Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Good god, Gaza and Gonzo.

Sun 11 January 2009, 2:22am

I had always intended to go along to the Trade Unions organised demonstration in support of the people of Gaza today but after hearing about some éirígí organised direct actions I got in touch with Belfast Gonzo and both of us went into the city centre to cover the main rally and other protests. (I have Gonzo’s camera so am using his photos and video in my blog – thanks to BG)Things kicked off with an éirígí protest in Castle Court around 11.45am. They were focusing on the Spa products stall in the mall staffed by Israeli’s who have the difficult job of accosting shoppers and trying to get them interested in their products. The products are sourced from the Dead Sea.

éirígí members threw lots leaflets from the gallery above over the stall and around 30 surrounded it waving Palestinian flags, throwing more leaflets and chanting ‘boycott Israeli’ goods.

I was unable to get photos as a member of staff stood in front of me, pushed me with his shoulder, demanded to know what I was doing and despite being informed I was not part of the protest, didn’t intend to join in and was covering events for a website continued to manhandled me, rammed his forehead against my face and gave some verbal abuse. I told him if the only photos I got were of his face I’d end up only being able to put them online and describe his actions. As the protest dispersed and I met Gonzo back on the street this staff member followed me outside, demanded to know the website I was part of, who ran it (I grassed Mick up straight away) and informed me if his picture appeared online he’d ‘know who I was and how to get me’. (I have his picture but I’m not going to add it to the blog)

The staff of the targeted stall were visibly shaken, one woman and one man reduced to tears, the man comforted by a member of security staff.

Then Gonzo and I headed off to the main demo. It took a while to form up and around five minutes to pass once on the move.

The protest stretched from the City Hall to the end of Royal Avenue and I’d estimate it had 3-5,000 participants.

As MSM was concentrating on the platform I and Gonzo focused on events at the fringes of the crowd.

At one point there was a shambolic burning of an Israeli flag.

As I tried to get a photo of the abandoned remnants a woman approached and shouted ‘Who did this’ then proceeded to scream ‘No flag of any nation should be burnt. Did anyone burn our flag during 30 years of terrorism’? I later saw her on the edges of the crowd with her young children holding the flag remains aloft and one of her children holding a SF placard with ‘Stop the rockets. No more bodies’ now written on the back.

Amongst the colourful flags and banners in a throng that included Unions, SDLP Youth, Amnesty, SF, Workers Party, Socialist Party, SWP, IRSP, RNU, PFLP and many more I spotted at least one Hamas flag.

At one point the PSNI approached people waving an upside down US flag and Galician flag and insisted that they remove their scarves from over their faces.

Then Gonzo had to leave for work and he kindly leant me his video camera to get some footage of a further éirígí protest planned for Marks & Spencer.

The leaflet they distributed to the rally declared their intention to go into the store, fill trolleys, have the stuff scanned, refuse to pay and disrupt trading in protest over their close relationship with Israel.

This is where things went a bit pear-shaped for me; I was filming the protest that closed down tills, involved around 50 people gathered around the checkout area chanting ‘boycott Israeli goods’ (to the general bemusement of shoppers) when the PSNI arrived. At one stage a policeman pushed a trolley into me, put his hand over the camera then pushed it and me back into some shelves telling me to ‘get the hell out of the shop’.

I was recording more of the protest when a young woman grabbed me and tried to take Gonzo’s camera calling me ‘scum’, punching me and wrestling me. Her mother arrived on the scene, joined the fray trying to relieve me of the camera, punching at me and scrabbing before screaming ‘This man has assaulted my daughter. Assault, assault’ (bloody nutter) and shouting for a cop to come over. A policeman came over as they continued to try and relieve me of the camera and had to forcibly remove them from my back and tell them to desist.

I was taken to the edge of the protest, explained I wasn’t part of it and was only there to record events for a website. The whole time the woman and mother were interrupting, shouting abuse and insisting my camera was confiscated. The policeman demand to see what was on the camera and for 5 mins I couldn’t get it to work as it was Gonzo’s and had no idea of the buttons, he then threatened to confiscate it. Eventually I managed to show the footage and he demanded I deleted, I tried to be a smart-arse and delete something else but unfortunately all that footage in M&S is now gone. The only thing that remains is a short clip of my feet and the floor taken during the struggle.

