LETTERS FROM PALESTINE
Stones and the Scandal in Ireland
12 October 2004
The idea for the following came to my head during a
break from olive picking in Jayyous as I was idly
tossing pebbles at a friend's olive tree. It was one
of the lucky seven (out of 20) of my friend's trees
that survived the Israeli dynamiting of the
Palestinian hillside to build the Hafrada Wall.
(Another friend had 200 trees destroyed, etc. etc.)
The Israeli offensive in the Gaza refugee camps was
also in full swing during my stay in the village. The
Palestinian death toll in Gaza now stands at more than
100, the wounded more than twice that number. At
least half of the dead are civilians - of them, at
least 27 were children.
One ten-year-old girl was shot in the chest as she sat
in her elementary school classroom by Israeli snipers
this afternoon. Another 13-year-old girl was shot by
Israeli occupation forces from a sniper tower on her
way to school, and then shot twice in the head at
close range, and then hit with more than a dozen more
bullets in her lifeless body by an Israeli commander
"to relieve pressure," according to Israeli soldiers
who witnessed the scene.
Three Israeli soldiers have also been killed in the
two weeks of... not sure what the right word is.
Horror, I guess.
Anyway, if you're not in the mood for disgruntled
political satire, scroll down to the Ireland story.
It's about as heavy and political as Jerry Springer.
U.S. Agrees to Sponsor Israel's Latest Offensive to
Remove Palestinians' Most Readily-Available Weapons
New York Times
Sunday, 9 October 2004
TEL AVIV - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
announced on Friday his plan to remove what he sees as
a proven threat to the health and security of the
"I bring you greetings from Jerusalem, the eternal
capital of the Jewish people for the past 3000 years,
and of the State of Israel for the past 56 years and
forever,"* Sharon said on Israeli national
"Let me make one thing clear: the Israeli people will
not negotiate with terrorists. We shoot them in their
homes and schools, bomb them in their cars, vandalize
their places of work, isolate them in ghettos,
restrict their movement, comandeer their land and
water sources, and destroy their homes and ministries.
"And still," he added solemnly, "any child can simply
walk to the street, pick up a stone, and become a
"So," he concluded, "the rocks must go.
"It will be a major operation, as Judea and Samaria
are liberally littered with stones. And every home we
destroy only creates more jagged, throwable objects.
But they have been using these weapons against us for
"We can't possibly have a partner for peace as long as
these weapons are simply lying around for any
14-year-old to hurl at our tanks and Hummers. We
believe stone-removal is the only viable option for a
true and lasting peace in this region."
Donald Rumsfeld said in a press conference in
Arlington, Virginia, "I agree with Mr. Sharon. We
must act decisively, and we must act now. Their
methods are getting more sophisticated. Their aim isgetting better. Their range is getting longer.
"The next sign of a smoking gun," Rumsfeld added, in a
statement that stunned and terrified lovers of peace
and freedom all over the world, "might very well be a
broken window in New York City."
"We must end the threat to the Israeli people
emanating from Judea, Samaria, and the strip of land
where Jonah allegedly washed up after being eaten by
the whale, now home to more than a thousand Israeli
families," said UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
"And a million or two other people," he added
On Saturday Colin Powell said gravely, "We know the
stones are there. We've seen the mountains and caves
where the stones literally fall out of cracks in the
earth. And we have credible intelligence that they
may be smuggling these stones into Syria and Iran.
"That is," he remarked with his usual air of pensive
constipation, "if Syria and Iran don't already have
stones of their own."
The Pentagon urged Israel to engage in a comprehensive
unilateral invasion of the Arab strongholds using
tanks, Apache helicopters, and F-16 fighter jets in
order to impose complete military occupation upon the
territories currently occupied by the Arab terrorists
before they can develop more sophisticated sling
technologies which could affect innocent Israeli
civilians at a range of up to thirty feet.
