- 24 Jan 24
Following her powerful performances at multiple Irish Artists For Palestine events, including gigs at the 3Arena and 3Olympia Theatre, Roisin El Cherif reflects on the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza – with Israel’s assault having now claimed the lives of over 25,000 Palestinians. The Irish-Palestinian singer-songwriter also calls for sanctions against Israel – and for the "responsible people of Ireland to pressure the Irish government to support South Africa at the ICJ"
“A land without a people,” the famous Zionist quote goes, “for a people without a land.” But what if that was a lie: the forces that distorted the history of a 4,000-year-old region and its people. Would they know that this lie would be used to erase the lives, lineage and culture of the Palestinians?
I am the result of an Irish mother and a Palestinian father from Gaza. My grandparents were born in the village Barbara, Gaza District. During the 1967 war, my family fled to Jordan, becoming refugees, and were forbidden to return to Gaza. Only half the family left, however – so I will never meet most of the huge El Cherif clan I come from in this lifetime.
My Palestinian family is spread out across the world like this – in refugee camps, and in the diaspora. When I tell you that Israel destroyed my father’s land, that is putting it lightly. Israel made ghosts of the living. Families cut off from each other for life. The villages they originated from, turned to ruins. The windows to our past, stolen.
And this is the story of many families from Palestine – where passports and travel permits are granted at the whims of the Israeli Government. Some never return, forbidden in exile, rotting in camps now made of cement and walls. It’s a torture and loneliness that is all man-made. It’s knowing people who you can never reach, never hug. It’s lost love, and longing. And now, it’s knowing those people in death – in some of the most horrific formats ever to be witnessed.
So I write to you as a broken-hearted Palestinian. Like many people watching these massacres unfold, I awake with dread. The very foundation of truth, justice and beauty I held so dear in my Western life, came crashing down with the genocide in Gaza.
As a human of this world, I am shaken to my core. As an artist who found magic in life, I am struggling. My trust in humanity is in pieces.
Never in my lifetime did I think I would witness elected officials of the world condone, justify and bless the televised murder of a people – my people. Bless it with words like ‘defense’ ,’multi-billion-dollar aid package’, and ‘flatten them’. And then sugar-coat it, by repeating misinformation and direct lies on a loop.
While we were simultaneously watching the horror on our phones, our favourite news stations discredited everything we had seen with our eyes. Belittling it, making murder small. Like Black Mirror, two cracked realities, enter the Matrix. Red pill is the reality, the nightmare, you wished you’d wake from. Blue pill is the life you had before you realised everything was a lie.
You can never unsee the cracks in the foundations. We can never go back.
I am horrified that this could happen to a people, and our media would dance around the truth. Presenting us with bias, out-of-context politics and propaganda. All in favour of prolonging the bloodshed of the Palestinians.
If this can happen to the Palestinians, then this can happen to you too. In fact, we know that in this country, it did happen, with 800 years of British occupation.
And in South Africa too, through their apartheid system. That’s why South Africa’s case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, charging Israel with genocide, is so important. Finally, someone is acknowledging our heartbreak, and our history which we have been screaming out. South Africa didn’t silence us – they screamed for us. It’s the first time in our stolen history that the voice, torture and injustices of our people, are being truly heard, on the world stage.
”The violence and the destruction in Palestine and Israel did not begin on the 7th of October 2023,” South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said at ICJ. “The Palestinians have experienced systematic oppression and violence for the last 76 years.”
I could go through all the atrocities of the world, compare them to Palestine and find the similarities. Colonisation is the cause and the root. It has a system, and it has an outline. It has a face, and a name: supremacy.
But unlike the many horrific atrocities happening in the world, Palestine is the only one you are not allowed to talk about. Why?
People’s understanding of Palestine is based on everything they don’t know about us. It’s depressing and frustrating that, 76 years since the Nakba, Palestinians have to explain to you what that is. The Nakba is ‘The Catastrophe’. The beginning of the end – the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
Irish people do not forget the 800 brutal years of occupation that scarred this land and its people. We are where we are today, thanks to the countrymen who came before us. I am lucky that I live in a country where sorrow is understood, and resistance in the bloodstream. Thanks to my fighting Irish spirit, I have courage that there is still time to right these wrongs.
I urge the responsible people of Ireland to pressure the Irish government to support South Africa at the ICJ – as it is only international pressure that can stop Israel from murdering the people left.
Right now, sanctions are the most important way to get an immediate ceasefire, and end this genocide. Send a diplomatic message – that truth and justice must be respected. What is the point of international law if some nations don’t have to adhere to it?
I demand we place sanctions on Israel. Boycott and suspend all academic and medical ties to Israel. Boycott all cultural ties including the Eurovision. If that’s not showing you in obvious ways that Israel is a European colony oppressing a native Middle Eastern population then can someone explain to me: why else is it in the Eurovision?
You don’t have to read all the history books to know that a country created on top of an already existing country is not going to work. So don’t accept the silence and do not be silenced.
As Shuhada’ Sadaqat (Sinéad O’Connor) told us over 30 years ago: “Fight the real enemy.”
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