Friday, August 1, 2014

They built a wall. When will we learn? By Bridget Robertson

Cool Stuff: Graffiti on Palestine Wall

This isn't meant to be balanced. I wasn't raised in a vacuum. I understand I see through colored glasses of my youth.

It is an old hate. Centuries old. It's about sovereignty, religion, freedom, oppression, killing of children, bombs and a State Military

First they carved up the country. Most of the people of one religion got to be in the new "Free Country". But not all of them. Some were still left in the "old country". They were the minority. A hated minority, behind a wall. Most were never able to work, have a voice in their government, or housing equality. They even had to deal with a State Military that was never neutral or there to keep the peace. They were there to enforce and control the people behind the wall.

It was never designed to be a fair system or a fair fight. The people outside of that wall wanted the people inside to either be dead or gone! And the people inside that wall were resentful and bitter.

When you have very few resources with more being taken every day, few to no options, at some point you fight back. First they threw rocks at the soldiers. Children did this because by the time they were seven the hate was set. They were living in squaller and being pushed down every day. Children with rocks. Soldiers with guns. So, many of the adults got armed. Eventually the adults became younger and younger. They became proficient in "Gorilla Warfare" which included bombs. Lot's of bombs. Depending on which side of the wall you were on the people inside were either "terrorists" or "freedom fighters". They were well funded by people from other countries who sympathized. Eventually one foreign country ( he was paid) allowed the fighter - terrorists to come train there. No matter how well funded or trained the people inside the wall were, it was never an even match for the Military.

The Military was sent to help the people outside the wall. And they would do "No Knock Warrants". Your door was kicked in and mostly men were rounded up without cause, held without bail or reason and beaten behind the gates of prison. (Or should I say "Behind The Wire".) Moved by the military at will, far from their family and homes. Many of them were never involved in the conflict or the fighters. That wasn't relevant. They were still held and more just got rounded up. On and on it went.

The people outside the wall always said the others were terrorists. But they also had weapons, organizations, propaganda and a military to back them up. They were assured through their leaders that their lot in life would be better if not for the people on the other side of that wall.

Children on both sides hurt children. Walking to school was a battleground. Oldest siblings mostly from one side, but plenty from the other joined their respective "cause". Sometimes they joined just in the hope that younger siblings would be spared. That really didn't work. If an older sibling died often a younger joined to avenge his death. Or just because it was the only thing that felt like it had meaning. Whole families of children joined or were forced to join on both sides. Blood was cheap. Especially children's blood.

It took the will of many adults, especially the women, to finally say enough is enough. There are stories that some of the women would meet, risking their very lives because if caught they would have been killed and branded as traitors by "their own". They tried many things to nurture the hate away. One program had kids before age seven sent to another country to live with a family of the other religion. Another program would take pre-teens, two girls or boys one from each religion to summer away together in a foreign country. There are even stories that the women on both sides withheld sex from the men for long periods of time. No religious authority could change their minds. I am sure women were raped by their husbands. They did all of this at a very high cost and great risk.

A new leader was elected to the head of the government of the United Kingdom and he let it be known that the cost of this war was too high. The tired, beleaguered people from both sides of this region voted. Overwhelmingly, they decided that peace simple had to come.

It did. It's still a tenuous peace. The slums of the Catholics still exist in Belfast. I am told it is getting better. Right now there are people living who remember the last of these "Troubles". ( How very understated.) As long as they are alive this peace will probably hold. After that.... well, who knows. Our collective memory seems to be getting shorter and shorter. We keep repeating patterns.

Some say this goes back to William the Conqueror and Strong Bow. Officially, these "Troubles" were started when Henry VIII became the head of the Church of England and Catholics living in the Kingdom of United Britain became "the" problem. And his successors were so in fear of Papal Rule, lands were stolen in Ireland and given to Protestants. Official government positions were held only by Protestants for a very long time and on and on.

"Since Northern Ireland's creation in 1922, the Roman Catholic minority had suffered from varying degrees of discrimination from the Protestant majority, which the state allowed to happen."

I was raised in America and had paternal ties to Ireland. My great, great, great uncle was the Primate ( Cardinal ) of Armagh, for all of Ireland. Daniel McGettigan 1870-1887. My relatives lived and live in Donegal a piece of Ulster County that went to the Republic of Ireland and not Northern Ireland. These "Troubles" were not neutral in my father's family. No one sent money. We never had any. Still, they came squarely down on the side of Catholics and "freedom fighters" in Northern Ireland. The Provincial Irish Republican Army, commonly known as the IRA is considered to be the most well funded "terrorist" organization of the Twentieth Century. Eventually trained in Libya, their bombs became part of television news throughout the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. British civilians, British nobility, British Military and Irish Protestants were targeted. Still it was no match for the British State Military. And the face of the IRA was young. The face of the Protestant Irish was young. The face of British soldiers was young. The hatred was very old.

I have messy feelings about the IRA and the Catholics. I supported and support their need for total equality and voice in their government and sovereignty over their lives and destinies. It was their ancestral lands stolen. Their lives, natural resources taken and dolled back in dribbles or less. I cried over every bomb they planted that went off. I cried over every person killed, tortured, imprisoned and raped on either side.

At some point the price of war becomes too high. Religion becomes void of meaning. Enemies filled with hate MUST sit down across from each other and decide peace is the only option.

I know that in this current conflict in the Middle East, THERE IS A WALL! It is NEVER separate and equal. I know land and resources were taken from one side, the Palestinians, by an International body that never considered how to make that fair or inclusive. I know before that decision, Muslims, Christians and Jews all lived in that area. But it was Palestine. Occupied or not. It was Palestine.

Before you decide who the terrorists are and who the victims are. Before you decide who is right and who is wrong. Remember Northern Ireland.

-Bridget Robertson

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