Pentagon officials were reported "extremely pleased"
to find out that Israel not only had already done so,
but also has built walls and checkpoints that make
life almost entirely unlivable for many of the Arabs,
who call themselves 'Palestinians' and occupy the land
restored to Israel in 1967, a move whose sadistic
brilliance and impunity surprised and delighted even
"We think we about have this terrorism problem
licked," confided a top Pentagon official on condition
of anonymity due to security and censorship concerns.
"You know those refugee camps they have all over the
place? We think this is where most of the terrorists
come from. Which is extremely convenient, you see,
because these people are packed in like sardines and
almost completely helpless.
"It's like shootin' fish in a barrel,"** he chuckled.
"They can throw stones for a day, a month, until
death. They can throw and throw until they get tennis
elbow. We will ward off this threat and it will be as
if it never happened," said Tzahi Hanegbi, Israeli
minister for internal security.
"God made stones for building walls and sniper towers,
not for throwing," he added knowingly, brandishing a
chain and winking.***
"We will kill them even in their outhouses," said
Russian President Vladimir Putin, but it was later
discovered that he had misunderstood the question and,
unlike everyone else, was still talking about
When asked for a statement, U.S. President George W.
Bush shouted, "The people of Ireland must be made safe
for freedom, democracy, and sover'nty," from the back
of an all-terrain sport utility golf cart on his
expansive ranch in Crawford, Texas.
"The time for diplomacy has passed," he added later
over Pabst Blue Ribbons and Colombia's finest blow.
"The Pomeranians must be punished. These nukular
rocks will be found, make no mistake. And when they
are, we'll bring freedom and peace to the
Palefornians, and democracy, and liberty.
"And if that means using excessive force and killing
thousands of their men, women, and children, then so
be it. After all, that's what American stands for:
being tough and secure."
Dear friends and family,
I just got back from nine days in Jayyous, a
Stigler-sized village near Qalqiliya in the northern
West Bank, the one where I lived last year for six
weeks. I enjoyed picking olives last year, and it's
that time again, so I took a week off to spend time on
the land with some friends who are becoming like
family to me.
The Hafrada Wall is suffocating and destroying the
village and turning the olive harvest, which used to
be a gorgeous and fun communal custom, into a grim and
humiliating march through rigidly-scheduled gates (for
the people lucky enough to have a permit) onto what's
left of the land that wasn't blasted and destroyed to
make the giant electrified fence, army access road,
buffer zones, and razor-wire piles.
Army Jeeps and armored Hummers patrol the de facto
annexed area behind the Wall (about 13 square
kilometers of Jayyous farmland) constantly, roaring
along the old dirt roads that used to see only
tractors and donkey carts, making it even harder to
enjoy the day and forget about all the craziness. An
excellent study in obscene cognitive dissonance.
Anyway, I'll write about that later. For now I'll
just write quickly about a leitmotif of the sad,
beautiful week: a ridiculous scandal in Ireland that
hit full tilt just as I arrived in Jayyous.
A friend of mine faked his own death a few months ago,
and the truth came to light among his acquaintances,
then via a Cork web forum (peoplesrepublicofcork.com),
and then the journalists started calling me -- three
newspapers and two radio stations.
I cooperated with the Irish Daily Star because the guy who
called me was nice and I thought it'd be a hoot, and a
lesson to all the jerks out there who think they can
lie to girls remorselessly and get away with it. Just
a note that sometimes we bite back.
The Irish Independent followed with an article without
my cooperation or consent. I later agreed to an
interview on Irish national radio via cell phone while
I was in Jayyous, also for a laugh. The radio show
host kept trying to get me to admit on the air that I
still liked the guy and that I was a home-wrecker.
Then people started bombing my webpage guestbook, and
some entries gave out personal information about Ronan
that had no business being on the web, or were just
obscene or stupid, or questioned my honor or my
parentage. So I had to sort that out. (I put most of
the entries back up--check it out, it's pretty
I didn't make any money off of this that I'm aware of
despite the allegations in my guestbook, but I have
never been so amused in as long as I can remember.