I’ll have to try and source M&S footage elsewhere.

At that point I called it a day.

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Comments (128)

  1. Democratic says:

    “do you really think Hamas want to fire rockets a short distance into Israeli territories or do you think they would rather be flying F16s in the direction of Israeli military installations? So are you asking that Hamas should fight fairly? Make it a ‘clean’, miltary war over territory? Or do you believe that Hamas has no legitimate grievance. No I don’t think that Mayoman at all – like yourself I don’t see things as black and white as so, so many here seem to. Do Hamas have legitimate and historical grievance with Israel – of course they do – there can be no other truthful answer. I feel this has been well covered though on many threads up to now. As for the fighting fair bit – impossible I understand if fighting “must” occur – however I do not believe that Hamas’ limited technology offers any excuse for targetting Israeli civilians which is a constant and oft stated objective. (I note you have condemned this practice – fair enough) But the question I am asking is what role do you think Hamas could play in a permanent settlement? My own feeling is very little to none judging by their rhetoric (which seems to be virtually constant no matter in ceasefire, war or whenever)
    In answer to your analogy of Hamas prefering to take on the Israeli’s plane to plane if it were possible – you may be right – but I would hazard an opinion that if Hamas got their hands on an Atomic bomb they would have no hesitation on lobbing it over the border at the earliest opportunity – your thoughts?

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  2. runciter says:

    But the question I am asking is what role do you think Hamas could play in a permanent settlement?

    Hamas are the legitimately elected representatives of the Palestinian people. They cannot be excluded from a permanent settlement.

    I would hazard an opinion that if Hamas got their hands on an Atomic bomb they would have no hesitation on lobbing it over the border at the earliest opportunity – your thoughts?

    Why do you insist on discussing imaginary crimes by Hamas when real atrocities are being perpetrated by the Israelis?

    Is reality too much for you to bear?

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  3. Mayoman says:

    Democratic: the whole issue is too clouded with propoganda (from both sides) for my limited knowledge to answer! I’m not sure I would be immediately drawn into the ‘mad mullah’ steroptyping of Hamas — remember, they were people Israel, at one time, thought they could do business with! I think someone else posted once, though, that either side using A bombs in this context would be a bit silly because fall-out tends not to stay where the bomb was dropped! I suppose my point is that if there can’t be a fair fight (and there can’t), then there should be more pressure for diplomacy and a fair settlement, and there seems little international desire other than to utter lip praise for some nebulous, baseless ‘peace’. So I end up pitying the families of the 12 Isaelis killed by Hamas rockets and the (at least) 300+ families of those killed by the IDF.

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  4. Democratic says:

    Calm down Runciter – I was doing nothing of the sort – I was not advocating excluding Hamas from anything nor was it my goal to make up any imaginary crimes for them to answer for – if you want to discuss then let’s do so but lets do it in a reasonable fashion that involves answering the question put to you. The Israelis, their flawed politcal policy toward Palestine, their flawed tactics during the latest incursion and their shameful and wilful disregard for Palestinian civilians has been well covered on this very thread – now it’s time to talk about Hamas I feel or do you think that’s not a viable discussion? Now do you feel that Hamas is capable and able to contribute to some sort of compromise that would see a permanent solution to the problem – I have made my opinion clear – what’s yours?

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  5. Geoffrey Alderman says:

    runciter: Hamas is, by virtue of its founding Charter, dedicated to the killing of Jews and the liquidation of the Jewish state. Those who voted for it voted for these ends. I’m sorry indeed if some folks are put out that the Jews apparently, on this occasion, have better weapons than their enemies, but there it is.

    Mayoman: Forget Dresden (for a moment). Think of all the other actions undertaken by the heroes of Bomber Command. If it was good enough for the UK to defend itself in this way, why should it not be good enough for Israel?

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  6. Mayoman says:

    GA: because this is not WWII and Palestine is not Nazi Germany. Now will you answer the questions?

