Palestinian Ministry of health estimates that 431 children were killed as a result of the violence. That’s roughly 20 children per day of the attacks.

We visited a small primary school that was situated next to a three story residential building that was destroyed by an Israeli rocket two weeks before we arrived. The children’s smiles offered the warmest greeting one could receive. They were so happy to see us and jumped at the rare opportunity to practice their English with Europeans. Needless to say 60 children shouting their names at you all at once can be a lot to get your head around and if you’re not good with names you have to shape up or ship out. The side of the school was riddled with shrapnel holes and the image of the children smiling out at you from a balcony surrounded by bullet holes is as eye opening an experience as one could possibly have. On leaving the school a smiling young boy was presented to us. Two weeks before our arrival he and his little brother were walking to school when an Israeli rocket struck killing the boy’s small brother. The boy met us with a smile. He had skipped out ahead of his younger brother before the rocket hit, saving his life.

In Gaza the power cuts because of the siege affect everyone and everywhere from the streets of the refugee camps to the houses of government ministers forcing people to use candles or other primitive forms of lighting. A couple of days before we left three small children were burned to death in their bedroom, they were using the candle to do their homework, after they fell asleep the candle fell over starting the fire. We met the family of the children in their home. We stood in the burned out room in which they had died only two day before. As I looked at the ground where the charred remains of their homework lay I was struck with a great sense of grief and anger. The siege killed those beautiful little children, the Israelis might as well have put a gun to their heads and pulled the trigger. This event is not unique; the siege actively kills, injures and deprives people and children in particular of their dignity.

The children in Gaza endure immense suffering every day, being back in Ireland and seeing the kids play and laugh here, Gaza and the problems facing its people seem worlds away. Normality toys with you as if it was all a bad dream, but it’s one the Palestinians cannot awaken from. The resilience of these children in the face of the hardships they live under is a beacon of hope not only for me, but also for the Palestinian people and cause. The smiles of the children of Palestine serve as the sign that the Palestinians will ever truly be defeated. Bobby Sands said, “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children”. Hopefully one day we will hear that laughter in the streets of Al Quds in a free Palestine.

Slideshow pictures by Jeff Bright, Jeffrey Bright Photojurnalist ( facebook)

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Once again, the resilience and humanity of the Palestinians in Gaza shines through. On a sunday afternoon,  june 24th 2012, , under a fragile ceasefire, Gazans smiled sang , clapped and enjoyed an open air music festival laid on by the French cultural centre in Gaza city. It is testament to the people of Gaza  for turning up to this event, and  as my friend commented, showed a form of resistance by coming out, and enjoying the event . It is also a testament to the relations built up in Gaza by the Cultural Center  France , who have never faltered in their continuing effort to bring cultural events here and therefore showing that music, and arts culture in general, transcends all nationalities, languages and borders.

The French Cultural Centre in Gaza laid on an afternoon of music in the open space at the front of the building. A local band kicked of proceedings and then the french Band ” Jesers” took over. We sat under the shade of the huge tree in the garden, sang along, clapped hands, chatted to friends, took pictures and for a little while forgot where we were, and what we had just been through.

It was an afternoon that gave a lot of people the strength to face another night of what ever may come, so thank you CCF and Jesser band, and thank you Gaza for showing us again what another form of strength and resistance really looks like.

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#GazaUnderAttack | A Massacre is going on. June 23, 2012 Attacks | #PHOTOS.

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Warm summers evening, sitting on the roof terrace, bottle of water in hand, looking out over the Mediterranean sea………, Sound idyllic, right ? wrong? Now I will fill in the details…

Yes,  the weather is warm , its June in Gaza. The humidity is high,  so the smell from the raw sewage , forced in to the sea because Gaza is forbidden to rebuild its sewage system , is heavy in the air. The bottle of water, is warm and probably contaminated as a recent report suggests that more than 90% of the drinking  water in Gaza is contaminated. Regularly people , including ourselves this week, are suffering from stomach cramps and diarrhea, but water is vital to life, no?

The smoke billowing up through the buildings is not that of summer family barbeques but of an explosion to the east or a bomb to the west. In the last 6 days 9 people have been killed in Gaza , including a 14-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl !!!

Many others are injured, homes destroyed, the small amount of infrastructure left in Gaza is continually being hit, Recently, a chicken farm in Rafah and a cheese factory.  Why? , because this is not just a psychological war, or a war of land but an economic war also, if Gaza can not provide for itself who must they turn to ? The one that inflicts the siege, that forces farmers to watch while their crops are destroyed by bulldozers , who shoot at fishermen who dare try fish their own waters and the small factory owners who dare provide for their family and community.

The nightly sounds of Gaza are F16’s, drones, apaches helicopters, shootings, explosions and generators .

But, each morning the people of Gaza rise to face a new day. Perhaps there will be no showers or cold drinks , this takes electricity which  is ” allocated ” and alternated  every second morning and afternoon, , the children , still tired from a sleepless or disturbed ,  noisy night, will make their way to school, many families will begin to bury their martyred sons and daughters,

Come evening, those who are “now allocated” power , will rush to do homework, cook meals, do laundry while possible, others will rise again at 3 am to do theirs , when they have power.

But the children will still play, the young couples will still marry, and Palestinians in Gaza will continue to Hope, There is still life, though hard, in Gaza and where there is life there is always hope.

