Archive for category Belfast

Palestinian and Israeli Academics Launch Boycott Campaign Ireland

Posted by on Thursday, 20 February, 2014

Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian academic at the University of Exeter and Haim Bresheeth, an Israeli academic at SOAS, London jointly launched the Irish Academic Boycott of Israel. Speaking in Queen’s University Belfast today, Ghada and Haim jointly called on Irish academics to support the campaign for an academic boycott of Israeli. They launched a booklet called Academia Against Apartheid that explains the case for an academic boycott of Israel. The booklet is available as a pdf from the Centre for Global Education. 130 Irish academics have already supported the boycott.

Former Freedom & Friendship Delegate Daithi Mac Giolla Mhaoil Teaching in West Bank~FOLLOW UPDATES

Posted by on Friday, 7 June, 2013

Daithi as part of IFOP Delegation visiting destroyed school after Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza

Irish Friends of Palestine member Daithi Mac Giolla Mhaoil has just arrived in the West Bank. Supporters may remember Daithi who is a teacher in Belfast and part of our Educational Committee. He was recently in Gaza as part of our last delegation (pictured above in a bombed out school immediately after Operation Pillar of Defense) Today Daithi has just arrived in the the Fawwar Refugee camp near Hebron where he has taken up a teaching position there. He will be posting updates on our Facebook page and here on our website as he reports from the West Bank. We all wish David the best of luck in his new position and look forward to his updates from Occupied Palestine. Here is his first one:

Friends, comrades……..
Yesterday I arrived in Fawwar refugee camp near Hebron in the West Bank. Already the hospitality we have been shown by the Palestinian people who live in the camp has been second to none and we have already been to our first Palestinian wedding. It has also been a real shock, despite already witnessing what conditions Palestinians are forced to live in in Gaza, but also the cramped conditions with water shortages, power cuts and other basic needs shortages within Fawwar also as a result of the Israeli occupation here. Despite this the people are kind, optimistic and their generosity is second to none. Upon arriving in Tel Aviv on Thursday, four of our group, including myself were detained for a number of hours and asked very intrusive questions about what we were going to Palestine to do. It seems that there are those who would even wish to deny education to those who are already oppressed and suffering.
We managed to make it through the check points in Jerusalem and Hebron and are now settled in and ready to teach starting on Sunday.
Wish me luck!

To read David’s report from Gaza after Pillar of Defense, click HERE

Col Ann Wright Public Meeting

Posted by on Saturday, 18 May, 2013

Col Ann Wright will be visiting Belfast this week. Ann is an internationally renowned Peace Activist since her resignation in protest at the US invasion of Iraq. During her visit to Belfast, Irish Friends of Palestine will be facilitating meetings with Ann to address MLA’s in Stormont and on Monday evening she will be speaking at a public meeting at Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich (upstairs) at 216 Falls Road, Belfast at 6:30PM everyone welcome! Subjects discussed will be the new joint Palestinian initiative called the Gaza Ark, US Foreign Policy, NATO, and the use of military Drones. During her stay in Belfast she will also be addressing a conference of International Women Nobel Laureates


Ann Wright is former United States Army colonel and former U.S. State Department official. Known for her resignation and outspoken opposition to the Iraq War, and the non-closure of Guantanamo, the use of Military Drones and her support for Palestine and lifting the siege on Gaza.


During her Military Career as an Army colonel she received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997 after helping to evacuate several thousand people during the civil war in Sierra Leone. She is most famous for being one of three US State Department officials to publicly resign from the Bush Administation in direct protest of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Wright submitted her resignation letter to then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on March 19, 2003, the day before the onset of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Her letter was published on the internet the following day. In her resignation letter, Wright listed four reasons she could no longer work for the U.S. government under the Bush administration:

• The decision to invade Iraq without the blessing of the U.N. Security Council
• The “lack of effort” in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process
• The “lack of policy” in regard to North Korea
• The curtailment of civil liberties within the United States.

Over the course of her State Department career, Wright served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassies in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia, and also served at U.S. embassies in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Grenada, and Nicaragua.

