Archive for the ‘palestine’ category

Hebron in Israel? Facebook’s curious Palestinian geography problem

June 21, 2019

This morning while browsing Facebook, I happened to see that a friend had been tagged in a photo in ‘Beit Lehem, Israel’. This, I though was curious. After all, Bethlehem is in Israeli-occupied Palestine, not in the Apartheid State of Israel.

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Maybe, I thought, this was a mistake tag and was actually referring to Beit Lehem HaGlilit (Bethlehem of the Galilee), a once-Palestinian town ethnically cleansed in 1948 and taken over by Israel farmers. But no, clicking on the ‘Beit Lehem, Israel’ link brought me to a page with a map of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. So, Facebook would have us believe that Bethlehem, or ‘Beit Lehem’, is not in Palestine, but in Israel.

Yet Facebook wants to have its colonial cake and eat it too, as it also lists – as a separate location – ‘Bethlehem, West Bank‘. West Bank mind, not ‘Palestine’. Indeed, Palestine doesn’t appear anywhere on Facebook city locations, as we shall see.

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I next searched for ‘Hebron’, and sure enough, there was both ‘Hebron, Irsael‘ and ‘Hebron, West Bank‘. Hebron is the largest city in the occupied West Bank, and is an Apartheid city par excellence, were the lives of over 200,000 Palestinians are dominated by the presence of around a 1,000 illegal Israeli settlers in the middle of the city, and a further 1,000 Israeli occupation soldiers who ensure Palestinians are utterly subjugated.  There are separate paths for Jews and Arabs, Palestinian shops have been forced to close down, the Ibrahimi Mosque has been partitioned, and settler and military attacks on Palestinian civilians are frequent. As a report on the +972 Magazine website puts it:

Hebron’s Jewish settlers have become notorious for violently harassing their Palestinian neighbors, all under the watchful eye and acquiescence of the IDF. Some Palestinian residents in the seam zone on and around Shuhada Street have literally built cages around their homes to protect themselves from the violent settlers. The souk in Hebron’s Old City is covered by metal netting to catch the bricks, urine and other objects Jewish settlers regularly throw onto Palestinian merchants and passersby.

By allowing Hebron to be listed as being in Israel, Facebook is not only acquiescing in such atrocious behaviour and violations of international law, it is actually helping to normalise them.

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In some respects, Hebron an Bethlehem are lucky. They, at least, get the designation of being in the West Bank. With the exception of Jericho, no other Palestinian city – whether the current de facto political capital Ramallah, the major cities of Nablus, Qalqilyah, Jenin or Tulkarm, or Gaza City with its population of 750,000 – gets any such designation. Instead, each is merely listed as a “City”, presumably existing as independent entities in some geographical ether. The same goes for Madjal Shams, the large Druze city in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, which international law recognises as being part of the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic.

So what about Jerusalem? Unsurprisingly, ‘Jerusalem’ is listed as being part of Israel – with an image of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Israeli occupied part of the city to illustrate it. Curiously, however, also listed is ‘East Jerusalem‘ (this too exists in the same Facebook geo-ether as other Palestinian cities) – yet its picture is not of any of the most iconic images of the Old City – such as the above mentioned mosque – but simply a map.

Finally, what of the more than 200 other illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine and occupied Syria? It turns out that Facebook can’t make up its mind. Some, such as Ariel, Har Homa, and Gilo are listed as being inside Israel, while others such as the huge settlements of Ma’ale Adummim, Kiryat Arba, Beitar Illit, and Modi’in Illit, right down to the tiny Niran all exist as merely “cities” in undetermined locations.

A final Facebook geography fail is that while Israel not only exists as a ‘country location’, its entry comes illustrated by a satellite map of all of historic Palestine which does not delineate between the Apartheid state of Israel and the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories. Nice!

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Undoubtedly Facebook will claim that it is merely working off third party data like Wikipedia and its own algorithms to compile this data. But this is a nonsense – we all know that algorithms are not neutral, they reflect the values of those who program them. When it comes to such a contested and controversial situation as the Palestine-Israel question, Facebook in fact has a special responsibility to accurately reflect international law – not to merely draw arbitrary borders as it sees fit.

In its treatment of Palestinian cities and Israeli settlements – all of which are illegal and war crimes under the Geneva conventions – Facebook is actively aiding the normalisation of  gross violations of human rights and international law. It is helping to entrench Israel’s decades-long colonial occupation of Palestine and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. It is erasing Palestinain historical, cultural and national connections to their own homeland. It is literally wiping Palestine off the map.

And Facebook wants to lecture people about ‘fake news’?

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That US hate-preacher is not the first person ever banned from Ireland – others have been too.

May 16, 2019

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The story about Steven L. Anderson, the exterminationist, homophobic, antisemitic and Islamophobic US preacher being banned from Ireland has gained a lot traction over the past couple of days. Most reports say he is “first-ever person to be banned from Ireland“, or some variation thereof.

