Archive for category Derry

DERRY- September 13th “To Move a Wall and Free a Village” Iyad Burnat Speaking on Bil’in’s Struggle

Posted by on Friday, 28 August, 2015
Iyad Burnat arrested 28/8/15 at Weekly Protest in Bil'in

Iyad Burnat arrested 28/8/15 at Weekly Protest in Bil’in

Photos by Hamdi AbuRahma-Palestine

Organised by Irish Friends of Palestine “To Move a Wall and Free a Village”Iyad Burnat’s Firsthand Report of Bil’in’s Non-Violent Struggle to Exist and Resist Israeli Apartheid Occupation

EVERYONE WELCOME to an evening with our main speaker from Palestine, Iyad Burnat, leader of the “Bil’in Popular Committee against the Wall” which has held weekly non-violent demonstrations since 2005. Burnat is also the head of “Friends of Freedom and Justice in Bil’in” an organisation that hopes to build links with people around the world. Iyad is the brother of Emad Burnat who co-produced the film “5 Broken Cameras.” Iyad played the central character in the documentary. The film was nominated for an Academy Award in Hollywood and also won the Sundance Film Festival Award in 2012. Iyad himself has won several awards for his non-violent resistance, the most recent being the James Lawson Award for Achievement in the Practice of Nonviolent Conflict June of 2015.

Iyad says “The belief in one’s rights is more important than anything else. If I am confident about my rights, nothing will make me despair…When you resist an Israeli soldier by peaceful means, their weapons become irrelevant.”

Bil’in is a Palestinian village that is literally struggling to exist.

The village is surrounded by illegal settlements built on land that belongs to Bil’in and it’s people. The Matityahu settlement, the Kiryat Sefer settlement, and the most recent Matityahu East settlement. Then in 2004 construction of the Apartheid wall began on the Western side of Bil’in. This caused 2300 dunums of Bil’in’s land to be stolen to construct the wall in order to “protect the illegal settlers.” The Apartheid Wall cuts off and suffocates the village of Bil’in.

This is the story of a village that refuses to quietly disappear, this is the story of people who peacefully resist the illegal occupation alongside Israeli Peace activists and International Palestinian Solidarity Activists from around the world. Bil’in residents peacefully demonstrate every Friday in front of the “work-site of shame” AKA the Apartheid Wall. The Israeli army responds to these peaceful protests with physical and psychological violence. Iyad’s oldest son Majd, was shot and seriously injured by Israeli Occupation Forces in 2014, he is still suffering from that injury and will need rehabilitation for some time. In 2009 Iyad himself was seriously injured on the march along with several others and in 2011 he was shot and injured by rubber-coated steel bullets.

The Friday protests by the people of Bil’in, and widespread international support, have managed to achieve the recognition of the Israel High Court, which recently ruled that the route of the Apartheid Wall in the village is illegal and must be changed.

Nevertheless, every day Israel destroys a bit more of Bil’in. But the people of Bil’in will not surrender the struggle for their land, their homes, and their very lives. Come and learn what we can all do to help. Iyad will tell the first hand account of Bil’in’s continuing struggle, the land lost, the lives lost and injured, and the weekly Friday protests to move a wall, and save a village.

Supporting Speakers:

REPORT: Martina Anderson MEP who is the current Chair of the the European Union’s Delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council. She will give an update on what’s taking place within the EU on Palestine and the preferential trade agreement with Israel. What work the GUE/NGL are doing to help recognise a Palestinian state.

REPORT: Liam Gallagher Chair of (DTUC) Derry Trade Union Council will speak on behalf of DTUC and (TUFP) Trade Union Friends of Palestine about the work they and their members are doing in support of Palestine and the BDS movement.


7:00PM – 8:00PM Speakers

8:00PM – Audience Question and Answer Session

The evening ends with a Screening of “5 Broken Cameras”


One Year Anniversary of Operation Protective Edge Genocide On Gaza- Derry Protest and Solidarity Rally

Posted by on Tuesday, 7 July, 2015

protest gerry speaking POSTER

Photos by Sean Mc Monagle

Irish Friends of Palestine Coordinator Gerry MacLochlainn Speaking

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Daisy Mules-Derry Trade Union Council-Speaking

daisy mules derry trade unions

Catherine Hutton Palestine Solidarity Activist-Speaking

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Jo Bird Jewish Voice for Peace Ireland-Speaker

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Folks Attending Rally

Caolin McGinley OSF Event Organiser

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crowd at protest best

crowd at protest

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#BDS VICTORY-Carey Academy Cancels Apartheid Feis

Posted by on Monday, 8 June, 2015


A collective effort was made by activists across Ireland and Irish Activists in England, operating under the collective name of The Ireland Palestine Activists Collective (IPAC) an umbrella group of Activists. Our Carey Academy “Dont Dance for Apartheid” Facebook page can be found HERE. Irish Friends of Palestine was proud to have participated in this collective action and ultimate victory!!