NATO, US Foreign Policy and Military Drones. Ann is an outspoken worldwide activist against the use of drones . She has travelled the world speaking out against US and NATO foreign policy, the non-closure of Guantanamo, the use of torture, and the deadly use of US and NATO Military drones which are killing hundreds of civilians. At a recent meeting in Dublin she said “I would urge the citizens of Ireland to really push back on this attempt to get Ireland as a part of the Nato forces. We have seen what has happened in Afghanistan and the numbers of Afghans that have been killed in by military operations,”


Wright was also a member of US boat to Gaza and a passenger on the Challenger 1 which along with the Mavi Marmara, was part of the Gaza Freedom flotilla that was attacked by Israel ending with 9 passengers dead. She has given testimony on the attack in Turkey. She is a board member of the Free Gaza Movement and is currently involved in the new exciting reverse flotilla sailing out from Gaza, called the “Gaza Ark” which is a joint Palestinian initiative.

Media Inquires please email

UNITE Meeting on Palestine/Israel~Belfast

Posted by on Friday, 3 May, 2013

From Left to Right: Paul Murphy MEP Socialist Party, Fra Hughes of Palestine Aid, Conor Maskey Sinn Fein Councillor, Steven Scott Trade Union Friends of Israel, William Ennis Progressive Unionist Party Executive member, Taryn Trainer UNITE, Jimmy Kelly UNITE the Union, Gerry Robinson CWU

Monday 29th of April a panel discussion took place focusing on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The public meeting was hosted by UNITE and was held at the Unite Building Antrim Road Belfast.

The panel held a wide range of political groups and opinions and consisted of Paul Murphy MEP from the Socialist Party, Fra Hughes of Palestine Aid, Conor Maskey a Belfast Sinn Fein Councillor, Steven Scott from Trade Union Friends of Israel, William Ennis of the Progressive Unionist Party Executive member, Taryn Trainer of UNITE, Jimmy Kelly UNITE the Union, and Gerry Robinson of CWU.

Fra Hughes, Director of Palestine aid said “ I welcome the decision taken by UNITE’s community branch to host a panel discussion on the Palestine/Israeli conflict. The trade union movements of Britain and Ireland have very positive affirmative actions on boycott divestment and sanctions against israel and the president of UNITE, Jimmy Kelly, took the courageous decision to back the local branch and help move the plight of the Palestinian people centre stage within the trade union collective. Hopefully this can galvanise the trade union movement and civil society in Ireland and beyond to fully support the call of the Palestinians for nationhood, equality and justice.”

Clr Conor Maskey said “Sinn Fein calls for an end to all violence in the region and extends its continuing solidarity with the people of Palestine. We call for the lifting of the siege on Gaza and we urge full support for the boycott and divestment (BDS) campaign of Israeli goods and services until a just and lasting peace is established alongside a Palestinian state.”

Waterford Fishermen’s Lifeline To Gaza~Irish Friends of Palestine

Posted by on Tuesday, 30 April, 2013

note: Irish Friends of Palestine “Freedom & Friendship” Fishermen’s Delegation November 2012 consisted of 13 individuals, many fishermen including 6 members of the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign. 4 who were passengers on the MV Saoirse, including the Ships engineer interviewed below, plus 2 ISTG members who were part of the shore team including the former Chair of the now defunct Irish Ship to Gaza organisation. The interview below is from the March 2013 issue of An Phoblacht News by the Ship’s engineer Pat Fitzgerald and fellow crew member John Hearne who are also fishermen:


‘For the world to turn a blind eye to what Israel is doing is criminal’ – Waterford Councillor Pat Fitzgerald who is a fishermen.

IRISH FISHERMEN who have run the gauntlet of Israeli commandos and gunboats to bring thousands of euro in aid and medical supplies to Palestinian families under siege in Gaza have been busy back in Ireland briefing politicians and campaign groups.

In November 2011, Irish Friends of Palestine activists and fishermen PAT FITZGERALD and JOHN HEARNE (both also Sinn Féin councillors in Waterford) and BILLY SMYTH were arrested as they took part in an attempt to breach the siege of Gaza onboard the MV Saoirse. The men were held in an Israeli prison for more than a week before being thrown out of the country.

Pat and John made it to Gaza in December 2012, just days after the end of an Israeli military onslaught that left more than 150 people dead, including 30 children. In March, they briefed a cross-party committee in Leinster House on the issues and dangers faced by Gaza fishermen. The meeting was attended by representatives of all parties except Fine Gael and ended with many TDs and senators eager to do something for the Palestinian people. MARK MOLONEY met the activists at Leinster House in Dublin to speak about their arrest, deportation and return to the Gaza Strip.

