Thursday, April 26, 2007

Does anyone listen to Nobel Peace Laureates? Or respect non-violent protest?

is helped away after being hit in the leg by rubber bullet and inhaling tear gas.
Bil'in, Occupied Palestine, April 20.
(photo from ISM)

IT is reported from Berkeley, California, that Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is urging the Iranian government to hold a national referendum on the country's controversial nuclear programme, because it "has a direct impact" on the lives of millions of Iranian citizens.

Iran claims its nuclear programme, which actually began under the Shah's regime, is strictly for peaceful energy purposes, though other governments, led by the United States, are adopting sanctions against Iran, claiming it is preparing to develop nuclear weapons. Iran is a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, unlike Israel, which already has nuclear weapons and imprisoned Mordechai Vanunu for blowing the whistle on them.

Demagogic speeches by Iranian president Ahmadinejad, reported as threatening to "wipe Israel off the map" (though what he actually said is at least open to interpretation) have been seized on, along with his hosting a Holocaust revisionists conference, as evidence that Iran is preparing for war. More tangible evidence, like the US military build-up in the Gulf, suggests it is Washington and its Israeli rotweiler who are gearing up to attack Iran. But Iranian leftists fear the president is gambling with their people's lives, by using tension with the Western imperialists to divert from social unrest in Iran.

Mordechai Vanunu and his supporters, in Israel and internationally, have called for a nuclear-free Middle East, as a start to removing the nuclear menace around the world. Issam Makhoul, an Arab Member of the Knesset, who in February 2000 initiated Israel's first parliamentary debate on nuclear policy, stated: "Only those who struggle for total disarmament of the Middle East, including Israel, of all weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, biological and chemical - have the moral right to condemn Iran for its nuclear project.

Shirid Ebadi's fellow Nobel laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, who met Vanunu in East Jerusalem a few years ago (he is not allowed to leave the country) recommended him for a Nobel Peace prize.

Mrs.Maguire was injured by a rubber bullet last week while taking part in a protest at Bil'in, in Occupied Palestine, against the Israeli annexation Wall. She had been attending the second International conference on Non-Violent Popular Resistance held in Bil'in.

Here, courtesy of the International Solidarity Movement, is what the Irish peace campaigner said at an open-air press conference just an hour before she and her fellow delegates were attacked by the Israeli Border Police:

“Thanks to the media here for telling the truth…Bring this truth to whatever country you come from! Non-violence will solve the problems here in Israel and Palestine. Often, the world sees only violence. But Palestinians are a good people, working towards non-violence. This Wall must fall! It is an insult to the human family and to the world– that we are building Apartheid Walls in the 21st Century! More than forty years of Occupation and Land Appropriation”

Ms. Maguire called on viewers around the world to stop Israel’s “mild dictatorship” and “total Israeli government control.”

Palestinian Information Minister Dr. Mustafa Barghouti thanked her and the 500 delegates attending the Bil’in conference. He said the Wall was an “instrument of ethnic cleansing, the same as what happened in 1948.” He recommended that people read Ilan Pappe’s book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine for a clear explanation.

Barghouti said the Apartheid Wall was being used to suffocate the idea of a 2-state solution and an independent Palestinian state. He pointed out that the Wall was 850 km in length, three times the length of the Green Line (the pre-1967 Armistice line which was Israel's internationally recognised border), that the wall surrounds and imprisons cities and villages. Qalqilia was mentioned, a city of 46,000 Palestinians, which is completely surrounded by the Apartheid Wall.

"This Wall is being built between Palestinians and Palestinians,” Dr.Barghouti said. “It is not being built between Palestine and Israel. 850,000 Palestinians are behind this wall. It is destroying Palestinian social, economic, health, and educational systems.”

“It has been condemned by every major legal body, including the International Court of Justice, and it must be removed!”

“You will see the Israeli military practice violence here today.”

After 60 years of dispossession and 40 years of Occupation, Dr. Barghouti joined Mrs. Maguire in Bil’in, as “a symbol of the Palestinian non-violent struggle,” he said. He also demanded the release of British BBC journalist Alan Johnson, “who did everything he could to bring the truth, a wonderful being which (he) knew well, a fantastic journalist. We demand his freedom. It continues to hurt the image of the Palestinian people.”

How well is the media more generally bringing the truth to us of what is happening in Palestine? In my previous post on the Bil'in incidents, based on a report on the Israeli news channel YNet, I wondered how much coverage would be given here to Mairead Corrigan Maguire, once the darling of the British media when she and Betty Williams led northern Ireland's Peace People. Well, scanning the web I have so far found one item, on BBC Northern Ireland.

I'm not one for building up hero figures, and I know the British media soon looses interest in people, or knocks them down, once their ideals no longer serve. But I was hoping Bil'in and its non-violent conference, or the violent conduct of Israeli Border Police, might get a mention because of this incident.
How naive of me.

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