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  7. Moochin Photoman says:

    PSNI media policy page 27 paragraph 3 states that withoput a court injunction you do not have to delete anything if requested by an officer….heres a link….

    http://www.markallenphotography.co.uk/p27p3.pdf

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  8. runciter says:

    now it’s time to talk about Hamas I feel or do you think that’s not a viable discussion?

    You have been attempting to distract attention from Israel’s actions from your first post. I don’t see why a conversation about what is happening in Gaza should be diverted into a debate about Hamas’ actions, since they are not relevant to 99% of the atrocities being committed.

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  9. runciter says:

    runciter: Hamas is, by virtue of its founding Charter, dedicated to the killing of Jews

    That is a despicable falsehood.

    and the liquidation of the Jewish state.

    On the other hand, Israel is by its actions dedicated to the destruction of the Palestinian people.

    What should people be judged by – words or actions?

    http://whatreallyhappened.com/IMAGES/Israel_stealing_palestine.jpg

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  10. Democratic says:

    “You have been attempting to distract attention from Israel’s actions from your first post. I don’t see why a conversation about what is happening in Gaza should be diverted into a debate about Hamas’ actions, since they are not relevant to 99% of the atrocities being committed.”
    Well if that’s how you feel then why waste both our times replying – if you do not want debate beyond your own agenda then I suggest you are perhaps on the wrong site my friend…..

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  11. runciter says:

    Well if that’s how you feel then why waste both our times replying

    You asked for my opinion.

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  12. Geoffrey Alderman says:

    Runciter: I am right. Read the Hamas Charter. Here are extracts:

    Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. It is a step that inevitably should be followed by other steps. The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realised.

    The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders. It goes back to 1939, to the emergence of the martyr Izz al-Din al Kissam and his brethren the fighters, members of Moslem Brotherhood. It goes on to reach out and become one with another chain that includes the struggle of the Palestinians and Moslem Brotherhood in the 1948 war and the Jihad operations of the Moslem Brotherhood in 1968 and after.
    Moreover, if the links have been distant from each other and if obstacles, placed by those who are the lackeys of Zionism in the way of the fighters obstructed the continuation of the struggle, the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:
    “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).
    The day that enemies usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem. In face of the Jews’ usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised. To do this requires the diffusion of Islamic consciousness among the masses, both on the regional, Arab and Islamic levels. It is necessary to instill the spirit of Jihad in the heart of the nation so that they would confront the enemies and join the ranks of the fighters.

    Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Moslem people. “May the cowards never sleep.”

    [source: http://www.mideastweb.org/hamas.htm ]

    Mayoman: Your question was, I think, what upper limit (so to speak) would I be prepared to place on the proportion of civilian casualties in Gaza. I am not prepared to answer that question, since any answer would be of assistance to the enemy. Sorry!

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  13. Democratic says:

    On Hamas and you were unwilling to supply it…..fine but please don’t waste my time any further if debate on this topic displeases you!

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  14. Democratic says:

    last comment for Runciter!

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  15. runciter says:

    On Hamas and you were unwilling to supply it…..fine but please don’t waste my time any further if debate on this topic displeases you!

    Your question was: now it’s time to talk about Hamas I feel or do you think that’s not a viable discussion?

    I clearly quoted that question and then answered it (comment #8 above).

    First you chastised me for answering it, now you are pretending you asked a different question.

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  16. Democratic says:

    As much fun as you have been Runciter I find myself wondering if there is someone more reasonable though doubtless as witty interesting in answering my question?….Mayoman had a crack, anyone else? It’s hardly irrelevant despite Runiciter’s posturing…..

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  17. Mayoman says:

    GA: I just hope the figures in your head (that would be so useful to the Hamas commanders reading this blog!)allow you to sleep at night.

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  18. runciter says:

    Runciter: I am right. Read the Hamas Charter. Here are extracts:

    I would prefer to see a translation by a neutral source.

    As I said before, I prefer to judge people and organisations by their actions rather than their words.