But this isn’t strictly true. While he is seemingly the first visiting speaker to have been banned under the 1999 Immigration Act, there have been others before him – and they were mostly all leftwing activists.

Ernst Tollman

9004-004-7A75141EThe first public speaker that I’m aware of being denied entry to the independent south of Ireland (or, the ‘Irish Free State’, as it was called between 1922 and 1937) was German Jewish dramatist Ernst Toller. Aside from being a well known playwright, Toller was revolutionary leftist and anti-fascist, who had briefly served as the President of the heroic and short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1919.

In 1935, when he was invited to speak in Dublin by the Irish Labour League Against Fascism, he was a refugee in his second year of exile from Nazi Germany. He was refused entry by the De Valera government, at the behest of the Nazi Embassy in Dublin:

“Toller’s activities were regularly monitored by the German Embassy, being no doubt a source of some embarrassment; in January 1935 he began a series of lectures which finally provoked the Embassy into direct intervention. On January 10 a diplomat called zu Putlitz requested a meeting at the Foreign Office at which, according to the official memorandum, he raised the ‘question of German refugees – he was thinking particularly of Ernst Toller – who travelled the country giving speeches against the German government’. He asked that the government should insist that refugees should refrain from anti- German activities during their stay in Britain, and that if they failed to do so, they should be deported. The Foreign Office politely refused, but other efforts to silence Toller were more successful. In the same month, he was invited to address a rally of the Irish Labour League against Fascism on ‘National Socialist Germany’, but was refused permission to enter Ireland following representations by the German Embassy in Dublin.” (‘The British Connection: Aspects of The Biography of Ernst Toller‘, Richard Dove, German Life and Letters 40, 4 July 1987)

 

However, it seems it was actually a bit less clear cut than that, as Joachim Fischer expands on this in a an essay about Toller in the edited book German Writers and Politics 1918–39. He notes that Toller was invited to come to Ireland to speak at the event by Dorothy Woodman of the London-based Victims Relief Committee. Toller met with John Dulanty, the Irish High Commissioner in London to discuss the visit, and according to the minutes of tha meeting, he was ‘well advised’ not to go as there would be talk of ‘communism’ at the meeting:

“While the Irish Labour League Against Fascism saw the meeting as part of its campaign to free the German Communist leader Ernst Thalmann, Toller made it clear that he intended to speak also about the conditions in which priests and pastors found themselves in Germany … We can assume that this choice of topic was determined to some extent by the expected Irish audience. It seems however that Toller was not fully informed about the meeting’s organisers, who he thought were associated with the Labour Party. When the High Commissioner explained to him that avowed Communists were among the organisers of the meeting (which was true) and that a discussion about Communism would be almost unavoidable, Toller appeared very hesitant to go. Toller must have been aware that too close an association with the Communists would jeopardise his campaign [to have imprisoned German socialist and pacifist Carl von Ossietzky awarded the Nobel Peace Prize] during which he also approached people from the upper classes and the church hierarchy.

“In the minutes Toller appears very cautious indeed. ‘He was anxious not to do anything contrary to the wishes of the authorities here or in Dublin’, ‘he was anxious to avoid any press publicity’, we read there. Both sides try very hard to leave the final decision (and the responsibility for it) to the other. The High Commissioner also takes steps to protect himself: ‘The High Commissioner made it clear that there was no suggestion of a prohibition or a ban but as Mr. Toller himself was keen on avoiding any public discussion on Communism he would be well advised not to give the proposed lecture. Mr. Toller agreed’, the minutes state. They finally agree on a press statement which says no more than that Toller ‘is advised by a responsible quarter’ not to go to Dublin.” (‘Ernst Toller and Ireland’, Joachim Fischer, German Writers and Politics 1918–39, 1992).

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Yet as Fischer notes, “In Dublin, however, it looked very much like a ban”, as “the German Legation in Dublin had made representations to the Irish government”, and that “informed circles” knew that Toller’s potential appearance “threatened to endanger the success of ongoing trade talks between the Free State and the Reich”.

In any case the meeting went ahead without Toller, with speakers that included ‘avowed communists’ Peadar O’Donnell, Roddy Connolly (son of James), and Séan Murray. It seems the government were unsure whether or not Toller would take their “advisement” on board as “police were present at the Hall in significant numbers” and “were there to prevent Toller from speaking and even deportation was mentioned”.

Tragically, fascism would continue to haunt Toller throughout the rest of his relatively short life. After learning his brother and sister had been sent to concentration camps, suffering depression and financial woes, and seemingly reeling from the ultimate defeat of the Spanish Republic by Franco’s fascists the previous month, on 22nd May 1939, aged only 45, he hanged himself in a New York hotel room. As Jean-Michel Palmier notes in his book Weimar in Exile:

A moral, political and psychological crisis for many emigres, the Spanish defeat appeared as a collapse of their last hope of victory over Hitler. It was not by mere chance that before his suicide, Ernst Toller laid out on his desk in the Mayflower Hotel in New York photos of Spanish children who had been killed by fascist bombs.”  (Weimar in Exile: The Antifascist Emigration in Europe and America, Jean-Michel Palmier, 2006)

Ralph Schoenmann

schoenmanrThe first public speaker I’m aware of being refused entry to the ‘Republic of Ireland’ was Trostkyist anti-war activist and associate of Bertrand Russell, and wearer of one of the worst beards in human history, Ralph Schoenman. Schoenman, who these days is a leftist conspiracy theorist, was detained at Dublin airport, moved to Mountjoy Prison, and promptly deported to Belgium in May 1968, whereupon he went to France and ended up in the midst of the Paris uprising.