The November 2011 trip to Gaza was not the first attempt by the Waterford fishermen to break the illegal siege of Gaza. An earlier attempt in 2011 had been twarthed after the boat on which they were due to travel was sabotaged in Cyprus by suspected Israeli agents, possibly from Mossad.

Water cannon, tasers and snipers

In the Waterford fishermen’s next attempt, the MV Saoirse and the MV Tahrir left a port in Turkey on 2 November 2011 with the aim of delivering €30,000 worth of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. Even before leaving port the crew faced problems. The Turkish Government tried to make it difficult, cutting the number of permits for individuals. “They basically told us we would have to leave people behind,” says John. Fifteen people had been due to travel on the Irish-registered vessel. “To get around the restrictions, we just hid the rest of the actvisits along the quay and when we were pulling away from the dock we shouted ‘Just jump on’ and they did, so we were away.”

For almost two days the ship was shadowed by a Turkish Navy patrol boat.

The Israeli Government had already told the international media it would not tolerate attempts to breach its siege. While still in international waters, the Israeli Navy and special forces commandos moved in on the two boats.

“We were 26 miles from the shore and still in international waters when all our radios went dead and we were surrounded by five large Israeli warships and around 20 small assault vessels,” says John. “They corralled our boat and the Tahrir and we collided, causing a fair bit of damage.

The Israelis then fired water cannons at the activists.

“They used such force with the hose that Fintan Lane [activist and writer] was washed off the top deck and down the ladder,” says John. “The water hit the electronics in the wheelhouse and it went on fire. At the same time, Pat was down below, trying to bail out water which was coming in due to damage from the collision. It was like a disco with all the red sniper scopes twirling around the cabin. We were very aware there were snipers aiming directly at us.”

Billy says he believes that at least 20 armed Israeli commandos wearing balaclavas stormed the boat and took it under gunpoint to Ashdod harbour.

The activists onboard the Tahrir fared much worse. Many of them panicked when the commandos boarded. A number were tasered and beaten before they reached port.

Strip-searched and throttled

When the Saoirse arrived in Ashdod the crew refused to disembark and pointed out they were kidnap victims, captured in international waters, and demanded to meet with the Irish Ambassador.

“They kept threatening us and telling us to leave the boat or they’d be forced to use violence,” says Billy. “At the same time we could hear them beating up the Canadians in the harbour. They were dragging them along the quay and kicking them.” Eventually, a representative from the Irish Embassy arrived. After four hours of a stand-off, the Saoirse’s crew felt it was safe to be taken ashore.

They were handcuffed and put in police vans to be taken to a detention centre where they were all strip-searched. They were photographed, fingerprinted and images of their retinas taken.

Irish activists had been advised by republican former prisoners and activists ahead of their departure on how to deal with questioning by the Israeli military. During questioning, they kept repeating that they were kidnap victims and demanded to be returned to their boat to continue their journey. Many faced three rounds of questioning during which there were threats of violence against them.

In the high-security Givon Prison, they were stripped again, brought to cells and subjected to sleep deprivation. Every hour, prison guards entered the cells, roaring and screaming and shouting at them to get up. They were also denied their right to contact their families within 24 hours of their arrest. The Saoirse activists were being kept on the same wing. They refused to obey prison orders and the prisoner governor told them he would do what he wanted in his prison. The activists replied that they were political prisoners and wouldn’t be treated any other way. The governor eventually agreed to a deal where the prisoners would be required to be in their cells at 3pm and 8pm but, apart from that, they would be left alone “on condition that we stopped singing ballads”, John laughs. “We were getting a bit sick of them ourselves at that stage also so it didn’t bother us!” The Tahrir crew and female activists were kept on another wing. John says the women were singled out for mistreatement by guards.

Every day the prisoners were given prepared confessions stating that they had entered Israel illegally and were asked to sign them. Every day they refused.

Three days into their time in Givon, the prisoners were brought in one by one to a kangaroo court presided over by a judge in a prefab in the rear of the prison. One after another they told the judge they were kidnap victims.

“After six or seven people were called in the judge ran out of the room, shouting and roaring that he wasn’t going to put up with this abuse anymore and saying we had no respect for anybody,” John chuckles. “We told him, ‘No, we just have no respect for your apartheid regime.’”

After seven days the prisoners were moved to a detention centre near Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and told they would be on a flight in the morning.

“It was a real kip, covered in urine and excrement,” says John. Israeli guards tried to start fights with the activists.The activists said it looked like the detention centre was where the Israelis “planned to get their own back”.