May all the world be so boring some day that an
American girl getting duped is front-page news.
Then again, I guess everyone loves a story that makes
them feel smarter than someone else.
Here is an email from a journalist who wrote my and
Ronan's story in the Irish Daily Star, and the two articles
follow. It made Ronan the national laughingstock of
the month. If I didn't believe in karma before, I do
now. Life is psychotic, love is blind, but what can
you do except roll with the punches?
I hope you are keeping well.
Tried to call you a few times over the weekend, but
your mobile phone was switched off.
Anyway, we ran an article on Saturday and got a
tremendous response. Another newspaper, The Sunday
Independent, followed up on the story the following
The whole issue generated a lot of discussion on the
airwaves. A station in Cork even ran it as a news
item all day Monday and devoted a large party of a
show on Sunday to it. [!!!]
Since the story appeared a lot of people have come out
of the woodwork to have their say about Ronan. It
appears that he had quite a few enemies.
We didn't name him in the article we published or give
any identifiable details about him - so don't worry
there. We also blacked out his face in the
photographs. I'm sure people were smart enough to go
to your website for those details.
I've been reading with interest the postings in your
guestbook. All I can say is that there are some
pretty juvenile people in Ireland going by some of the
posts. But I think you'll find that the ones made by
people who actually know Ronan pretty much back you
I have sent a copy of the 'paper to your folks in
Stigler and below I have put in a copy of the text
used in our piece on Saturday. It made page one and
was continued on page four.
Hope you keep well and I wish you the very best in the
future. You are a brave woman and I know you won't be
Irish Daily Star
'Dead' Irish Liar Broke my Heart
By SHANE PHELAN
Irish Daily Star
A WOMAN who set up a website in honour of her Irish
lover, who she thought was killed while fighting in
Iraq, has been stunned to learn he is still alive --
and living in Ireland.
Her lover, a seaman with the Irish Navy, wanted to end
his passionate fling with American student Pamela
But the method chosen for giving her the 'flick' was
macabre -- straight from the pages of a war thriller.
Pretty Pamela (24), from Stigler, Oklahoma, was
distraught when she received an e-mail telling her
that the brave seaman had been killed by a sniper in
Iraq while saving the life of an 8-year-old little
To help get over his death she created an elaborate
internet website in his honour.
But the cruel deception was uncovered when grieving
Pamela's mother wrote to the dead man's family
expressing her condolences.
Pamela was stunned to hear that the man was alive and
well and had recently married.
Now she has branded the Irishman she fell for during a
holiday romance in Croatia as a "big-time liar and
Olson first met the seaman in Croatia during August
2002. He was there with his then fiancee and two
other friends. But he abandoned his partner for days
after meeting the pretty American girl in a bar in
He wooed gullible Pamela Olson with tales of heroics
She claims he told her he was an elite army ranger who
had been on missions with the UN in East Timor and
Lebanon and that he had ridden a Harley Davidson
The claims would later prove to be completely false,
but at the time she fell madly in love with him.
"His larger than life stories and funny, thoughtful,
humility made it effortless to fall in love with him,"
a stunned Pamela told The Star.
They met again in Miami the following year. She
he told her that if they were not living 6,000 miles
apart that he would put a wedding band on her finger.
Inspired by his tales she later went on holidays in
the Middle East. At this stage he had told in e-mails
that he was stationed in Iraq.
He said he was laid up in a field hospital there after
being shot in the backside.
While in Amman she made contact with him by phone,
hoping that a meeting could be arranged. But he said
he could not get any time off to meet her. [Because
he was in Ireland.]
She returned home to the USA in December and when she
e-mailed him on March 10 asking was he alright, she
received the bad news that he was dead.
Now that she knows that it was all a lie she said she
was furious over the pain and suffering she endured on
learning of his "death".
