The Palestinian call for solidarity with the upstanding citizens of France facing state repression for their efforts in the BDS campaign could not have fell on more receptive ears or a more fitting place. Unjust and outdated laws have put French solidarity activists on the front line of anti-BDS reaction as noted in the recent anti-BDS policy-sounding conference in Jerusalem. Palestinians from Lajee Center in (one of the founding signatories of the Palestinian civil society BDS call ) steadfast Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem area, join their Irish hosts in Derry to stand in solidarity with BDS activists in France. Derry, itself the site of the 20th century's great struggles for humanity in a dark twentieth century. Settler-colonialism and resistance against it came to this Island centuries before it arrived in Palestine. In the late 60's as the revolutionary wind swept the world, Derry for historical and demographical reasons became the epicentre of the people's struggle to shake off the injustice of sectarian apartheid in the North of Ireland, a system rooted in the settler-colonial project of Protestant plantation. Their civil rights movement and attempts to brutally crush it centred around this town. This was the line and the working class Catholics rose-up in the Bogside to defend it, No Pasaran and A Las Barricadas! could well have been the slogans, such was the historical moment and the people's heroic response to it.
Bernadette Devlin McKalliskey and Eamonn McCann, two of the great figures from that fight join Lajee's Salah Ajarama at the iconic Free Derry corner mural in a display of solidarity to our friends in France. "You Are Now Entering Free Derry" reminds all who visit the Bogside area that this is where the barricades where built, the line drawn and defended in the famous 'Battle of Bogside. The surrounding giants murals tell the story of those struggles and Bloody Sunday massacre carried out there by the British army in 1972. The Palestinian youth saw in Derry and the families who hosted them powerful echoes of the their own situation and real bonds of friendship and mutual empathy were formed. They were warmly received in Derry and their Dabkeh, talks, films and photography exhibition "To Resist is to Exist" left a powerful impression on all who saw them. The Mayor of Derry officially welcomed the Palestinian to the city and heard from them about their work, their life in the camp under occupation and their hope that Derry City Council will answer their call by adopting BDS policy. Later that day the Palestinians together with local activists in Derry took time out from their busy schedule to show solidarity with the French BDS activists with a photograph of them standing together behind the Palestinian flag with the hashtag: #solidariteprocesbds.
Among the local community activists and Irish Republicans were members of both the brilliant direct actions against Ratheon. Ratheon, the American arms company had a factory in Derry. In 2006 local activists discovered that they were producing component computer parts for Israeli missiles being used to slaughter civilians in Israel's latest attack on Lebanon. Nine men, including Eamonn McCann and Gary ...... gained access to the factory and destroyed around £500,000 worth of computers and were all acquitted after their defence that their crime was necessary to prevent a bigger crime was accepted by the court. During Israel's massacre in Gaza in 2009 female activists in Derry's anti-war coalition decided that they must take a stand and hold the line. Since the Ratheon 9 from 2006 were all men, an all female Ratheon 9 (including Betty Doherty) would seize the factory in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza which they did and once again a court refused to find them guilty. Ratheon have since left Derry, no doubt wondering why they were foolish enough to set up shop in such a radical and spirited town in the first place.
Aida camp has for decades been on the front line and its steadfast youth have been holding that line over the last eight months. The historical line that is Free Derry produced people who've taken their bravery and fight for justice into the fight against Israeli apartheid and impunity with their militant BDS actions against Ratheon. They know more than most when the line has to be drawn and it's time to go to the barricades so they know how important it is for them to stand shoulder to shoulder with their Palestinian guests in sending a strong message praise and solidarity with their comrades in France.