Gaza shocks Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire

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      Mairead Maguire is not what you would expect of a 65-year-old woman. Last June, she spent five days in an Israeli prison after attempting to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip. One year earlier, she was shot by Israeli forces with a rubber-coated bullet while taking part in a demonstration against Israel’s separation barrier.

      Maguire has spent the past 30 years working against violence. In 1976, she helped organize the largest nonviolent demonstration in Northern Ireland’s history, for which she received the Nobel Peace Prize.

      “I lament every single life, but you can’t really make a comparison here,” Maguire told the Georgia Straight from Northern Ireland. “Israel has a war machine which is supported by the American government and the Palestinians have homemade rockets”¦.We’re talking about David and Goliath.”

      On September 28, Maguire is scheduled to speak in Vancouver about her experiences with the Free Gaza movement. While in town, she will also attend a separate event called the Vancouver Peace Summit: Nobel Laureates in Dialogue. The Dalai Lama and other Nobel Prize winners will be there with her.

      “The people of Gaza are not allowed cement, building materials; children have returned to schools with no pencils and no writing material: all of these things have been prohibited by the Israelis from being allowed into Gaza,” Maguire said. “We have to break the siege of Gaza that Israel is putting on because the children are suffering.”

      In January 2006, Hamas won parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories. Since then, Israel has enforced a blockade around Gaza, restricting the movement of goods, according to UN reports. In December 2008, Israel launched an assault on the Gaza Strip, killing 1,100 to 1,400 Palestinians. Thirteen Israelis also died in the conflict.

      A recent UN report states that during the three-week conflict, both Israeli and Palestinian forces committed war crimes. The report accuses Israel of deliberately using “disproportionate force” and of imposing a “blockade which amounted to collective punishment”, and charges that Israel’s military operation “was directed at the people of Gaza as a whole”.

      Judge Richard Goldstone, who led the UN’s inquiry, has told Aljazeera that Israel “punished and terrorized” civilians in Gaza during the conflict. The report also condemns rocket attacks by Palestinian groups.

      Since then, Israel’s blockade has remained in place and significantly limited reconstruction efforts in Gaza, according to BBC News.

      Michael Elterman, Pacific regional chair for the Canada-Israel Committee, told the Straight during the war that Israel has maintained its blockade for security reasons. He told the Straight of the fear that permeates the lives of Israeli families living within range of Palestinian rockets.

      “There is a great deal of stress and trauma that is associated with living chronically in a state of heightened expectation,” Elterman said. “Children are sleeping with their parents every night [and] there are a lot of regressive symptoms like bed-wetting and nightmares.”

      Gordon Murray, an organizer for Maguire’s speaking engagement, rebutted the rocket argument. “There were virtually no rockets fired during the [six-month] ceasefire during 2008,” he said, citing a February 2009 UN report. “Even when there were no rockets, Gaza was still only receiving 25 percent of what it needed in terms of food and fuel and so on.”

      In November 2008, Maguire was aboard a ship called the Dignity, which successfully sailed to Gaza with humanitarian supplies. On her second voyage, this summer aboard the Spirit of Humanity, she landed in an Israeli prison.

      “I am a pacifist,” Maguire said. “But when you make comparisons here, with the occupation, we’re not talking about an equal playing field.”

      Maguire said she believes that peace across the Middle East depends on a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


      You can follow Travis Lupick on Twitter at twitter.com/tlupick.

      Comments

      6 Comments

      moshe

      Sep 24, 2009 at 10:17am

      Equal playing field blah blah. Actions have their consequences. An Arab chose to blow up himself and as many Jews as he could kill on the 1st night of the Passover in a hotel. Israel responded to this crime against its civilian population by building the separation fence. Arab propaganda with its Western "pacifists" condemn the barrier as Apartheid. Israel forcibly withdrawals 8000 settlers from Jewish towns near Gaza and the Arabs respond with shooting 8000 rockets at Jewish towns 15 to 40 kms distance from Gaza. Israel invades and Arabs together with their Western "pacifists" cry War Crimes ... David and Golieth blah blah. Its utterly irrelevent that 1500 Arabs and only 10 Israelis died in the last conflict. Who said war is supposed to be fair? Such a notion is utterly rediculous. Victory means destroying the will of the enemy to continue the fight. Israel conquored the Administered territories from Egypt and Jordan in 1967. Unilateral declarations about "Stolen Palestenian lands", this is pure propaganda.

