Tuesday, 25 May 2021
Annexation of Palestine: Motion [Private Members]
That Dáil Éireann: — notes that recent weeks have seen the most serious escalation of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (i.e. the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip) since 2014, with a tragic impact on innocent civilians and loss of life, including the deaths of at least 65 children;
— condemns the targeting of civilian infrastructure, and the loss of civilian life, and recalls the obligations on all parties under international humanitarian law and international human rights law to protect civilians;
— welcomes the announcement of the ceasefire of 21st May, and calls on all parties to support its implementation;
— emphasises the importance of immediate and unimpeded access for vital humanitarian assistance for those in need;
— affirms that a just and lasting peace requires addressing the poverty, inequality, injustice and underlying root causes of these cycles of violence, and meaningful accountability for breaches of international law; and
— recognises that the forced displacement of the protected Palestinian population and the presence and expansion of Israeli settlements, in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, undermines the prospects of peace, not just in recent weeks but over decades, and represent flagrant violations of international law; further notes that: — the annexation of territory, whether de jure or de facto, is a violation of the fundamental principle of international law enshrined in Article 2(4) of the United Nations (UN) Charter which states ‘All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations’, and UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2334 (December 2016) on Israel underscores ‘the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force’, echoing the original phrase from UNSC Resolution 242 in November 1967;
— the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and their protocols, bind Ireland as a High Contracting Party, and provide that parties to the Conventions must respect and ensure respect for the Conventions;
— the transfer by an Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies is prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention;
— in its 2004 advisory opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the International Court of Justice held that the construction of the wall and its associated regime ‘create a “fait accompli” on the ground that could well become permanent, in which case, and notwithstanding the formal characterization of the wall by Israel, it would be tantamount to de facto annexation.';
— Israel has altered and purports to alter the character and status of Jerusalem, by annexing the territory de jure, and has extended its ‘law, jurisdiction and administration’ to the occupied Syrian Golan and the UNSC has condemned both steps as having ‘no legal validity’ and constitute ‘a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention’ in UNSC Resolutions 476 and 478 (Jerusalem) and 497 (Syrian Golan);
— there are now over 600,000 Israeli settlers living in illegal settlements established in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Israeli Government continues the expansion of these settlements;
— the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, in his report to the UN General Assembly 73rd Session on 22nd October, 2018, concluded ‘Statements of political intent, together with Israel’s colonizing facts on the ground, its legislative activity, and its refusal to adhere to its solemn obligations under international law or to follow the direction of the international community with respect to its 51-year-old occupation, have established the probative evidence that Israel has effectively annexed a significant part of the West Bank and is treating this territory as its own’; and
— the Minister for Foreign Affairs stated on 23rd April, 2020, regarding developments in Israel, that ‘Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law, including the UN Charter, whenever and wherever it occurs, in Europe’s neighbourhood or globally. This is a fundamental principle in the relations of states and the rule of law in the modern world. No one state can set it aside at will’; recalls that Ireland distinguishes between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967, including illegal Israeli settlements, land appropriated for future settlements, and territory incorporated by the wall and its associated regime;
condemns the recent and ongoing forced displacement of Palestinian communities in the occupied Palestinian territory;
further condemns the annexation by Israel of East Jerusalem and its settlement activity there and in other areas of the West Bank, as serious breaches of international law and as major obstacles to peace that undermine the viability of the two-State solution;
declares that Israel’s actions amount to unlawful de facto annexation of that territory; and calls on the Government: — not to recognise as lawful any situation created by any such serious breach of international law, nor to imply such recognition, and to not render aid or assistance to the responsible state in maintaining the situation so created and to cooperate to bring the serious breach to an end;
— to urge Israel to bring to an end all settlement activity and not to impede the collective right to self-determination of the Palestinian people as a whole; and
— to focus its efforts on bringing an end to settlement activity and to regularly update Dáil Éireann.
Recently, we have witnessed another sustained, brutal and unforgiving assault on the Palestinian people by Israel, in which hundreds of civilians, including 65 children, were slaughtered. There was the deliberate destruction of homes, media offices, libraries, police stations, the university and the only Covid test centre in Gaza. These are all breaches of the Geneva convention, in other words a war crime. This violence did not take place in a vacuum It was a direct consequence of 54 years of Israeli occupation and colonisation of Palestinian lands. We have brought forward this motion with the support of Trócaire, Sadaka, Christian Aid, ICTU and a broad section of the Oireachtas, whom I thank for co-signing the motion. These include the Social Democrats, the Labour Party and numerous Independent Deputies.
