The online publication Middle East Eye published on March 22nd an open letter from Palestinian political analyst As’ad Ghanem sharply criticising the Ukrainian President, Volodomir Zelensky, for the latter’s March 20th speech by Zoom before the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. The Palestinian academic’s criticism was, at base, entirely irrational.
As’ad Ghanem is a senior lecturer at the School of Political Sciences, University of Haifa. Ghanem’s theoretical work has explored the legal, institutional and political conditions in ethnic states. He has covered issues such as Palestinian political orientations, the establishment and political structure of the Palestinian Authority, and majority-minority politics in a comparative perspective. His books include Palestinian Politics after Arafat: A Failed National Movement (Indiana Series in Middle East Studies). Ghanem has initiated several empowerment programs for Palestinians in Israel.
Ghanem’s opening paragraph, though a denunciation of Zelensky’s speech, seemed to display a misapprehension of the conflict in the Ukraine and of Zelensky’s role there: Your recent speech before the Israeli Knesset was a disgrace when it comes to global struggles for freedom and liberation, particularly of the Palestinian people. You reversed the roles of occupier and occupied. You missed another opportunity to demonstrate the justice of your cause and the broader cause of freedom.
Any hope that Ghanem’s words were some kind of subtle attack on imperialism in Eastern Europe, an exposure of its false defence of national sovereignty, democracy and freedom, were swiftly expelled in reading the third and fourth paragraphs of his letter:
I am angry and sad that Russia is seeking to occupy your country and to crush the rights of the Ukrainian people to self-determination and freedom, and I believe that every possible support must be given to Ukrainians as they resist this barbaric aggression……
And while I admire your success in building a large international coalition to support your struggle against Russian aggression, I wish we as Palestinians could persuade the world to mobilise in a similar fashion, and force Israel to abide by international resolutions.
But Ghanem wants to show that although he may be a liberal, he is also an anti-imperialist. So he adds the following line to his third paragraph: At the same time, I reject the policies of the US and its Nato allies around the globe.
What an irrational position to hold! “The policies of the US and its Nato allies around the world” being enacted are precisely what is causing the current conflict in the Ukraine and it is those forces that are backing Zelensky and employing him in their contention with Russia.
Asad Ghanem’s plaintive criticism and appeal to Zelensky and — by implication — to imperialism exposes the ideological bankruptsy of the liberal critics of imperialism1. He is disappointed by Zelensky’s support for the murderous and racist rule of Israeli Zionism and sees it as somehow in contradiction with his position in the Ukrainian state’s conflict with Russia.
TO GAIN UNDERSTANDING, ASK BASIC QUESTIONS
The answers to a few simple questions would have disabused Ghanem and other pro-Palestinian liberal critics of imperialism of any confusion or illusion about the situation: Which major imperialist military bloc is supporting the Ukraine in the current conflict? NATO. Which imperialist state controls NATO at least since 1951? The USA. Which power fundamentally props up and defends the Zionist state? US imperialism.
Even without any consideration of the reported Zionist state’s training and arming of the Ukrainian Azov, Zelensky’s stance towards Israeli Zionism is entirely in line with his alliances and Ghanem’s criticism completely irrational. If Zelensky is to be criticised politically for anything, it is for perhaps making his alliances so clear.
RATIONAL STANCE TOWARDS IMPERIALISM
Ghanem concludes his letter thus:
I know that most Palestinians are watching your stubborn struggle and wishing you victory over Russia’s brutal aggression. (Really? I sincerely doubt it – DB2). I also know that a Russian victory would be a great gift to Israel’s aggressive posture – a victory for its “Iron Wall” concept, which regulates its dealings with us until our complete defeat.
On the other hand, the struggle and victory of your people, even with the destruction of much of your country and the displacement of scores of Ukrainians, would give hope to other peoples struggling against oppression and erasure, rekindling our hopes for return and liberation. To this end, I urge you to stop supporting our oppressors.
The only rational stands towards imperialism are outright support or outright opposition — and the latter is the revolutionary position. Liberals want to criticise imperialism without being revolutionary, presumably because they feel more comfortable in the imperialist world than fear they would in a revolutionary one. They ask imperialism (which is what they usually mean by “the international community”) to remedy a situation here and there, a situation that usually only exists directly or indirectly because of imperialism.
Of course, imperialism regularly disappoints them but, like besotted lovers in an abusive relationship, they never learn, they never abandon their relationship but instead keep returning, asking their partner to behave better this time.
1Which is certainly no worse than that of the appalling stance of a major part of the Western Left
2“The two Arab Israeli (this is Zionist apartheid code for Palestinians – DB) parties chose to snub Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech to the Knesset on Sunday night, with only one Arab lawmaker out of their 10 MPs showing up. Joint List chief Ayman Odeh skipped the speech, as did the two other lawmakers from his Hadash faction, party officials said. A spokesperson for Odeh did not respond to a request for comment. “Our position is that NATO and its leader America imposed this war,” said Mansour Dahamsheh, the Hadash party’s secretary-general, in a phone call with The Times of Israel. https://www.timesofisrael.com/arab-israeli-mks-skip-zelenskys-knesset-speech-nato-imposed-this-war/
Palestinian flags fluttered in the breeze over the iconic Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin City centre, while banners festooned its length on New Year’s Eve. The numbers were down from previous years, more likely from the soaring Covid19 infection rate than from any lessening of the long-running Ireland solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians. This was ironic since, unlike previous years, this was not a rally braving sleet, snow, rain or icy wind – in fact, the very mild weather raised only the amount of breeze necessary to set the flags fluttering.
The event is organised every year for New Year’s Eve at the same location by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and supporters, among which were Irish and Palestinians, handed out leaflets encouraging BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) of Israel, an apartheid ste. Martin Quigley, for the IPSC led some chants on a megaphone, which were taken up by people on the pedestrian Bridge, among which were that “Israel is a terrorist state”, that “Palestine will be free” and in solidarity that “we are ALL Palestinians”.
Each year more Palestinian land is stolen, more of their homes demolished or under threat of eviction, in Gaza they have periods without electricity, they are restricted in importing fuel for heating or cooking (never mind transport), or building materials (so much has been destroyed by the Israeli bombardments), they continue to be harassed and made have lengthy waits at checkpoints, their inshore sea is polluted, their fishing boats further out are attacked and harassed ….
As of 2019, more than 5.6 million Palestinians were registered with UNRWA as refugees, of which more than 1.5 million live in UNRWA-run camps.
According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, there are currently (2021) 4,650 Palestinians held in Israeli jails in Israel and the occupied territories. Palestinians view them as political prisoners attempting to end Israel’s illegal occupation. Of those: 520 are being held without charge or trial.
At the end of September 2020, 157 Palestinian minors were held in Israeli prisons as security detainees and prisoners, at least two of whom were held in administrative detention. Another 2 Palestinian minors were held in Israel Prison Service facilities for being in Israel illegally. The IPS considers these minors – both detainees and prisoners – criminal offenders. In addition, a small number of minors are held in IDF-run facilities for short periods of time. (And the Israeli Prison Service since October 2020 has been refusing to publish figures or to supply Palestinian human rights groups with them).
