Tuesday, 16 January 2018
European Council: Statements
I also want to raise the issue of Palestine. I echo the comments about Ahed Tamimi and the horrendous treatment of a child and her mother protesting against the illegal and immoral occupation of Palestinian territory in defiance of any notion of a two-state solution or international law and yet we continue to allow Israel to effectively act with impunity.
I want to talk about Gaza, the other part of Palestinian territory, and the shocking humanitarian crisis that is unfolding and worsening there. We often only talk about Palestine when there is war and places are being bombed to bits. We talk little about what the disastrous humanitarian consequences are afterwards and the impact that the siege is having on nearly 2 million people in a tiny pocket of land in Gaza. The facts are shocking. Some 20% of the housing stock has been destroyed as a result of various Israeli assaults. A total of 1.3 million people - 70% of the population - are dependent on humanitarian assistance. Nearly 50% of the people there are food insecure, 55% do not have a consistent energy supply and fewer than 5% have potable piped water. There is a horrific situation regarding patients trying to get out of Gaza to get medical treatment whereby the number that Israel or the el-Sisi regime in Egypt allows out has been slashed. Many people in desperate need of medical treatment simply cannot get out of Gaza. There is no medicine or medical equipment in the hospitals. The goods that can be transported in or out are tightly controlled, which impacts on medical supplies in particular since Israel claims they are dual-usage and could be used as weapons. This is a nonsense used to strangle the population into an appalling situation. Fishermen are only allowed to fish in one third of the fishing waters in which they were supposed to be allowed to fish under the Oslo Accords. The international community sits by and does nothing.
The Minister, Deputy Coveney, went to the region last week. He met Benjamin Netanyahu, the person who is illegally occupying Palestinian territory in defiance of international law and the Geneva Convention. As a result of the occupation, 2 million people in Gaza are the subject of collective punishment. The Minister was happy to meet Mr. Netanyahu . When he went to Gaza, and wrote a very moving blog about what he saw there, he refused to meet the democratically-elected members of the Gaza Parliament. One line in his blog states that Hamas is deemed an international terrorist group and that we do not deal directly with them. Benjamin Netanyahu, in the context of what he is doing, is a terrorist by any definition. Our representatives can meet him no problem and yet they go to Gaza and will not meet the democratically-elected representatives of the people of that territory. Let us remember that Gaza is in the current humanitarian mess because Israel refused to recognise the outcome of democratic elections over which there was international observation. They were shown to be absolutely free and fair elections, yet, when our Minister went there, he refused to talk to the representatives in question. I am not even referring to talking to Hamas.
I want to pass on a direct request from the Gaza Parliament, which has contacted me. It says it was delighted to see the Minister, Deputy Coveney, in Gaza, but wished that representatives of this democratically-elected Parliament would go and meet representatives of the democratically-elected parliament there or that we might invite the speaker of the Gaza Parliament to this Parliament to talk. We should listen to the elected representatives of the people of Gaza who are suffering this appalling situation have to say. That is elementary. If we can talk to Benjamin Netanyahu - I would rather we did not - then can we also talk to the people who represent the suffering millions in Gaza who are putting up with an appalling situation? That is a direct question to the Minister of State and the Government. Will they talk to the elected representatives of the people of Gaza about the disastrous humanitarian situation that the vast majority of that population is suffering?