Posts Tagged ‘ Palestine ’

Cutbacks Crippling Palestinian Health Service

photoFormer Irish News Review reporter Keith Falkiner has recently returned from a trip to Palestine. During his trip Keith met with some journalists in Gaza who were keen to tell their stories to an English speaking audience. Here’s a story by Keith and Gaza based reporter Ahmed Dalloul on the health service crisis in the region.  

WE all grumble about the state of the health service in Ireland.

But spare a thought for the 1.8 million people crammed into the Gaza Strip, where hospitals have to deal with chronic power outages, a shortage of medication and where even the staff are rarely assured of getting paid for their crucial, life-saving work.

Gaza-based journalist Ahmed Dalloul reports for Irish News Review on the Palestinian enclave’s two main hospitals, Beit Hanoun and Al-Shifa – where both are on the verge of complete breakdown.

The two hospitals were the target of attack during Israel’s recent 50-day military onslaught on Gaza ,but as Ahmed reports, there are deeper, underlying issues that are affecting the future operation of both hospitals. Continue reading

The War At Home – Ireland’s Relationship With Israel

 

Ireland Abstained from a UN vote on Gaza (image: thejournal.ie)

Ireland Abstained from a UN vote on Gaza (image: thejournal.ie)

Ireland’s decision to abstain from a vote into the investigation of Israeli war crimes in Gaza yesterday at the United Nations Human Rights Council has caused uproar amongst the Irish people.

The news was met with utter disgust by a large percentage of Irish citizens, who feel misrepresented by members of our government. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams also showed his disdain by accusing the government of “political cowardice”, while Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power announced she is “shocked and disgusted with the Irish government’s decision not to support an international inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza.” Continue reading

News in Brief – IMF Here To Stay As Anti-Semites Attack Shatter

Sugar_Hill_posters

Our Troika days may be numbered but the IMF won’t be leaving just yet, according to the Mission Chief (a misleadingly exciting title if ever there was one). Nope, officers of the IMF could be here well into 2015 to make sure we don’t be bold with our budget again. It’s reported they’ve all developed a taste for the Guinness and can’t remember the way home, that’s the official line anyway, reality is they want to keep their eyes on Enda et. al. to make sure we’re still paying back every bit of bailout we owe. The Mission Chief (seriously, sounds like an astronaut or something) has said we could still be settling our debts up to 2023 but for now, he’ll only be checking in for sixth monthly visits. Byyeeee!

There’s been some particularly troubling protesting going on in West Limerick after a selection of anti-Semitic posters were put up across Sugar Hill Bridge. The posters, that appeared overnight, largely carry the sentiment that Alan Shatter is some kind of cartoon Jewish villain that’s trying to turn our country into Palestine. Whilst this kind of attitude is not acceptable in contemporary society, points are awarded for imagination, what Shatter’s faith has to do on his role in government is undefinable. Laughable really, like the poster that uniquely referred to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill and called Enda Kenny, Enda Herod. Honestly lads, he’s a big enough head already without thinking he’s a king! Continue reading

Israel Isn’t Perfect, But Palestine Certainly Won’t Be Either

flagsThere is a tendency here in Ireland, amongst some though not all, to instantly criticise Israel in favour of Palestine, an automatic reaction borne from what sometimes appears to be a genetic predisposition to display extreme hatred of anything which appears in the guise of imperialism and the coloniser – real or imaginary. Throughout the Islamic world, Israel is often criticised though this outspoken criticism shouldn’t be mistaken for a genuine concern for Palestine’s inhabitants in each and every case; rather it is worryingly often a manifestation of the hatred of the only free state in a veritable sea of totalitarianism, aside from the severe and sometimes under-estimated hatred the Arab world has for Jews simply because they are Jews. Many of us in the West also feel comfortable criticising Israel from behind our newspapers and computers.  But blindly criticising Israel as a heartless coloniser is a gross misunderstanding of the facts; both historically and in the present day.

Persecution of Palestinians is nothing new. Ten thousand were killed in 1970. 1991 saw a mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homes. The work of Israel undoubtedly. Yet for some reason media attention was not as completely focused on these events. Why? Because those 10,000 killed in 1970 met their deaths in Jordan while the ethnic cleansing took place in Kuwait. Israel wasn’t involved in either incident and so the coverage was nowhere near the media frenzies we’ve seen over the past few years. When, in 2002, the Israeli army invaded the Jenin refugee camp to root out terrorists the uproar across the world’s media was deafening as they rushed to document each and every perceived excess. Oddly when the Lebanon did the exact same thing in 2007, they received worldwide support while media outlets largely ignored the story following the usual run of first reports.

Why is this the case? Why in Western society is the first reaction always one which is in defence of the Palestinians, regardless of the true facts behind the story? For one thing, Palestinians have hit all of the right buttons in garnering support. The belief has spread that these are rebels fighting the evils of modern imperialism (evil in and of itself though unfortunately not as applicable in this case). People will always rally behind this cry, particularly in those smaller nations across the globe whose history has been dominated by imperialism in one form or another. For another thing, they are fighting against the Jews. The hatred for them that currently exists with such open vehemence in large swathes across the Arab world once existed in a similar state across Europe, which bubbled away for centuries culminating in the unforgettable events in the death camps across the Third Reich. Hitler may be dead and Nazi Germany may be gone but old prejudices die very hard.