A fundamental tenet of modern international law is a legal maxim which translates to the effect that a lawbreaker cannot benefit from an illegal act. Since 1967, the international community has been unequivocally clear that the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank broke international law and constituted a clear crime. The Israeli programme to populate Palestinian lands, otherwise known as the settler programme, has been the engine that has driven annexation. It is what has turned an Israeli military occupation into a colonisation of Palestinian lands and yet, despite all the legal rulings, the international ire, the 30 UN Security Council resolutions and the hundreds of resolutions that have emanated from the UN General Assembly, Israel has never been held to account for its actions.
The reality is that in Palestine the application of international law is determined by the variables of the power equation. I do not need to remind anyone of the disparity of power in this conflict. It is this power asymmetry that allows Israel to pursue a policy of managing the conflict rather than seek a meaning rapprochement with Palestinians in order that the illegal policy of annexation be allowed to continue to the point where there no longer remains a cohesive coherent entity that was once the Palestinian people.
Remarkably, if we pass this motion, we will be the first European country to attempt to frame a fresh discourse around the conflict through the acknowledgement that annexation is taking place - a discourse based on the applicability of international law and of natural justice, and a belief in the moral obligation of nation states to refrain from the implementation of the policy of apartheid and the programme of colonisation which we term annexation. We will be the first European parliament to formally acknowledge that illegal annexation is taking place in the occupied Palestinian territories. For years, the EU has equivocated with the line that is a line in the sand that if it happens, they can introduce all sorts of serious measures. The EU claims to have prevented annexation from happening last summer. This is not the reality on the ground, which is that de factoannexation is happening. We have the potential to change the EU position.
In January, the Israeli Government approved construction of more than 2,500 settlement housing units across the West Bank, including 460 in East Jerusalem. According to Peace Now, during 2020, Israel approved or advanced construction of more than 12,000 settlement housing units - the most in a single year since the organisation began its monitoring work in 2012.
In the nine-week period from 18 January to 21 March 2021, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, reported at least 204 Palestinian casualties in the West Bank alone resulting from clashes, protests, search and arrest operations and settler attacks.
The respected humanitarian groups, Human Rights Watch, Al-Haq and B'Tselem have all labelled the Israeli Government as an apartheid regime. The Israeli regime, which strives to promote and perpetuate Jewish supremacy in the entire area between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, is an apartheid regime. Accordingly, land is used to develop and expand existing illegal settlements and build new ones, while Palestinians are dispossessed and corralled into small crowded enclaves that are effectively Bantustans.
I acknowledge that other Deputies have brought forward amendments to the motion but I believe that it is important that we act with one voice. I agree with the measures outlined in the People Before Profit amendment but today is about generating unity around one specific issue, that is, annexation. Ultimately, the discourse needs to move onto what sanctions and measures need to be imposed as a consequence of the continuous breaching of international law. I believe it is important that we remain focused on what we can achieve here by supporting this motion.
Today, the Dáil speaks with one voice. Today, we condemn the illegal and ongoing annexation, the illegal seizure of Palestinian lands by the Israeli occupier. Today, we condemn the illegal displacement of Palestinian families and communities from their homes and from their land. Today, we stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and assert their inalienable right to their homes, to their land, to their homeland and their right to self-determination - a right that can never be extinguished. Today, we condemn the Israeli occupation and Israel's illegal settlements.
We state loudly and clearly that Israel violates international law when it forces Palestinian children, women and men off their land at gunpoint and when it bulldozes their homes. Israel violates international law when it transfers its settlers to illegally occupy Palestinian homes and land. Israel has no right, claim or title to the occupied Palestinian territories. Their land grab is illegal. Their settlements are illegal. Their behaviour is criminal. They are guilty of crimes against the Palestinian people. These are the facts and the facts are not in dispute. Israel is a serial violator of international law, a serial violator of the human and democratic rights of the Palestinian people. Today, we call on Israel to cease and desist in the context of its criminal behaviour, to end all settlement activity, to return stolen land, to end its occupation and to conform with the law.
Today marks the most explicit and the most united call from this Parliament against annexation and against the illegal Israeli occupation. Long and bitter experience, of course, tells us that our calls may well land on deaf ears. Therefore, we call also on the international community, on the European family of nations and, most particularly, on our own Government in Dublin to act and call Israel to account. We challenge all of the global community to move beyond the pious politics of condemnation onto the politics of accountability and the rule of law, and to use every means necessary, every diplomatic channel, every political lever and every economic tool to end what is now generations of human rights abuses.
The Palestinian people are not seeking anything exceptional. They are not looking for more favourable treatment. They demand only the vindication of their rights - rights that neither Israel nor anyone else can take from them or render null and void. Therefore, let us assert again that these rights must be acknowledged, protected and vindicated.
