“The terrorist is always the one with the smaller bomb.”
– Brendan Behan
Today is not the day for long obituaries or to debate the pros and cons of the peace process, nor is it the time (as the British media have done all day long) to wheel out opponents of the IRA to dance on the memory of the leader of Irish nationalism.
TAL Fanzine has its views on all of the political twists and turns that have taken place as a result of the eternal peace process. However, on this day, we send our sincere condolences to the family, friends and comrades of Martin McGuinness.
The Zionist regime of Israel despises the ‘apartheid’ description of their cruel oppression of the Palestinians.
This is the definition of apartheid: “a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.”
Now, I don’t believe in using words such as ‘race’ as that term implies differences in humans that don’t actually exist, apart from in the warped minds of evolution deniers.
The Nazis believed in racial purity, as did the architects of apartheid in South Africa. The Zionists obviously believe that the Palestinians are ‘culturally’ different to them, not only in terms of religion and language but also ‘race.’
There are some who still believe in the ludicrous genealogies of the Bible right back to Adam and Eve or at least back to Shem, y’know Noah’s lad who founded the ‘Shemite’ race.
Such people still use these spurious and childish arguments to justify their ‘right’ to land and natural resources and to remove others from it and place them in what amount to huge open prisons.
Like the South Africans, they believe that they are intellectually, morally and culturally superior to these lower, savage races. They dress up their barbarity in cloaks of sophistry.
They use words such as these:
“Because America and Israel, we share a common destiny, the destiny of promised lands that cherish freedom and offer hope. Israel is grateful for the support of American — of America’s people and of America’s presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.”
– Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the US congress in 2015
‘Promised lands?’ Who promised them to you? Your God? Oh, OK then, crack on!
‘Cherish freedom and offer hope!’ You’d have to laugh at such nauseating lies if it wasn’t for the pathetic reality of the world’s richest state giving tacit approval for its client state’s (or is the other way around) illegal and disgusting treatment of the Palestinians.
Israel needs to be treated with similar contempt shown to the South African regime in the 70s and 80s. If the waving of a Palestinian flag at a football match in Glasgow can be regarded by Uefa as an illegal act then maybe it’s UEFA that needs to examine itself, not Celtic fans.
Meanwhile, the campaign to ‘Match the fine for Palestine’ continues to build and is now standing at around £140,000 – a phenomenal sum of money raised by Celtic fans in solidarity with the Palestinian people, in aid of two very worthwhile charities working in the occupied territories. The original modest target of £15,000 set by the Green Brigade has been bettered almost ten times over! It is an unequivocal answer to the oligarchs who run the game that these football fans will not be silenced when it comes to matters of injustice, inequality, racism and apartheid.
The worldwide response to the stance that thousands of Celtic fans took in solidarity with the Palestinians during their Champions League tie with Israeli side, Hapoel Beer-Sheva, leaves no doubt that in the second decade of the 21st century internationalism remains more powerful than any number of Apache helicopter gunships, cruise missiles, and tanks when it comes to shaping the world. For the Palestinian people, living in a de facto open prison in Gaza and under the longest military occupation in modern history in the West Bank, the sight of Celtic fans flying and waving a flag that means more to them than life itself will have made their hearts soar, reminding them they do not stand alone in defiance of an oppressor dedicated to their subjugation, cultural annihilation and despair.
While no one is suggesting that a free Palestine is just around the corner, the growth in international support for this righteous objective, with the spread and growth of the international campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, makes the status quo evermore untenable and unsustainable.
A people who find themselves living under occupation, subjected to a racist system of apartheid at the hands of a colonial power, can never be anything but politically aware. Under such conditions you don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing, and neither does it take a PhD in politics or economics to gain an understanding of the world. Thus the struggle waged by generations of Irishmen and women against British colonialism entrenched the worldview and core values that underpin Irish republicanism. A key plank of those values is the unshakeable belief that standing on the side of justice in the matter of oppression is more than a choice it’s an obligation and a duty. When it comes to the Palestinians this takes on added force when we consider the solidarity they have shown towards the Irish struggle in the past.