Speaking today Sinead MacLochlainn, Chairperson, Irish Friends of Palestine said “It was great to see such solidarity among Irish activists who worked together online to help stop the abuse of our Irish Culture being used as Hasbara by Israelis. And here in Derry it was an honor to work on this campaign alongside a fellow Derry woman and Activist, Catherine Hutton” Ms.MacLlochlainn continued “We cannot “Greenwash” Apartheid and indeed we have been asked directly by Palestinians who are at the forefront of resisting this illegal Occupation to do what we can to support them. So it is with great pleasure we can all announce today that the Feis has now been cancelled!!”

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Activists in England organised a protest outside the Carey Academy on 6th June, you can see that video here:

Irish Friends of Palestine to Speak at Palestinian Revolutionary Event

Posted by on Thursday, 25 September, 2014

Irish Friends of Palestine will be taking part in the Tricontinental Anti-Imperialist Platform Event this weekend in London. Seating is first come first served so get there early! An amazing array of guest speakers in the lineup, Leila Khaled, George Galloway MP, political activist Ghada Al-Najjar from Gaza, Fouad Shaat, Sami Ramadani, and many many more!! This is the pro-resistance solidarity event for Gaza and Palestine, the event will celebrate the Palestinian Revolution, explore its challenges, and there will live link up from Gaza, plus slide shows, music and poetry. The event will be this Sunday at the Flyover, 3-5 Thorpe Close, London W10 5XL, Ladbroke Grove from 2:30PM to 6:00PM. Get there early to not be disappointed as there is limited seating. Find the event on Facebook HERE and details can also be found on the Irish Friends of Palestine Facebook page HERE

Speakers list:

Leila Khaled
– Legendary Palestinian revolutionary, PFLP Polit Buro member and Palestinian National Council representative. Khaled was born in Haifa, British Palestine. Khaled’s family fled to Lebanon during the 1948 Palestinian exodus, leaving her father behind. At the age of 15, following in the footsteps of her brother, she joined the pan-Arab Nationalist Movement. The Palestinian branch of this movement later became the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Khaled is wary of the Arab-Israeli peace process. According to her,

“It’s not a peace process. It’s a political process where the balance of forces is for the Israelis and not for us. They have all the cards to play with and the Palestinians have nothing to depend on, especially when the PLO is not united.

In 2005 she was a speaker at the Féile an Phobail in Belfast via video link.

Gerry MacLochlainn
– from Irish Friends of Palestine, Via Wikipedia: a Former Irish Prisoner of War in England, former Sinn Fein councillor in Derry who co-led the ECESG convoy, which was the 2nd convoy into Gaza after Operation Cast Led in 2009. The convoy delivered 25 ambulances and tons of medical aid along with hospital equipment. A strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, MacLochlainn was one of the leaders of the campaign against the Israeli embargo of Gaza. In 2009 he proposed and gained acceptance of a city policy of a boycott of Israeli goods until an end to the embargo.

George Galloway MP
– the Respect Party Member of Parliament (MP) for Bradford West. Galloway is a campaigner who supports the Palestinian side of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, taking an anti-Zionist stance, and was involved in the Viva Palestina aid convoys to Gaza.

Dr Saeb Sha’ath
– Former head of the Palestine General Delegation to Ireland , author and Palestinian political activist. Dr Shaath spoke at the GAZA SPEAKS event we organised in 2010 you can learn more about him at our Gaza event link HERE

Ghada Al-Najjar
– Palestinian in Gaza, political activist and Gaza-wide relief worker

Fouad Shaat
– President of General Union of Palestinian Students in Britain

Shadia Mansour
– Palestinian singer and musician her website can be found HERE Mansour began rapping in 2003 and has gained recognition in the Middle East, Europe and the United States for her own songs and collaborations with other artists. She performs wearing a traditional Palestinian thawb and has said that she considers herself to be part of a “musical intifada” against the occupation of Palestine

– Dr Abdal Aziz
– Libyan Al-Jud Charity

Sami Ramadani
– Steering committee member of Stop the War Coalition

George Shire
– Veteran of the Zimbabwean struggle against white settler colonalism, and independent radical scholar

Brother Omawale
– Pan-African Community Society Forum

Malia Bouattia
– President of NUS Black Students

Carlos Martinez
– Invent the Future and Tricontinental Anti-Imperialist Platform

Marcel Cartier
– Tricontinental Anti-Imperialist Platform

Chaired by Sukant Chandan
– Tricontinental Anti-Imperialist Platform

More speakers and artists etc to be announced.

