The regular blowing of horns by passing motorists, including taxis and buses, would have indicated that something of interest was happening in the city centre yesterday, Monday 5th June. As people came within sight of the centre of O’Connell Street, they could also see the Palestinian flags flying, the banners and the placards.
The Great Return March
The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign had convened a rally of hundreds in the central pedestrian reservation of O’Connell Street, main street of Ireland’s capital city, near to the Spire and opposite the historic and iconic building, the General Post Office. Billed as a rally in solidarity with the Great Return March of Palestinians, demonstrators carried placards denouncing the shooting dead by Israeli soldiers of demonstrators as well as of journalists and paramedics. The Palestinian death toll since March 30th has reached 120, with over 5,500 injured. Palestinians have also accused Israeli snipers, when they wish not to kill, of shooting young men through parts of their legs calculated to ensure permanent disability. The shooting dead of unarmed protesters, the killing of paramedics and journalists (who wear clearly identifiable clothing), are all crimes according to international law but, as Palestinians and their supporters repeatedly ask, who will hold Israel to account?
The demonstrators being targeted by Israeli military are protesting the expulsion by Israel of 700,000 of what was then the majority Arab population of Palestine in 1948, followed by their exclusion and that of their descendants from Israeli-controlled Palestine. There are an estimated four million Palestinians 1 barred from entry to Palestine, their lands or those of their grandparents, while anybody in the world who can prove his or her Jewishness, even though their families had not lived there for thousands of years2, can gain entry and claim Israeli citizenship.
Placards held by supporters in the rally yesterday upheld the right of the Palestinians to return to their homeland. It is ironic that the Zionists since 1924 at least have been upholding that demand for people who had never set foot in the land, nor whose ancestors had not for thousands of years but are denying that right to Palestinians driven out within living memory and their descendants.
Speaking through a microphone, Martin Quigley thanked those attending the rally and after some remarks, introduced the Chairperson of the IPSC, Fatin Al Tamimi. Speaking about the right of return of Palestinians, Tamimi also said that she had relatives in both Hebron (West Bank) and in the Gaza strip and spoke about the privations of the people there blockaded by Israel, including contaminated water and lack of electricity. However not only is Israel guilty but also Egypt, as Tamimi alluded to when she said that Egypt had only temporarily opened the Rafah Crossing Gate, which Egypt maintains, for the feast of Ramadan, as a result of which she was expecting to be able to see her sister for the first time in seven years (the crowd cheered and applauded this news).
“Expel the Israeli Ambassador and close down the Embassy!”
Two other Palestinian speakers addressed the rally, including one who had come out through that very Rafah crossing, Asad abu Shark who was introduced as from the Great March of Return and Ahmad El Habbash, introduced as representing the Palestinian Community in All Ireland3. All speakers drew attention to the Nakba (from Yawm an-Nakba, meaning “Day of the Catastrophe”, referring to the expulsion of thousands of Palestinians in 1948 –), to the right of return, the terrible conditions within the Gaza strip (which place, they said, would become uninhabitable by 2020 — see link), the impunity of the Israeli authorities and the inactivity of “the international community”.
Al Tamimi was cheered loudly when she called for the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland and the closure of the Israeli Embassy, a call repeated by other speakers.
Ronit Lenten, who introduced herself as “an Israeli Jew” and representing Academics For Palestine (Ireland), also spoke briefly.
Last to speak was John Lyons, a Dublin City Councillor for the People Before Profit party, who made similar points. Referring to visit of his own to Palestine he referred to the courage and persistence of the Palestinians in merely trying to live their daily lives under the conditions of Israeli military occupation, apartheid and harassment and called on the Irish people to match that determination in taking action in solidarity with the Palestinians.
Throughout the speeches, the solidarity beeping of horns of passing car and bus drivers could be heard and occasionally shouts of encouragement from open bus or car windows.
Bill to ban imports from Occupied Territories
All speaker highlighted the importance of the BDS campaign (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and the need for Irish people to contact their elected public representatives to ask them for concrete action in support of Israel, including for a Bill to be introduced in the Seanad by Senator Francis Black, (well-known singer, also campaigner for human rights and for support for recovery from alcohol addiction). The Bill in question is the Occupied Territories Bill, the intention of which is to place a national ban on any products shown to be exported from territories under illegal occupation. The Bill, a draft of which has already been approved in committee (see link), is expected to go before the Seanad in July, though that may change and, if passed twice there, will go on to the Oireachtas for debate and, if passed there, into Irish law.
Calling on all present to stay in touch with the IPSC or with other Palestine solidarity organisation, Martin Quigley brought the event to an end by leading the rally in leading a number of chants: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” “Free, free Palestine!” “One, two, three, four – occupation no more!” “Five, six, seven, eight – Israel is a fascist state!”
Argentina cancels scheduled football match with Israel. Dozens of Palestine flags defy GAA ban.
In a separate but related development, the national soccer team of Argentina yielded to calls to abandon its scheduled ‘friendly’ match with the Israeli national soccer team (see relevant link). Strong advocacy for the cancellation had been brought about by the movement for BDS both within and outside Argentina but statements of team officials to the media made it appear that members of the team had been threatened (but without producing any evidence of such).
And on Sunday, dozens of Palestinian flags were flown during a match at Omagh between Senior Gaelic Football teams Tyrone and Monaghan. The actions seemed not only to represent solidarity with the Palestinians at this time but also defiance of GAA officials who had removed flags and a banner at a previous match (see relevant link).
1 “Today the number who qualify for UNRWA’s (United Nations Refugee and Welfare Agency) services has grown to over 4 million. One third of whom live in the West Bank and Gaza; slightly less than one third in Jordan; 17% in Syria and Lebanon (Bowker, 2003, p. 72) and around 15% in other Arab and Western countries. Approximately 1 million refugees have no form of identification other than an UNRWA identification card.”
2Or the many Jewish converts who never had any contact whatsoever with Palestine.
3 Actually no individual or separate organisation can claim legitimately to “represent the Palestine community in Ireland or anywhere” but there does exist a Palestinian organisation in Ireland which has appropriated that title as its organisational name. A number of different organisations (and none) find support among the general expatriate Palestinian community, including Hamas, Al Fatah and perhaps the PFLP.
Expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland and statistics on refugees: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1948_Palestinian_exodus#Palestinian_refugees
Sadaka Ireland: http://www.sadaka.ie/
Frances Black‘s Occupied Territories Bill: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/oireachtas-to-table-bill-on-goods-from-illegal-israeli-occupations-1.3308838
Living conditions in Gaza — “uninhabitable by 2020”:
Cancelation by Argentina of match against Israel (this report doesn’t mention alleged threats): https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/06/palestinians-argentina-cancels-israel-game-180606113926752.html
Dozens of Palestinian flags defy GAA ban: http://www.irishnews.com/news/2018/06/04/news/dozens-of-palestinian-flags-flown-at-healy-park-despite-ulster-council-saying-they-are-banned-1346368/?param=ds12rif76F