BIG POWERS BACKING ISRAELI ZIONISM
The United States is the major power backing the Israeli Zionists and partly because of its position in the world and partly also for their own economic or political interests, most of the European states back the Zionists too.
In 2018 Donald Trump, as US President, moved the US Embassy for Israel into Jerusalem, endorsing the Zionist claim that the multi-faith city is Jewish and Zionist, although it is an occupied city even in international law. Shortly before he reluctantly left the office of the US Presidency, Donald Trump also endorsed Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara in exchange for Morocco recognising Israel. So far, Joe Biden, Trump’s successor, has not reversed either of those decisions.
THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD SUPPORT THE PALESTINIANS
As is usually the case, it is the ordinary people in Ireland and around the world that support the Palestinians, while the big capitalists and imperialists, while occasionally criticising the Israeli Zionists, continue to support them politically, economically, culturally and militarily. Even in the United Nations, an organisation controlled by the big powers, a majority condemned the Zionist state in 17 separate motions in 2020 and last year formally ratified another six resolutions criticising Israel.
So why has international action not been taken against this terrorist state? The answer is that although the UN has 193 member states, only its Security Council decisions have to be carried out and there are only five permanent members of the Security Council: USA, UK, France, Russia and China. And what’s more, their decisions have to be unanimous.
On the other hand, so many civil organisations around the world have declared themselves in solidarity with the Palestinians and in Ireland. Hundreds of thousands have marched in so many countries and sports people, many popular culture stars and academics have refused to perform or attend conferences in Israel. One can no longer find Israeli goods in most shops or supermarkets (and when on occasion they are on sale, their country of origin is not marked on the product).
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has described comments by the Government of Israel as “nonsense”. “We all know what happened here. Don’t be hiding behind excuses,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.
Mr Martin said that the action of the Israeli authorities was contrary to decency and democratic values. The Taoiseach said he was worried about the growing authoritarianism in the world. “It was not acceptable. Democratic countries had to stand up.”
Referring to the armed boarding of Irish relief ships bound for Gaza in 2010, he said it had been a “State-sponsored” coercive act, it was absolutely unacceptable.
Mr Martin said he was meeting with Ministers from Lithuania and Greece to discuss a coordinated EU response and a strong response from the EU was now required.
Coveney condemned Israel for ‘hijacking’ of Irish ship
The Israeli armed boarding of an Irish ship amounted to “piracy”, the Foreign Affairs Minister has said. Simon Coveney said the incident in 2010, which saw a relief ship from Ireland to Gaza boarded over a supposed security concern, was a “state-sponsored hijacking”.
Mr Coveney said that the Israeli regime “has no democratic legitimacy” and called on the EU to show a “clear and tough response”. He told RTE radio he “would like to speak to” the Israeli consul in Dublin, but stopped short of advocating the banishment of all diplomats across the EU.
There has to be “a real edge” to any sanctions imposed and the EU must go beyond “strong press releases”, he added.
Yes, reader, you’re right, that response from Irish Government Ministers was regarding the recent Belarus forcing down of a plane and never occurred during the recent Israeli attack on Gaza (nor in 2014, nor in 2008), nor during its illegal armed boarding and seizing control of an Irish relief ship on the high seas in 2010. Because the Irish State generally takes its line from the USA, which in turn backs up Israel. Belarus however has only Russia backing it and the EU and the USA power blocs are opposed to the Russian one.
In May 2010, when the Gaza flotilla relief convoy was seized (and Turkish citizens killed) by Israeli armed forces, the Irish ship was delayed and sailed later but was also seized in June, forced to go to an Israeli port, the possessions of all crew and passengers seized, their computer and phone memories inspected and they were kept in jail until sent back by plane (often without their possessions). The Irish Government did complain but without denouncing the Israeli Government in the same terms, nor did it call for EU-wide action and, once the Irish citizens were returned, quietly dropped the whole matter.
A rally today outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin heard Palestinian speakers and an Irish socialist TD (Member of the Irish Parliament) denounce Israel’s attacks on Palestinians, its slaughter of civilians including children and women, call for sanctions against Israel and for its Ambassador to be expelled. The rally was jointly organised by Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Trinity BDS Campaign in solidarity with the Palestinians and with the general strike organised in Palestine.
Fatin Al Tamimi, Chair of the IPSC, opened the meeting, welcoming people and, to loud cheers, declared that she is “a Palestinian and proud to be a Palestinian”. Fatin went on to list the numbers of Palestinians dead and injured, the numbers of those who were women and children and called the Israeli regime “racist, apartheid” and murderous and called for the boycott of Israeli goods, alluding to the famous 1970s Dunne’s Stores workers’ strike in support of boycott of South African goods during the white minority apartheid regime. Fatin’s pauses were punctuated by demonstrators chanting “Free, free Palestine!” and “Boycott Israel!” At one point she said that she had children born here but they would also always be Palestinian and she hoped one day to go back and to welcome all the Irish supporter to a free Palestine, which brought a tremendous cheer from the crowd.
She introduced Wesam Ahmed, from Al Haq, the main Palestine human rights organisation, who spoke through an audio link from Palestine.
Dr. Ibrahim Natil, a DCU academic also spoke, as did Zayd, representing Trinity BDS Campaign.
All the speakers called for stepping up of solidarity action, boycott, divestment and sanctions but also for action by the Irish government, both in their current temporary membership of the United Nations Security Council and in the EU.
Richard Boyd Barrett TD told the crowd that he and Gino Kelly and Paul Murphy had all tackled Mícheál Martin in the Dáil (Irish Parliament) earlier during Taoiseach’s Questions and Martin had claimed he had criticised Israel while also criticising the rockets fired by Hamas. Boyd Barrett said that we had to get rid of this discourse of equivalence because there is no equivalence between the positions of the Israeli Zionists and the Palestinians, neither in terms of justice nor in power, military or otherwise.
Fatin Tamimi also called for solidarity with all the Palestinian political prisoners
GARDA HARASSMENT CONTINUES
The Irish police, the Gardaí continued to display on Tuesday the hostility they had exhibited in advance of last Saturday’s demonstration, when they threatened the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign that if they went ahead with their advertised rally the Gardaí would intervene and threatened the organisers with €5,000 fines and possible jail sentences. Fortunately the Trinity BDS Campaign group had stepped in and held the rally, which turned into a march supported by several thousand.
The Gardaí began on Tuesday by telling supporters as they arrived that they were required to spread out to social distancing but were soon ushering people in towards one another. A woman next to me complained to a Garda that he was moving her into close proximity with other people and violation of social distancing — the Garda shrugged. As they continued to urge people to push in towards the already crowded space, the Gardaí continually urged traffic to come through and kept repeating to rally supporters that “The road is open”. Indeed it was and the question is why was it open? Clearly forcing traffic through put people in danger of vehicle impact or Covid19 infection; the safest measure and easily enough done would have been to divert the traffic before it reached the rally. But no — the Palestinian solidarity supporters were to be shown that the Gardaí are not to be gainsaid.
I find it interesting to collect some photos of the placards displayed at these events and in particular, some of the homemade ones. These are interesting in a number of ways, some humorous, some very pointed, some quite artistic but they are all also individual expressions and a kind of commitment, to make something in advance to bring to the demonstration or rally.