Entry is £5 on the door. Capacity is approx 120 people, first come first serve. Sharp start for no later than 3pm.

This event is organised by the Tricontinental Anti-Imperialist Platform and Invent the Future

Remembering Sabra, Shatila and Gaza

Posted by on Tuesday, 16 September, 2014

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

On 6 June 1982, the Israeli army invaded Lebanon. The invasion was grotesquely named “Operation Peace for Galilee.” With the meaning of Peace for Israel and death for everyone else. Over all reports from Lebanese claim the Israeli invasion and subsequent bombing of Beirut killed 18,000 and 30,000 injuries. The majority of these were civilians.

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

Ultimately after about 60 days of fighting a cease-fire was finally agreed. With the PLO agreeing to pull out of the area, this was witnessed by a multinational team. Under the Reagan Administration, Philip Habib a US envoy was sent to Lebanon in 1981 to defuse the Lebanese Civil War. Habib negotiated a peace that allowed the PLO to evacuate from the besieged city of Beirut. Within this agreement West Beirut would fall under the control of the Lebanese army, and the PLO were given a US guarantee of security for the Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila camps once the 14,000 PLO fighters had withdrawn.

Despite the witnessing of the PLO having left the area and despite the promises of protection for the remaining civilians in the two camps by the US envoy Habib, Israel saw a big opportunity to use the situation to its ultimate goal of wiping out more Palestinians. Ariel Sharon unilaterally made the unfounded claim that “2,000 terrorists” were still inside the Palestinian refugee camps. Then, on 15 September the Israeli army moved in and occupied West Beirut. They then surrounded and sealed off the camps of Sabra and Shatila. Leaving the Lebanese and Palestinian civilians at the mercy of their captors.

The War Criminal Sharon personally directed the Israeli operation, placing himself in a vantage point at the Kuwait embassy located at the outskirts of the Shatila camp. Like a dictator overseeing his subjects from atop a six story building, he could see the camps of Sabra and Shatila and witness his orders being carried out. His plan began swiftly and by that afternoon the camps were shelled by the IDF under the direction of Sharon atop his perch. The following order was given “The searching and mopping up of the camps will be done by the Phalangists army.” Then the IDF gave the command to the Phalangist militia to enter the camps and “commence” the “mopping up procedure.” Israeli General Amir Drori then telephoned Ariel Sharon and said, “Our friends are advancing into the camps. We have coordinated their entry.” To which Sharon replied, “Congratulations! Our friends’ operation is approved.”

Over the next 40 hours the Phalangists raped, killed, and injured thousands of unarmed civilians, mostly children, women and elderly inside the surrounded and sealed camps.

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

The IDF were in full contact with the militia and could see what was taking place, yet they never intervened. Instead, they prevented innocent civilians from escaping their death and assisted the terrorist militia by illuminating the camps at night so the killing, raping and injuring could continue round the clock.

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

We can never know the exact number murdered, it ranges between the Israeli IDF counts of 800 to 3,500 by the Lebanese. Almost 1,000 people were dumped in communal graves by the Red Cross. Additionally family members outside the camps buried some in cemeteries in Beirut and lastly hundreds were buried beneath bulldozed buildings by the terrorist Phalangist militia in their “mopping up” operation.

Despite evidence in the UN Security Council calling Sabra and Shatila a “criminal massacre,” despite the UN finding that illegal weapons were used on civilians, Ariel Sharon the man who was found to be “personally responsible” for this war crime was never punished. Instead, the War Criminal Sharon was rewarded as a Hero by his country and was later welcomed to the White House, as a man of peace. As for the US Envoy Philip Habib who promised protection for the civilians in the camp which prompted the PLO to leave the area? Well In 1982, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom which is the highest official honor given to a US citizen by the US government.

