Mairead Maguire – Nobel Peace Laureate and Member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace and Development

Speech at the European Parliament in Brussels to launch the Campaign organized by Peace Lines, supported by 128 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and 42 Nobel Laureates – March 18th  2009.

Dear Friends,

I would like to thank Peace Lines for giving me the opportunity to speak at this Press Conference in support of their ‘Open the Doors’ Campaign.

I fully support the ‘Open the Doors’ Campaign calling for an end to the siege of Gaza and fully opening the borders to enable the people of Gaza to reconnect to the outside world, visit families, get medicines, food and materials to rebuild their infrastructure, and also for the release of Gilad Shalit and of Palestinian political prisoners.   

I went to Gaza on the Free Gaza boat in October 2008. I was shocked with the suffering of its people as a direct result of Israeli policies of collective punishment – now for over 18 months.  The international community including the UN, the USA and the EU has supported these illegal policies, in contravention of the Geneva Conventions, and they too must take responsibility for their part in the subsequent suffering and death of very many Gazans.

During our visit to Gaza we were invited to address the Hamas Parliament and also a meeting of representatives of all political parties, including a meeting with Hamas’ Prime Minister Haniyah (the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people).

We were very hopeful when we learned that the political leadership were ready to go to Cairo the following week to talk about Palestinian unity and peace. Tragically, the following week the Israeli military bombed Gaza and Hamas responded with rockets thus ending the ceasefire.  The subsequent Israeli bombardment of Gaza (crimes against humanity), starting in December 2008, was watched by the world in horror, but mostly silent as l,434 persons were killed, 900 of whom civilians. Thirteen Israelis were also killed during the bombardment.

I have been to Israel/Palestine many times and in spite of the terrible ongoing violence that is causing so much suffering, I believe that peace is possible. I have great hope for their future and that the siege will be lifted, the occupation ended, and the Palestinian people will have their human rights restored, including their right to self-determination.

I believe it is possible for Jews and Arabs to live together in justice and friendship, most especially the Jewish people with their most immediate neighbours, the Palestinians.  I also believe that a peaceful, demilitarized, nuclear free Middle East is possible.  We are here in the heart of Europe where after the Second World War people were determined that there would never be war again, and set up building economic, political and cultural ties that would enable countries and peoples to live and work together in peaceful coexistence.  If this could be done in Europe, why not in the Middle East?

There is an old saying, ‘Where there is a will there is a way,’ and this applies very much to the ongoing conflict in Palestine/Israel.   I do believe that what is missing is the determination to put an end to violent conflict and begin to enter into serious dialogue to implement the necessary steps to justice for the Palestinians, thus also safeguarding peace for the Israeli people.

Part of the roots of the problem is the military occupation and the continuing building of an Apartheid system by the Israeli government within the occupied terrorities. This is being both violently and non-violently opposed by Palestinians, some of whom are losing hope and, in despair, seeing violence as their only option.

However, there will not be a military or a paramilitary solution to the problem, just like the situation in Northern Ireland.   This fact needs to be acknowledged by all parties to the conflict, including friends of both Palestinians and Israelis around the world.

Stopping the killings on all sides, continuing with nonviolent resistance, conflict    resolution, and making a choice for peace will bring about change. This is a political problem and there is a political solution.  As Israel is the stronger party in this conflict (it is not the victim – it is the aggressor) it bears the main responsibility to lead in the political solution to end the siege and the occupation.

I think that along with political solutions by governments, the most important spiritual movement to take place is that Jews and Arabs build trust and become their own best friends, and begin to take down the walls of fear and separation in their own hearts and minds.  

This is a spiritual movement that touches on the question of what it is to be human in our world today.  It touches on the question of whom we are and whether we can learn to live as a human family, without killing each other and destroying our environment and our world. And it is not only the Jewish and the Arabs that must face these questions and find the solutions, it is the whole world. We are all on this journey together, and that is why the conflict in the Middle East is so important for us all.

It is important that the European Union, the UN and the USA change their foreign policies regarding the Middle East, recognizing that Israel and Palestine must be treated fairly and equally, talk to Hamas and the political representatives of the Palestinian people, insist on the upholding of international law. Having an unconditional, all-inclusive dialogue is the only way forward.  

In Northern Ireland we made peace by talking to our enemies. The American government encouraged the British government to talk to representatives of the Irish Republican Army, so why not use the same method of conflict resolution to help our Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters to reach peace in their day?

Salaam, Shalom, Peace,


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 20 Mar 2009.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN ISRAEL-GAZA: ‘OPEN THE DOORS’, is included. Thank you.

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