- Part 2 of an interview éirígí’s Newry spokesperson Stephen Murney took part in with Fatima Bidar from Mustadafin World Front, a news website working on human rights and anti-imperialist subjects. They have decided to have interviews with activists around the world and publish them in three languages, English, Persian and Arabic and we are privileged to have been asked to participate. The interview focuses on the struggle in Palestine and the fact many of us in Ireland naturally take to the streets to protest and show solidarity and support to the people of Palestine as we in Ireland are also involved in struggle against occupation and imperialism. Many Irish people have a very real understanding and empathy with the Palestinian struggle simply because Irish people are able to directly relate to the experiences of the Palestinian people. Any population that has the misfortune to find itself under foreign occupation will inevitably stretch out in solidarity and friendship to others in the same situation.
FB How much do the NGOs of your country pay attention to the Palestine issue and how much they affect their surrounding society?
SM: It is noticeable, but not surprising, that the majority of activities organised on the Palestinian issue emerged from within working class, grassroots communities. Street protests took place right across Ireland, as people demonstrated in their thousands to express solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Trade unions, community organisations, political activists all mobilised in support of the Palestinian people. Many NGO’s across Ireland were particularly active, and that activism is still continuing.
Wesam Ahmad, from the leading Palestinian human rights organisation Al Haq will be in Ireland this month to give a series of public lectures and talks and will meeting with activists from the NGO sector to explain ways in which they can focus and target their energies in support of the Palestinian struggle.
Over 500 hundred Irish creative and performing artists have pledged to completely boycott Israel. Those artists have pledged not to avail of any invitation to perform or exhibit in Israel, nor to accept any funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel. Quite a number of those artists would be internationally well-known.
FB: Please name some of your activities that has had an effect on and welcomed by the society?
SM: Across Ireland, our activists have been to the fore in organising events in relation to Palestine. éirígí members and supporters were instrumental in taking the boycott of Israeli goods to another level through direct actions against major supermarket chains in major Irish cities such as Dublin, Belfast, Newry and other towns. These actions and those of many pro-Palestinian led to one of the largest supermarket chains in Ireland withdrawing Israeli produce from hundreds of its stores.
Indeed, the simple use of the boycott as a means of expressing solidarity was one that spread rapidly across Ireland. It provided a means through which entire families, young people, children, elderly people, – all could make simple but effective gestures and statements of support for the Palestinian simply by refusing to buy Israeli products. That gave thousands and thousands of people a real sense of empowerment at a time when many felt completely powerless as they watched the scenes of mass murder and total destruction taking place several thousand miles away in Gaza.
Over the last number of years, éirígí has established direct fraternal links with the PFLP and last year our annual conference was addressed by a member of that organisation. We will continue to build and expand upon those links.
FB: Based on your experience, what factors lead to the success of NGOs that are active in issues like Palestine?
SM: Again this goes back to the common shared experiences between the Irish people and the Palestinian people. The Irish people know from experience exactly what occupation means: starvation, destruction, mass expulsions from their own homes and their own country; mass murder, repressive laws, foreign troops dictating what you may or may not do.
Against that back-drop, it is not a difficult task for NGO’s to be able to successfully mobilise.
FB: How much do you think the world’s public opinion is familiar with the Palestine- Israel issue? Do you think the awakening of the minds is increasing or decreasing?
SM: The awakening of minds is certainly increasing but the real challenge is to maintain momentum. Its only two years since Israel’s previous assault on Gaza, the previous onslaught was another four years before that.
It is a sad and unfortunate reality that as Gaza and the general issue of Palestine dropped out of the media headlines in the aftermath of the ceasefire, ordinary people’s attention turned elsewhere.
Maintaining ordinary people’s interest in Palestine through information, actions, events is an ongoing challenge in every country.
FB: What issues, other than Palestine do you think need to be taken into consideration by NGOs to fight against false messages of the mainstream media of imperialism imposed on people of the world?
SM: There are many issues, too numerous to list here, that NGO’s need to be active on. However, it’s clear that alternative media has a major and constructive role to play in counteracting the mis-information being disseminated by the mainstream media.
Irrespective of the issue – Palestine, Ireland, environmental campaigns , events like the mass murders of the Marikana miners – there is a need to ensure that information which is brought forward through alternative outlets is done so in a clear, concise, and succinct manner that people can easily understand, comprehend and relate to.
That is the key in countering the false propaganda which mainstream media so ably delivers for capitalism.
Read Part One here.