There was one in Irish but sadly the only one I could find. Will there be more at the next demonstration? If the Irish language is not audible and visible in the progressive sector of society, how are we to expect it to survive, never mind thrive?
A SPACE FOR THE YOUTH
As the rally came to an end, one could observe Palestinian and some other youth, many in their teens coming together to chat but also to chant slogans. I have seen this before and it appears that this point in events is their space — but it is a dangerous one with the event formally ended and the organisers dispersing, making it easier for repressive moves to be made against them or also to be led into acts which may end in their arrest. Of course it is the organisers dispersing, adults socialising etc that also allows them to make it their space.
The youth need a space of their own but one which is also safe and in which they can be helped to consider consequences and effective action. Generally political organisations do not give the youth that space and, when they do, tend to confine them to following the line of the leaders, who are generally much older.
If organisations do not provide those spaces and assist the youth in self-organising, the likelihood is that others will and, in the case of Palestinians or Arabs in general, those others may be Islamic fundamentalists.
RALLY AGAIN NEXT SATURDAY, 2pm at the Spire, Dublin.
There is a slight sense of futility in what speakers ask us to do because justified as the calls are, there seems little hope of convincing most of our politicians of breaking radically with the western imperialist alliance, even though Ireland is not, generally speaking, itself an imperialist country. And yes, we can continue boycotting but how much of the stock in the supermarkets continues to be from Israel? And when it is, if one supermarket comes under heavy pressure, the management will often just temporarily remove the products from the targeted shop while they continue to be sold in the others. And once the pressure is off, the produce might be back on the shelves. And even if they’re not …. What can we actually DO that will make a real difference?
In one way, nothing, since the USA is the main backer of the Zionist state and the USA is the world’s major superpower. But in another way, we are making a difference, though it is not easy to see sometimes. Despite our rulers, Ireland has become the most pro-Palestinian country in Europe. Out of that may come great things in the future.
But it seems to me that there is more that we could do. Many Irish trade unions formally support the Palestinians — could they not put a motion in their annual conferences calling on the Government to expel the Ambassador? Could they not at least put a pro-Palestinian poster on each workplace union noticeboard and also advertise each solidarity march? I know that the unions are not anything like the fighting organisations they once were but that above is surely not asking too much.
The oppression of the Palestinians led to an outbreak of active resistance recently in Jerusalem, to which the Israeli Army reacted with increased repression, timed to harass Palestinian Muslims during the period of Ramadan and the height of devotees attending the Al-Aqsa mosque, escalating into attacks on worshippers within the temple itself. At the same time, Israeli Zionist settlers threatened dozens of Palestinian families with eviction from their homes in East Jerusalem. Reacting to these events, one of the Palestinian organisations fired home-made rockets into officially Israeli territory, to which the Israeli armed forces responded in turn with drone missiles and missiles from its air force jets on Gaza. As Palestinians in the West Bank came out on to the streets to protest, they were fired on with live ammunition by Israeli soldiers. The death toll has climbed to 200 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, including 59 children and 35 women, with 1,305 people wounded; while ten Israelis have been killed, two of them children.
The casualty figures once again show the gross disproportion between what the Palestinians and their Zionist masters experience: in civil and human rights, citizenship, in land ownership, electricity and clean water supply, heating, fishing, education facilities, building materials, freedom to travel inside and outside the state, in depth and breadth of surveillance, in arms and defence capability, in states that support them. And in city structural damage: despite the many home-made rockets launched against the zionists, there has yet been no significant damage in Israeli towns, while their armed forces have effected large-scale structural damage in Gaza and bodies are still being pulled from the rubble.
In only one area perhaps do the Palestinians have the advantage over the Israeli Zionists: in support among the people around the world.
PALESTINIAN SOLIDARITY MARCH DEFIES POLICE THREATS
Responding to these attacks on Palestinians the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the main organisation for Palestinian solidarity in Ireland, called for solidarity demonstrations and in particular advertised a solidarity rally to take place in Dublin’s city centre for 2pm on Saturday 15th May, asking those in attendance to comply with measures against Covid19 infection, to wear masks, maintain social distancing and comply with stewards’ instructions.
The IPSC was contacted by the Irish police force, the Gardaí, who told them not to go ahead with the event, that if they did they would intervene to stop it and also made threats of €5,000 fines and prison against the organisers. In a later public statement the Gardaí declared that they “have no role in permitting or authorising marches or gatherings. There is no permit/ authorisation required for such events”! But there is apparently an ability and power to intimidate and threaten progressive organisations to deter them from organising solidarity events.
Or to kettle socialist and socialist republican Mayday marchers and demand all their names, addresses and dates of birth before threatening them with arrest if they did not disperse. Or to threaten Debenham workers and their supporters, assaulting some of them while escorting KPMG forces in to evaluate stocks during pandemic restrictions.
The predicament of the IPSC exposed the vulnerability to this kind of intimidation of a broad organisation that seeks to win friends in ruling circles. The leaders and organisers are placed in a position of not only personal but also of organisational vulnerability. Even should they be prepared to defy the State to fine and/or imprison them, would they also be prepared to damage their organisation, to lose some friends they are cultivating in the circles of political influence? What was one of the strengths of a broad organisation can thus be converted into a weakness, whereas a more radical or even revolutionary organisation, with less influence in influential circles can decide on defiance, risk fines and jail with however perhaps less possibility of influencing official opinion and ultimately, action.
Fortunately in this case one such organisation did step forward and took up the baton: the Trinity College BDS group expressed its solidarity with the IPSC on its treatment by the Gardaí and called their own rally for the exact same place and time as the original one called by the IPSC.
Video of rally at end of demonstration, near Israeli Embassy
Despite concern over Covid19 transmission and Garda threats – and the extremely short notice and much smaller circle of contacts of the TC BDS group — the response was magnificent, both in expression of internationalist solidarity and in maintenance of the right of the people in Ireland to organise such progressive events.
Before the appointed hour, people began to gather in large numbers at the Spire in O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main street and north city centre and, after being addressed by a number of speakers, set off in a march towards the Israeli Zionist Embassy near Ballsbridge, beyond the south city centre. As they marched their numbers grew until, approaching the Embassy, they numbered several thousand. Along the way, bystanders applauded the marchers and passing vehicles blew their horns in solidarity.
Marchers shouted slogans of solidarity with the Palestinians, calling for the freedom of Palestine and the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador as a mark of the Irish people’s objection to what is being done to the Palestinians.
Near the Embassy, a number of speakers addressed the crowd and after dispersing, a number of demonstrators boarding public transport to return home were congratulated by the drivers.
LESSONS FOR US
The situation regarding calling and holding the demonstration in Dublin outlined some of the weaknesses of a broad organisation when it faces repression from the State and the greater resilience of a smaller organisation in being able to defy the State. It may be necessary in future to maintain support for both types of organisation, each being appropriate for particular situations.
Also demonstrated was the necessity to openly defy unjust laws and prohibitions at times and particularly around the right to organise, to protest and to show solidarity, which the demonstrators did so well on Saturday. Such situations also reveal the difficulty for the Gardaí in carrying out repressive actions and they are reduced to threatening individuals.