There is a wonderfully colourful Senead debate between Senator Owen Sheehy-Skeffington – who in a twist of history had aslo been involved in the Toller affair as a member of the aforementioned Irish Labour League Against Fascism – and Fianna Fáil Minister of Justice Michael Moran.

Amid accusations that Schoemean was seen “at the demonstration in Paris with the black flag of anarchy”, was an “international Communist agitator” and “a potential tourist” (yes, a tourist, the horror!) comes this wonderful soliloquy from the Minister:

“I exercised my judgment in stopping this potential tourist landing on our shores for my own good reasons. I do not have to give the reasons why that was done. Let me say that I was not alone in my view that this gentleman would not add anything to the future of our country and I could give you a litany here of very many others who took a similar view to mine about this same gentleman. He was pitched out of Holland; he was pitched out of France; he was pitched out of Bolivia; he was pitched out of Denmark; he was pitched out of Sweden; he was pitched out of West Germany; he was pitched out of Finland; he was pitched out of Austria; and he was pitched out of other countries. In fact, his own Government, I am sure, would love to have some place to stick this particular agitator, but under American law a citizen has a right to a passport and he is still an American citizen. That is why he was roaming around the world  […]

“This international Communist agitator has been pitched out of all the countries I have read out in this House. In addition to that, he prostituted the procedures in our Irish courts by using them with his friends when asked by his friends to this country for his own particular purpose. He had his way, allegedly undertaking to the courts to go back to Rome from where he came to this country, and he disappeared from the plane at Brussels. We have the picture Senator Ó Maoláin internat8ionalistshas referred to appearing at the barricades at Paris the following day. This is the gentleman the Senator and his friends are so concerned about. […] there is no responsible Minister for Justice who would let a type like this into this country for his own fell purposes. There may be some misguided people in this country who would take the view of the Senator in this motion but the vast majority of the Irish people have no hesitation in saying that they do not want this type of international tourist agitator in this country […] if there are some of his type who want to come here as aliens and I know they are coming I will ensure that they will lay their agitators’ eggs elsewhere and I make no apology to the Senator or his friends in this regard.” (‘Adjournment Debate – Visit of Ralph Schoenman‘, Seanad Éireann, 29 May 1968).

Incidentally, during the debate Fianna Fáil Senator Thomas Mullins claims
that he was coming to Ireland to “support the Chinese Communists in Trinity“. I think the TCD Internationalists would have given the Trotskyist Schoenman short shrift. In fact, they’d probably have denounced him even more vociferously than the Irish government did!

James Gralton

Of course, before either of these two, the was the case of Leitrim man James Gralton – now famous as the subject of the Ken Loach/Paul Laverty film Jimmy’s Hall. Gralton was a communist activist, who:

“joined the Revolutionary Workers’ Group (forerunner of the Communist Party of Ireland) and reopened the Pearse-Connolly Hall [in Leitrim], which became the venue for meetings as well as dances; but a combined anti-communist and puritanical witch hunt, in which the parish priest called for the closing of the hall as a ‘den of iniquity,’ resulted in shots being fired into the hall and an unsuccessful attempt at blowing it up (allegedly by local members of the IRA), and on Christmas Eve, 1932, it was again burnt to the ground.” (‘Some famous Irish communists – Jim Gralton (1886-1945)‘, Communist Party of Ireland)

graltonjGralton was such a ‘danger’ to the state that in February 1933, under pressure from the Catholic Church, the De Valera government of the Irish Free State issued a deportation order for him as an “undesirable alien” – despite being born in Leitrim, Gralton held dual Irish and US citizenship. Despite refusing to abide by the order and going underground, he was eventually caught and deported to the US in August of that year, having the dubious honour of being the only Irishman ever deported and exiled from Ireland by an Irish government.

