Report on the daily women's vigils
Since last week women have been maintaining a daily vigil for Gaza in the centre of Galway city.
We are Muslim, Jewish, Catholic and women of no religion. From the Middle East and Ireland. Mothers, housewives, students, teachers, office workers, pensioners. Some are members of organisations and some not. Placards include 'Stop killing women, children and men in Gaza’, ‘Boycott Apartheid Israel’, ‘Zionism =Colonialism/Zionists = Racists’, ‘Stop Israel's Genocide in Gaza’, ‘No Peace without Justice’, ‘Gaza Strip=Warsaw Ghetto'.
We have an open mic for anyone who wants to speak or give information and we use our megaphone to speak out for Gaza including chants such as:
No Starvation, No Occupation, No Invasion
Boycott: Israel, Sanctions: Israel, Divestment: Israel
Free, Free Gaza/Palestine: Boycott Israel
Women of Gaza/children of Gaza/men of Gaza: we are with you
We also vary the last one to say we are with women, children and men in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and Haiti, with mothers in Gaza who have lost children or who are trying to feed children while being starved by Israel, with Israeli refuseniks, with Arab Israeli people who are demonstrating and being arrested, and with all Israelis who are against the war, with Jewish anti-Zionists around the world, with women demonstrating in Israel and other countries against the war. Following the lead of President Chavez of Venezuela, we chanted: 'Israeli ambassador: out, out, out!'
The Global Women’s Strike called the vigil, and women and men we spoke with on other demonstrations were very supportive and eager for it. Two women proposed that we go to help on stalls by a political party to 'speak with one voice'! But Middle East women in particular did not feel that it is disunity when women come together across divides, supported by children and men, to speak out in support of people in Gaza. If we had joined with a party, whose ‘one voice’ would it have been? Our vigil ensured that women’s voice was not silenced yet again. Apart from the Strike, women from Women in Media and Entertainment, Galway Alliance Against War, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Palestine Children’s Charity , Save Tara campaign and Shell to Sea have also participated.
About 10 of us have kept it going with others joining briefly then leaving; mothers have had to take children home and many cannot come every night but are taking it in turns. Men have also supported women, joined the vigil and spoken out. Passersby stop to listen, support, applaud or even speak among whom were Kurdish and Turkish women and children who wanted to support us and said there was a lot of support from the community from Turkey in Galway for Palestinian people.
Women speak on the mic about why we are there. Of the 1.5 million people imprisoned in Gaza, starved, bombarded and murdered by Israel, women and their children are the majority under attack. But it's also women the main carers who have kept people alive, recently but also during decades of Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people. Israel has targeted women for precisely this reason; to attack women is to attack the whole population. All of us have talked about the fact that it is very clear that Israel just wants to try to kill as many as possible. This is ethnic cleansing; this is genocide. This is racism and colonialism.
We also give others, including those passing, information and news you don’t hear in the corporate media about actions taken by the worldwide movement we are part of – people in Turkey mounting a spectacular shoe protest and stopping a basketball game with an Israeli team, Jewish women in Canada occupying an Israeli consulate, President Chavez of Venezuela expelling the Israeli ambassador, massive marches in London . . .
An Arab mother spoke to let people know how they could boycott Israeli goods in Galway as a way to support people in Gaza. She told us that the bar code for Israeli products begins with 729 and we can all look out for this. Others have added practical information along the same lines, naming products and shops to boycott. We find that we are being asked about this more and more and we’ve decided to hand out leaflets about it.
An Irish woman reminded everyone of the fact that Gaza had been a blockaded prison before Israel's attacks, starved and with little medicine or even anaesthetic in the hospitals. Bombing and invading a trapped population is of course a war crime. She demanded that the Irish government press the EU to break its trade agreement with Israel. They should be excluded from everything – even the Eurovision song contest! Another mother, speaking in support of the mothers of Gaza, said that if Israel can get away with doing this in Gaza none of us are safe. She also brought greetings and support from the Save Tara campaign, fighting destructive development by the M3 motorway. We spoke on the mic about the connections between destruction by war and development, how these wars are for land, oil, gas and other resources, for private sector profit at the expense of lives. Israel’s invasion is also to grab Gaza’s gas.
A 9 year old boy explained to us the different types of bombs that Israel was raining down upon children in Gaza and their mums and dads. He listed other colonialists and empires throughout history and the Nazis: 'What they're doing is the same as Hitler. It's worse because Hitler did it to Jewish people and now Israel is doing it to other people.' He was too upset to continue. The Strike added information on the Zionist history of collaboration with the Nazis and their undermining of the boycott of Germany.
An immigrant man from France spoke about how people opposing Israel used to be called anti-Semitic but you can oppose Zionism and not be against Jewish people, you can be an Israeli refusenik for example. Now everyone is doing it and it is becoming clear. We said that to be against Israel's genocidal actions is to be anti-racist.
A woman from the Strike said that as Irish people we have a long history of fighting colonialism and we know colonial savagery when we see it.