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      Gary

      Sep 24, 2009 at 12:31pm

      Israeli journalist Gideon Levy sums it up nicely:
      "[Operation] Cast Lead was an unrestrained assault on a besieged, totally unprotected civilian population which showed almost no signs of resistance.... It should have been enough just to look at the horrendous disparity in casualties - 100 Palestinians killed for every Israeli - to shake the whole of Israeli society... [N]o need to wait for Goldstone to understand that a terrible thing had occurred between the Palestinian David and the Israeli Goliath. But the Israelis preferred to look away, or stand with their children on the hills around Gaza and cheer on the carnage-causing bombs. Under the cover of the committed media, and criminally-biased analysts and experts - all of whom kept information from coming out - and with brainwashed and complacent public opinion, Israel behaved as if nothing had happened. Goldstone has put an end to that, for which we should thank him. After his job is done, the obvious practical steps will be taken. It would be better for Israel to summon up the courage to change course while there is still time," (Gideon Levy, "Disgrace in the Hague," Ha'aretz, 17 September 2009)

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      Ed

      Sep 25, 2009 at 9:58am

      Re: "Victory means destroying the will of the enemy to continue the fight."

      So your (religion?) is one of Humiliation is that correct? IN WHICH CASE ANY one that opposes your desire to Humiliate must be Humiliated by you as well.

      That must feel very good ....to you..... I take it.

      Question ....what will happen after you have Humiliated all your Enemies (which would include all the sane peoples of the world) ...what will you do when you have no one to Humiliate?

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      adamb

      Sep 28, 2009 at 5:02am

      Israel's actions are all the more shocking since it's government and propaganda arms are more than willing to use the imagery of the Nazi's and the Holocaust to justify its horrendous genocidal agenda against the Palestinians.

      Will this blatant and disgusting display of hypocrisy never end?

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      Pampas

      Sep 30, 2009 at 5:57am

      What amuses me about this article is that Gaza also has a border with Egypt so they also are involved in any “siege of Gaza” But hey, lets just blame the Jews! Israel has evacuated all of its citizens and soldiers from the Gaza Strip. Palestinians had an opportunity to build an infrastructure of a state in Gaza and prove to Israelis they are interested in living as peaceful neighbors to stimulate additional withdrawals from the West Bank. Instead, Hamas takes over Gaza and leads a terror onslaught that includes firing 10,000 rockets and missiles into southern Israel. Israelis see that instead of peace, they traded land for terror and are reluctant to discuss new territorial concessions.

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      Travis Lupick

      Sep 30, 2009 at 9:59am

      The border that Egypt and Gaza share (the “Rafah crossing”) is controlled by the Israelis. See <a href="http://domino.un.org/pdfs/AMA_OneYearOn.pdf">this UN report</a> for information on Israeli closures of this border. Beneath this border is where the majority of Gaza's much-publicized tunnels exist. Your next argument is going to question why Gazans are using these tunnels to smuggle weapons into Gaza instead of food or construction supplies. The answer is that your question poses a fallacy as truth. According to a <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/10/gaza-tunnels-israel">report in Guardian</a>, these tunnels are primarily used to bring food, fuel, and construction supplies from Egypt to Gaza. A very tiny percentage of imports through these tunnels involve things related to weapons.

      Palestinians have <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8257301.stm">not had an opportunity to rebuild</a> the infrastructure of a state in the Gaza Strip. As reported by the BBC News, the borders have not been open to import building supplies.

      It can be argued that Gazans have not had an opportunity to prove to Israelis that they are living as peaceful neighbours. The siege on Gaza has <a href="http://www.straight.com/article-178552/palestinians-tell-isolation">isol... the territory</a> from the rest of the world, effectively turning the area into the world's largest prison. This is an odd situation to describe as an opportunity to prove one is interested in peace.

      You made up the figure of 10,000 rockets. <a href="http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/10session/A.HRC.10.2... UN report</a>, for example, states that the number of rockets fired from the territories into Israel in 2008 was in the hundreds. The entire year's total did not even reach 1,000, which makes the number of Palestinian rockets fired into Israel (which, although a crime, seldom physically harm anybody) less than the number of Palestinians killed in Israel's December '08 attack on Gaza. (One year's rockets less than two month's deaths and you describe this as a "terror onslaught". I'd describe that as a double standard.)

      Israel is reluctant to discuss territorial concessions? As reported by the Guardian, it refuse sto even discuss limiting further <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/28/us-israel-settlements-obama-... expansion</a>. Does that make for an opportunity to prove one is interested in peace?

      Some holes in your arguments.

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