THE FAR-RIGHT MARCHES TOO – FOR WHAT?
Meanwhile, a couple of hundred of the far-Right also marched in Dublin, allegedly in defence of civil liberty. Not in solidarity with the Palestinians’ civil liberties and not in defence of our civil liberty to organise to show solidarity with people in other struggles. No, they marched in defence of the right to defy health protection regulations, in proclaiming the Covid19 pandemic to be a) a hoax or b) greatly exaggerated, in claiming that wearing masks damages one’s health and even intelligence(!), in insisting that vaccinations are a) dangerous to one’s health or b) means of injecting nano-machines into people’s bloodstream in order to control them.
A clip posted by Ireland Against Fascism showed one of the QAnon Saturday screechers for months outside the GPO, Dolores Webster, aka Dee Wall, lately self-declared “digital journalist” (don’t laugh), in total ignorance of the actual reality (but when has that mattered?), broadcast a claim by video from her studio (her car), accompanied by the strains of Abba from the headphones of her head-bobbing passenger, that the “scum in the Dawl” had allowed the Palestinian solidarity march to go ahead to distract from the alleged general removal of freedom and in particular from the far-Right group Irish Yellow Vests to hold their rally on May 1st.
When all the Covid19 precautionary restrictions are removed, what will these elements have to march about? The will need to return to the topics that engaged many of them in the recent past: racism, anti-immigrants, islamophobia, homophobia and anti-socialism, along with their false patriotism. None of that is welcome of course but at least it will be without this false concern for “civil rights and freedom” and closer to the reality of what the far-Right in general stand for – and fascists in particular.
SUPERPOWER BACKING AND IMPUNITY
The current atrocities of the Zionist State, which it carries out with impunity, along with its history, starkly reveals the effect of its main backing power, the USA, and the imperialist alliance dominated by that Power. The USA backs Israel with military aid to the tune of $10 Million daily, which is aside from other direct and indirect aid. Israel is the only state in the Middle East which is not only very friendly to the USA but totally dependent on the support of that superpower. For the ruling class of the USA, Israel is the only state in the Middle East which is totally safe forever from fundamentalist Muslim revolution or from left-wing anti-imperialist revolution and is therefore an extremely important factor in the USA’s plans to totally dominate the Middle East.
This imperialist alliance finds reflection not only in the action/ inaction of governments in Europe, for example but also in the reporting of the mass media. One of the latter’s tropes is the constant emphasis on the numbers of Palestinian missiles fired, without revealing their general ineffectiveness in delivering destruction, in total contrast to the Israeli missiles. Another is their constant repetition of a lie, that “Hamas seized power in Gaza”. The truth is that Hamas swept the board in the Palestinian Authority elections in 2006. The “seizing” that was done was by Al Fatah, which usurped the results in the West Bank and installed themselves there; they tried to do the same in Gaza and, in a short fierce struggle, were beaten.
But the Western powers decided that Hamas was illegitimately in power, seized funds due to it and supported its blockading – by both Israel and Egypt. No explanation is offered in the general mass media as to how a generally politically-secular Palestinian public would turn from its decades of allegiance to Fatah to vote for the fundamentalist Muslim Hamas, which was Fatah’s surrender of the goals of Palestinian independence and freedom and the return of the refugees, in exchange for running a colonial administration with opportunities for living off bribery and corruption and Fatah’s settling down to that status quo.
CASTING A GIANT DARK SHADOW
It was not only in Dublin and in towns across Ireland that Palestine solidarity demonstrations were held on May 15th but by people across much of the world, generally in opposition to the wishes of their governments and ruling elites. It is worth thinking about how this has come about, in particular in contradiction to a mass media hostile to the Palestinians.
The Zionist state of Israel was declared in 1948, its anniversary actually only three days ago – May 14th, the first states to recognise it being the USA and the USSR. In Ireland at the time, there was general support for the new state which continued to the “June War” of 1967 and somewhat beyond. The general Irish population were horrified by the history of the Nazi-organised Holocaust and sympathised with the Jewish survivors. Irish nationalists and even Republicans empathised with the Zionist civil and armed struggle against the British (who, ironically, had begun the process of Zionisisation of Palestine). The 1966 film Cast a Giant Shadow purporting to show that struggle, starring Kirk Douglas and a cameo appearance by Frank Sinatra, was widely enjoyed and cheered in cinemas across Ireland. Though some of the film’s characters were based on real-life counterparts, the general narrative was a grotesque distortion, hiding the massacres of Palestinians and the expulsion of thousands as the Zionist state was created.
Many Irish language supporters admired how the new state had brought the Hebrew language, for centuries only spoken in religious contexts, back into everyday usage.
Yet, a few years ago, general pro-Palestinian sympathy across Ireland had become so strong that Israel’s Ambassador to Ireland declared the country “the most anti-semitic in Europe”. That of course is what the Zionists call anyone who supports the Palestinians or criticises the Israeli state harshly and only a few days ago, the current Ambassador accused some politicians of spewing hate towards Israel. He was responding not only to Left and Sinn Féin TDs who criticised the actions of Israel towards the Palestinians, but also to the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister equivalent) Leo Varadkar who commented that Israel’s actions are “indefensible” and Government Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, who said at an EU conference that the EU had “fallen short” and failed to project its influence in agreeing a common position in opposition to illegal activity by the Israelis against Palestinians.
The fact that establishment right-wing politicians feel obliged to take a public stand, however ineffectively, against actions of the Israeli Zionists and implicitly against the Zionists’ biggest international backer and world superpower, the USA, is a strong indication of how much Irish public opinion has changed over decades. Since the Cast a Giant Shadow film, the state’s shadow of which we are aware now is indeed frighteningly giant and very dark. In response, the natural cultural and historical feelings of the Irish people have stirred in sympathy with the oppressed Palestinians – and in defiance of threatened police repression at home.
After repeated claims from from a woman speaking through a loudhailer that their right-wing rally at the GPO was “peaceful” and would “not respond to your violence” (this addressed to their peaceful opponents on the other side of the road!), right-wingers crossed the road a number of times to insult and threaten their opponents, eventually assaulting one well-known Republican who defended himself vigorously. Gardaí separated assailant and victim but declined to take any action against the fascist.
BACKGROUND, BUILD-UP AND ATTACK
The above took place on Saturday 4th July. Earlier, at 1pm, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign had hosted at the Spire a very well-attended rally in solidarity with Palestine and against the recently-announced plans of Israel to annex the Palestinian West Bank.
Many of the Palestine supporters were still on the pedestrian reservation when the far-Rightists arrived to set up their weekly protest against social distancing, with claims that Covid19 is not real (or, a variation, that it is exaggerated) and that the restrictions are being used to bring in a “New World Order”.
