Gaza. Guernica. Sandymount.

51 days. It went on for 51 days. The Israeli bombardment of Gaza that started on 8th July last year, killing 2200 Palestinians, including 556 children.  

We kept thinking it would stop. It didn’t. We kept thinking even the US has to intervene now, the EU, the UN, even Tony Blair can’t sit on his hands while this organised murder goes on.

The world saw the four nine-to-ten-year-old Bakr cousins cut down with clinical impunity on Gaza beach, as if being on the beach is a seditious act. The world saw it because it happened within sight of an international journalists’ hotel. The status of humanity is reduced by silence in the face of armed fundamentalism like this.

Our silence is taken as consent. We are reduced to complicity unless we resist the brutality in whatever way we can. The people of Gaza have nowhere to go, they are penned in, live targets, growing up in imposed fear from the moment they are born. That they are still there, a part of Palestine, after a lifetime of relentless oppression, is a testament to the very best qualities in human nature.

As we witnessed Gaza, Picasso witnessed Guernica. He protested through art. We, to use murdered US peace activist Rachel Corrie’s words, can’t paint like Picasso. But we can create art. We can create theatre. We can create music. We can create an artistic challenge to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and to the methods used to impose it.

We are Irish Artists in Support of Palestine, a group that came together in shock last year during the bombardment of Gaza. We marched, banging pots and spoons in rhythm, to symbolize the denial by Israel of the basic tools of life for the people of Gaza. We put together a concert in Liberty Hall.

Now, one year later, we have organized PalFest Ireland 8-11 July, an arts festival of more than fifty events over all artforms, involving more than 300 artists, in Dublin and nationwide. We are many, and we are not going away.

PalFest Ireland will open with an art installation on Sandymount Strand on the morning of Wednesday 8th July. NO MORE – Dublin Remembers The Children Of Gaza is composed of 556 white infant vests, upright in sand, representing the number of Palestinian children killed by the Israeli onslaught a year ago. Irish parents have donated their own hand-me-down baby vests, so that the event is a declaration from Ireland to the people of Palestine, and especially Gaza at this moment – we are with you, we remember.

In Joyce’s Ulysses Stephen Dedalus muses, after his failure to respond to his paymaster Deasy’s anti-Jewish aggression, “am I walking into Eternity along Sandymount Strand?” The four Bakr cousins ran into Eternity on Gaza Beach a year ago, in the form of an Israeli gunboat rocket attack. They will not be forgotten. We will respond to racist aggression through art.

At the end of PalFest Ireland, after more than fifty events, we will return to Sandymount Strand, at 10.30am on Saturday 11th July, and turn it from a place of death and lament into a place of life and play with a fun football match, with kites, facepainting, dabke dancing, paperboat-making and clowns, asserting, in the face of an awful power that would have it otherwise – this is what a beach is for, sir. Life. Not Death.

Donal O’Kelly July 2015

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