He continued his leftwing activism in the US up until his death in 1945. Only in 2016 was an official state apology delivered, with President Michael D. Higgins stating that:

“Today, I come to acknowledge a too long hidden or suppressed story – the wrongful intimidation and ultimate deportation by an abuse of the law, of Jimmy Gralton, to whose memory, and whose family, an apology is due […] We can recall him with sadness, but also with righteous anger, because he was, for authoritarian political purposes, mixed with clerical pressure, illegally deported from his own country for his political beliefs. What happened was an affront to basic civil rights and freedoms, including freedom of speech; freedom to organise and the freedom to hold meetings.” (‘Speech at the unveiling of a monument to Jimmy Gralton‘, President Michael D. Higgins, 3 September 2016)

Leila Khaled

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More recently, the was the 2013 case of the refusal to grant an entry visa to Palestinian revolutionary and exile Leila Khaled to speak at a conference organised by the socialist republican political party éirígí. Its worth noting that Khlaed was previously granted a visa to enter Ireland to speak at a series of meetings in 2005. According to a press release from the party:

“Leila Khaled is a senior member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and an iconic figure in the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. Failure by the Dublin government to grant her an entry visa in time has prevented her travelling to Ireland for the éirígí conference and several other events. Ms Khaled had submitted her visa application several weeks ago at the same time as Mr Al-Khatib who works closely with Ms Khaled in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

“The general secretary of éirígí, Breandán Mac Cionnaith, said, “Of course, we are extremely disappointed at the level of prevarication shown by the Dublin government over the issue of Ms Khaled’s visa. Having been in very regular contact with Ms Khaled over the past number of months, it is quite clear that she is particularly disappointed and frustrated at not being given clearance to travel. She again expressed those sentiments to me no later than this morning (Friday).’

“It appears that the Dublin government is pandering to the wishes of the US, British and Israeli governments in relation to her visa application. That is clearly evidenced by the fact that, although both were to travel together and both visa applications were submitted at the same time, Mr Al-Khatib’s visa was granted without hesitation.

These are likely only some of the cases of people refused entry or banned from the country – and they do not take into consideration the thousands of people who are not public speakers, activists or agitators (whether from the left or the right) who are refused entry to Ireland due to our racist immigration laws. Between 2016 and 2017 some 8,000 people were denied entry to the state.

As a final note, I would like to note that these people stand in start contrast to some of the vile characters have been allowed entry to Ireland down the years – whether to speak or to reside. I’m talking about fascist swine like mass murderer Andrija Artukovic of the Ustaše, Waffen SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny, Breton Nazi-collaborator and local Waffen SS commander Celestine Laine, Oswald Mosely of the British Union of Fascists, and Nazi Holocaust denier David Irving.

UPDATE 17 MAY 2019: Since publishing this I have come across the story of a further banned individual, one Pieter Menten, a millionaire Dutch Nazi war criminal. A former Officer in the SS in Poland, Menten was responsible for the deaths of many Jews (and being an art collector, allegedly the theft of many artworks). Although tried and convicted of being an SS translator in post war Netherlands, the other allegations were not proven. In 1964 he moved to Ireland and bought Comeragh House in Co. Waterford, where he lived until 1976 when he was arrested by Dutch court, re-tried and brought to some semblance of justice.

When he was released from prison in 1985, he had planned to return to Ireland to live out his days. However, the Irish government of Garret Fitzgerald had designated him “an undesirable alien and banned him from entering Ireland”. Ir seems likely than rather than any moral objection, the overriding concern was that any “decision to admit Menten may provoke a certain amount of international controversy” in the words of a secret document from the department of the Taoiseach. There was also the worry that either Poland or the Soviet Union could attempt to extradite Menten, thus embroiling ‘neutral’ Ireland in the Cold War, and likely annoying the US Cold Warriors. In the end, Menten died two years later in Holland.

 

No, the AP report does not say 89% of fatalities in Gaza were civilians – but it’s a damning indictment of Israel’s conduct nonetheless

February 18, 2015

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Various reports have given a misleading account of the recent Associated Press (AP) investigation into civilians killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza last summer.

Lots of those reports about it that I’ve seen – eg here, here and here – claim the AP report says that 89% of those Palestinians killed in the Israeli attacks were civilians, and 11% resistance fighters. As far as I can see, this fundamentally misreads the findings of the report and its purported figures.

What the AP report actually says that 11% of those killed in airstrikes (not in shelling, not by sniping, not during the ground invasion) on homes and residences (not public buildings, religious buildings, schools, medical centres, open spaces) were fighters or ‘suspected fighters’, not 11% of all Palestinian deaths, for which the figure is more like 25%-33% depending on whether one uses PCHR or UNOCHA figures.

As an aside, the AP report does not appear to break down whether the alleged fighters killed were on ‘active service’ at the time of the bombing, or were merely at home while being a member of an armed group, but not taking part in fighting at the time of their deaths (they would be honoured militarily by their faction either way).

You can read the report here. In places it reads like an apologia for Israeli war crimes, despite the staggering figures it has unearthed. Nevertheless, it is very much worth reading as it shines a light on the sheer brutality of the Israeli assault on the people of Gaza last year.  And furthermore, it is worth noting that no Irish media outlet picked up on the report, despite their fondness for republishing AP and Reuters wire reports instead of employing journalists on the ground in the region.

Once more, Irish media silence and elision as Minister’s Gaza visit deemed barely newsworthy

February 17, 2015
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Charlie Flanagan in Gaza (Photo: UNRWA)

Of the three Irish media outlets that deemed it newsworthy to mention the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan’s, visit to Gaza yesterday, none of them deemed it necessary to go beyond reporting what was in the government press release on the matter.