The case of Palestine is the acid test for the international community. Decisions have to be made. Choices have to be made. Does the world stand with the beleaguered occupied Palestinian people or does it offer alibis and excuses for the Israeli occupier and lawbreaker? Do we stand with the brutalised traumatised refugees and people of Gaza or with the Israeli military machine? Do we, finally and most importantly, insist on calling Israel to account? Are we prepared now to face the Israeli apartheid regime down? Are we prepared to draw lines in the sand? Are we prepared to stand for freedom? I know where the Irish people stand on all of these matters. The Irish people stand with Palestine for freedom and for the rule of law. The great question now is whether our Government here in Dublin, the European family of nations and the entire international global community are prepared to act.
The time to act is now, and that is what the global community demands.
We were all relieved to hear news on Friday morning of a ceasefire in Gaza after 11 days of bombardment and slaughter. More than 250 people were killed, the overwhelming majority of whom were Palestinian, including at least 65 Palestinian children. Gaza was subjected to the targeted shelling of houses and vital infrastructure like roads, electricity and water networks. There is nothing new in that.
The Palestinian people are forced to live under an apartheid regime. Gaza is an open-air prison enforced by the Israeli occupier. The Palestinian people are subjected to blockades, checkpoints, a lack of access to basic amenities like water and electricity and every possible abuse of human rights imaginable.
Israel continues to steal Palestinian land and homes, while displacing people on a daily basis. The people of Gaza have endured unimaginable suffering. Here in Ireland we need to show leadership and take a stand. We have a seat at the UN Security Council, and that brings with it a responsibility to stand against this inhumane and unjust regime. We cannot be there to just make up the numbers. Weak statements with no teeth simply are not good enough.
A start would be to recognise the state of Palestine. A Sinn Féin motion was passed in December 2014 calling on the Government to recognise the state of Palestine and over six years later, no action has been taken. The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill has been dropped by the Government, even though Fianna Fáil and the Green Party supported it before they were in power.
We have to take a stand to support the Palestinian people and hold Israel to account. As a Parliament we have to take a united stand against Israel’s apartheid regime and continued land seizures. Civic society and the Irish people are behind this. We have to unite and do the right thing for Palestine.
We are all united in our opinion that what was happening in Palestine, and Gaza in particular, had to stop. We all welcomed the ceasefire announced last week, but how many ceasefires have there been over the 54 years of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory? How long will this ceasefire last before Israel starts stealing Palestinian land again, while continuing to commit war crimes and forcing the Palestinian people to continue to live in absolutely dreadful conditions?
A statement from the Government condemning Israel's abuse of Palestinians is not enough. Statements such as these have done nothing to stop continued abuse by the Israeli state against the Palestinian people. Over the past 54 years Israel has continually committed war crimes with no fear of consequences because it has never had to face any. Ireland is part of the EU and the UN. Why are these organisations not doing more to stop this cycle of violence and annexation and to put in place a workable peace process?
There needs to be a permanent end to the violence for the people of Palestine, regardless of which part they live in. They need to be able to live in peace without fear of indiscriminate bombing and shooting. The International Criminal Court must investigate the actions of Israel and investigate it for war crimes. All people in the region deserve to be able to live in peace without the fear of death or serious injury. The violence must end forever.
There are over 5 million Palestinian people living in an area which has no proper access to clean water, sewerage systems or energy supplies. They fear on a daily basis that their homes will either be demolished by a bomb or missile coming from Israel or that they will be evicted from their homes and have them taken away.
People in Ireland sympathise and understand what the Palestinian people are experiencing as the Northern part of our country experienced similar for many years when innocent people, such as those in Ballymurphy, were shot down without consequence. It took almost 40 years for those people to be declared innocent. We had Bloody Sunday in Derry and shoot-to-kill policies. We know and understand what it is like in this country. It needs to end and the needs to be a proper peace process put in place. If action is not taken now, we will continue to see the cycle of violence, ceasefires being called, everything going quiet for a while and then everything resuming again. It is time that we in the Dáil stood together by passing an all-party motion condemning the actions of Israel and supporting the calls for a Palestinian state.
The State has a responsibility to call out the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and the system of apartheid that that has enforced for over five decades. The world has looked on in horror at the barbaric violation of the basic human rights of Palestinians by Israel. The Israeli military onslaught has driven Palestinians out of their homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and forced them into the open-air prison that is Gaza where missiles recently rained down on top of innocent men, women and children, killing 64 children and hundreds of adults.
