Saturday, 3 January 2009

Marching for peace in Gaza


Patrick Comerford

Between 1,500 and 2,000 people attended today’s demonstration in Dublin protesting against the current wave of violence in the Gaza Strip and calling for an end to current siege and bombardment.

The march and rally were organised by the Irish Anti-War Movement and the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. As the protest assembled at the Central Bank in Dame Street, the speakers included Patricia McKeown of UNISON, who is President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Freda Hughes, events co-ordinator of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and representatives of the Palestinian community in Dublin.

Outside Leinster House, where there was a live phone-link with Gaza City, the speakers included former TD Joe Higgins and veteran anti-war activist Richard Boyd-Barrett of the Irish Anti-War Movement.

Muslims on the protest stopped briefly for their late afternoon prayers, before the march moved on past the EU offices down Dawson Street and Suffolk Street to O’Connell Bridge, where the protesters staged a three-minute silent sit-down.

At the final rally in O’Connell Street, I was one of the speakers alongside a diplomat from the Palestinian delegation in Dublin, the Nobel Peace Laureate, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, who recently visited the Gaza Strip on a humanitarian mission, and representatives of the Islamic communities in Dublin.

Speaking at the rally as President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, I pointed out that the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Dr Zion Evrony, had been generous space in the Irish print and broadcast media to defend Israeli policies in Gaza, but the same freedom was not being extended to journalists, from both the Israeli and the international press corps, to report and comment on events in Gaza Strip.

“The only reason journalists are being barred from the Gaza Strip is because Israel does not want journalists telling the world the truth about what is happening … the truth is that women, and children, boys and girls, and small babies, are being bombed to death every day.

“The Israeli Ambassador says Israel’s actions are proportionate. But they are not. They are disproportionate: in the past week, four Israelis have been killed, but over 460 people in Gaza have been killed; in the past week, one Israeli soldier has been killed, but over 40 children have been killed. This is not proportionate, this is criminal.

“The Israeli Ambassador says there are civilian casualties in every conflict. But these are not accidental casualties. These women and children have been targeted. And international law says it is a war crime to deliberately target civilians, to bomb people deliberately in their homes.

“We are seeing today the repetition of the story of Herod and the massacre of the children. Herod was worried not about the security of his people, but the security of his own grip on power. And the Kadima party and the current Israeli government is anxious ahead of the Israel election next month to show it is as militant as, as hard-line as Likud, which it fears is going to win the election next month.

“This is a cruel war, all for the sake of a few votes. Children are suffering at the hands of a cruel election campaign. The ring around Gaza is as cruel as any wall built around the Warsaw Ghetto. I wish all Muslims, Christians and Jews in region peace. But those who make a desert cannot call it peace. The killings must stop, and must sop now.

“Salam. Shalom. Peace.”