One of the most moving documents I have ever encountered in my political life was a letter written by Palestinian political prisoners in tribute to Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers upon Sands’ death. The letter was smuggled out of the Nafha prison in the Negev desert, where they were incarcerated, and arrived in the Falls Road soon after.
“To the families of the martyrs oppressed by the British ruling class. To the families of Bobby Sands and his martyred comrades.
We, revolutionaries of the Palestinian people who are under the terrorist rule of Zionism, write you this letter from the desert prison of Nafha.
We extend our salutes and solidarity with you in the confrontation against the oppressive terrorist rule enforced upon the Irish people by the British ruling elite.
We salute the heroic struggle of Bobby Sands and his comrades, for they have sacrificed the most valuable possession of any human being. They gave their lives for freedom.
From here in Nafha prison, where savage snakes and desert sands penetrate our cells, from here under the yoke of Zionist occupation, we stand alongside you. From behind our cell bars, we support you, your people and your revolutionaries who have chosen to confront death.
Since the Zionist occupation, our people have been living under the worst conditions. Our militants who have chosen the road of liberty and chosen to defend our land, people and dignity, have been suffering for many years. In the prisons, we are confronting Zionist oppression and their systematic application of torture. Sunlight does not enter our cell. Basic necessities are not provided. Yet we confront the Zionist hangmen, the enemies of life.
Many of our militant comrades have been martyred under torture by the fascists allowing them to bleed to death. Others have been martyred because Israeli prison administrators do not provide needed medical care.
The noble and just hunger strike is not in vain. In our struggle against the occupation of our homeland, for freedom from the new Nazis, it stands as a clear symbol of the historical challenge against the terrorists. Our people in Palestine and in the Zionist prisons are struggling as your people are struggling against the British monopolies and we will both continue until victory.
On behalf of the prisoners of Nafha, we support your struggle and cause of freedom against English domination, against Zionism and against fascism in the world.
On Wednesday August 17, 2016, thousands of Celtic supporters answered this message of solidarity from Palestinian political prisoners in 1981 with a message of their own. They did so in the face of UEFA threats of disciplinary action against the club and a hefty fine. Celtic FC and its fans should be proud to pay any such fine, viewing it not as punishment but as an investment in their humanity. As Malcolm X said, “If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.”
The world now knows that in an age of cynicism and indifference to suffering, Celtic supporters most assuredly do stand for something.
Click here to make a donation – #matchthefineforpalestine
At the Champions League match with Hapoel Beer Sheva on 17 August 2016, the Green Brigade and fans throughout Celtic Park flew the flag for Palestine. This act of solidarity has earned Celtic respect and acclaim throughout the world. It has also attracted a disciplinary charge from UEFA, which deems the Palestinian flag to be an ‘illicit banner’.
In response to this petty and politically partisan act by European football’s governing body we are determined to make a positive contribution to the game and today launch a campaign to #MatchTheFineForPalestine. We aim to raise £15,000* which will be split 50/50 between Medical Aid Palestine (MAP) and to the Lajee Centre, a Palestinian creative cultural children’s centre in the Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem.
MAP delivers health and medical care to those worst affected by conflict, occupation and displacement.
Working in partnership with local health providers and hospitals, MAP addresses a wide range of health issues and challenges faced by the Palestinian people.
With offices located in Beirut, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Gaza City, MAP responds rapidly in times of crisis, and works directly with communities on longer term health development.”
Aida is one of 19 refugee camps in the West Bank and has for 66 years played temporary home to Palestinians forcibly expelled from their homes in Hebron and Jerusalem. Its residents live in the shadow of Israel’s apartheid wall, cut off from social and economic opportunities by the wall and neighbouring illegal settlements and military checkpoints.
For the young people of Aida, the Lajee Centre offers hope and an escape from the realities of life under Israeli occupation via its art and culture programmes and sport programmes.
The camp’s only football pitch was built last year by the Lajee Centre, at the heart of Aida. The pitch is now protected by metal netting after it was damaged by tear gas canisters fired by the Israeli Defence Forces. Residents had previously played on recreation ground stolen by the wall.