Well that’s not entirely true, while the Irish Examiner managed to omit entirely that he was in Gaza, and just reported the €4.7m blood money thrown at UNRWA, the Irish Times gave a little bit of background, noting that:

“[Last summer] Seven weeks of Israeli bombardment from air and sea, and rocket attacks on Israel, left more than 2,200 people dead – the great majority of them Palestinians in Gaza. More than 10,000 Gazans and some 700 Israelis were wounded while some 20,000 homes in the strip were estimated to have been left uninhabitable by shelling and air strikes.”

Let’s deconstruct these two sentences which say so much (about the Irish Times‘ method) while saying very little (about what happened in Gaza last summer).

1) “Seven weeks of Israeli bombardment from air and sea, and rocket attacks on Israel, left more than 2,200 people dead”

No mention of the Israeli ground invasion, which was brutal and saw many Palestinian civilians being killed by Israeli troops on the ground, not merely by means of bombardment.

2) “left more than 2,200 people dead – the great majority of them Palestinians in Gaza.”

Why not give the figures, for what does “the great majority” mean in real terms? The UN (via UNOCHA) gives the figure of 2,205 killed (1,483, or 67%, civilians). The Palestinian Center for Human Rights gives the figure of 2,191 killed (1,660, or 75%, civilians). So two reputable human rights monitoring NGOs give the figures for Palestinians killed as being in the low 2000s.

The official figures from the Israeli government meanwhile give the figures for killed Israelis as 72 (6, or 8%, civilians).

Taking the average between the UN and PCHR numbers, we thus have 2,198 dead Palestinians stacking up against 72 dead Israelis. In percentage terms that is 97% and 3%. And when we take civilians (again using the average) we have 1,572 Palestinian civilians and 6 Israeli civilians – in percentage terms 99.6% to 0.4%.

These are the grim realities the Irish Times hides with it’s bland statement that the “the great majority of the [dead were] Palestinians in Gaza”.

It is also important in understanding that when the Irish Times says “rocket attacks on Israel, left more than 2,200 people dead – the great majority of them Palestinians in Gaza”, even after we take the time deconstruct the actual figures, this phrase could potentially be understood to mean that “many” or “the majority” of the dead on the Israeli side were caused by Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel. Yet the breakdown provided by the Israeli government shows that 92% of the Israelis killed were military personnel – this tells us that in fact the “great majority” of these casualties were caused either inside Gaza or along the border where the military was besieging the enclave.

A similar massaging of facts is noticeable when the Irish Times cites the figure of “some 700 Israelis” being wounded, with the same qualifier of being caused “by rocket attacks on Israel”. The Israeli government gives the official Israeli wounded figure as 556 (“some 550”, not “some 600”, but let’s ignore that). Of those, 496 (82%) were military operatives, while 87 (18%) were civilians, which tells us, once again, that the “great majority” of these casualties were caused either inside Gaza or along the border where the Israeli military was besieging the enclave, not merely by “rocket attacks on Israel”.

The piece also helpfully tells us that:

“[UNRWA] runs schools, clinics and social services for displaced Palestinians across the region while building infrastructure and maintaining camps. During the war in Gaza last summer, its schools gave shelter to hundreds of thousands of families forced to flee their homes. Some of those schools are still being used as temporary housing for more than 10,000 displaced people whose homes were destroyed.”

So let’s briefly deconstruct that too.

1) “[UNRWA] runs schools, clinics and social services for displaced Palestinians across the region”

These Palestinians are merely “displaced… across the region”. How they became displaced, what forces compelled them to become displaced, what their rights as displaced people are and who keeps them displaced is all a mystery, and seemingly irrelevant. As is the fact that the “great majority” (some 80%) of people living in Gaza are in fact refugees and their descendants from the 1948 Zionist ethic cleansing and colonisation of Palestine that gave birth to the State of Israel.

2) “Some of those schools are still being used as temporary housing for more than 10,000 displaced people whose homes were destroyed”

This is essentially accurate, but also leaves out a giant important fact about homelessness in Gaza. Yes, UNRWA buildings are currently sheltering some 12,000 people – but this is only about 10% of the total population that is still homeless almost six months after the end of the Israeli assault. Why are over 100,000 Gazans homeless, thousands of them living in UNRWA shelters? This question is neither asked nor answered, but the reason is of course the illegal Israeli imposed, Egyptian-enforced, and UN-facilitated siege of Gaza.

That only three mainstream media outlets in Ireland felt that the Minister for Foreign Affairs’ visit to an area of the world that was headline news half a year ago was newsworthy, and that all played up the “Ireland gives almost €5 million to Palestinian refugees” angle that framed the government press release, rather than some other angle –  for example, the continued devastation of the region, the ongoing illegal siege, the routine Israeli ceasefire violations and so on – tells us that the mainstream Irish media continues to be part of the problem. The silence and the elisions represent, quite simply, complicity with the ongoing Israeli policies of occupation, colonisation, war crimes and apartheid.

