In a Gandhi-like protest, a completely unarmed and peaceful gathering of peace activists who were walking to the Bil'in Wall were tear-gassed and then shot with rubber bullets. After being brought to ambulances for treatment they returned to the non-violent demonstration. Among them was Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire.
The Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire was among a number of people shot with a plastic bullet on Friday at a weekly protest in Palestine. Ms Maguire had been invited to open an international conference in the village and this ended with a press conference at which hundreds of international journalists were present.
Afterwards, with Ann Patterson also from Belfast, she joined the weekly non-violent demonstration and walk to the Apartheid Wall. Israeli soldiers fired first tear gas and later rubber-coated steel bullets into the crowd. One man was hit in the head, a Palestinian mother hit in the back, a woman journalist hit in the leg, as was Ms Maguire. She was treated in an ambulance and rejoined the walk again but suffered nose bleed from tear gas inhalation and had to be treated again.
One hour before this she had told the conference: “Thanks to the media here for telling the truth…Bring this truth to whatever country you come from!” . She had called for an end to the occupation of Palestine, international recognition of the Palestinian Government, an end to the building of the Apartheid Wall and restoration of economic and political rights. She also called for the release of the BBC journalist Alan Johnson
In a joint e-mail from Palestine to this writer last night (Sunday) Mairead and Ann say they are both well.
Full report by Inrternational Solidarity Movement reporters at: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2007/04/21/april-20-b...test/
REPORT FROM MAIREAD AND ANN PATTERSON BELOW
"On Friday 20th April, 2007, Ann Patterson and I joined the Bil’in Peoples Committee, (outside Ramallah) on their weekly nonviolent protest march to the Apartheid Wall , together with Israeli peace activists and Internationalists from over 20 countries. The Internationals came from France, (over 200) America, Puerto Rico, Spain, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Canada, and India.
Before the peace vigil, I participated in a Press Conference with the Palestinian Minister for Information, Mustafa Barghouti, in front of the World Press. Minister Barghouti praised the nonviolent vigil of the Bil’in people and the nonviolent resistance of many people around Palestine,says Bil’in is a model and example to all. He called to stop the building of the wall, and for the upholding of Palestinian Rights under International Law.
I supported his call and thanked the people of Bil’in offering my support for the nonviolent resistance to the Wall as it contravenes International Law, including the International Court of Justice decision in the Hague. I also called for an end to Palestinian occupation, which will be 40 years soon, and recognition by the International Community of the Palestinian Government, together with restoration of economic, political rights of the people.
Both Dr. Barghouti and I called for the release of the BBC Journalist Alan Johnston. I also called for the protection of Journalists all over the world, whose ability to cover the truth, is being infringed.
During Conference the Israeli military drove through the Gate onto Palestinian Land, with many foot soldiers. They surrounded World Media and in Hebrew warned us that if we did not disperse they would attack in five minutes. Myself and Dr. Barghouti, condemned this as abuse of freedom of press, speech, and people's right to peaceful protest and speech.
During press conference a man from San Paulo, climbed to the top of the Surveillance Mask and released a Palestinian Flag. He planned to stay there for 2 days.
We returned to the Village and joined the Peace Vigil moving down the road towards the wall. Several hundred people participated, the Palestinian men, women, and many young Palestinian males leading the march. Very courageous as young Palestinian males when arrested often get beaten. I walked with my Palestinian interpreter who told me his home was on the other side of the wall. His 12 acre land was confiscated by Israeli Authorities and his 400 year old olive trees uprooted, taken to Jerusalem and planted in new Israeli settlements.
When the walkers got half way down the road, the Israeli soldiers started firing nerve gas, and plastic bullets directly at us. At another point they used water cannons. We were a completely unarmed peaceful gathering and this vicious attack from the Israeli soldiers was totally unprovoked attack upon civilians. The soldiers block the upper part of the road, thus preventing Dr. Barghouti and some of the Palestinians joining the main vigillers. We were then tear gassed and as I helped a French woman retreat I was shot in the leg with a rubber bullet. Two young women, one from USA and one from New Zealand, helped me towards an ambulance. I saw an elderly Palestinian mother carried on a stretcher into the ambulance, as she was shot in the back with a plastic bullet. I saw a man whose face was covered in blood and a Palestinian youth overcome with the gas. About 20 people were injured. Ann and myself went back to the protest where the people were being viciously attacked with nerve gas and plastic bullets. I was overcome with gas and took a nose bleed which resulted in being carried to ambulance for treatment.
We were advised by medical staff not to return to vigil and obliged to leave our friends several hours later still heroically trying to get near the wall. On the road towards the village we watched 2 children playing in their garden, oblivious to the nerve gas floating down on the wind towards their home. This permeates their clothes, their lungs and the question has to be asked, what the health of these children will be like in a few years time.
This is not only a question of abuse of human rights, international laws, by the Israeli government; it is a health and environment issue. We were all traumatized by our experience, and with the gas on the air, came the words flowing back to me of a Palestinian Doctor, who said “the whole Palestinian people, after 40 years of occupation, the whole people of Palestine are traumatized, it is time the International Community acted to put a stop to this suffering and injustice of our people”. I agree enough is enough; it is time for action to force the Israeli Government to enter into unconditional talks to end this tragedy of tragedies of good and gentle Palestinian people.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Ann Patterson
2lst April, 2007-04-21