Palestinians are trapped and denied water, sanitation, electricity, medical supplies and basic building materials. They are rendered homeless and stateless by an army that has been complicit and has the complicit support of some of the international community who should hang their heads in shame. The European Union could have done more, but has shown itself to be a paper tiger. It has failed to take action. This can be compared to the swift action, which was correctly taken in respect of Belarus within 24 hours.
In this State, the Government has to recognise the state of Palestine. The Sinn Féin motion passed by the Dáil more than three years ago needs to be adopted by the Government. In the most recent sustained and brutal onslaught on the Palestinian people, Members will have seen the slaughter that took place. Nine primary healthcare centres, six hospitals, a Covid lab, ministry of health buildings, a university, a library and the offices of the media were all destroyed by bombs dropped from Israeli warplanes, which is in breach of the Geneva Convention.
A long-term solution is now required to bring justice and freedom to the Palestinian people. As a state which is only now finding its way out of the history of imperial oppression, Ireland has a responsibility in this regard. We have a seat at the UN Security Council and need to use it. I implore the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Taoiseach and the Government to use that, as well as forcing the EU, to work towards a proper long-term solution and to end the Israeli war crimes in Gaza against the Palestinian people.
The recent slaughter in Palestine is only a continuation of what Palestinians have been dealing with. Beyond that, we need to recognise as a House that what has been going on since 1967 is a modern-day colonisation, plantation and land grab. We have had de facto annexation. We need to accept that in here and use it as a weapon to apply pressure on an international basis, because there has been an abject failure by the international community across the board.
I welcome the action that has been taken in regard to Belarus but this also has to be done on behalf of Palestinians. I welcome that the Minister has said there will be no return to business as normal. We have to ensure that is the case. We have a weapon that we can give it to the Minister, namely, accepting the reality of annexation that Palestinians are dealing with. He needs to go to Europe with this and we need to demand that there are sanctions and consequences because the Israelis have never had that.
On that basis, they have been able to deal with the Palestinians, slaughter them and steal land. We need to do to the Israeli state what was done to apartheid South Africa. It has to be made to be seen as a pariah. There have to be consequences for war crimes and international criminality.
I move amendment No. 2:
To delete all words from “condemns the targeting of civilian infrastructure” up to and including the words “international human rights law to protect civilians” and substitute the following: “—condemns the violent acts of Hamas and other militant groups, including the firing of rockets and incendiary devices from Gaza into Israel, the disproportionate and indefensible response of Israel bombing civilians and essential infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, the loss of life in both Israel and Palestine, and recalls the obligations on all parties under international humanitarian law and international human rights law to protect civilians and children while providing humanitarian supports to help rebuild Gaza.”
Today's motion reflects the grave concern of the Irish people and Oireachtas regarding the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory. It is a clear signal of the depth of feeling across Ireland on this issue. This Government shares that grave concern in respect of the violence and conflict that we have seen in Gaza and the West Bank and Israel, and on the root causes of the situation and the manifestly unequal treatment of the Palestinian people.
I have spoken on the latest hostilities in the Seanad and in this Chamber twice in the past ten days. I have welcomed the ceasefire that came into effect on 21 May and have called for immediate unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance to those who need it most.
Since I last spoke in this House, the UN Security Council has agreed to a press statement welcoming the ceasefire, mourning the loss of civilian lives and stressing the immediate humanitarian need of the 2 million people living in the Gaza Strip. It also recalled the importance of a comprehensive peace based on two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side. I was disappointed and frustrated that it took the members of the Security Council nearly two weeks to speak publicly together on this issue. Ireland has been vocal in encouraging the Security Council to live up to its responsibilities in addressing the hostilities and in supporting efforts towards a just and lasting peace.
As I have previously stated, the scale of deaths and injuries to civilians in this most recent round of hostilities is reprehensible. Protection of all civilians, in Gaza, in the West Bank and in Israel, is of paramount importance and it is an obligation under international humanitarian law. I have called on Israel to ensure that its security forces act in full respect for the principles of proportionality, distinction and precaution in the conduct of its military operations. Accountability must be ensured for the actions of the Israeli security forces.
The acts of terror by Hamas and other militant groups, through firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel, have killed civilians and endangered Israeli and Palestinian lives. This cannot and should not ever be justified either, and again I roundly condemn these actions. The widespread loss of life, the physical and psychological injuries inflicted and the long-lasting damage to critical civilian infrastructure are simply unacceptable. I restate the Government’s principled position that all parties to a conflict must adhere to international humanitarian law and in particular to the rules of distinction, proportionality and precaution.