The money will be a much needed boost to the Lajee Centre who will be able to extend their activities to bring much needed relief via their arts, dance and football programmes. One such programme is that of youth football, with the Lajee Centre looking to organise a youth football team to take part in the Bethlehem Youth League.
There are no organised teams in Aida, with basic equipment like boots in short supply. Funds raised will provide equipment, strips and travel costs to enable the camp to enter a team in the Bethlehem Youth League.
In recognition of the show of support from Celtic fans and all those around the world Salah Ajarma, Coordinator of the Lajee Centre will name the team ‘Aida Celtic’: “It will mean so much to our young people to be part of an official team, to have boots and strips and to represent the camp wearing the colours of our friends. Aida Celtic will be a source of pride for all in Aida”
Former IRA blanketman, H Blocks PRO and author of ‘Blanketmen‘ & ‘After Lives’, Richard O’Rawe reviews the new film about Bobby Sands, ’66 Days’.
‘Drama at the absolute rawest edge it could possibly be,’ was how journalist Fintan O’Toole described the IRA/INLA hunger strike in Brendan Byrne’s new film, Bobby Sands – Sixty-Six Days. No one who was around at that time could argue with him.
I went to the premiere of this film in West Belfast along with my wife, Bernadette. Accompanying us were Dixie Elliott and his wife, Sharon. Dixie, a former cell mate of Sands’, had been interviewed for the film but his contribution did not make the final cut.
Unsurprisingly, the cinema was packed with Sinn Féin members and supporters. Equally unsurprisingly, many of those present cast their eyes into the darkest reaches of the cinema rather than in my direction. The reason why? Because I wrote a book called Blanketmenin which I said that a committee of republicans, led by Gerry Adams, had control of the hunger strike. I also said that, before the fifth hunger striker Joe McDonnell died, this committee rejected an offer from the British government that the prison leadership believed to be acceptable. Consequently, six more hunger strikers died on the fast.
Richard O’Rawe – ‘Was it (Sands’ death) worth it? It pains me to say that I don’t think it was.’
Notwithstanding the preponderance of Sinn Féin members in attendance at the premiere, this is far from a pro-Sinn Féin film. In fact, one viewer later said to me that he thought Byrne had gone ‘a bit too far’ by using Fintan O’Toole as linkman(O’Toole is not known for his Sinn Féin sympathies).
Byrne also afforded speaking rights to former prison officer, Dessie Butterworth, Tory Cabinet minister, Norman Tebbit, and Margaret Thatcher’s biographer, Charles Moore. As well as that, he did not shirk from raising the despicable IRA murder of a young mother and census collector, Joanne Mathers, two days before the electorate of Fermanagh/South Tyrone went to the polls to elect either Bobby Sands or a Unionist as their M.P. To some of us prisoners, it seemed as if someone wanted to sabotage Sands’ chances of being elected.
I have to say, I found this film challenging. For example: Sands gave an interview to reporter Brendan O’Cathaoir of The Irish Times on the third day of his hunger strike.
Commenting on the interview, O’Cathaoir told Byrne: ‘He spoke fluently about how they felt compelled to start the hunger strike. And he made it pretty clear to me he was likely to die. He talked really in terms of laying down his life for his comrades, and of course I am conscious that his protest was in the tradition of positive resistance, immortalised by Ghandi. His most memorial phrase before we parted was: “If I die, God will understand.”’
I later gave some thought to O’Cathaoir saying that Sands’ fast was‘in the tradition of positive resistance, immortalised by Ghandi’. Ghandi and Sands certainly had things in common: they shared the same imperial foe, they had a great love of their people, and they had iron will.
But unlike the pacifist Ghandi, Sands was committed to armed struggle and, while both revolutionaries may have used the tactic of hunger strike to achieve a political aim, they were altogether different entities.
Another thing that struck me was Fintan O’Toole saying that, ‘Ultimately Bobby Sands’ life effectively marks the end of the tradition of armed struggle because what he said is: There is no justification or need to kill people.’
This is simply not true. The Bobby Sands with whom I lived for three years on the blanket protest was committed to the armed struggle tradition; he never, during any of his talks with his fellow-prisoners, gave the impression that he viewed constitutional politics as a viable alternative to armed struggle: he was a committed IRA man, with all its attendant violence.
