Hundreds show solidarity with Gaza in Newry vigil

July 21, 2014

By Christine Keighery

Hundreds of people gathered at Newry Town Hall last Tuesday evening to protest against Israel’s devastating bomb attacks on Gaza, which have so far killed more than 200 people, the majority of which have been civilian and many of whom are women and children.

A group of local women were behind the vigil which attracted more than 500 people, after just 48 hours promotion on social media.

Demonstrators, many carrying Palestinian flags and placards calling for an end to the deadly attacks on Gaza, listened intently as Sinn Féin representatives Conor Murphy MP, Mayor Dáire Hughes and Michelle Garrett of the Irish Friends of Palestine group, addressed the event, urging the citizens of Newry and beyond to “make their voices heard” in support of the Palestinian people.

Drawing comparisons with the conflict in Ireland, Conor Murphy MP said: “People from Ireland and particularly people from this area know what it is like to live under oppression and we understand the terror which the Palestinian people live with daily.  We are here this evening in solidarity with them and to show the world that we recognise the right of the Palestinians to defend themselves.”

Mayor of Newry Dáire Hughes, who recently spent a number of months in Palestine, called for the international community to unite against Israel’s actions.

“Palestine must be allowed to trade freely with other countries and basic services such as water and electricity must be immediately restored.  The oppression of Palestine must end and the international community needs to make it clear to Israel that their actions are unjustifiable and will not be tolerated,” he told those gathered.

Michelle Garrett of the Irish Friends of Palestine gave a rousing, passionate speech, thanking everyone present for uniting in the “global condemnation of Israel’s latest orchestrated genocidal massacre”.

Berating the “deafening silence across the globe” the impassioned activist condemned the Israeli attacks as violations of the human rights charter and fundamental law principles and highlighted the present bombing campaign as “the third time in the last six years where Israel has freely unleashed the full fury of its military machine against the defenceless 1.7 million people of Gaza”.

She chastised the reaction of Western diplomats and mainstream media who have “perversely sided with Israel.”

“From the UN Secretary General to the president of the United States, the main insistence has been that Hamas must stop all rocket attacks while Israel has been requested ever so politely to show maximum restraint.

“Israel does not want peace. Israel wants Palestine, preferably without the Palestinians, and they will stop at nothing in order to get it.  There is nothing more repugnant than the oppressed becoming the oppressor, there is nothing more evil than the western leaders giving Israel the thumbs up and assuring them of unequivocal support,” Ms Garrett said.

In a direct message to Israel, she added: “We’re all sick of the lies, of the brutality, of the illegal occupation, of the chemical weaponry being rained down on children of the apartheid, of the administrative detention, of the torture, of the borders, of the soldiers kidnapping and incarcerating children, of the illegal settlements and their inhabitants. We are appalled that political prisoners are forced to hunger strike in order to gain their freedom and the freedom of every single Palestinian subjugated by your occupation.  “We are sick of a defenceless nation having to fight you with rocks and stones and we are sick of listening to Netanyahu justifying these murderous actions because Hamas fire rockets to defend their people.

“The oppressed people of Palestine have a right to defend themselves against the fascist monstrous murdering war machine whose only determination is to completely wipe them off the face of this earth. Enough is enough.”

To rapturous applause Ms Garrett pleaded with those present to be a “voice for the people of Palestine…stand up and be counted, stand up for the freedom of Palestinians”.

Mr Murphy urged demonstrators to use the “economic power of their pockets” and the power of social media to share stories and images and express their views on the Palestinian crisis.

“We have plenty of issues to be dealing with in Ireland but we’ve always been internationalists as well as people who are interested in justice in our country,” he said.

“We are all precious about our time but we have a lot more time than the Palestinian people who get the knock on the roof of their house 58 seconds before the bomb arrives, so let’s give a little bit of our time to devote some support to oppressed people across the world.”