Gaza will not give up ,  Please do not give up on Gaza, We will still sit at night on our terraced roof’s , look over the mediteranean , and dream of  cold fresh water to drink , the smell of jasmine and the day when the  only smoke rising is of family barbeques….

Donations can  be made via the paypal button on each post,

Shukran, Go raibh maith agat, Thank you.

Pictures By Hussian Amody  and Songs and Pictures from Palestine ( Facebook)

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Thanks to  Alanna Campbell who  visited Gaza recently as part of an Irish Delegation.

Women of Gaza
Álanna Campbell
National Youth Committee
Óige Phoblachtach East Tyrone

I was lucky enough to be part of a recent Irish Delegation to Gaza organised by Derry Friends of Palestine. Myself and my fellow Ógra comrades, Cathal Óg Donnelly, Ruairi McLaughlin and Mickey McCrossan have many special memories of the trip and have returned home to Ireland dedicated and committed to working alongside the people of Gaza until they achieve their freedom.

There are many different aspects to the siege and overall struggle in Gaza, and one that must be considered is the important role played by the women of Gaza. Similar to the role of women in Ireland, their bravery and courage struck me immediately. I felt proud to be in the company of so many strong, independent and loyal women; loyal to their country, loyal to their families and loyal to their basic internal qualities and beliefs of equality, freedom and justice.

We visited several universities in Gaza, and the amount of women in attendance was striking. Women outweighed the men in many universities and several continue their study and do masters and postgrads as a means of progressing themselves and their potential opportunities in the future. In the Islamic University inGaza, there was a majority of 68% female students to the 32% male students and these figures are similar in the various other universities. These statistics show the drive, determination and hope for the future that these young women have, and these women have undertaken the message behind the famous words ofThomas Davies, “Educate, that you may be free.” The education and progression of women’s skills is of the utmost important to the people of Gaza and is reflected by groups which have been set up by women for women. One women’s groups that we met with was ‘Ethar Voluntary Initiative’ and it is run under support and supervision of Jana Society for Community Development, aiming at empowering women, improving living conditions and creating opportunities for young people and marginalised groups. We presented them with a quilt, a gift from the women of Ireland to the women of Palestine, expressing our solidarity and recognising the special relationship that the women of Ireland and Gaza share.

One woman who stands out in particular and is now an international figure is Hana Shalabi; her story and her name have been a hot topic for all Palestinian activists around the world. One woman’s relentless courage and strong, un-surrendering beliefs in her rights and her desire for freedom led to a 43 day long Hunger Strike in which the rest of the world looked on, unable to believe that the Israeli authorities were refusing to step in! Four days after she ended her hunger strike, the Irish delegation were lucky and privileged enough to actually meet Hana in her hospital room. I can honestly say that one of the greatest honours in my life was presenting Hana with an Easter Lily, a symbol of remembrance and honour for all the great men and women who died in the pursuit of Irish freedom and re-unification.

We also met with the mothers, wives, sisters and children of many political prisoners. We heard their individual, heart-wrenching and emotional stories and their pleas for the release of the political prisoners. Many of the women had accepted that they might not see their beloved sons, husbands, brothers and fathers again, they had accepted the sad reality that they could die in prison. Mothers may never see their pride and joys again, wives are continuing to bring up their families, singlehandedly, struggling to make ends meet, and children, innocent, beautiful children, shaken with the harrowing realisation that they might never see their father again, and some who will never see their father even for the first time. These women are the strength behind the movement, the drive behind the fight for freedom, their unrelenting and unquenching thirst for justice left us all very emotional, and able to see the many similarities between the women of Ireland and the women of Palestine. We met with mothers who had sacrificed their sons for the freedom of their country, the love of their country and the future of their country. Imagine the feeling of sending your son out to fight, knowing full well that he will not be returning, that he will become a martyr and that his death is solely because of the occupation of his own country by a foreign people who should not be there and have no right to be there!
Ireland and Palestine have always had links throughout their struggles and history, the women of Gaza held posters of our ten brave comrades who died on Hunger Strike in 1981 to show their solidarity to our cause and movement. The people of Ireland have not forgotten that and will stand in solidarity with the men, women and children of Gaza until they are free from Israeli state terrorism!

Free Gaza, Saor Gaza, الحرية لغزة

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Will you help the chldren play?

The UNRWA summer camp is cancelled, Hopefully, the Vittorio Arrigoni Summer camp can still go ahead, but we need your help.

The local Initiative group from Beit Hanoun are organising the beach camp in Beit Lahiya, but funds are short.

The children of Beit Hanoun/Beit lahiya live very close to the Israeli border and imposed buffer zone and are therefore regularly subjected to noise of jet fighters, targeted attacks from drones, and regular incursions of tanks on their lands. For one week , we want to give them a chance of fun, activities , good memories, a safe place to play, a chance to interact and         A CHANCE TO BE CHILDREN

A small chalet on the beach will be rented, activities on the beach will differ each day, lunch will be provided, transport is needed, t-shirts and hats distributed, all under superviion

Will you help. ???

We dont need much, A little in Gaza goes a long way

To donate, please use the paypal button on the top right hand corner ( or email me for bank details)  jennygraham7@gmail.com , mark your reference  “ summer camp” and help put a smile on some beautiful children’s faces.

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CPS Gaza

CPS Gaza releases video footage of attack on International observers boat by Israeli Navy, on June 13th 2012

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