Also of importance is the fact that Palestine is fighting a war against a democracy. The issue here lies with the press. In a democracy the press gains access to a far greater degree than in a non-democracy. Seeing as how they don’t live in fear of death (other than from incoming Hamas rockets), Israel is far more full of journalists than neighbouring Palestine. And a war against a democracy gains far more attention than one which is waged against a non-democracy. Essentially the world views it as a fight between the uncivilised or the unmodernised, and sees it as something such Luddites are bound to get up to. Thus the democracy begins to be criticised consistently harsher for its small crimes than its opponent will for their most egregious actions – such actions are expected of one yet must be punished in the other. This is obviously the case with Israel and Palestine and when Israel is consistently attacked in the media, the idea that they must be in the wrong, if there are so many stories condemning their actions, begins to imprint on people’s minds. And considering Israel is in fact a democracy they can’t simply act like a totalitarian state and completely dismiss the horror of the rest of the world as they ethnically cleanse themselves of the enemy (something Hamas would have no issue with, were the roles reversed). So the conflict drags on and the longer the coverage and the longer the conflict, the more they are criticised. This manifests itself in some very odd ways. Take, for example, the Labour Party LGBT group here in Ireland, who protested against Israel which is ironically the only country in the Middle East where LGBTs have rights. But not only did they protest but they did so beneath the flag of Hamas, the symbol of an organisation which tortures and executes gay people. A frightening definition of irony or perhaps simple sheer ignorance, and even more frightening when considering that the organisations involved, including some from the media, saw nothing amiss with this.

Now many might say that none of this matters, these arguments are invalid and pointless because Israel is simply in the wrong as a colonising force which is trying to take control of land to which they have no claim, and that is that. Palestine should be in the hands of the Palestinians because they were there first. These people point out that there was peace in the area before the Zionist colonisers came to establish a state, and are also of the view that the Muslims are the colonised while the Israelis are clearly the colonisers. Anyone who attempts to understand the history of this troubled land knows that this view isn’t a historically accurate one, and the history does make for some interesting reading. History tells us a different story, not as far back as 1850 or so, which is roughly the period of time Palestinian sympathisers often like to travel to, but over the course of a thousand years or more. Numerous peoples have populated this land – Canaanites, the Ancient Israelites, Persians and Assyrians, and first joined the Islamic Empire under Muslim colonisers in 636 AD, changing hands several times before being recaptured by the Islamic Muhammad Ali of Egypt from the Turks in the middle part of the 19th century before winding up in the hands of the British. And for those who say that the entire country was simply handed over to the Jews by the British, that simply isn’t the case. As a matter of fact, vast tracts of land were willingly sold to Zionists from the mid half of the 19th century, for which they paid prices which were vastly more than the land was actually worth. The area had been in decline for several decades; Palestine was poorly cultivated and widely neglected in many parts and many thought an influx of wealthy Jews would do wonders for reviving the dry and dusty land. Later complaints from Arabs were found to be exaggerated or false; some of the land in question was found to have been sandy and uncultivated land before it had been purchased, having only been put to use when taken over by its Jewish purchaser. So who has the definitive right to this land? The Jews who became a scattered and persecuted group centuries beforehand or the Muslim conquerors who moved in and took the land by force before selling it to their now hated neighbours while painting themselves as the innocent victims of colonisation today? The fairest solution is the two state one; one Palestinian and one Israeli, an offer which has been proposed several times and consistently reject by an Islamic group whose desire to see a Palestinian state is trumped by that of watching the state of Israel burn. True, the Israeli settlements and plans to build the same in the West Bank aren’t helping matters and can understandably be condemned. But returning to Hamas, are these really the people who garner such worldwide support?

Let’s imagine a different world for a moment – a world in which Israel simply gave in to these demands and sat back and allowed their destruction, the state that is desired in Palestine is established with terrorist group Hamas at the head. Would those who support Palestine’s efforts now really support such a state? Do they even realise what that would entail? Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority has maintained that any Palestinian state will be an Islamic one, which isn’t an issue. The real issue is that a) the state will be under a more than likely extreme form of Sharia law and b) Hamas will be at the head of this. Sharia law has its positives though restrictions on freedom of speech and the rights of women are just two things to take issue with. Women can’t ride motor scooters. Dancing women is a grave offence. 150 ‘witches’ were arrested by Hamas in 2010 while Christians have spoken out against forced conversion to Islam. And freedom of religion certainly won’t be an issue, because there will simply be no freedom. In 2002 the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was desecrated, two years following the destruction of Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem. Across the Arab world, synagogues, churches and even mosques are all targets for the fanatical, and Palestine is nothing if not well supplied with the fanatical. Even the Shia Muslims aren’t safe as they face persecution from Hamas in Gaza. And these are the people who essentially have so much support from the Irish people? Evidently the feeling of shame has long departed these shores. In one sense our support of Palestine is understandable, a support born of an ill understanding of many of the facts and an accidental or perhaps forcible misunderstanding of the consequences, fuelled by a history of oppression in our own country and the remnants of a nationalist narrative which railed against the evils of imperialism in any shape or form, which has taken so long to dissipate and which still somewhat resonates through time today.