He died believing that his death would enhance the armed struggle, not diminish it.
Moreover, he had absolutely no idea that his death would lead to the peace process. If he had known, I doubt if he would have given his life so freely.
Despite Byrne’s attempt to strike a balance by giving anti-republicans a wide platform, this film is about a republican who died on hunger strike and his testimony. There is skilful use of animation, historical newsreels, and an excreta-covered, H-Block prison cell, complete with two men covered with blankets and lying on dirty mattresses on the floor.
A powerful rendition of Bobby Sands’ hunger strike diary from actor, Martin McCann leaves one with a feeling of utter helplessness, as does Mrs Sands being interviewed beside a van outside Long Kesh where she tells the world that her son is dying and, holding back her tears, appeals for no violence when he dies.
This is a film that people should go and view if for no other reason than that it has very coherent insights into Bobby Sands’ hunger strike, from both sides of the argument. It is also thought-provoking.
And always, at the back of my mind as I was watching this movie, is the question: Was it worth it? It pains me to say that I don’t think it was.
“Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland, the presence, in any one generation of Irishmen, of even a respectable minority, ready to die to affirm that truth, makes that Government for ever a usurpation and a crime against human progress.”
Given to his daughter Nora Connolly on eve of his murder by the British.
To the Field General Court Martial, held at Dublin Castle, on May 9th, 1916:
I do not wish to make any defence except against charges of wanton cruelty to prisoners. These trifling allegations that have been made, if they record facts that really happened deal only with the almost unavoidable incidents of a hurried uprising against long established authority, and nowhere show evidence of set purpose to wantonly injure unarmed persons.
We went out to break the connection between this country and the British Empire, and to establish an Irish Republic. We believed that the call we then issued to the people of Ireland, was a nobler call, in a holier cause, than any call issued to them during this war, having any connection with the war. We succeeded in proving that Irishmen are ready to die endeavouring to win for Ireland those national rights which the British Government has been asking them to die to win for Belgium. As long as that remains the case, the cause of Irish freedom is safe.
Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland, the presence, in any one generation of Irishmen, of even a respectable minority, ready to die to affirm that truth, makes that Government for ever a usurpation and a crime against human progress.
I personally thank God that I have lived to see the day when thousands of Irish men and boys, and hundreds of Irish women and girls, were ready to affirm that truth, and to attest it with their lives if need be.
Commandant-General, Dublin Division,
Army of the Irish Republic
In Memory of BRUNO NERI / Partisan Commander / Fallen in combat in Gamogna, July 10, 1944 / A prominent athlete in sports competition / Revealed as an Underground Resistance Leader in guerrilla warfare / He showed the great virtues of a fighter and a guide / He is an example and a warning for future generations.
“When you have the ball, you must think what you are going to do with it…”
Bruno Neri expressed this in reference to his midfield position on the pitch, but the master footballer made his position on the field a living example that could be put into practice in the daily lives of the people. The strategy and tactics of the midfield general on the football pitch was applied in combat when he became a partisan commander in the Italian anti-fascist resistance movement.
The iconic image of Neri demonstrates the schizophrenic football policy in Italy at the time. It was taken before the opening match at the new football stadium in Florence (Italy) in 1931, which was named after Giovanni Berta, a fascist who was killed by a communist commando after an engagement in February 1921. Neri, who was then a Fiorentina player, was pictured with his arms at his side, unlike the other players who posed making the Roman salute, the emblem of the fascists. Undoubtedly, Bruno’s gesture was a show of courage and defiance against fascist rule in Italy at that time.
This day April 25, 1945 marks the day of liberation in Italy, the movement driven by the Partisans against the Nazi invasion and its fascist allies commanded by Mussolini. Based on the union, strength and organization of guerrilla columns, the Italian Resistance managed to expel the German Army, then three days after the official announcement of the end of the Second World War, the dictator Benito Mussolini was arrested, shot to death and hung in Loreto square in Milan (previously a scene of fascist execution of resistance fighters) while the population in jubilation celebrated the victory.
Remember with pride all of the brave Partisans who were killed in action. April 25 will remain a day to commemorate the anti-fascist resistance, now and forever.