Creating people's geographies
A few days ago, Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and fellow peace activists made headlines when teargassed and shot by rubber bullets as they engaged in a peaceful protest at Bil’in.
Ms Maguire had been invited to open an international conference in the village of Bil’lin which closed with a press conference at which many international journalists were present.
Monte Asbury has posted a very moving video of Maguire voicing her solidarity with the Palestinian people even as she awaited the ambulance to treat her, saying, “I’m very proud to be here … This is where we, the peace movement, have to be.”
A longer statement follows the video.
- Sami Awad’s recent post on Non-violent Activism in Southern Bethlehem
- Mel Frykberg, Israel’s Lab in Palestine, Al Ahram ( 26 April – 2 May 2007) on the disturbing use of experimental weapons by the IOF. This is an issue which has also cropped up before; here, here and here. See also documentary evidence in the video Gaza Strip, and in Star Wars in Iraq, about the use of experimental weapons by the US in Iraq
- Terry Walz, Why Isn’t Israel Talking to Hamas? Electronic Intifada, 27 April 2007
REPORT FROM MAIREAD AND ANN PATTERSON
“On Friday 20th April, 2007, Ann Patterson and I joined the Bil’in Peoples Committee, (outside Ramallah) on their weekly nonviolent protest march to the Apartheid Wall , together with Israeli peace activists and Internationalists from over 20 countries. The Internationals came from France, (over 200) America, Puerto Rico, Spain, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Canada, and India.
Before the peace vigil, I participated in a Press Conference with the Palestinian Minister for Information, Mustafa Barghouti, in front of the World Press. Minister Barghouti praised the nonviolent vigil of the Bil’in people and the nonviolent resistance of many people around Palestine, says Bil’in is a model and example to all. He called to stop the building of the wall, and for the upholding of Palestinian Rights under International Law.
I supported his call and thanked the people of Bil’in offering my support for the nonviolent resistance to the Wall as it contravenes International Law, including the International Court of Justice decision in the Hague. I also called for an end to Palestinian occupation, which will be 40 years soon, and recognition by the International Community of the Palestinian Government, together with restoration of economic, political rights of the people.
Both Dr. Barghouti and I called for the release of the BBC Journalist Alan Johnston. I also called for the protection of Journalists all over the world, whose ability to cover the truth, is being infringed.
During Conference the Israeli military drove through the Gate onto Palestinian Land, with many foot soldiers. They surrounded World Media and in Hebrew warned us that if we did not disperse they would attack in five minutes. Myself and Dr. Barghouti, condemned this as abuse of freedom of press, speech, and people’s right to peaceful protest and speech.
During press conference a man from San Paulo, climbed to the top of the Surveillance Mask and released a Palestinian Flag. He planned to stay there for 2 days.
We returned to the Village and joined the Peace Vigil moving down the road towards the wall. Several hundred people participated, the Palestinian men, women, and many young Palestinian males leading the march. Very courageous as young Palestinian males when arrested often get beaten. I walked with my Palestinian interpreter who told me his home was on the other side of the wall. His 12 acre land was confiscated by Israeli Authorities and his 400 year old olive trees uprooted, taken to Jerusalem and planted in new Israeli settlements.
When the walkers got half way down the road, the Israeli soldiers started firing nerve gas, and plastic bullets directly at us. At another point they used water cannons. We were a completely unarmed peaceful gathering and this vicious attack from the Israeli soldiers was totally unprovoked attack upon civilians. The soldiers block the upper part of the road, thus preventing Dr. Barghouti and some of the Palestinians joining the main vigillers. We were then tear gassed and as I helped a French woman retreat I was shot in the leg with a rubber bullet. Two young women, one from USA and one from New Zealand, helped me towards an ambulance. I saw an elderly Palestinian mother carried on a stretcher into the ambulance, as she was shot in the back with a plastic bullet. I saw a man whose face was covered in blood and a Palestinian youth overcome with the gas. About 20 people were injured. Ann and myself went back to the protest where the people were being viciously attacked with nerve gas and plastic bullets. I was overcome with gas and took a nose bleed which resulted in being carried to ambulance for treatment.
We were advised by medical staff not to return to vigil and obliged to leave our friends several hours later still heroically trying to get near the wall. On the road towards the village we watched 2 children playing in their garden, oblivious to the nerve gas floating down on the wind towards their home. This permeates their clothes, their lungs and the question has to be asked, what the health of these children will be like in a few years time.
This is not only a question of abuse of human rights, international laws, by the Israeli government; it is a health and environment issue. We were all traumatized by our experience, and with the gas on the air, came the words flowing back to me of a Palestinian Doctor, who said “the whole Palestinian people, after 40 years of occupation, the whole people of Palestine are traumatized, it is time the International Community acted to put a stop to this suffering and injustice of our people”. I agree enough is enough; it is time for action to force the Israeli Government to enter into unconditional talks to end this tragedy of tragedies of good and gentle Palestinian people.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Ann Patterson
2lst April, 2007-04-21
See also Mairead’s moving words reproduced at Belief Net (thanks again to Monte Asbury). She concludes:
From our own experience in Northern Ireland, we have learned that violence begets violence, and paramilitarism, militarism, violence, and war, do not solve the problems, but indeed are the cause of much reciprocal violence. We have also learned in Northern Ireland that when a government tries to deal with terrorism by curtailing civil liberties, or by complete disregarding and violating international norms and standards, then this only adds fuel to the pain, anger and fear, and is the cause of much reciprocal violence. If we want justice, peace, and human security, then the means must be consistent with the ends, we must use good means to achieve good ends. This lesson is important both for the Israeli government and the Palestinian authorities, and all citizens of Israel/Palestine if there is to be real progress towards peace.