The e-mail, which purported to be from a UN colleague
of the dead sailor, said he had been shot dead by an
Iraqi sniper while on a patrol on May 1 this year.
The e-mail said he had shown extraordinary bravery to
sweep an eight-year-old Iraqi girl into his arms and
push her to safety before being mown down in a hail of
The colleague [who was actually Ronan himself posing
as 'Scott'] urged her to pay tribute to him on the
internet and she set up a website dedicated to his
However, she told The Star that she had recently been
contacted by a number of people in Ireland who told
her that he was alive and well.
"I've got over it now, but at the time I was very
upset," said Pamela.
"When I found out he was alive, I was glad. But at
the same time I was thinking 'what a rat this guy is'.
He led me quite a merry dance." [Er -- have you ever
heard me say 'merry dance'?]
"When I set up the website it was heartfelt and
coming from true emotions at the time.
"But it turned out that he was a big-time liar and a
charlatan who made up almost everything he said to me,
including his own death.
"And even though he is quite a jerk, his stories did
inspire me to travel and learn about the Middle East,"
When confronted about Ms Olson's claims, the seaman
denied even knowing her. [Nice one!]
He then said he had no comment to make when he was
informed that The Star was in possession of
photographs of him and Ms Olson together.
"What you can write in your paper is that she has
ruined my life. My marriage is on the rocks over her.
My son is getting hassled in school over her and my
job is on the line because of it," he said.
"My job is the only source of income for my family.
That means my mortgage is on the line over it.
"That is what you can write in your newspaper and
what you can tell her (Pamela). I don't have any
other comment to make.
"I have nothing to come clean about, my friend. I'm
sure these are doctored photographs."
And the following article
appeared in the Irish
Independent, one of Ireland's best-selling newspapers. I never talked to these guys, so they
made everything up that they didn't get off the
website. But apparently the article is making the
rounds on every military base and office email list in
A dead lover walking: US woman conned by 'Irish Army
in Cork, and
AMERICAN woman Pamela Olson was so devastated when
told that her Irish lover had been killed while saving
a child during a gun battle in Iraq that she set up a
web page to honour her fallen hero.
Friends from all over the world were heartbroken at
her news. They wrote messages of support and pledged
to help Ms Olson through her loss. Some reminded her
of his sacrifice for Iraqi freedom.
But now she has been told her dead hero is not only
actually alive and well, but apparently married and
living happily in Cork. He is also not in fact an
elite soldier, but a humble Irish sailor serving
aboard a navy ship.
And in revenge at his apparent Walter Mitty stories,
the pretty but credulous 24-year-old Oklahoma student
has told the whole story on the internet, accusing her
former beau of being a fantasist.
She says she was furious when she learned that the
25-year-old Corkman was not an Army Ranger, didn't
play rugby for Munster, never drove a Harley Davidson
across Russia, nor served with gallantry in war-torn
East Timor and the Lebanon.
In fact the man, from East Cork - and whose identity
is known to the Sunday Independent - was an ordinary
sailor with the Irish navy who allegedly created a
heroic and often hilarious Action Man persona,
nicknamed "Neo" after the character played by Keanu
Reeves in the action blockbuster The Matrix.
He may have meant no harm, but Ms Olson is now full of
bitterness and scorn for her former lover - whom she
has lashed on the website that once honoured him.
She told the Sunday Independent: "I felt I was in love
with him and was devastated when I heard by email that
he had been killed. I was furious when I realised it
was all one great big lie." She added, "I was hurt
when I found out the truth."
The Corkman's (Neo's) tales of derring-do had
impressed the naive Ms Olson, whom he met while on
holiday in Croatia in 2002. At the time he was a
single man. [Actually, he was engaged to another girl
and seeing a third girl at the time.]
Now, according to Ms Olson, he's "a lying douche bag",
but the story of "Neo's" heroic life and faked death
has attracted a cult readership to Ms Olson's web
page, www.pamolson.org. The Irish sailor also told Ms
Olson that he was a "quarter Cherokee", and created
another alter ego called "Scott" to break the sad news
that her lover had been killed in Iraq.
