What the ‘Irish famine’ genocide teaches us about Palestine

https://mondoweiss.net/2019/01/genocide-teaches-palestine/

Middle East  Avigail Abarbanel on January 15, 2019 20 Comments

James Frecheville in Black 47 plays an Irishman who fought for the British in Afghanistan only to return home and find his family shattered by the coloniser there.

A few evenings ago I watched the 2018 film, Black 47. It tells of the Irish Famine through the story of one traumatized Irish returned soldier. The main character, Martin Feeney (played by the young Australian actor James Frecheville), returns to Ireland from India (another British colony) after fighting for the Empire, only to find the devastation brought on Ireland by the British colonizers, enforced by the very same army he fought for.

This film is painfully well made in every way and is not easy to watch, but watching it honors the memory of the victims and ensures we do not forget crimes against humanity. The film’s main story is fictional and so are the characters. But the context in which the story unfolds, the time and events of the Irish Famine, are devastatingly real.

One of the most important messages from this film is that big historical events that affect a lot of people are not some abstract thing that happens ‘out there’ that has nothing to do with us. Everything that happens to human beings is personal both to victims and perpetrators, albeit in different ways. For those looking at significant historical events from outside or from the distance of time, it can be too easy to perceive them in the abstract. In fact, the way history is written and taught makes it too easy for all of us to view things with detachment. This film warns us against that. It makes history personal.

The victims of the famine were people, human beings like us. We don’t have to know them personally to be able to put ourselves in their shoes. What would it be like to be so poor that you have nothing, to have no shoes, no warm clothes, to not be able to feed yourself and your children, to watch your children die of starvation? How frightening and how desperate would this be? We all know what it feels to be afraid. We all know what desperation feels like, even if we have never experienced the particular conditions the film shows.

What would it be like to be stripped to the bare bones of survival because of the deliberate and calculating actions of someone more powerful than you who views you with contempt because of who you are? What would it be like to be treated like you are piece of garbage, a nothing, by someone who is so much more powerful than you that he can do anything he wants to you? It isn’t that hard to imagine and right now this is life and reality for many people around the world, including the Palestinian people. There are degrees of suffering, yes, but in my profession, we do not compare suffering. Every human being’s suffering matters to them and those around them and it should matter to all of us.

The events between 1845 and 1849 that devastated Ireland are called the ‘Irish Famine’. This is a descriptive title, and yes there was a terrible famine. But such a title makes it sound like this was an unavoidable natural disaster, a force of nature, when it was anything but. The so-called ‘Irish Famine’ was really a genocide committed with intent by the colonising British Empire. It saw millions die of starvation, disease and exposure and millions leave Ireland never to return.

Britain took advantage of a natural disaster that caused a devastating failure of potato crops not only in Ireland but elsewhere in Europe to reduce the population of Ireland and break its resistance to British colonial rule. The potato blight that swept through Ireland left millions starving. The genocide saw the Brits ship food out of Ireland deliberately, while the local people were starving. Starving people were cold-heartedly evicted out of their dwellings into the harsh and cold countryside because they were too poor to pay rent to well-nourished English and English-sponsored landlords who stole and colonized Irish land and lived in comfort and warmth. Millions, entire families, were made homeless for no reason at all and no fault of their own. They were victims of the cruelty of the ruling classes of an Empire that wanted their land. They were thrown out with nothing, starving and barefoot like useless bits of rubbish with nothing to eat, and many died.

Britain felt contempt for the indigenous Irish. It chose not to see them as fellow human beings. Charles Trevelyan, the assistant secretary to the Treasury who was effectively in charge of Famine relief in Ireland said:

‘The judgment of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson, that calamity must not be too much mitigated . . . the real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the Famine but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people.’ (From Tim Pat Coogan. *The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy*. 2013)

This quote does not need interpretation. It speaks for itself. Dehumanization is a common tactic all colonizers and settler-colonizers have been using throughout human history. All colonizers and genocidal regimes convince themselves (and all the bystanders out there) that they are not committing any crime, that in killing millions of their fellow human beings they are in fact doing something virtuous, essential and even godly. It is necessary to dehumanize victims so the job of harming, killing and displacing them is not only made easier but is in fact possible at all. Most people would not harm one another when they feel empathy and relate to each other’s experience. Colonizers do a good job convincing large sections of their own population and outsiders to turn off the empathy switch. They would not be able to carry out atrocities otherwise.

Britain managed to reduce the indigenous population of Ireland by half, and even after the worst of it was over, the population of Ireland kept declining. Britain did fail in the end. Ireland eventually freed itself from British colonialism in 1937, just under a century after the famine genocide. The entire journey however took hundreds of years of ongoing resistance to horrible cruelty, brutality, injustice, internal divisions fostered by the colonizers, a civil war and an unbelievable amount of suffering of an untold number of people.