As the Far-Right were setting up, two members of the Special Detective Unit (in the past called the “Special Branch” as they remain known by many, along with less kind names) were seen chatting to them. These political Gardaí in plainclothes were easily identified since some who had attended the earlier demonstration at the Lithuanian Embassy against the threatened extradition of Liam Campbell (see separate report by Clive Sulish on Rebel Breeze) had seen them there, standing near the uniformed Gardaí, watching the protesters. The nature of the conversation of these undercover political police with the Far-Rightists is not known but appeared cordial and certainly they were not asking them for their names and addresses as they had done recently to people protesting in solidarity with political prisoners.
Soon jeers and cat-calls were crossing the street in each direction. The Right-wingers had a loudspeaker advantage for awhile but then one appeared among their opponents too. Even before that, the speaker for the Far-Rightists was accusing their opponents, not one of whom had crossed the road towards them, of being “violent” and claiming that the Rightists were peaceful and were “not going to respond to the violence” of the other side.
It was not long however before some of the Far-Right militants were crossing the road to throw insults and threats at their opponents at closer quarters who of course responded verbally. Gardaí then arrived and gently asked the Far-Rightists to return to the GPO side and one of the Rightists, pointing at the their opponents, who were still on the pedestrian reservation, actually demanded of the cops “Why don’t youse tell them to go back?”
This went on a number of times with the Gardaí intervening less and less. At one point I had one unmasked ginger-haired thug a few inches from my face photographing me, repeatedly calling me a “scumbag” and a “terrorist” (interesting) but when he told me I was destroying his country (!) I couldn’t resist asking “How am I destroying the country?” He declined to reply to my repeated question, moving on to express his aggression to someone else.
At this point I had become distracted by one of their supporters who was trying to have a conversation with me. I obliged and it was quite revealing on the disparate nature of many of the elements in these right-wing rallies. She told me that she was not racist and was bisexual and not right-wing and her friend (also present) was half-German, so why were we calling them racists and fascists? I was engaging her on some of the things that have been said by some of the group she was with and pointing out some individuals I had seen in support of Gemma Doherty, explaining to her that if she attends rallies of those people, she is going to be subjected to calls against fascists and racists.
Shortly I became aware of a disturbance behind me which, on turning I could see was a fight that was moving towards the east side of O’Connell St. (southbound traffic) where both ended up fighting fiercely on the ground. Before I could see who they were, five or six Gardaí then intervened and separated them, at which point I could identify both combatants: one was a Republican whom I had seen a little earlier sitting on the base of the flagpole in the middle of the pedestrian reservation (apparently where he was when attacked) and his assailant was the very one who had earlier been venting aggression at me and trying to provoke me into physical retaliation.
Once they had separated them the Gardaí were treating this matter as one of equal blame on both sides and saying things like “Don’t be silly now” whereas it was clearly the case that a fascist had crossed the road with aggressive intent and had then taken that further into physical aggression.
Later, when I remonstrated with some of the Gardaí that if we had crossed the road and behaved in that way, they would have at least pulled us out, “Go over there if you want,” said one of them, “I can’t stop you.” I pointed out to him that an antifascist who had approached Gemma Doherty supporters at the Dept. of Justice some months earlier had been threatened by a Garda Sergeant with arrest under the Public Order Act. (On that occasion too, the Gardaí had allowed the Far-Rightists to walk among the counter-protesters).
It seems from recent cases that the line the Gardaí are following is that if it looks like being a serious all-out fight they will police it hard and keep the two sides apart but, if smaller scattered fights break out they will break them up without arrests, especially if Republicans are being attacked and possibly, in future, use these occasions to arrest antifascists who defend themselves or respond to provocation.
It is historically true that police forces in capitalist states favour fascist movements, a fact seen throughout Europe. In London, in the Battle of Cable Street in 1936, fought to prevent a march of the fascist “Blackshirts” through a largely Jewish East End, the main confrontation was between the antifascists on the barricades and the escort for the 2,000-3,000 fascists: 7,000 Metropolitan Police, along with the whole of the London mounted police force.
“WE ARE NOT RACISTS AND WE ARE FOR THE PALESTINIANS”
The above was one of the claims of the speaker of the Far-Rightists, made repeatedly. This is a new development in their rhetoric and they claimed to have some Polish and also a Palestinian among their number. This last at least appeared to be true and a big man of Middle-Eastern appearance was among them and was seen later chatting to some Gardaí. A man I know informed me that this man is a Palestinian but a member of the Muslim Brotherhood (right-wing Islamic fundamentalist group).
Gemma Doherty has posted much racist material (and outright lies), as has Justin Barrett of the National Party, both of them objecting to the election of Councillor Hazel Chu as Lord Mayor, Barrett going so far as to say that he would remove Ms.Chu’s nationality if he were in power, even though she was born in the Mater Hospital and raised and educated in Dublin.
The Far-Right, which is a mixed bag in any case, were happy to use O’Doherty’s notoriety to push their movement further but perhaps they are finding her a bit of a liability now and are remodeling themselves as some kind of inclusive alternative movement for civil freedoms etc. They are still promoting their opposition to the idea of legislation against “hate speech” discussed by the previous Government and demanding their right to “free speech”. This actually does hearken back to O’Doherty’s campaign against Google, who closed down her Youtube channels because of alleged racist abuse.
If they are going to drop the racist rhetoric and claim multi-culturalism, presumably they will have to abandon the “Replacement” conspiracy theory, whereby the EU allegedly has a plan to replace all the Irish with migrants! However the challenge with which their militants first approached their opponents on Sunday of “Are you Irish?”, just as they did at the O’Doherty rallies, hardly exudes multi-culturalism.
The other elements of Far-Right rhetoric and propaganda remain, however: that they are “Patriots” (sic – hence the strutting around with the Tricolour and “Irish Republic” flags); they are Christians (“walking in the steps of God” according to their speaker that day); that their opponents areall in an organisation called “Antifa” and funded by the millionaire Soros (also according to their speaker); and that governments are assisting in a coming to power of a “New World Order”.
CANNOT BE TOLERATED
It is not acceptable that Republicans or any kind of antifascist can be attacked on our streets and it must not be tolerated. Apart from anything else fascists will use incidents like that to promote themselves as some kind of “warriors” to build up their fascist thug forces while at the same time part of their movement will be playing the victim and proclaiming their “peacefulness”, as was amply demonstrated today. This is exactly the dual road of the advance of fascism historically.
There is something wrong with our organisation in the broad sense too, it seems to me, if our opponents, at least some of whom wish us harm, can walk among our ranks with impunity. In some places today they were blocked and one youth was even pursued until he returned to his group but in many places they just walked in and it was one of those who assaulted the Republican today.
On another issue, as I have pointed out in the past, these confrontations may tend to have the Far-Right appear as patriotic to onlookers, since it is they who are waving the Tricolour and “Irish Republic” flags and some wearing green tops too. For the sake of educating the public, the antifascists need to fly their flags too, whether these be tricolours as well and/or Starry Ploughs, Red, Red-and-Black or Black flags, including those with the Antifascist symbol, or that of the LGBT movement or indeed others. Placards countering the fascist and racist propaganda and exposing fake patriotism should also be visible.
The most crucial thing is that the Far-Right movement with its fascist core be not permitted to appear a viable option for the Irish ruling class to choose. We have had some successes, for example in preventing Pegida launching in Dublin in 2016 and some confrontations with the Far-Right – but it is clear that there remains a deal of work to be done.