Flash forward to December 2008, Gaza, operation “Cast Lead” and more recently “Operation Protective Edge” we see the same tactics once again inflicted on a captive population witnesss the massacre at shujaiya and other Gazan neighbourhoods.

Today Gaza is the new Sabra and Shatila, and moreover, the captive population has no way out, just like the people inside Sabra and Shatila camps. There is no one to protect them, and the world ignores this crisis. There is a progressive slow massacre in Gaza which has continued since operation Cast Lead in 2008. Nearly each week another Palestinian dies at the hands of Israel. Sometimes 1 person, other times 2 or 3 or more. Just as Sharon claimed those left trapped inside the Sabra and Shatila camps were “terrorists” Israel uses this same tactic when it murders Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has appointed itself to be judge, jury and executioner, without world supervision, investigation, transparency.. It’s a constant drip, a slow painful massacre that the world continues to ignore. Israel’s bloody history repeats itself and this will continue until the world demands otherwise.

Remember what Bobby Sands said “Everyone, Republican or otherwise, has their own particular part to play. No part is too great or too small; no one is too old or too young to do something.”

Guest Post-Rafiq Kathwari “Now is the Summer of our Discontent”

Posted by on Wednesday, 23 July, 2014

By Rafiq Kathwari

Rafiq Kathwari is the present winner of the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award.

My sister-in-law and I sat in the back seat of the Volkswagen as my older brother drove in soft rain through red lights to Maimonides. “Kicking,” she said, putting my hand over her round belly. Shy, I gazed at her flip-flops. A stork delivered a boy in Brooklyn eight years to the day JFK was shot in Dallas.

A new alien in New York, I babysat my cute nephew in a stark rental on Park Avenue. His dad rode the IRT to Pine Street; his mom was a cashier at Korvettes. The boy & I together discovered Big Bird on a Zenith console, my first TV exposure at age 22. Our closets were screaming to unload handmade numdah numdah rugs that Grandfather had shipped from Kashmir, urging us to get rich quickly carpeting America from sea to shining sea.

I watched him dunk hoops in Perturbia, his long hair swishing to Metallica, “Soldier boy, made of clay.” He hunted jackrabbits at the family farm upstate, enrolled at the local NRA, his dad’s rifle on boy’s shoulder. He climbed a peak one summer in Kashmir, the knotty dispute often a passionate topic at the dining table, softened by ice cream & reruns of “All In The Family.”

He chilled with his other mates at the Muslim Sunday School on California Road to which I once gave a Hoover. Allah alone knows. what seeds sprouted in his open mind for he made his little sister weep, shaming her for wearing leotards to the ballet class she loved. Yet, she was fond of her big brother. He swayed his dad to stop serving liquor at home. He made his parents proud calling out the Call to Prayer at an annual apple picking event at the farm, a holy ritual on a crisp Autumn day that made me feel sad, for I like my cider with a splash of vodka.

I remember standing next to family & friends in single line amidst a row of weighty apple trees, facing east to the Kaaba. The women also stood next to one another at the rear. Children ran from tree to tree with glee, munched forbidden fruit that had fallen. I remember sunbeams piercing the abundant boughs. I remember feeling high on the ripe scent.

Apples have mapped the fate of mankind, after all.

His dad plucked his own apple from Perturbia High, enrolled him into High Prep, hoping the sound schooling the Christian Brothers had drummed into himself when he was a lad growing up in Kashmir would shape his son’s character as well. The Brothers urged the son to plumb his own depths in order to make his conscience bloom.

I am struck by the eloquence of the title from his senior year essay,“History’s Most Persecuted Minority Is Insensitive To The Aspirations Of The World’s Most Dispossessed Tribe.” It forever sealed his empathy with the most compelling moral issue of our generation.

He was enraged as I, you, we should be. How do middle-class Muslim youth from Seattle to Srinagar manage, to the extent they do, their blind rage, their helplessness at the organized ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Israelis, aided by the most mighty democracy?

And just as his rage was double-edged, so is mine: Linking Israel’s genocidal land grab in Palestine to India’s in Kashmir is contextually inevitable as it indeed should be for all those who care about untying the Gordian knot of the Kashmir dispute, including those xenophobes in Delhi who repeatedly call out for cleansing people of the Kashmir Valley & their land as well, just what the Zionists have been doing to Palestinians & their land as well ever since the Nakba.

Now is the summer of our discontent. Banned bombs, Made in America, rain down once again on the world’s largest open-air concentration camp, mercilessly. Photos of lifeless babies pulled outlike Raggedy Ann dolls from Gaza’s burning debris make even a hard man sob.