It is important to acknowledge that the current escalation has not happened in isolation. Today’s motion addresses some of the root causes, which have been a driver of recent tensions. When I addressed the Security Council on 16 May, I said that we must look beyond the cessation of hostilities and ask ourselves how we can move past the current recurring cycles of violence that have been ongoing for years. We cannot return to a situation of business as usual. It is simply no longer an option. We cannot return to the flouting of international law with the relentless expansion of illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. We cannot return to forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank. We cannot return to demolition of Palestinian property, settler violence and intimidation. We must acknowledge that these actions, occurring at a rate unacknowledged by the international community for many years, are a source of legitimate grievance among the Palestinian people and undermine the prospects of peace and much-needed reconciliation.
This motion underlines the seriousness with which this House views this ongoing situation. We have seen the deteriorating situation on the ground in the Gaza Strip and across the West Bank. We have seen the impact of the decisions taken by Israel to develop and expand settlements and to enable evictions and displacement. It is, unfortunately, part of an overall approach that has impeded the rights of the Palestinian people and has failed to respect international law. Israel’s actions in increasing the scope and density of settlements and surrounding infrastructure, which effectively cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, indicate an intention of permanency. Not only does this deny the Palestinian population access to land, housing and livelihoods, it undermines the viability of a future contiguous Palestinian state.
This, of course, is not something that the international community can sit by and ignore. The scale, pace and strategic nature of Israel’s actions on settlement expansion and the intent behind them have brought us to a point where we need to be honest about what is actually happening on the ground. We need to call it out for what it is. It is de facto annexation. This is not something that I or this House say lightly. We are the first EU member state to do so, but it reflects the huge concern we have about the intent of the actions and, of course, their impact.
Having looked at these developments, the Government and I engaged in good faith with Sinn Féin and quite a number of NGOs on this motion before it was tabled. We had hoped an all-party motion could emerge from Dáil Éireann but that was not possible. The stumbling block was, unfortunately, Sinn Féin’s refusal and inability to condemn the actions of Hamas in indiscriminately firing rockets into Israel and killing innocent civilians. Our amendment is clear and simple. It amends the motion to condemn the killing of civilians by both sides in this conflict and I urge Opposition Members to support the sentiment that emerges from this Oireachtas. I am deeply troubled that the main Opposition party in this House cannot bring itself to denounce the actions of Hamas. I am deeply troubled that Sinn Féin will not even call on Hamas to respect international law and will not denounce the killing of Israeli children by Hamas. The Government amendment simply brings the necessary balance to this motion so that we can support the overall motion when amended.
Ireland has been vocal in its opposition to the threatened evictions in East Jerusalem and expansion of settlements more generally, both of which have contributed to the current events and have done damage to prospects for a two-state solution. I highlighted this and the issue of illegal settlements at the EU Foreign Affairs Council last week. Ireland and the EU have consistently called on the Israeli Government to uphold its international legal obligations, including under the Fourth Geneva Convention, on the treatment of civilian populations, particularly in occupied territory.
At the UN Security Council, we have urged Israel to halt continued settlement expansion, demolition activity and evictions in East Jerusalem. I have underlined at the Council that continued settlement activity is not only illegal but also erodes trust between Palestinians and Israelis. Tomorrow, with Irish support, there will be a special session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on the grave human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. Ireland will support an independent international commission of inquiry into the matter. I also spoke on the issue with White House National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, and US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who were both passing through Shannon Airport last night. We had nearly three hours of discussion. Secretary Blinken was on his way to the Middle East. The Security Council meets again this Thursday for a monthly briefing on the Palestinian question and Ireland will continue our engagement.
As I said earlier, returning to the status quo is no longer an option but that will happen by default without sustained political attention to resolve the underlying problems. Without this, the cycle of violence will continue as it has done for decades. Repressive, discriminatory and provocative policies and actions take us further away than ever from the prospect of achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. Breaking the cycle of repression and hatred is integral to achieving a peace settlement. Progress requires dialogue and ultimately there can be no substitute for direct negotiations between both parties. It is time to look afresh at how the international community can really assist Israelis and Palestinians to bring new thinking and a new momentum to resolving this conflict and to ensuring equitable treatment for both peoples. I hope this House will unite and support the Government, along with other parties in this House, in our joint efforts.