Alberto Sicilia in Publico.es, translated by D.Breatnach
Alberto Sicilia in Publico.es, translated by D.Breatnach (Reading time: 3 minutes)
For original version in Castillian (Spanish) click on link.
Greece today suspended the right to asylum. An unprecedented measure in the history of Europe.
How soon we forget. During World War II, thousands of Greeks crossed the Mediterranean in the opposite direction and sought refuge in Middle Eastern countries. That was the most accessible route of escape from Nazi troops.
A program called “Organization for Refugees in the Middle East”, launched in 1942 and led by the United Kingdom, helped tens of thousands of Greeks, Poles and Yugoslavs escape eastbound.
The refugees were taken to camps located in Syria, Egypt and Palestine. The city of Aleppo, (yes, you have not misread, Aleppo) became one of the main reception centers.
A number of official reports on the state of the camps were written in March 1944. A study conducted by Public International Radio includes the protocol for the entry of refugees and their daily lives:
“Once registered, newcomers made their way through a thorough medical inspection. The refugees were heading to what were often makeshift hospital facilities, usually tents, but occasionally empty buildings reused for medical care, where clothes and shoes were removed and they were washed until the authorities believed they were sufficiently disinfected.
“Some refugees, such as the Greeks who arrived at the Aleppo camp from the Dodecanese islands in 1944, could expect medical inspections to become part of their daily routine.
“After medical officials were satisfied that they were healthy enough to join the rest of the camp, refugees were divided into homes for families, unaccompanied children, single men and single women. Once assigned to a particular section of the camp, refugees enjoyed few opportunities to venture outside. From time to time they could leave under the supervision of camp officials.
“When refugees in the Aleppo camp made the multi-mile trip to the city, for example, they could visit shops to buy basic supplies, watch a movie at the local cinema, or simply distract themselves from the monotony of country life.
“Although the camp at Moses Wells [in Egypt], located on more than 100 acres of desert, was not within walking distance of a city, refugees were allowed to spend time each day bathing in the nearby Red Sea. “
The “Organization for Refugees in the Middle East” was part of a network of refugee camps around the world that were administered by governments and international NGOs.
And refugees arrived not only in the Arab region: Iran received 200,000 Poles between 1939 and 1941.
Conspiracy theorists get laughed at which, since some of the theories are indeed laughable, seems fair enough. Conspiracy deniers, on the other hand, get an easy time of it, which is a pity – because there are conspiracies going on. All of the time.
Then there’s simple convergence of interests, which give rise to conspiracies but can also operate independently.
A current example of convergence of interests: The EU and all its constituent governments decide that the struggle between Catalonia and the Spanish State is an internal matter for the Spanish ruling class and can they please sort it out without dragging most of Europe into the mess? In fact, if they don’t sort it out, it endangers a number of key players in the EU and, inevitably, the EU itself.
As the current President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Junker reminded everyone on the question of Catalonian independence in 2017, there are member states of the EU other than the Spanish one that are vulnerable to the same kind of ‘problem’, i.e that of a bid for separation and independence of some part (or parts) of the state in question.
And if we look at Europe outside the Spanish State, we can see what he might have meant. There’s the French state, which contains within it three provinces out of the seven of the Basque Country, a part of Catalonia, also Brittany, Occitania and Corsica. Each of those regions was at one time an independent kingdom or part of a kingdom other than that of France; each also has its own language and each has struggled against French domination at some time or other.
Italy is a state with huge differences between its north and south, a composite of many different parts that did not come under one state rule even formally until 1871, at which time the spoken language of one region could hardly be understood in another. And there is Sardinia, still with its own language and currently engaged in another struggle for independence.
The UK is in the process of ceasing to become part of the EU now but it is still a part of the pattern of alliances (and hostilities) that forms part of modern Europe. And the UK contains the Six Counties of Northern Ireland, not long out of the three-decades guerrilla war, also Scotland with a strong popular movement for independence. In addition the Celtic nation of Wales was subjugated but still has a strong language movement and there are some stirrings of nationalism in the Celtic nation of Cornwall.
Belgium is a united state but containing the French-speaking Waloons and the Dutch-speaking Flemish and, although both languages are officially recognised, as polities, the two groups don’t get on very well together.
Even the separation of Catalonia from the Spanish State’s territory on its own would be bad enough from the point of view of EU leaders – but it could also precipitate the separation of the four southern Basque provinces, also of Galicia and Asturies. Which would certainly attract the interest of the southern regions of the French state.
In summary then, a successful bid for independence by Catalonia would start an “infection” (which is what Borrell, the Spanish Foreign Minister to the EU called Catalan independentism) which has the potential to cause the breakup of a number of major and medium states of the EU. And Junker also said that he didn’t want “an EU of ninety-nine states”. Of course not, such a union would be very difficult for the big European states to dominate and, in fact, those same European states would not be so big any more.
Conspiracy? Probably not – just convergence of interests. The ruling elites would have no need to get together, decide what they wanted their politicians to do, then have their various ministers sit down, formulate the policy of each state, have the foreign ministers of each get together and then inform the managers of the EU. The politicians have been trained and schooled, they know in general what their ruling elites want, without having to be told. They would react to Catalonian independence almost instinctively – with rejection. They view nationalism and independence, if it breaks up a rival power (such as the Eastern Bloc), as a good thing – but not in their own group!
THE USA IRAN-CONTRA CONSPIRACY
However, conspiracies do indeed happen, of course they do – and often. We have just passed by the anniversary of a key point in one huge one, the point when the “Iran-Contra” scandal began to break, in early November 1986. And President Reagan of the USA said that “the speculation that the US has sold arms to Iran has no foundation”, which was of course a lie. Basically, the US sold arms to the fundamentalist theocratic regime in Iran but, due to a US Congress embargo on such exports there, had to do it through Israel. They did so for two reasons, one for money to fund a military terrorist campaign against the government of Nicaragua which the US Congress would not approve, second in order to seduce the Iranian military (as they have done with the Egyptian military) and having them overthrow the Iranian regime. And the US wanted the Nicaraguan revolutionary government overthrown because it was not aligning itself with US foreign policy in what the USA considers its back yard (and a major source of raw materials) and also because a successful state of the type which Nicaragua was (then) would provide a ‘bad example’ to the other states of Latin America.
The Israeli Zionist ruling elite went for the deal because they too hoped the Iranian military would overthrow the theocratic regime and bring Iran back under the western-imperialist umbrella, as it once had been so secure that the CIA had its HQ for the whole Middle East located right there (and got caught with its pants down, or its secret documents in the process of shredding). And besides, the USA is the No.1 supporter of the Israeli Zionist regime in the world (another example of convergence of interests).
But despite the convergence of interests between the ruling elites of the USA and Israel, along with former Nicaraguan military, right-wing groups (for terrorist personnel) and US client regimes such as Honduras (for Contra bases) and Panama (for drug money to also fund the Contras, apparently through the CIA to sell in California – another conspiracy theory), a conspiracy was necessary to execute the operation. This was because of the unusual nature of the arms deal, its illegality according to US (and presumably Israeli) law and the number of partners involved. And the silent complicity of the US mass media was necessary, at least until a CIA plane delivering weapons was shot down by Nicaraguan forces over their territory and an operative, Eugene Hasenfus, captured alive.