I hope you will take inspiration from the peace process in Northern Ireland. We too, in our most recent history, have been in dark places where it seemed injustice and its child of violence was in danger of destroying us. In l976 we were on the brink of civil war, and the cycle of violence seemed impossible to break. Sadly a tragedy happened with the death of my sister Ann’s three young children (Joanne, John, and Andrew) in a violent clash between the Irish Republic Army and British Army. Out of this tragedy, there arose a massive grassroots peace movement, demanding an end to violence, and offering nonviolence as a way forward for the Northern Irish people.
Many other social movements, and efforts by the civil community, took place to resist violence and demand justice and peace. It was a spontaneous people’s movement. Ordinary people from all walks of life joining in solidarity saying ‘enough is enough’ there is another way of nonviolence to solve our problems. We took our inspiration from Jesus/Gandhi/King arguing that nonviolence is not weak; it is active, powerful, because it comes from the soul and it therefore has the power of truth, and is simply the right thing to do. We refused to carry arms and refused armed protection. Our nonviolence was risky and dangerous, we received death threats from all sides, our property destroyed, were verbally and physically attacked, but we had the joy of witnessing in the first six months of the movement, a 70 percent decrease in the rate of violence, and the beginning of peace.
It was a long, difficult, and dangerous path; often we though things were so bad peace would never come. It took a long time for the message of nonviolence to be heard, but it was finally, and ended up in all inclusive dialogue when the British/Dublin Governments spoke to their enemies through representatives of the paramilitary groups, and all the Political parties. This all inclusive dialogue, eventually lead in l998 to the Good Friday Agreement, then to the historic meeting in March 2007 of Dr. Paisley (Democratic Unionist Party) and Gerry Adams (Sinn Fein) sitting at the same table and agreeing to share power in Northern Ireland on 8th May, 2007, when there will be a devolved Government in Northern Ireland, a Power Sharing executive and an Assembly. Truly miracles do happen, and should give hope to others!
There are many lessons to be learned from the Northern Irish Peace Process, one being that peace is possible, but it takes courageous political leadership, and also the civil community to compromise and take risks for peace. Perhaps the most important lesson is recognition by those in power that militarism, paramilitarism, and the so-called ‘war on terrorism’ does no solve these deeply complex ethical/political problems, and that nonviolent conflict resolution does work.
Here in Israel/Palestine I believe, it will also take a recognition that Israeli security lies not in oppressing the Palestinian people, but in dialogue and negotiations that recognize their right to equality and freedom. I hope the Israeli government will follow our example in Northern Ireland, and enter unconditional talks with their partners, the Palestinian authority in order to find solutions together. Peace is possible, if we act justly, accept and celebrate the diversity we encounter, give and accept forgiveness, work to heal the divisions of the past, and above all choose the path of non-killing and nonviolence, then we can build non-killing communities and a world civilization with a compassionate heart. Building such communities, starts in our own hearts, in our families, and then reaching out to the other with mercy, compassion and kindness. An important part of building peace is the need for Palestinians and Israelis, in spite of the fear and pain, to reach out to each others in forgiveness, and to build trust. This can only be done by a grassroots people to people contact and the Israeli Government can help this process by removing all restrictions which make it impossible for Israeli/Palestinian people to meet and work together. To build a peace process people must see improvement in their every day lives, through freedom of movement, economic development.
But there are no quick fixes to peace. It is hard every day struggle to be more peaceful ourselves, and to have the courage to accept diversity and difference, yet all the while listening to others with a deep respect for their perspectives and views no matter how different from our own. Trust building and friendship making are foundation stones for peaceful, democratic societies, and we the people of the world, no matter where we live, must do the work of laying these stones, and building the bridges with our enemies. Here in the Middle East, the task of making friends with your enemies is necessary, in order to open up the long-term possibility for an everlasting peace.
As in Northern Ireland, Protestants and Catholics, must become their own best friends and build a shared future together, so too Jews and Arabs must become their own best friends, and build a shared future together. Here, in this holy land, the three great world religions, (there are many paths to God) united in their faith and love of Abraham, by working together, can become an ethical and spiritual force for good in the World.
These religions can teach that the holiest thing is the life of a human being and we have no right to kill each other, and are called to love our enemies and love the stranger. Such a clear peace message coming out of the heart of the holy land would change the world. But there is an obstacle to peace, and it is fear. We humans are often fearful and anxious, and sometimes we get stuck in the past, feeding our fear and negativity thus destroying our imagination and creativity. In order to overcome this fear let us remember Allah loves each one of us equally, the kingdom of God lives in every one’s heart, and this connects us as the human family, who need each others’ love and support in the difficult, yet joyous journey of life.
Salaam Aleikum, Shalom, my friends.