If you’re interested, here are the three pieces, and the official Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and UNRWA press releases on the matter. Note that RTE, the Irish regime broadcaster, did not deem this visit newsworthy, which places it in the unenviable position of being worse at news than the Chinese regime news service Xinhuanet, which did pick it up:

Irish Times: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/government-pledges-4-7m-to-help-palestinian-refugees-1.2106185

Irish Examiner: http://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/government-announces-nearly-euro5m-in-funding-for-palestinian-people-662459.html

Newstalk: http://www.newstalk.com/Foreign-Affairs-Minister-announces-47m-of-funding-for-Palestinian-people

DFA Press Release: https://www.dfa.ie/news-and-media/press-releases/press-release-archive/2015/february/funding-for-the-palestinians-announced/

UNRWA: http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/irish-foreign-minister-announces-new-%E2%82%AC500000-contribution-during-gaza-visit

Xinhuanet: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/europe/europe/2015-02/17/c_134001457.htm

No Ronaldo didn’t refuse to swap shirts with an Israeli footballer or give $1.5m to Gaza (but he did pose for photos with Shimon Peres)

July 26, 2014

UPDATE MAY 2019: Ronaldo and Palestine is the fake news story that refuses to die! Venezulea’s state-owned Telesur website has today (17 May 2019) recycled the ‘Ronaldo gives €1.5m to Palestine’ hoax story debunked below. There’s no source given other than a post from and unverified Twitter account called  ‘Onwadan’s Charity Foundation‘, it’s simply stated as fact. Of course, it since it taking on its new lease of life, the story has been cropping up all over Facebook and on all the usual fake news sites you’d expect it to. Very bad show from Telesur, who should as a serious news organisation should have better fact checkers.

ORIGINAL STORY – JULY 2014: A story is doing the rounds (for probably the fourth time this year) saying that Christiano Ronaldo refused to swap jerseys with an Israeli player in a 2013 friendly match (See an example of the story here [1]).

Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true. Here’s the video in full:

You can clearly see that the player he “refuses” to exchange his jersey with is a Portuguese player, who has already swapped shirt with an Israeli player (look at the colour of his shorts, then look at the colour of the Israeli players’ shorts).

The story also goes that Ronaldo remarked that he wouldn’t swap his shirt with (depending on where you read it) a “killer” or an “assassin”, accoridng to a ‘locker room interview’ follwing the game. As there was no refusal to exchange shirts in the first place, clearly the whole ‘interview’ in the dressing room is also made up. Furthermore, there is no source for the alleged comment – even if, going via the Veterans News Now piece above, you click through to the ‘source’ story in French, there is no actual source cited, just “a reporter said”… who were they? what was their name? Where did they say it? Why is one French blog the only place where this incredible news was reported?

Incidentally Ronaldo certainly had no qualms about going to Israel and shaking the hand of war criminal Shimon Peres as part of a Real Madrid PR/hasbara trip:

Shaking Hands

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All the lads

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There is also a picture being frequently shared that purports to show Ronaldo holding a sign saying “Todos Con Palestine”, which roughly tranlsated mean “I’m always with/love Palestine”.

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This is a crude photoshop from a photo-session following the Lorca earthquake when the Real Madrid squad held up a placard saying “Todos Con Lorca”. Some internet dickhead thought it would be great to lie to the world and Photoshop in an entirely different message.

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UPDATE (31st March 2015): A brand new image of Ronaldo has started doing the rounds on social media recently. This too, unsurprisingly, is a crude Photoshop fake. In the original image, below, instead of ‘Save Palestine’, his undershirt says simply ‘Madeira’, the name of Ronaldo’s home city in Portugal. I have included it from another angle as well, just so people are 100% sure.

more ronaldo fakery

Finally there is another story about Ronaldo that goes something like “Ronaldo donated 1.5m / the proceeds from the sale of his Golden Boot, to the children/people of Gaza/Palestinians for Ramadan”. There’s 369,000 hits if you google ‘Ronaldo Donates Gaza‘.

Now while this may be true, it probably isn’t. Hands up, I cannot find conclusive proof that it is not – but I definitely cannot find proof that it is true either. This site does a decent job of explaining why it’s probably an internet fabrication:

However, the story reeks of a hoax, with neither Real Madrid’s official site validating the news, nor any major Spanish daily covering it, as reported in many of the articles reporting the story. Also, the likelihood of Indonesian site Tribunnews being one of the first to report the news of Ronaldo’s ‘generous donation’ makes the whole story more make-believe than genuine news.

What is true about Ronaldo, apart from his willingness to appear alongside a disgusting war criminal like Shimon Peres, is that he did appear in a photograph once, wearing a Paletsinian neck scarf. However, I’ve yet to see the context to that picture. I’ve heard it was at a Medical Aid For Palestinians event, but that the logo on the scarf is the Palestinian Football Association’s and that the Palestinian Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub is on the far right of the picture, it seems to me like he was nabbed for a photo-op at a gala FIFA dinner or similar event, and that there’s no simply no ‘pro-Palestinian’ ideology involved.