He appears to have done so after Ms Olson indicated
she wanted to come and visit him there. The account
which "Scott" posted via electronic mail from the
man's own email account reads like a Mills & Boon
Scott wrote that Ms Olson's boyfriend was killed on
May 1 while his unit was doing a "recon" patrol in
southeastern Iraq, not far from the confluence of the
Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
He allegedly wrote: "Out of nowhere a sniper fired on
their unit. A radio operator from South Africa was
hit in the chest and went down screaming.
"The foreign aid workers nearby dove for cover, as did
X's men, but a small Iraqi girl, maybe eight years
old, was left crying in the middle of the road.
"The UN soldiers returned fire but had no idea where
the sniper was. X knew that the sniper would take a
shot at the girl, the wounded radio operator, or the
aid workers to draw them out of cover. He couldn't
leave them there helpless.
"X leapt to his feet, grabbed the girl, and pushed her
through an open door. It drew the sniper's fire long
enough to let the medic get the radio man to cover."
But, in Scott's words, "the most unstoppable guy I
ever met got stopped".
"X was hit by four bullets, one to the left shoulder,
two to the chest, and one to the left hip. His last
words were, "Did I do OK, are they safe?"
Ms Olson says she fell for this outrageous tale, which
was designed to end their relationship for good. But,
bereft and heartbroken at this tragic news, Ms Olson
created a website honouring the Irishman she knew, the
dashing inside centre who played rugby for Munster,
had an honours degree in physics and maths and who saw
the first plane crash into the World Trade Centre
while on holiday in New York on 9/11. She only
learned of the apparent deception when she contacted
his mother to offer condolences.
"She told me in no uncertain terms that he was alive,
well and recently married. It was quite a shock, but
I was so glad he was alive I wasn't even angry. Just
extremely perplexed," she explained.
Then, after publishing the details on her website, Ms
Olson was contacted by several people in Cork as to
the true details of her former lover's life.
"He led me quite a merry dance," Ms Olson has said.
[This is how rumors get started...]
"I've got over it now, but at the time I was very
upset. When I set up the website, it was heartfelt
and coming from true emotions at the time, but it
turned out he was a big-time liar and charlatan who
made up almost everything he told me - including his
On the the other side of the Atlantic, the Corkman is
clearly embarrassed that what may have started out as
the harmless creation of an overactive imagination to
spice up a friendship has escalated out of control.
Before packing up and getting out of his home town
yesterday morning, he told the Irish Daily Star: "She
has ruined my life."
The man was uncontactable for comment yesterday,
either at his home or by telephone.
However, locals admitted that the 25-year-old was
"deeply shocked" by the allegations - and was
maintaining that some photographs included on the US
website of him with Ms Olson were digitally
Locals admitted that his parents were deeply upset
over the affair.
It's understood the sailor has vehemently denied any
suggestion that he claimed to have served in Iraq.
"He seemed to be under enormous pressure over the last
couple of weeks - he just wasn't his normal cheerful
self," one neighbour declared.
The Irish sailor told one person that the Oklahoma
girl was determined to destroy his life and his
Last night, the Naval Service stressed that it
couldn't possibly comment on the matter.
However, it's understood the Defence Forces are set to
regard the embarrassing claims as a strictly private
matter - and the man is unlikely to face any form of
When it emerged that the story was going to be leaked
to the Irish media, the man contacted Haulbowline
Naval Base to alert them to the allegations and Iraq
Senior politicians and Defence Force chiefs also
expressed "grave concern" at the potential
implications for Irish nationals in Iraq or the Middle
East of any belief, however erroneous, that Ireland
maintains elite military forces in the war-torn Middle
No member of the Irish defence forces is serving in
So that's it for my fifteen minutes. Don't feel bad
laughing. I've been in stitches for days.