Guest Author - Mary Ellen Sweeney
There's a little contrary streak in the Irish. Beware of telling an Irishman that he cannot do a thing. Hence the origin of the popular phrase: "Then the fight began...."
Well, it wasn't a fight the Irish in the "Viva Palestine" convoy were looking for when they arrived in late October (2010) with $5 million in medicine and supplies, seeking to cross into Palestine to make their charitable delivery. Though I can imagine the umbrage that could be taken had the convoy of aid not been permitted to cross the border into Palestine. As it was, they were left to cool their jets in Egypt for an inexcusable period of 17 days. It may be understandable, though, as backgrounds must be checked, etc., in such sensitive times (and indeed, several of convoy were not permitted to cross, as I am sure was expected.)
Despite, or perhaps because of, the sad history of abuses of foreign authority and wars in their own country, the Irish have always stepped up for those who are less well off than themselves. It's branded into the Irish soul to look after the underdog. Selflessness, in the small things and in the large things, there are so many examples in the culture of the Irish people. How many remember "offering it up"? Corny? No. Not even. When we "offer it up" and perform a selfless act without expectation of gain, universal law accrues a greater good in ourselves.
"Viva Palestine" is the largest convoy of its kind to break through the Israeli siege until now: nearly 400 people from 30 countries and 150 vehicles loaded with medical supplies, equipment, chemotherapeutic agents, even educational supplies and Irish sports jerseys for the children, entered Palestine in the clear light of day.
"The Irish Emigrant" in their timely Irish e-newspaper, reports on the congratulations to the Irish members on their heroic trip by Freda Hughes of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who called on the international community to wake up to the horrors of Gaza: “It is long past time for the international community to finally live up to their responsibilities. They must take whatever action is necessary to force Israel to end the blockade and to secure justice and freedom for the Palestinian people. The EU and the Irish government…need to move beyond rhetoric and implement official sanctions against the rogue state of Israel, or the Palestinian people will continue to pay the price.”
The Irish mission drove over 3,000 miles from London, through the Chunnel to France, Italy...Greece, Turkey, and finally sailed from Latakia, Syria to Egypt, where permission to enter Palestine was eventually granted.
This was the first time an aid convoy was allowed through the border in normal business hours. Prior to this, any aid workers allowed in moved at night under the cover of darkness.
“A lot of the Irish aid we brought was specifically for the Al-Awda Hospital in Gaza City, which has a James Connolly memorial surgical unit and, naturally, very close ties to Ireland. As well as around $60,000 worth of medical aid donated by Tipperary people, we also brought full sets of Tipperary and Antrim jerseys for the kids and $24,000 worth of educational supplies which was kindly donated by Banahan’s in Ireland,” reported "The Irish Emigrant, which interviewed ."
Asked about conditions in Gaza, Gilmartin was frank:
“It’s organized chaos as you’d expect, but there is huge potential for good here if these people are left alone [by Israel]. They’re not begging for money, they’re begging for peace. It’s hard to describe; instead of forking out ten grand on adventure holidays people should get down here and have a good look at how these people have to live.”
Shalom, Pax, Salaam. Please.