“They had Paul Murphy MEP by the throat,” says John, “so we jumped in and pushed them back. When they realised who he was and that they had physically assaulted a member of the European Parliament, suddenly they changed their tune.”

Even though the arrested activists were assured of flights home, some were still marched out to the steps of the aircraft and then asked to sign the ‘confession’. When they refused they were again strip-searched and brought back to the detention centre. Eventually they were released in small groups so as to avoid a large group being welcomed at Dublin Airport.
Fishing in sewerage

The Irish fishermen arrived in Gaza in December 2012, just days after the Israeli assault that had left 150 people dead.

They met fishermen and their representatives, including the Gaza Fishermen’s Association, the Union of Agricultural Workers, and the Minister for Agriculture. In 2005 Israel illegaly reduced the 20 nautical mile fishing limit to 10 miles before completely banning any fishing for several months in 2006. Since 2007, the Israelis have only allowed fishermen 3 nautical miles off the coast and even those within this limit have been attacked by the Israeli military.

There are 3,700 unionised fishermen operating in the Gaza Strip and the Irish delegation met their representatives and boat owners.

“We met them in their bombed-out building near the port. The Israelis had bombed it in the last week and the harbour sentry had been killed at the door,” John tells me.

Out on the sea, Palestinian boats are routinely boarded and their occupants arrested or assaulted by Israeli forces. ”They’re being harassed and shot while out on the boats. They often have equpiment stolen on them and the Israelis will pour chemicals on their nets to destroy them,” says Pat.

A favourite target of Israeli bombings is sewerage plants along the coastline resulting in tons of untreated sewerage pouring into the sea.

“They force them to fish in their own sewerage,” says John in disgust. “That’s how far the Israelis will go to humiliate these people.”

Other fishermen have been arrested and never seen again.

“The father of one fisherman pulled us aside and explained how his son had been detained the day before we arrived and he couldn’t find him. We’ve contacted the Israeli Embassy in Dublin on several occasions since and we still can’t get any answers. We believe he is still being held illegally.”

The delegation brought with them an electric mobility scooter to donate to former deckhand 26-year-old Ibrahim Abu Thuraya. $1000.00 of the $3500.00 raised by Irish Friends of Palestine to purchase the wheelchair was donated by a Kilkenny man, John Kavanagh, after reading a report on Ibrahim’s plight in The Irish Times. Ibrahim had been working on a trawler when it was hit by an Israeli missile in 2008. Eight people onboard were killed while Ibrahim lost both his legs below the hips. He now works cleaning cars on the streets of Gaza.

“When he was given his motorised wheelchair it seemed as if every resident of the refugee camp that Ibrahim calls home came out to see him master the controls of his new machine,” Pat smiles. “By the time we were going home he was whizzing around and visiting places he hadn’t been to in years.”

The four men are in agreement that tighter sanctions on Israel and pressure from the international community are the only ways to force Israel to abide by UN resolutions and genuinely work towards a lasting solution to the conflict. Pat doesn’t mince his words:

“World leaders need to stand up and say very clearly: ‘This is wrong.’

“What is going on in Palestine is absolutely disgraceful, inhuman and for the world to turn a blind eye is criminal.”



Sponsor Daithi’s Run for Gaza (Larne Half Marathon)

Posted by on Saturday, 26 January, 2013


Daithi stands on rubble of bombed building in Gaza

Daithi stands on rubble of bombed building in Gaza

Daithi Mac Giolla Mhaoil was part of our recent delegation to Gaza which arrived November 2012 immediately after the most recent 8 day attack by Israel. The devastation was shocking, the death toll was incredible, so many women and children murdered. The Dalou fmaily lost 14 members and our delegation stood on the mound of rubble that was once their home. You can read Daithi’s reportback from Gaza HERE.

Daithi will be running the Larne half Marathon on March 23rd in aid of Irish Friends of Palestine LIGHT GAZA Campaign and he is seeking sponsors for any amount. A personal message from Daith below:

A cairde, I will be running the Larne Half Marathon on the 23rd of March in aid of IFOP Light Gaza Campaign. This will be to raise awareness of the Palestinian cause and the continuing injustices the Palestinian people suffer at the hands of the Israelis. Any money raised will go towards the Lights Campaign.
Go raibh maith agaibh



Primary school destroyed by Israel

Young boy inspects the damage

Young boy inspects the damage

Classrooms destroyed

Children inspect their former classroom