- 21 May 21
For the fourth entry in the Hot Press Palestinian Voices series, chairperson of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), Fatin Al Tamimi, describes her hope for ending the Israeli occupation of Gaza and Palestine as a whole. Despite today's news of a ceasefire and hopefully an end to the escalating violence, the apartheid state sadly lives on.
The IPSC was set up in late 2001 by a group of established Irish human rights and community activists, academics and journalists who were deeply concerned with the current situation in the occupied territories. In partnership with Palestinians now living in Ireland, the independent, non-party political organisation was formed to provide a voice for Palestine in Ireland and is entirely ran by volunteers committed to curating a just and sustainable peace in the Middle East.
Fatin al Tamimi has lived in Ireland for almost 30 years, and became the first Palestinian chairperson in the IPSC's fifteen year history. A freelance photographer, Fatin has close family living in Hebron who she says are living in dire and worsening conditions as a result of the Israeli occupation. The activist also has relatives living in the open-air prison of Gaza, making her emotional ties to this month's violence even more difficult to bear. Here, Fatin speaks to Kate Brayden for our new 'Voices' series.
How are you coping mentally with the trauma of this awful situation?
What is happening in Palestine is outrageous and devastating. I’m really struggling to cope with all that fear, anxiety and insomnia that comes with caring about my people in Palestine, especially worrying about my sister and her family’s safety and well-being in Gaza as Israeli warplanes have been bombing day and night for the past 10 days. Every time I speak to my sister, niece, nephew or my auntie in Gaza I'm terrified that it will be the last time I ever hear their voice.
As a mother, I can’t bear to imagine the trauma that mothers and children face, under all that barbaric bombardment. And worse, of having to lose a member of, or a whole, family!
What do you think the future of Gaza holds after the increased violence of the last month?
The escalation in Israeli violence has had and will continue to have detrimental effects on the livelihood of the people of Gaza. There will be a lot of orphaned children, homeless families, people suffering from extreme PTSD. I do however, have an undying hope that the siege on Gaza will end and Gaza will rise from the ashes and I’ll be able to go and visit my extended family there and relive some childhood memories of Gaza’s beautiful seaside.
How damaging is it when we use words such as "conflict", "clashes" and "two sides" arguments when one side is an oppressor in an apartheid regime?
“Conflict”, “clashes” I feel these words are a betrayal to humanity and a clever manipulation of the truth to distance people from what is an occupation, colonisation, ethnic cleansing that started over 73 years ago and still ongoing. Call it what it is, it is settler colonialism and apartheid. It is the systematic dehumanisation of my people. It is the deliberate traumatisation of generations in the hope that we will just go away and leave our land. But we will not, we will struggle, and resist and we will stay in our land - and those not there today will return in the future!
Do you think the public perception of Gaza and the violence against Palestine has changed over the last number of years?
The violence and land theft has in fact intensified in recent years. More homes demolished, families displaced and our resources and culture stolen from us. Under the distraction of the Trump administration and the global pandemic Israel has turned its attention to brutally move forward with their takeover of what remains of Palestine and further oppress my people with systematic apartheid.
The media on the other hand, there are honourable exceptions, but a great many media outlets essentially just parrot Israeli propaganda, and disregard Palestinian voices and narratives. Despite Israel’s daily and persistent aggressions, they only report what’s happening when Palestinians resist, and describing Israeli violence as being 'responsive', when it is the Palestinians who are responding in frustration at the deprivation and circumstances that have been forced upon them for the past seven decades.
This 'media conditioning' helps fuel the ideas of a “complicated situation” and a "conflict of equals". Thankfully in Ireland, many people see through this false narrative as, for obvious reasons, there is a wider understanding of the difference between colonial violence and anti-colonial resistance to that violence here.
Do you think that social media (despite censorship) has allowed Palestinians to create a grassroots movement against their oppressors?
Absolutely. I believe the truth of how barbaric the treatment of Israel is of Palestinians is being seen by the public on social media platforms. More people are starting to take a stance against Israel's violence. I think the #SaveSheikhJarrah campaign in social media has been very successful raising awareness and gaining solidarity with the families there who are facing another illegal expulsion by the Apartheid Israeli systematic ethnic cleansing.
The oppressors obviously see as a problem, and have been trying to stop it as much as they can so they can continue to murder and oppress without public pressure. We can see how the Israeli government has successfully pressured social media companies to actively censor Palestinians and their supporters in the past few years.
Can you describe your relationship to Ireland and to Palestine? You've lived here since 1988, but I'm sure that Palestine is your heart and soul.
Ireland is my second home. I grew up and matured here. I learned a lot from the wonderful Irish people. I learned from their resilience, passionate, humbleness and honesty. And it gives me strength and hope when I see the big demonstrations, and even the small demonstrations, in solidarity with my people!
I carry Palestine in my mind and heart, I've taught my Irish friends many Palestinian things. I've taught them about our rich culture, cuisine and language and history.
I reared my children to be proud Palestinians and to carry on the identity of our land and to keep the fight for our right to return, although they have never visited it... yet.
How can the Irish government and Irish people help Palestinians best at this current time?
The Irish government need to take meaningful actions not just spout empty words. They can start by enacting the Occupied Territories Bill to ban trade with Israel's illegal settlements in occupied West Bank. They can close down the IDA office in Tel Aviv. They can call out Israeli Apartheid instead of merely talking about 'conflict'.
The Irish government must use its voice in the UN Security Council to defend our right to exist and put an end to Israel’s war crimes against my people. It also must support the Human Rights Watch call for the UN to investigate Israel’s crimes against humanity and impose sanctions on individuals and entities involved in Israel’s crimes of Apartheid and Persecution.
As for the Irish people, they can escalate support for the widely effective, Palestinian lead global campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) until Israeli apartheid has ended and Palestinians enjoy freedom, justice, equality and the right to return!
How can you effectively show the public how skewed the conversation is in Israel's favour?
Look, there is undoubtedly Islamophobia and wider racist views in the West. Often they are directed by governments to scapegoat people, or to drum up support for wars and resource theft. But there are also those who reject and fight against these stereotypes and hate speech. Sadly, in many states, and Ireland is not immune to this, the media generally simply echoes the official line - so it's up to activists and campaigners to reach out people, to try to get some truth out there. This is one of the things that we in the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, with our limited resources, try to do as best we can.
It's often as simple as showing the facts of the matter. In showing the truth, the nature of a militaristic and nuclear armed Apartheid state colonising an indigenous people is undeniable. The Palestinian struggle is one of a people praying for their nation, their land and their livelihood, as opposed to Israel, a vicious racist state preying on a people.
This ceasefire is welcome, but disgracefully apartheid Israel is still bombing Gaza right now, until it starts in a few hours. Israel must be held accountable for these latest, and all its crimes against the #Palestinian people.
— IPSC (@ipsc48) May 20, 2021
For more information on how you can help the situation in Gaza and Palestine from Ireland, visit ipsc.ie.