Perhaps there is no other western country in the world whose people feel the same sense of solidarity with the Palestinian people quite as do the people of Ireland. As we watch in horror as bombs are dropped on Palestinian homes, hospitals and media outlets, we feel their pain and critically, we know that as Irish people we have a duty to shout "Stop". As Irish people we do not have the luxury to pretend we do not know or understand. We have a duty to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine and call the Israeli actions out for what they are, and that is apartheid. We have seen the continued Israeli settlement expansion, the forced expulsions and the refusal to grant the right of return to Palestinian refugees. Israel says it wants peace. It says it wants a viable two-state solution but actions speak louder than words and, by God, are its actions loud. It continues to place its heavily fortified settlements on Palestinian land. It has divided up the West Bank into Bantustans with military checkpoints. It consistently lays siege to Gaza and it does all of this under the pretext of self-defence. Palestine is the tragedy of our time. The peace activist Hanan Ashwari has said that the absence of international sanctions has enabled the creation of a horror in Gaza. It is a living horror and yet prominent politicians across the world engage in bad-faith false equivalence. They use language around this conflict that is designed to obscure what is going on. They talk about Israel’s right to security. Israel is a nuclear power with the fourth largest standing army in the world. What about Palestine’s right to security? In Gaza, only one in ten people has direct access to clean water. We have seen the horrific bombings. Does that look like a secure existence? We hear talk in the media of clashes and ceasefires, which creates the false impression that this is a conflict between equal forces. It is anything but. It is a struggle between a coloniser and the oppressed. It is a struggle for self-determination versus a harsh and brutal system of apartheid. This July will mark 37 years since Dunnes Stores workers here in Ireland stood against apartheid. Let Ireland once again stand up to an apartheid regime and pass this motion.
A philosopher once wrote that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana is also known to have said that "Only the dead have seen the end of war". Those are two very appropriate sayings for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I recently watched two films, namely, "Schindler's List" and "Born in Gaza". There are many similarities between them but one that stood out to me was the use of gravestones as paving in a concentration camp in "Schindler's List" and very similar headstones in "Born in Gaza", when children visited the grave of their father who had been killed while they were there to water his plants. Both films are horrific and tell the stories of the ethnic cleansing of people who were very inconveniently in the way.
The international community must do more if we are not to be condemned to repeat history. Have we not learned lessons from Bosnia and Kosovo? We must address the root causes of the conflict, the occupation of Palestinian land, the displacement of the Palestinian people, the continued blockade of the occupied territories and the endless cycle of violence, which is inevitable if we do not act now.
Since 1967, Israeli authorities have uprooted more than 800,000 olive trees from an area five times the size of the Curragh of Kildare. They have targeted farmers to discourage them and their families from remaining on their own land. Ireland was instrumental in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and we must stand up for the Palestinian people. It is time to honour the commitment to recognise the Palestinian state. It is time to enact the occupied territories Bill and to ban imports from land that has been stolen from ordinary Palestinian families. The countries of the world have shown that they can work together to solve problems like Covid-19 and climate change and to respond to natural disasters. We must turn our efforts to a two-state solution for Palestine. Israel is breaking international law and there must be consequences for that.
The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas of the world. Over 2 million people are squeezed into an area smaller than County Louth, the smallest county in Ireland. The people of Gaza are discriminated against and humiliated by the Israelis on a daily basis. There has been a land, air and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip since the early 1990s, which has resulted in great hardship for its residents and has led to a serious deterioration in the population's living conditions. This has been made worse by the global pandemic. At the end of April, fewer than 2% of Gaza's population had received at least one dose of a vaccine, compared to over 60% of the Israeli population. Vaccinations were stopped during the recent conflict and it was impossible to carry out testing. There is a real concern that the enclave could be hit by a third wave of Covid-19. Dozens of schools that became shelters during the conflict are now feared to be super-spreaders. Israel's disproportionate response of carrying out attacks on clearly identifiable civilian areas and complexes led to the deaths of at least 222 people, including 63 children. In a ten-day period, Israel destroyed more than 450 buildings in the Gaza Strip. Among those destroyed buildings were six hospitals, nine healthcare centres and a water desalination plant that supplied around 250,000 Palestinians with clean drinking water. Israeli forces also targeted a tower that housed various media outlets, including the Al Jazeera network and the Associated Press. Some 74,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, are now homeless as a result of these targeted Israeli attacks on the civilian population. These attacks by Israel violate international human rights standards. They are nothing less than war crimes, as defined under international law, and as such there is both individual and state responsibility for them. The state of Israel and those individuals responsible for the planning and carrying out of these actions should be held accountable for these war crimes.