Halving the population of a country that you colonize is one effective way to try to prevent resistance. The British ruling classes wanted Ireland not for natural resources but for strategic advantage. But regardless of the reasons that might lead one group of people to invade the land of another, colonizers and settler-colonizers are always abusive and parasitical opportunists. They invade, they take over, they turn people against one another, they suck the land and its population dry, they steal from and discard the host, or at least try to.

We see one such case unfolding in Palestine right in front of our noses and no one is doing anything about it. Most of the world looks on as it always has done. It views what is being done to the Palestinians either with the indifference of detachment, or with contempt toward the victims fueled by the choice to believe the perpetrators’ (predictable) dehumanizing propaganda. The perpetrator, the exclusively Jewish state of Israel created by the Zionist movement – itself a product of the colonialist mindset of 19th Century Europe – is still, incredibly, perceived as legitimate rather than as the crime that it is. It is as if we have learned absolutely nothing from history.

It took this long for such a painful, uncompromising and realistic film to be made about one of the many crimes of British colonialism in Ireland. I wonder when someone will finally make a film like this about the Nakba.

No Right To A Home: Amsterdam’s ADM Squat Evicted Today, Amsterdamse Droogdok Maatschappij

No Right To A Home: Amsterdam’s ADM Squat Evicted Today, Amsterdamse Droogdok Maatschappij

Life in Amsterdam’s biggest squat – in pictures

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/gallery/2018/oct/08/life-amsterdam-biggest-squat-amsterdamse-droogdok-maatschappij-in-pictures
Several children have been born and raised in the community that has grown up around the former shipyard

#Amsterdam: #ADM squat evicted today

Posted on January 7, 2019 by Enough is Enough!  Leave a comment
https://enoughisenough14.org/2019/01/07/amsterdam-adm-squat-evicted-today/
Amsterdam: In the early morning hours cops started with the eviction of the ADM squat today.
Published by Enough is Enough. Written by Riot Turtle.

Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

After more than 20 years the ADM squat was evicted today. The home of dozens of people and several initiatives fought for a long time to preserve this unique free space, but the wannabee Green left party that governs Amsterdam did not want to wait for the outcome of another court case that takes place tomorrow.

At 8:50am 6 police vans arrived at the ADM complex in the harbour of Amsterdam. A helicopter was fying over the area to monitor the eviction. Shortly before 11:00 a big crane came to ADM. After the eviction of some of the smaller houses at back of the complex, the crane immediately started to demolish the houses. One of the residents of ADM was beaten by a security guard (pucture 1 below (left) is the woman that was beaten, picture 2 (right) is the security guard that was beating her)

At 12:15 cops started to evict people that were chained with lock-ons. In the video in the tweet below activists are singing �Thank you Femke� (Femke bedankt). Femke Halsema is the mayor of Amsterdam.

Mike Muller@_MikeMuller
Krakers zingen nu: �Femke bedankt!� #ADM
11:24 – 7. Jan. 2019

Weitere Tweets von Mike Muller ansehen
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The cops arrested at least 11 people who refused to leave ADM today. At 03:00pm the cops evicted the last squatters from the roof of the ADM building. Tonight there will be a noise demo in front of the prison for all people who were arrested today.

With ADM, Amsterdam lost another free space where people lived and worked in a self-organized way. Many squats were evicted in the past decades and there are not many free spaces left in the capital of the Dutch territory. Its a sad day but the struggle continues. Solidarity to all people who resisted the eviction

Here is a short AT5 (mainstream media) documentary about ADM :

The (not yet) Lost Free-state � part #1 ‘The Children of ADM’ SUBS from Suwanne CCtv on Vimeo.

The (not yet) Lost Free-state � part#2 SUBTITLED from Suwanne CCtv on Vimeo.

And 2 independent media ADM newsflash videos:

ADM NewsFlash #1 (January 4th. 2019)

ADM NewsFlash #1 (January 4th. 2019) SUBTITLED from Suwanne CCtv on Vimeo.

ADM NewsFlash #2 (January 6th. 2019)

ADM NewsFlash #2 (January 6th. 2019) SUBTITLED from Suwanne CCtv on Vimeo.


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Amsterdam: ADM eviction

– January 7th, 2019

The ADM eviction has started on monday morning, 7 january 2019. Time line, pictures, videos and more news are to be found on Indymedia Nederland. No statement at the moment about this eviction on the ADM website. More news to follow as soon as possible
https://en.squat.net/2019/01/07/amsterdam-adm-eviction/
ADM
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
https://squ.at/r/5g4
https://adm.amsterdam/

Some squats in Amsterdam: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/city/amsterdam/type/squat
Groups (social centres, collectives, squats) in Amsterdam:https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/city/amsterdam
Events in Amsterdam: https://radar.squat.net/en/events/city/Amsterdam