America, you arm & enrich a colonial settler state, your cop on the beat in the Mid East who assures the oil flows smoothly & keep the subjects quiet.

America, when will you come to terms with your imperial hypocrisy, your unsustainable addiction to oil, your whorish bond with the world’s most retrogressive, sexually-transmitted dynasty, perfectly disorientated in time, place & person, that pays cash for your Hell Fire missiles, & uses petrodollars to proselytize a rigid ritual-based reading of the Koran?

America, it saddens me that so many bright people don’t get the symbiotic link between Western imperialism, & the wretched of a globalized world. It’s the New Cold War: their secular opposition, your imperial despotism, your suppression campaigns, your military henchmen, your gendarme state. You say, Eisenhower Doctrine. They say, Imperial Pillage. It’s just dandy, then, to promote shoe, underwear, & flight school amateur chemistry kids as Soldiers of Al-Qaeda, “home-grown terrorists,” sworn to destroy America, the manicured homeland.

Theirs is an eloquent plea for Justice, an appeal to the human within us. They’re holding up a mirror, & when you glance at yourself, America, it seems you only echo the words of that iconic character Travis Bickle in the 1976 film Taxi Driver, “Are you talking to me?”

He totaled a Toyota on the Bronx River Parkway, walking away from the wreck, his sack of bones intact. He made a U at McGill U, flew to Faisal U in Islamabad searching for Islam in the Land of the Pure. “We shall meet again,” he wrote, “on Judgment Day.”

April is the cruelest month. The Taliban…err…sorry…the Mujahedeen…“moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers” Ronald Regan had dubbed them, who in turn was dubbed the “cue card reader President” by Gore Vidal…the Mujahedeen had taken Kabul…it was the best of times, it was the worst…a spectacle was unfolding.

What happened to him, what makes sense, what gives?

I imagine my tall, bearded nephew in his red & white plaid shirt, his slim blue Levis, & a handful of his friends driving a borrowed Toyota on Asian Highway One. I imagine them crossing the porous Durand Line to see first hand the tamasha, the drama unfolding. I imagine them all trapped in a firefight between two factions. Wrong terrain. Wrong time. I imagine infernal arcs across a cobalt sky.

A hurried mass grave (manicured later) was dug in Torkham. In New York, my sister-in-law was pruning roses the day the call came.

Rafiq Kathwari is the present winner of the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award.

Rafiq Kathwari lives in Omeath, Co. Louth. He graduated from the University of Kashmir in 1969.
In 1978 he was awarded an M.A. in Political Science from the New University in New York. He also has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Columbia University. Most of his working life has been spent with Ethan Allen, a large manufacturer and retailer of home furnishings based in the United States.

He has also worked as photojournalist. He has published poems in print and online in the USA, Ireland and Asia.

Debka Comes to Derry~Lajee Center From Aida Refugee Camp

Posted by on Friday, 28 June, 2013

Lajee in Derry

Photos by Rik Walton

Irish Friends of Palestine members meet with Lajee performers and artists from Aida Refugee Camp in Palestine. The 15 members of Lajee Center arrived in Derry earlier this week to perform at the Playhouse. The group is touring Ireland as part of an Arts & Cultural Tour.

IFOP Member Gerry MacLochlainn welcomes Lajee to Derry

Photos by Rik Walton

In an exciting and engaging programme of events, the dancers performed the traditional Dabka dancing for the Derry Audience. There was also and exhibit of their award-winning photography work depicting life in Occupied Palestine, plus a screening of films by the group and discussions about all aspects of the Palestinian case. Building on the success of last year’s tour, Lajee has organised a diverse and educational programme which is representative of Palestinian culture and life, and an insight into the work and activities of Lajee Center. The tour members are young active artists and dancers aged between 15 to 20 years old, with four coordinators and speakers.

Video and Photo displays

“RESIST to EXIST” by the Lajee centre’s Media project coordinator & award winning photographer and filmmaker Mohammad Al-Azza. His powerful work illustrates life through demonstration direct from within Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem.

Photos by Rik Walton

The exhibition will be at the Playhouse all day Tuesday 25th and at 7.00 the main Derry event takes place which will include a short film and an amazing performance by the youth of Dabkeh, traditional Palestinian dance.