UPDATE 2016: Ronaldo, along with other Real Madrid players, did entertain Ahmad Dawabsheh, the 5-year-old Palestinian kid who was badly burned on 80% of his body in an arson attack by illegal Israeli settlers in 2014. The same attack killed both of Ahmed’s parents, Riham and Sa’ed, nd his 1-year-old little brother Ali.

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So why am I saying all this? It’s quite simple, I don’t like to see people get credit where it’s not deserved. Ronaldo was willing to pose for pics with war criminal Shimon Peres, which is his prerogative, but he should not be lionised on social media as some heroic tribune for Palestine. He is not. And everyone should stop sharing this bullshit immediately.

EXTRA BONUS DEBUNK

This picture of Lionel Messi is a fake too. Obviously.

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And here is the greatest footballer in the world today, along with the butcher of Gaza, one Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Notes

* This is an incredibly shitty and antisemitic website, and I am posting the link only illustrative purposes only.

 

Baseball Cats And Dead Palestinians

May 22, 2014

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I have post up over on Rabble looking at Irish mainstream media’s deliberate ignorance and downplaying of Israeli state violence perpetrated against Palestinians, here’s an excerpt:

The Israeli human rights monitoring group B’Tselem said that there was “grave suspicion that the killing was wilful”, while Amnesty called the shootings part of a “pattern of unlawful killings by the Israeli forces in the West Bank”.

The fact that the killings were recorded has forced even the UN and US to call, separately, for investigations of the incident.

Not that one would be aware of any of this from a casual look at the Irish media – print, broadcast or online. Only two stories have appeared, both wire reports; one on the RTE website and one in the print edition of the Irish Times.

This is the sum total coverage of an incident where Israeli forces are caught, on camera, snuffing out the lives of two Palestinian children who posed no threat.

Still, those reports that did appear are worth taking a few minutes to deconstruct, for they reveal much about the (mis)reportage of the Palestine-Israel issue in the mainstream Irish media.

You can read the full post by clicking here.

Huge explosion and fire in illegal Israeli chemical factory in Tulkarm on Thursday night

September 6, 2013

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According to a Palestinian news report from the Al Fajer TV website (Arabic, with lots of images) and eyewitnesses on the ground, late Thursday night there was a massive explosion followed by a huge fire in an illegal Israeli industrial area located beside the Palestinian city of Tulkarm in the occupied West Bank.

At the time of writing (10pm, a day later), for some reason there has been no English language reporting about this event. I am hearing via a friend visiting Palestine that residents have been advised by local television reports to stay indoors and turn off their air conditioning.

I do not speak Arabic, so the following report is compiled by using Google Translate – apologies in advance for any errors.

Explosion, fire and aftermath

The Al Fajer report says that a large cloud of smoke covered the sky of the city and the villages of Tulkarem last night, after a huge fire broke out in a nylon factory in the illegal Israeli industrial area Nizanei Shalom, west of Tulkarm. Nizanei Shalom (which means ‘Buds of Peace’ in Hebrew) is a controversial – even by illegal settlement standards – area, which houses a number of Israeli industrial and chemical plants.

A big explosion echoed from inside the industrial zone at 11pm on Thursday night, resulting in a dramatic fire and a two hour power outage for residents on the outskirts of the city.

Palestinian civil defence crews and medical staff were scrambled to the west of the the city to check on the health of citizens and provide them with protection, under the direction of Tulkarm’s Director General of Health, Saed Hanoun.

Incredibly, witnesses in the vicinity of the industrial zone reported that there was a large presence of Israeli occupation forces in the area, and military patrols fired tear gas canisters at local people who went to see what was occurring.

Firefighters worked throughout the night and the fire was largely extinguished in the early hours of the morning. However, Fulla Jallad, a local Palestinian woman told me that “the structure is still on fire and the smoke is obviously [still] poisoning the air”.

Health and environmental hazards

Palestinian Officials have warned of health and the environment hazards in Tulkarem citizens in the city. The have called on those living near factories to get out of their homes because of the serious consequences resulting from the thick smoke and the rain of falling ash in the aftermath, which constitute a potential danger to public health and the environment.

One local Palestinian official, Jamal Said, told the official PA news service Wafa that they had long warned of the danger of these plants to the health of citizens, due to emissions of serious toxins, adding that the seriousness of this fire lies not only in the phenomenal amount of smoke, but in the explosions of which there were several inside from inside the plant because of the huge fire.

Mr. Said added that the fire was out of control, and pointed out that the Israelis occupation forces had requested help from the Palestinian civil defence crews, who had put their priorities in the protection of Palestinian citizens and property in the western and southern region near the industrial zone

Mr. Said stressed the need for immediate intervention of the international community to ensure that these dangerous plants are fully removed from the Tulkarm area.