The kidnapping of a young journalist by Belarus was met with loud shouts from the Government and the EU about the need for swift action, sanctions and severe consequences. The Taoiseach said the kidnapping was a state-sponsored coercive act and that the EU would respond very strongly. These strong words and plans for actions and sanctions contrast starkly with the weak and watery position and language directed at Israel for the murder and terror inflicted on Palestine over 11 days, which killed 248 Palestinians. Yesterday, EU leaders agreed a range of sanctions and actions against Belarus almost overnight. However, all we heard about from the Government during the slaughter and terror in Palestine was building consensus, how now was not the right time to recognise the state of Palestine and that we could not introduce sanctions. It is shocking but hardly surprising. The Minister and I know - we all know - that no consensus will be reached because Israel and its sponsors do not want consensus. They want to wipe out Palestine and make a two-state solution impossible. The Government talks about a two-state solution yet only recognises one of those states, and that is the apartheid, racist terror state that is Israel. US President Joe Biden has said in the past that there is no space between the United States and Israel. Over the last week, this Government has shown that there is no space between it and Israel and that there is no space between the EU and Israel. If we are going to stop the slaughter in Palestine, we need to recognise the state of Palestine. We need to implement Senator Black's occupied territories Bill. We need to boycott Israel, we need divestment from Israel and sanctions against it. We need to make it clear to Israel that its land grabs and annexation do not have Ireland's support and that when it grabs land from people and takes other people's homes, there will be consequences because until now there have been none.
I commend the Sinn Féin Party on tabling this motion and providing the time for this House to debate one of the most important moral issues the world has to face.
Labour Party Deputies are very proud to co-sign and support this motion. It has been worked on for some time, with the support of a number of external groups. The focus of the motion in recent weeks has been on the systematic undermining, if not the shattering, of the basis of a two-state solution to the generations of conflict and violence which have occurred between Israel and Palestine, the Israelis and the Palestinians.
We in Ireland know full well that peace can only be brought about when an acceptable situation is negotiated, embraced and agreed for both parties involved. Lasting sustainable peace cannot be achieved through repression or force of arms. One may suppress matters for a time but, ultimately, there is no lasting sustainable peace or comfort for anybody involved. The long-sought goal of two separate and sovereign states with equal rights for all, a true and permanent home for all Israelis and Palestinians, with each State and each people having the inalienable entitlement to live in peace, without threat or intimidation, and being able to develop to its fullest potential, without let or hindrance, and according to its capacity and likes; surely that is the hope and legitimate expectation of every Palestinian, and every Israeli too.
The achievable prospect of that vision, long sought by the international community, has been systematically undermined by an Israeli Government intent on eliminating a viable Palestinian state through forced evictions and the supplanting of population. Through deliberate and calculated brutal action, the Israeli Government has sought to undermine the agreed international objective of the creation of two peaceful states, side by side. The policy of the Netanyahu government, forcefully supported by the former President of the United States, Donald Trump, was to act in defiance of international law and, in fact, to break international law with impunity.
The situation became immeasurably more urgent with the escalation of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in recent weeks. We looked on with horror yet again as civilians were killed, including women and, as far as we can count, at least 65 children. The pictures we have all witnessed of innocent children at play in their own homes and streets being killed and maimed is unacceptable and shocking. The notion that every effort is being made to avoid civilian casualties is belied by the reality on the ground and the horror that has been witnessed by everybody in the world.
Last week in this House, I said a ceasefire would come when Israel decided that it had destroyed all it wanted to destroy. That ceasefire thankfully happened on Friday. It was predictable, but we cannot now simply let our focus be removed from the ongoing festering wound in world affairs that is the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Periodic condemnation is simply not enough. I welcome the words spoken by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, today. I genuinely believe that he has worked extraordinarily hard, not only in recent weeks but since he took office, to build consensus at the United Nations and at European Union level. As has become patently clear, however, it is virtually impossible to get consensus at the Security Council because the United States will veto a strong and coherent statement. Taking two weeks to provide a press statement is shocking, and it undermines the principles which led to the establishment of the United Nations in the first instance. Countries such as Hungary, and others, at the EU Council also prevent a common position emerging there.
Last week, I also cited the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund's decision to stop funding companies involved in the development of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. If we cannot bring others with us, we need to be the vanguard of action ourselves. The root cause of conflict must be addressed, not only the symptoms which inevitably bubbly up periodically under the repression of an entire people who have been corralled into an area and are not even allowed to fish in their own territorial seas. Many young Palestinians have never visited or set foot in Jerusalem, the capital they aspire.
Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, stated on Sunday that “the root causes of the conflict, the occupation, the displacement, of which we had a strong reminder in East Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah, the blockade and the cycle of violence – this sense of normality will only be a mirage until the next conflict." Let us now resolve in this House, if need be, to act ourselves on this moral imperative for all of us. I genuinely believe the Irish people are united on this issue. We should not accept the mirage of normality, to borrow the words of the UNRWA Commissioner-General. We know that mirage is not the reality and it is not the truth.
