The people of Gaza were fully behind the Hamas attack on Israel that began on Saturday, a Palestinian woman living in Ireland said at a rally outside Leinster House in Dublin on Monday.
“We are all Palestinian,” said Wafaa Abushark, who has been living in Ireland since 2018. There is “no Hamas, no Fatah [formerly the Palestinian National Liberation Movement], nothing. Every person in Gaza feels the same, because they have suffered.”
Ms Abushark said her parents left their home near Jerusalem in 1948 and she was born in Ramallah, in the West Bank, in 1962. “All my life I have been a refugee.”
She moved to Gaza in 1998 when she got married, and saw three wars while she lived there, in 2008, 2012 and 2014. For the past 17 years the people in Gaza had been under siege, she said. “So what happens? It explodes.”
Her Palestinian husband studied in Ireland before she got married and they later moved here with their son, so he could study. Two members of her husband’s family, she said, had died since the Israeli attack on Gaza started at the weekend.
Friends and former neighbours in Gaza were posting messages on WhatsApp, she said, saying “they don’t know where to go, nowhere is safe. Electric, gas and water, all cut off. Two and a half million people are now in what is like a prison.”
Nurul Alam, from Myanmar, who was at the rally, said he would not condemn the killing of civilians by Hamas. “What is happening now is a reaction, not an action. It has to do with the injustice the Palestinians are suffering and they need to fight back now. It is justified.”
Addressing the hundreds of people gathered outside the gates to Leinster House, Ahmed Habash said there was a double standard in the West’s reactions to the invasion of Ukraine and the situation in Palestine, even though the situation in Palestine was “more severe, more atrocious”.
What happened at the weekend was a response to what is happening in Gaza, where hundreds of thousands have been placed into administrative detention and people are being killed on a daily basis, he said.
“What happened is a reaction to that. They attacked army brigades. They did not attack civilians as the propaganda says. They attacked check points. The media is turning against the Palestinians.”
He criticised the Government for not supporting the oppressed in their fight against their oppressors in Palestine, even though the fathers and grandfathers of those in government had resisted the occupation of Ireland.
Zaid Albarghouthi, of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), who was born in Jordan to Palestinian parents, said students were not in favour of people losing their lives but were in favour of liberty for the Palestinian people.
What was happening in Gaza was that people were standing up and saying, enough is enough. “Unfortunately this is what we have been left with. But we are against war, and against people losing their lives.”
Bara’ah Nidal Afana, from Palestine, said most of those killed in Gaza over the past few days had been children, the sick, the elderly and women. The Israelis, she told the rally, were targeting ambulances, healthcare facilities and schools.
The attendance at the rally, the organisers of which included People Before Profit (PBP) and the USI, included a large number of Palestinian people. Many there held up Palestinian flags and flags for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The chanting included “in our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians” and “Israel is a fascist state”. There was no notable presence from Sinn Féin, whose president, Mary Lou McDonald, condemned outright the targeting of civilians and the taking of hostages by Hamas, describing its attack on Saturday as “truly horrific”.
In the most critical comments made by a Sinn Féin leader to date on a Palestinian organisation – and in what has been received as a change in position by the party leadership – Ms McDonald said she understood perfectly the trauma experienced by victims and relatives of the Hamas attack.
PBP TD Richard Boyd Barrett told the rally it was “shameful” that the West was supporting the people of Ukraine – and correctly so – but telling the Palestinians they were “terrorists and criminals”.
“Every single lost life is tragic,” he said, “but this story did not begin two days ago. It began for Gaza at least 18 years” ago, or even as far back as 1948. “Surely the people of Palestine have the same right to resist as the people of Ukraine,” he said.