The Legal Counsel of the Environmental Quality Authority in Tulkarem, Mr. Murad, said that he had warned of the warning of the danger of these plants during a workshop held in Tulkarem only two days ago, and he called on all international bodies to assume their responsibilities towards what is happening as a result of the dangerous environmental contamination in the Tulkarem area. He said that this fire is clear evidence that Tulkarm is exposed to environmental dangers due to the burning of toxic substances, calling on citizens to beware of the smoke.

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Nizanei Shalom – One of Israel’s toxic little West Bank secrets

Initially based in Israel, several of the Nizanei Shalom, aka Geshuri, industrial park’s current inhabitants were closed down by Israeli court order for pollution violations during the 1980s. In 1987 Geshuri Industries, a manufacturer of pesticides and fertilizers originally located in Kfar Saba, was the first to relocate, moving their Keshet Prima factory there after closure by Israeli authorities earlier that decade. The Dixon industrial gas plants, formerly of Netanya industrial zone in Israel, followed and now there are almost a dozen such factories in this industrial zone, including Atzei Shitim, The Solor Group and Yamit E.L.I. Filtration and Water Treatment. According to a report by RT, the factories produce fibres, chemicals, glass, paint and materials for construction, and they operate 24 hours a day.

Many of the factories have come under severe criticism for both their environmental records and the treatment of their mainly Palestinian workforces.

Tulkarm’s General Director of Health, Saed Hanoun says that industrial by-products of these factories are dangerous to the health of citizens and the environment because of the damage caused by the vapours, which may be responsible for some serious diseases developing amongst the population, and he added that these “plants should be removed immediately as they internationally prohibited”. Nor is this the first such explosion and fire; in an interview with RT in 2009, Mr. Hanoun said that for three days that May, thick clouds hung over Tulkaram after a previous explosion in one of the factories.

According to Irish activist-journalist Tommy Donnellan, who visited the area in 2010, and documented local people’s stories on video, “[the lands] in the immediate vicinity of the factory have been polluted to the point where they are no longer agriculturally viable. Trees in the area are decaying; those that remain alive exhibit stunted growth. Pollution from the factory also widely affects other agricultural land in Tulkarm and has seeped into underground water sources in the area. Noxious carcinogenic fumes from the Geshuri [Keshet Prima] factory have also adversely affected the health of the population. Respiratory problems and eye infections, which are most likely to afflict the very young and elderly, are the most commonly reported problems. It is also believed by medical experts that the pollution caused by the plant has led to cancer cases, although to confirm this no studies have been carried out to date”.

Mr Donnella also said that the “chemical complex is beyond the control and power of the [Palestinian Authority] as the Israeli occupying [so-called] ‘Civil Administration’ watch over and protect it – where for 11 months of the year the prevailing west to east winds blow the emissions into Tulkakem and in the one month when the winds shift direction and blow from east to west into Israel the factories cease their carcinogenic activities”.

One worker in the zone, Ahmed, interviewed by Corporate Watch, also in 2010, has stated that the “factories are dangerous in that they pollute the environment … they are also unsafe for the workers, they do not adhere to any health and safety regulations as they are based in occupied territory and there is nothing to protect workers. Accidents are common”.

Workers’ and locals’ rights abused and safety compromised

Another worker, Rashid, went on to say that the “Solor factory is very unsafe. Three workers have died – in 2000, 2002 and 2008 – from burns sustained from gas related fires at the factory” and that “Solor workers receive 90 shekels a day, well under the Israeli minimum wage. Before we started to organise in the factory we were paid 65 shekels a day”.

Indeed, the area can also be more immediately dangerous to those not even working vicinity. According to the General Union of Petrochemical Workers in Palestine, a young man, 18-year-old Hamza Walid Haloub, was seriously wounded by live army fire in March this year while walking near the industrial park. Dr. Khaled Saleh of Thabet Thabet Hospital said a bullet punctured his lung and the injury was so serious that Mr. Haloub had to be transferred to Nablus hospital for emergency treatment.

A microcosm of the iniquity of the occupation

Nizanei Shalom is a microcosm of the iniquity of Israel’s occupation; local Palestinians were forced from their lands in the 1980s so that illegal building could begin; the zone exploits the far cheaper Palestinian labour force, so economically crippled by decades of occupation that they have little choice but to work under awful conditions; in practice, a separate legal/safety system exists than inside Israel, with these highly polluting factories are given the all clear by Israeli authorities; the result is that it is the Palestinians of Tulkarm who suffer the environmental, economic and health problems and dangers arising from the operations of the plants. And Nizanei Shalom is not the only such zone, there are several in the occupied West Bank, pointing to the importance and inextricable nature of these parks for the Israeli economy.

The existence of these illegal colonial settlement-factories are war crimes under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and should be shut down on that basis alone. That they are highly dangerous and possibly in contravention of international pollution standards should add an urgency for the international community to take immediate meaningful action to ensure that they are.

Al Haq video about the Nizanei Shalom industrial zone