Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade

Palestine and Israel: Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel

2:30 pm

Ms Jenny Derbyshire:

I thank the Chairman and members of the committee for inviting us to appear before the committee. My name is Jenny Derbyshire. I have been an Ecumenical accompanier twice, once in Jerusalem and once in Bethlehem and have just returned from the West Bank where I had been for a week. I was able to visit a new placement in the Jordan Valley. I wish to introduce Mr. Patrick Costello, who will speak after me, Ms Hilary Minch, and Ms Jen Byrne who has visited the West Bank earlier in the year. We have all been ecumenical accompaniers and have all been there this year.

As the committee may be aware, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, EAPPI, is essentially a human rights observer programme established ten years ago by the World Council of Churches. Observers are recruited from various countries around the world and live and work at seven locations across the West Bank. We used to be in Gaza but since the blockade of the Gaza Strip that has become impossible so that we are no longer in Gaza. We were there for between three and four and a half months. Observers are recruited from the UK and Ireland by Quaker Peace and Social Witness in London. We are all volunteers. My role is that of volunteer advocacy co-ordinator. Previously the position was held by Mr. Joe O'Brien. To date 30 Irish people have served in the field for EAPPI. The committee will probably realise when it hears us today that overall, the position is getting worse in the West Bank but I think that will reveal itself.

Our role as EAPPI observers includes offering protection through non-violent presence, monitoring and reporting violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, supporting acts of non-violent resistance alongside local Palestinian and Israeli activists. That we work with Israeli activists as well as Palestinian is important in terms of the strength of the programme. We also engage in advocacy to bring about the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Our advocacy is also part of our protective presence, particularly for the Israeli peace groups. Our core principles are guided by international law and human rights. I shall hand over to Mr. Patrick Costello.