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  19. Driftwood black spot says:

    The anti semitic protest in Belfast is just one of many such hatefests taking place around the world…

    MFA Newsletter

    Israel expresses its concern about current wave of Antisemitism

    Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni has expressed Israel’s concern about the current wave of Anti-Semitic attacks in various parts of the world

    (Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson))

    Israel has embarked on a defensive campaign against Hamas, a terrorist organization which, on a daily basis, has launched rocket and mortar barrages, thus threatening the lives of Israel’s civilians – men, women, and children. Moreover, Hamas’ Charter and many declarations to this very day call for the destruction of Israel and, using Anti-Semitic epithets, call for the annihilation of the Jewish people.

    We have received with great concern and revulsion many reports of physical, moral, verbal and other manifestations of Anti-Semitic attacks towards Jews and Israeli citizens in many parts of the world. Examples of these include physical assault, violence and abuse towards Jews, the desecration of cemeteries and synagogues, the use of Anti-Semitic incitement in pro-Palestinian demonstrations, the writing of Anti-Semitic graffiti on Jewish property, as well as cartoons, editorials and other press stories reminiscent of the kind that appeared in the media of certain countries during the darkest days of the early 20th Century. Israel and the Jewish people are appalled at these expressions of incitement, hatred and blatant extremism.

    The Government of Israel therefore calls upon the leaders of the world to condemn, suppress and curb any and all forms of such incitement and hate, and to further hold accountable those responsible for their actions. We know that there is a delicate balance in maintaining freedom of expression while preventing it from becoming hate speech or worse.

    Nonetheless, the dangers that lie within the Pandora’s box that appears to have been opened with this current wave of Antisemitism are known too well to humanity, and we must all strive to prevent all forms of incitement to hatred and discrimination, whoever the victim might be.

    Israel will continue to defend the operation it has undertaken to defend the lives of its citizens from systematic and continuous terrorist attacks.

    Nevertheless, whatever one’s opinion may be of this operation, it should never be used to legitimize hate and Anti-Semitic incitement.

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  20. Mayoman says:

    Indeed Driftwood. Ayone who uses Israel’s actions an excuse to attack Jews is as bad as the murdering leaders of the IDF and the murdering leaders of Hamas.

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  21. Jimmy Sands says:

    “The Government of Israel therefore calls upon the leaders of the world to condemn, suppress and curb any and all forms of such incitement and hate, and to further hold accountable those responsible for their actions.”

    Terms and conditions apply. Offer not available in the Occupied Territories.

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  22. ainelivia says:

    Aren’t we just a bunch of hypocrites, fighting for freedom and equality, and then doing a “Kristallnacht” on the local Israelis.

    If anyone thinks that I am going to stop shopping at M & S just because they think I should, think again. And I will be going out and sourcing Spa products where I live.

    Mick Fealty had it right, a load of Cbeebies.

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  23. runciter says:

    The anti semitic protest in Belfast

    It is ironic that criticising a mostly non-semitic state is called ‘anti-semitic’, while the mass killing of a semitic people is not.

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  24. what ho says:

    Now the BBC has shown the footage on Newsline of the anti-Jewish attack in Castle Court and Talkback featured women shoppers threatened by Eirigri thugs in Marks and Sparks, there is going to be a wave of commercial support for both.
    I am making it my business to spend money at the spa stall tomorrow and voice my support for the workers, and I will also make sure I go to M&S;from now on (generally using Tesco).
    There will be thousands like me.

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  25. Brian Walsh says:

    You must have seen a different protest than the rest of us what ho. Whether you agree with the protest or not the one thing it clearly was not is anti-jewish

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  26. Dan Breen's Revolver says:

    In their oath of loyalty, members of Hamas declare that death in the cause of God is their supreme desire.

    They are just getting what they supremely desire, which they asked for by firing rockets into an enemy immensely more powerful.

    Unfortunately, many stuck in the Gaza strip did not take this oath of loyalty, and for them I feel truely sorry.

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  27. Young Irelander says:

    Well done éirígí.

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  28. pauluk (profile) says:

    Kristallnacht all over again.

    They were focusing on the Spa products stall in the mall staffed by Israeli’s (sic)

    Any body know what ever happened to the Spa products folks after the assault by these neo-nazis?

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