A COMMON KIND OF CONSPIRACY
Another example of conspiracy is that of price-fixing between big companies on given products. There have been a number of these exposed over the years. A conspiracy is necessary in this case because normally, the interest of big companies is to increase their share of the market over that of the competition. But at times, they perceive that it is in their joint interests to cease cutting one another’s throats and to regulate the prices of their products by agreement among themselves. Not only is this illegal in most administrations but it runs counter to the philosophy of capitalism, i.e that competition, instead of the cooperation advocated by socialists, is good for society. The fact that price-fixing is out of the norm of capitalism requires coming to formal agreement between the participants and the fact that it is illegal and undermines capitalist propaganda, requires secrecy – hence conspiracy.
However, most of what goes on in the world when government or other reactionary elements cooperate is probably just the result of convergence of interests, easily recognised by the participants.
A CONVERGENCE OF VERY DIFFERENT INTERESTS
Generally speaking, it is when their partnerships are put under pressure that the established convergence begins to crack; when one partner or another decides that the price of remaining in it is too high or that it’s time for sauve qui peut (everyone for himself). What can achieve that level of pressure is another kind of convergence of interests, that of the masses of wage-earners, small business people, peasants and indigenous people, recognising that by acting together, they can overthrow the existing system and set up an alternative that corresponds to their needs.
DUBLIN AUDIENCE AT AFRI PUBLIC MEETING CHARMED AND INSPIRED BY FORMER MEMBERS OF USA ARMED FORCES WHO ARE ON TRIAL FOR BREACH OF SHANNON AIRPORT SECURITY ZONE.
Veterans for Peace Members Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff,US-based anti-war campaigners, last Wednesday evening clearly impressed members of a Dublin audience by their dedication. Both men are awaiting trial in Ireland for exposing U.S. war crimes and the violation of Irish neutrality at Shannon Airport and are at liberty only within the jurisdiction of the Irish State on a combined bail of €5,000.
The bail was paid by anti-war campaigner Ed Horgan, a former army commandant and UN peace keeper and the sum is twice the amount of criminal damage they are accused of having caused to the airport’s perimeter fence, as well as unlawfully trespassing into a taxiway. They did so in order to inspect a US plane to ensure it was not carrying war material or personnel, in violation of Ireland’s Constitutional neutrality. Campaigners have long demanded that the Irish State itself carry out these inspections but despite evidence that the State’s neutrality is indeed being violated by US Planes landing at Shannon, successive Irish governments have insisted in taking USA Government denials on trust.
The public meeting was opened by Joe Murray, Coordinator of Afri and Emer Lynam, newly-elected Vice-Chairperson of Afri Ireland, introduced the speakers.
The elderly campaigners, in their “Veterans for Peace” sweatshirts, addressed the audience about the reasons for their actions and their commitment to opposing US militarism which they stated was a major cause of misery around the world, including to serving members of the military themselves (quoting a figure of 22 suicides per day), along with being a major cause of world pollution. Ken Mayers explained that the USA has 800 military bases around the world in addition to its 400 on its own territory, the infrastructure, fuel expenditure and waste of the total which he stated is a major cause of pollution. (This is presumably without even taking into account the use of nuclear-generated power and disposal of radioactive material, or depleted uranium projectiles, such as used in Iraq or the Agent Orange defoliant used in the Vietnam War.)
Both men belong to an organisation called Veterans for Peace which campaigns against the US militarisation of the economy, war, interference in the affairs of other states and for better treatment of veterans. Recently they also supported a campaign against concentration camps for migrants along the US-Mexico border.
13 DAYS IN JAIL THEN BAIL ON CONDITION THEY DON’T APPROACH ANY AIRPORTS
Ken Mayers, 82 years of age and Tarak Kauff 77, spent 13 days on remand in Limerick jail, where their toilet did not flush unless they poured buckets of water into it. Other than that, they said they were treated well and the other prisoners treated them “like celebrities”.
The reason for their bail being refused during that period was Garda objections that they would flee the jurisdiction. Tarak Kauff exposed the illogicality of this ‘fear‘ to the Dublin audience, explaining that they had taken their action at Shannon knowing that they would be arrested and wanting to use the trial to expose what was going on at Shannon airport: “For us not to attend that trial, they would have to physically drag us away from there!”
They were eventually granted bail on condition they remain within the Irish state and having to surrender their passports, due to Garda objections again that they might flee, also not to approach any airports. On July 10th the High Court turned down their appeal against these conditions, though the judge said that he might review that decision if the case were to be moved to the Dublin District Court, where the waiting list was much longer. The defendants and their solicitor, Michael Finucane, will be seeking to have the case heard outside Clare, where it is believed a fair trial relating to a Shannon protest is unlikely. A trial date is expected in September or October.
“THEY POSTPONED MY HONEYMOON”
Ed Horgan took the floor after Mayers and Kauff to speak about the one million total of children killed in the Middle East as a result of war and sanctions and urged action to prevent further loss of children’s lives.
Then Emer Lynam opened the meeting to questions.
In reply to questions from the audience about the cost to themselves, Ken Mayers revealed he was due to be on his honeymoon by now with his bride.
Ken Mayers was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island. From Princeton University he entered the US military as a Second Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps, rising to Major until he left the organisation in 1966 in disgust with US foreign policy. In Berkeley University, California he gained a PhD in political science where, according to the AFRI event page, he became a peace and justice activist, which he has been ever since and six years on the Veterans For Peace (USA) Board of Directors, five of them as national treasurer.
Tarak Kauff, ex-military too and also from New York, said that he missed his wife and daughter but both were supportive of what he was doing, being activists also (see short letter from his wife in Links and References). According to Afri’s FB page, he’s a former U.S. Army paratrooper (1959 – 1962), a member of Veterans For Peace, the managing editor of VFP’s quarterly newspaper Peace in Our Times and was a member of the VFP National Board of Directors for six years. He has organized and led delegations of veterans to Okinawa; Jeju Island, South Korea; Palestine; Ferguson, Missouri; Standing Rock …. and Ireland.
Asked what kept them going, they stated the importance to act against injustice. Kauff in particular declared that “to resist is human” and that he wished to be fully human. He said that no-one could tell another what he or she could do but one only had have the courage to ask oneself that question …. and then the courage to act upon the answer.
“IRISH PEOPLE JUST COME UP AND SHAKE OUR HANDS, THANK US FOR WHAT WE ARE DOING”
Both expressed gratitude and a degree of amazement at the warmth of their welcome and appreciation by members of the Irish public. Kauff gave an instance of the Lisdoonvarna pub where the management would not accept payment for their food and drinks. “People just come up to us and shake our hands and thank us for what we’re doing,” the veteran said, “and we don’t get that in the USA.”
Donations from the public fund them and, at the moment, they live in student accommodation at Limerick University, rent free – though they will need to find alternative accommodation in September.