Lajee Center (‘lajee’ means ‘refugee’ in Arabic), was established in Aida Refugee Camp in April 2000 by a group of 11 young people from the Camp who wanted to serve the community. Lajee is a community-based grassroots creative cultural centre that works with new generations of Palestinians as they continue their ongoing struggle for justice and rights for Palestine and all Palestinians.

The centre began as a dream for its creators who worked intensively and with true Palestinian ‘sumoud’ (steadfastness) in order to make that dream become a reality. By April 2001, Lajee had rented its first premises, a former garage measuring 70 square metres that was to be Lajee’s base until 2009. In the same month Lajee was registered with the Ministry of NGO Affairs of the Palestinian National Authority.

The main aim of the centre is to provide refugee youth with cultural, educational, social and developmental opportunities. Its programs are designed in response to the particular needs of the community and the skills and abilities of its members, whilst always remaining in full support and defense of all Palestinian rights.

Lajee has built links with several local and international organisations which assist the center in conducting its activities. Local organisations include a network of active centres in Palestinian refugee camps that was established through Lajee’s ‘OUR VOICE’ project who are working collectively and creatively towards joint goals of freedom and justice, BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, the Refugee Service Affairs Committee, and several other Palestinian organisations and NGO’s. Internationally, Lajee has the working support of many organisations including the Mennonite Central Committee, HOPING Foundation, The Pontificial Mission, the Belgian Technical Cooperation, and Broederlijk Delen amongst many others.

Over and above Lajee’s relationships with organisations, the centre’s work and development would not have been possible without the incredible support we have received from many friends around the world. Individual people have, since the Lajee dream was born, stood by the centre through support of our work and goals in terms of solidarity, project development, and in several cases through financial backing. All these people to date, and all future friends, support our belief in grassroots people-to-people tangible and internationalist solidarity.

Lajee organises cultural, social, and artistic activities for youth in the Bethlehem area. While our activities are based in Aida Camp, we also have active members from Dheisheh and Al-Azza Refugee Camps, and the cities of Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, and Ad-Doha. Members range in age from young children of 4 years up to youth in their twenties. We continuously strive to open our projects up to new members from Aida Camp and the surrounding areas and expand our volunteer base.

The Center aims to develop social and rights-based awareness in refugee youth although our work is not exclusive to refugees; our projects and activities are open to all Palestinians. It structures and implements its activities in such a way as to eliminate all forms of discrimination against social class or gender. Activities are organised with the goal of fostering in the participants a wider understanding of the world in which they live, focusing on issues relating specifically to their own society, culture and history, as well as the global context. Our hope is to develop the social awareness of members, deepen their education, and provide them with the critical skills necessary for them to take on an active role in their society.

Lajee seeks to encourage and enhance the talents of members by supporting and fostering their cultural, artistic and rights-based development through our programs. We believe that by providing the new generations with developmental opportunities, we will give them the motivation and the skills necessary to pursue their interests and vocations through their future. All the Center’s activities aim to provide members with a key to their future and a conviction that they are the makers of their own future.

All our activities are organised by supportive members of the community, and our programs depend entirely on the voluntary efforts of our members, with some support from related institutions and interested individuals. Our full-time volunteers include several who have grown with Lajee since they themselves were child members and who know run projects and activities with the next generation.

enjoy more photos from their visit to Derry:

Photos by Rik Walton

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.”



Martina Anderson MEP Meets CEPR and Former Hungerstriker Mahmoud Sarsak

Posted by on Tuesday, 9 April, 2013

Martina Anderson MEP and other Members of the EU Parliament have held meetings with the Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR) and former Palestinian Hungerstriker and footbal legend Mahmoud Sarsak.

The CEPR along with Mahmoud Sarsek are continuing efforts to highlight the issue of the Palestinian prisoners at the European political level. Several meetings were organised with the European Parliament to discuss the suffering of the prisoners including the harsh conditions they face inside the occupation prisons. Dr. Arafat Shoukri of the CEPR said “It was an excellent response of European Representatives and they promised to continue to defend the issue of prisoners. The European parliament issued a statement supporting the demands of the prisoners three weeks ago.”

Sarsak was arrested on 22 July 2009 at the Erez Crossing, while travelling between his home in Gaza and the West Bank to link up with his new club Balata Youth in Balata Sarsak was held for three years without formal charges and spent three months on hunger strike prior to his release.

Martina Anderson MEP pictured to the left of Mahmoud Sarsak along with other European Left Alliance (GUE/NGL) members in Brussels and Dr Arafat Shoukari of the CEPR