Anderson recalls life-changing visit to Palestine and Israel

Martina Anderson with colleagues Matt Carthy and Lynn Boylan in Hebron.

Martina Anderson with colleagues Matt Carthy and Lynn Boylan in Hebron.

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A Palestinian man looks up from his bed in the Al-Makassed Islamic Charitable Hospital in Jerusalem.

The man directs his glance towards Derry woman and Sinn Fein MEP, Martina Anderson.

“Make sure the world knows what Israel did to us in Gaza,” said the man.

The man and his son both lost a leg when the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) bombed his home in Gaza; the man’s wife, who was in another hospital at the time, lost both her legs in the same attack.

“‘The father pleaded with me to make sure the world knew what happened to the people of Gaza and it’s something that I intend to do,” said Ms. Anderson.

Ms. Anderson, is Chair Designate of the Delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council with the European Parliament.

Earlier this month, Ms. Anderson led a group of 13 MEPs from six different countries to parts of Palestine and Israel.

Ms. Anderson was in the area for five days and along with the rest of the delegation met organisations focused on delivering a lasting peace settlement in the area.

During one of the visits to an organisation focused on delivering aid to the people of Gaza Ms. Anderson said she learned that vast amounts of food and aid supplies were not reaching Gaza because of the ongoing Israeli enforced blockade.

“The Red Crescent Society took us to warehouses full of provisions which were ready to be delivered to Gaza but the provisions were not being allowed in by Israel because of the blockade.

“It completely baffled me because the scale of destruction visited upon the people of Gaza was outrageous yet here we were in a place where there were items that could help and the Israeli continued to stop them from reaching the people who needed help.”

The delegation also met and spoke with the parents of a Palestinian boy who was kidnapped and murdered by suspected Israeli extremists before the IDF launched Operation Protective Edge on the people of the Gaza Strip.

“We spoke to Mohamed Abu Khdeir’s family and they told us that they suspected police collusion in their son’s murder.

“The family claimed that the people who kidnapped and murdered their son were given free passage to come into the area.

“The family told us what happened to Mohamed - he was brutally beaten, forced to drink petrol and was burned alive - it was harrowing to say the least,” she said emotionally.

Ms. Anderson, who has been outspoken on the continued plight of the Palestinian people by the hands of the Israeli government, said she was moved by the depth of pain and suffering she witnessed during the visit.

“The pain is in the air, it’s in the streets. The scale of the oppression there is clear for everyone to see.

“I showed many of the people I met pictures of the protests back in Derry and throughout the rest of Ireland.

“I showed them pictures of the Free Derry Wall where Martin McGuinness and many more people from the city turned up in their droves to show their support for the people of Palestine.

“From Derry to Kerry - the people of Palestine want the people of Ireland to not forget and to continue with their support,” she said.”

Ms. Anderson believes the European Parliament in Brussels has an important role to play in helping the people of Palestine get the help and support they need to become an independent state.

“The international community can no longer just wag its finger at Israel. We can’t allow for standards to be set for international law and then for them not to be met.

“The Palestinians, and indeed, some of the Jews I spoke to said the international community must put the pressure on Israel to remove the occupation and to leave the Palestinian territory.

“There needs to be a two state solution based on the 1967 borders. The Palestinian state would be made up of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem - that’s something the people of Palestine are saying that is required.”

Ms. Anderson who spoke in Strasbourg on Wednesday of her visit to Palestine said the attempts to help the people of Palestine through the European Parliament is made difficult because of the level of support for Israel.

“The amount of support in the European Parliament for what Israel is doing is shocking but we still must call for an end for what is happening there and we must call for politicians to respect the move towards an independent Palestinian state.”

This month’s visit to Palestine was not the first time Ms. Anderson travelled to the Middle East.

On a previous European Parliament visit to Palestine last year, Ms. Anderson and the delegation were denied access to Gaza by the Israeli authorities. On her return two weeks ago she was denied entry a second time.

“I am going to request that there is access give to MEPs so that we can go in and see the scale of the destruction for ourselves.

“The reason we were given for not being allowed in this time was because they [the Israeli authorities] said our visit was ‘not directly concerned with the provision of humanitarian assistance.

“This beggared belief when you consider that the horrific and harrowing humanitarian situation in Gaza is a direct result of Israel’s 53-day military attack on the Gaza Strip. This resulted in 2,145 fatalities, including 581 children, not to mention Israel’s eight-year blockade of the region,” she said.

Follow Martina Anderson MEP on Twitter: @MEPStandingUp4U