And then there is the final part of this insane jigsaw puzzle – the fact that Palestinians – ordinary Palestinians and their supporters across the Middle East remain committed to the destruction of Israel. Such a Palestinian state would not be a model of peace and acceptance but hatred and aggression towards anyone outside of Islam but the Jews in particular. If it was truly peace that Palestine wanted then indoctrination of children in schools wouldn’t exist (something which speaks volumes against these people, for whom brainwashing children into believing their cause is right and just is a necessity). In the end it comes down to this – if Hamas ended their campaign of terror, Israel would have no part in Gaza, trade would be free, checkpoints dismantled etc. However if Israel gives up all violence, Hamas’ move would be extermination of all Israelis, with the support of the people behind them, not all by any means, though the number is frighteningly sizeable. And so the conflict will continue, because Israel cannot end the violence, and Hamas won’t.

David Finklestein of The Times wrote “There can be peace and prosperity at the smallest of prices. The Palestinians need only say that they will allow Israel to exist in peace. They need only say this tiny thing, and mean it, and there is pretty much nothing they cannot have. Yet they will not say it. And they will not mean it…again and again…the Palestinians have been offered a nation-state in a divided Palestine. And again and again they have turned the offer down, for it has always been more important to drive out the Jews than to have a Palestinian state…there cannot be peace until this changes.”

Gaza, Israel And The Real Winners Of The 2012 Violence

The dust has settled in the Gaza strip as an Egyptian-brokered truce has taken hold. The flare up in violence may cause some to despair. It seems that the lessons were not learned from the previous war has not been learned and once again civilians were the losers. But looking closely at the recent conflict reveals that this time, there were significant differences which may one day help towards a long-term settlement.

The worldwide perception of Israel came out much better than in 2009- a strange scenario given that they initiated the conflict. The assassination of Ahmed Jabari was also a strange choice given the lull in hostilities and it has yet to emerge what the exact rationale was for his assassination, given the context and time. However this man was a long time enemy of Israel, publicly committed to kidnapping as many Israeli soldiers as possible, to use in prisoner exchanges. The manner of his death was a sure Israeli show of force. Spies deep within the Hamas network were able to pinpoint his exact location, to a car fitted with a secret tracking device.

The nature of the Israeli bombardment was also much more ‘clean’ and ‘precise’, insofar as an air bombardment can be. Somewhere in the region of 1500 targeted strikes during the few days killed fewer than 200 people, a sizeable number of which were Hamas fighters. This demonstrates that the real targets were weaponry, rocket sites and supply tunnels. Tragic as the civilian deaths were, and there were civilian deaths, it takes concentrated effort to reduce them to this level. The Israeli military has demonstrated a visible effort to reduce the number of women and children killed. This was a success for Israel. They did not draw nearly as much condemnation as before.

In fact, the world rhetoric was considerably mild towards the Israeli side. Barack Obama spoke strongly of Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks and did not condemn the air strikes as much as might have been expected. However he may be left with little choice, as his position of moral authority is considerably weakened with mounting criticism of his drone campaign.

The Israeli campaign was one based on intelligence and technology. Their means of pin-pointing the location of Hamas rocket-sites, arms dumps and even the real-time location of leaders was based on technology and human spies. The buzz of drones hanging over Gaza was always present and the street execution of six alleged spies was evidence of a growing Hamas frustration with the level of infiltration. The Iron Dome also received its first baptism of fire and was as successful as was hoped.

The decision not to conduct a ground war was a wise one.  It was probably an obvious choice following the2009 war. Barging into a crowded urban territory behind a wall of fire only leads to needless deaths. Prolonging the war would also have rallied the Palestinians around Hamas further. Although they are the dominant party in Gaza it is not without dissent from people who want to move towards a deal for peace, as well as more radical factions.

Essentially, the conduct of the war has shown Israel to be a rational and legitimate actor to all except those fundamentally aligned with the Palestinian cause. They inflicted significant losses on their enemy but demonstrated some restraint in front of the world. Hamas, on the other hand, conducted the usual indiscriminate bombardment of Israel. Its legitimacy in the eyes of the world is now even more questionable. It has also cornered itself as it is unable to inflict any worthwhile damage on Israel while having to sustain huge punishment to its own infrastructure. For Hamas there may be no way forward as long as it refuses to recognise Israel. It can merely pose an inconvenience to the lives of some Israelis in largely futile attacks.

This is a long way from the ultimate solution: Israel lifting its blockade and Hamas recognising Israel. In the past few days, Israel has allowed Gaza fishermen out beyond their previous limit, and relaxed the tension around border areas by allowing local famers near Israeli soil. However the choking blockade still remains in place and is likely to for the foreseeable future. The current talks will be concerned with relaxing the blockade in return for the safety of Southern Israel from rockets. Behind their defensive shield and capable military, it is Israel who are in the favourable position.