Asked about popular feeling in the USA, Ken Mayer explained that the US public are exposed to a systematic system of propaganda and misinformation. However their anti-war organisation is very wide with many members and that there were optimistic signs with popular protest about the treatment of migrants along the US-Mexican border and fuel pipeline resistance in New York State and in Standing Rock. However, a little later, Tarak Kauff said that the outlook was not promising but that not resisting was no choice — even if he knew the world was going to end next week, he would feel he had to resist in order to fulfill his human potential.
Earlier in their presentations, Kauff alluded to Ireland’s historic struggle to overthrow its powerful oppressor and called people to oppose the most powerful enemy in the world today – the US State. He said that a stance taken by the Irish Government today would have a strong progressive ripple-effect around the world.
RESISTANCE IN MUSIC AND SONG
Music for the evening was provided by veteran campaigner John Maguire who sang a song he had composed back at the first demonstration at Shannon airport, with a chorus that the audience soon got the hang of and joined in.
RoJ performed a song also of his own composition, accompanied by Paul O’Toole on guitar and Nimal Blake on cajón. Later, O’Toole also sang a song of his own, about the child who lost both his arms to US imperialist ‘smart-targeted’ bombing, then going on to sing one of Dylan’s numbers. Both RoJ and O’Toole are long-time professional performers and have produced CDs of their material.
All performers were warmly applauded.
The evening was a fund-raiser and it could be seen that the collection bucket, although covered, was stuffed with notes. Ken and Tarak also have a Fund Me appeal and Afri is also receiving some donations for them through the Internet.
On Saturday 8th June, The Starry Plough Historical Society put on a remarkable event: an exhibition of photos from Aleppo with a real-time audio explanation of each by the photographer, community worker Antoine Makdis, speaking from Aleppo itself. Please note all but one of the images are photos taken by me of those being shown on the screen, hence the poor quality of the image but it is Antoine’s story of each that is of most importance.
Aleppo is a many-centuries-old city in the north of Syria which for five years was fought over in the war between Jihadists and the Syrian national army. Antoine Makdis is a Syrian community worker who also takes documentary photographs. The city was once the principal one in the region, being on the midway spot on Silk Road for caravans, between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean but the development of the Suez Canal reduced its trade importance hugely. There was also political rivalry between Aleppo-based interests and those in Damascus, as to whether to gravitate towards allegiance with Iraq or with Egypt.
However, the city has nevertheless been famed for its antiquity and its ancient buildings, as well as for its edible produce and cuisine. Sadly, the city was riven by war between 2012 and 20161, suffering huge destruction to its ancient buildings and communal spaces and with high loss of life too.
Aleppo won the “Islamic City of Culture” title in 2006. Its western suburbs contain “the Dead Cities” with remains of many cultures which have Unesco World Heritage status since 2011 under the title “Ancient Villages of Syria”. The city has the largest covered market-souq in the world and ancient buildings of worship, not only for Moslems but also for Christians and Jews.
Wikepedia: “Aleppo lies about 120 km (75 miles) inland from the Mediterranean Sea on a plateau 280 m (1,250 ft) above sea level, 45 km (28 miles) east of the Syrian-Turkish border checkpoint of Bab al-Hawa. The city is surrounded by farmlands to the north and west, widely cultivated with olive and pistachio trees. To the east, Aleppo approaches the dry areas of the Syrian Desert.”
Before the recent war in Syria the population of the city was 4.6 million, making it the most populous city in Syria but it is probably so no longer. According to some sources it is one of the cities in longest continuous human occupation, possibly since 6th millennium BC.
DOCUMENTING THE EFFECTS OF WAR AND BEGINNINGS OF RECOVERY
After the fighting in the city ceased, Antoine walked around taking photos, documenting not only terrible damage but the efforts of people to recover and the voluntary work done by some people to help people recover the city.
The Dublin event was organised by the Starry Plough Historical Society. A screen displayed the photographs while a presenter conversed with Antoine Makdis on a link-up and the latter talked about each photo, why he took it and what it meant to him.
“I wanted to show the world my beloved city Aleppo, through my eyes”, the photographer wrote in an introduction published on the event page. “This city that suffered a lot from the war and at the same time is cleaning the dust of battles from it’s magical robe to rise again as the oldest and most beautiful city in the world. That year, Aleppo started to recover after the unification of the parts of the city. And I started to publish these pictures on facebook, writing sometimes stories about the photos and most of the times keeping the picture taken unaccompanied by words.”
The event promotion on FB posted that it would be “… non-political, free to attend and open to all (respectful behavior to others is mandatory however).” At the time I questioned how anything could be non-political, to say nothing of photos taken in what was a war zone fought over definite political objectives. I do think I was correct in doubting that possibility and, at times, it was clear that Antoine was grateful for the Syrian National Army for ridding his city of the jihadists and that is entirely understandable.
Sadly, as the last photo was being discussed, I had to leave to attend another event and so was unable to participate in discussion with the photographer, or to thank and congratulate him for his work and what seemed to me a deep humanity underlying it.
ALEPPO WAR BACKGROUND
The uprising against Assad may have had genuine democratic or socialist component and it would not be surprising, given the history of the Syrian State, if they were suppressed with unreasonable force.
In Aleppo, there had been a demonstration against Assad in August 2011, some months after they had occurred elsewhere in Syria. Syrian State forces had suppressed that demonstration with the loss of two lives. Two months later, there was a large pro-regime demonstration.
The jihadists began to attack Government forces and others with bombs the following year. In February two suicide car bombs hit security compounds, killing four civilians, 13 Army, 11 Police and injuring 235. Another bomb in March 2012 killed two police and one civilian and injured 30 residents of the area. In July the “Free Syrian Army” besieged the city and penetrated into a section so that the war was then fought house to house until it stabilised into war between the section held by the FSA and the other, held by the Syrian National Army, separated by a no-man’s land.
The FSA were by this time undoubtedly mostly jihadists, i.e followers of the call of “jihad” or religious war. Jihadists are operating in various parts of the world and have undoubtedly been funded by Western Powers, chiefly the USA, along with in many cases sections of the Saudi Arabian royal ruling class.
The strategists of the USA have felt for years that it was necessary to have the rulers of a number of Middle Eastern states overthrown and replaced with regimes friendly to them.
The USA began seriously funding jihadists in Afghanistan to counter the Russian military and political presence there from the end of 1979 to early 1989 (they even sent them Rambo2!). Al Qaeda was created then by the USA, the organisation’s leadership drawing also on support from ruling circles in Saudi Arabia.
The CIA strategists developed a theory that religious zealots could be used to counter the influence of socialists and anti-imperialist democrats. Like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, Al Qaeda later turned against it creator, the USA, of which the most spectacular incident was the hijacked airplane attacks on the Twin Towers and on the Pentagon in September 11, 2001.
The monster has found a life of its own and has bred many offspring (the organisation variously known as ISIS/ ISIL/ Islamic State/ DAESH being the most notorious) and continues to be an ongoing danger to the people of the world. The various groups often fight among themselves for dominance and this was the case between ISIS in Syria and the imperialist-backed FSA.
Dr. Frankenstein has not entirely given up on his creation, believing it can be used in a controlled way from time to time wherever in the Middle East the political situation threatens the foreign interests of the USA.