If we are to allow the notion, and the objective and legitimate expectation, of the Palestinian people to have their own state and live in peace, as well as the legitimate, reasonable and proper expectation of the people of Israel to have their own state, without fear of intimidation or threat, and if we believe that is not only a desirable goal but one which is achievable, let us take whatever actions we now need to take. Even if those actions are ineffective because we are a small country acting alone, to ensure we show our absolute rejection of the undermining of a two-state solution, the annexation of Palestinian land and the eviction by settlers by force of arms of Palestinian people, some of whom have been promised that land since they were first uprooted from their original homeland in the 1940s, let us act in this House tomorrow, in concert and with determination and a unified voice.
The Social Democrats is supporting this motion. We are proud to co-sign it, as presented by Sinn Féin and a number of different charities and NGOs working in the field.
I imagine there is no silence as deafening as that invoked by a ceasefire. What sound does a person hear when bombs stop being dropped, when screams are not heard for the first time in weeks and when fighter jets are not screeching overhead, threatening the lives of people and children in one of the most densely-populated areas on earth? It was interesting to look at the newspapers today. For the first time in over two weeks, there was no mention on the front pages of the conflict in Gaza that claimed so many lives only last week. During the horrors of the latest round of violence to be inflicted on the Palestinian people, the Irish people stood in shocked disbelief that one group of people could treat another with such barbarism and inhumanity. We were horrified by the death toll. As of today, the number of people killed in Gaza by precision missile strikes stands at 248, 66 of whom were children. Almost 2,000 people were wounded in one of the most densely-populated places on the planet. One cannot help but imagine the carnage that rained down on the people of Gaza from the sky in the form of million-pound missiles.
Images of the past two weeks will live long in all of our memories. We saw buildings being reduced to rubble from which bodies were pulled. We tried to make sense of the death toll and the number of children being killed, and entire families being clearly targeted. In some instances, three and four generations of Palestinian families were quite clearly lined up for extermination by the Israeli Defence Force, which was not only targeting the fighters but also, in many cases, children and their parents. We tried to make sense of how a country that presents itself as a modern democracy could destroy a building that contains a news outlet and journalists tasked with reporting on the conflict. We tried to make sense of how Israel could continue to expel families from their homes and meet the protest of those families and their communities with rubber bullets. We tried to make sense of how a modern democracy could storm a place of worship during the holiest period of the year for the people who were praying there and not see it as anything other than what it was, a provocation. We saw batons, rubber bullets, skunk water and precision missiles being used in response to the Palestinians having the audacity to oppose forced expulsions and for confronting the storming of their holiest sites. As already stated, 248 were killed, including 66 children. A population of over 2 million was terrorised. Today, the attention of the world has seemingly moved on.
Another authoritarian regime attacked the free press this week. Clearly, the world can only see one despot at a time. The tyrant in Belarus of whom I speak sent an F-16 fighter jet effectively to force a Ryanair plane to perform a rendition flight so that a young journalist could be kidnapped in an egregious act of state piracy over the skies of Belarus. The response from the EU Council yesterday was swift, prompt and just. However, one could not help but note the contrast that bordered on hypocrisy, given the meekness of the international response to the savagery of the Israeli Government towards the people of Gaza over the last number of weeks, months, years and decades. President Lukashenko of Belarus had the plane hijacked and the journalist kidnapped in a grotesque act that has met with sanctions and international boycotts of Belarusian airspace and a unified condemnation by world leaders. The fighter jets of Benjamin Netanyahu bombed the bureaus of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press just last week. The only collective response on which the world could agree was a meek call for a calming of hostilities on both sides. For this crime, there will be no sanctions, boycotts or divestments that target the pockets of the perpetrators. The world seems to have moved on very quickly. It has moved on from the scenes of destruction and death that we saw being inflicted upon the people and children of Gaza just last week.
Today, though, through our Parliament, the Irish people get to make a stand. We can give words and meaning to what our eyes can see clearly. It will be significant that the Irish Parliament, through its representatives, recognises that what Israel is doing in East Jerusalem and the West Bank represents a de factounlawful annexation of these territories. It is important that we do this now and that we do not equivocate as we do so. We must be unified in our message that Israeli actions will no longer go unchallenged - if not by the international community, then certainly be by the people of Ireland who remain horrified by the barbarism that we witnessed. While the world seems to have turned its attention elsewhere, the people of Gaza remain under effective siege. The bulldozers are still moving into East Jerusalem, where opposition to their presence is crushed, and families in Sheikh Jarrah are still being forced from their homes.
We, as a truly modern and vibrant democracy, in recognising that an annexation has been carried out by the State of Israel on the Palestinian territories, are undertaking an important act that will reverberate around the world and will hopefully have some meaning for the people who are being displaced from their land. I hope that we continue to speak truth to power in this manner and go further in our condemnation of the Israeli state and its Government for their actions in this regard.
Last week, I spoke in this Chamber of how diplomacy fails when children are being blown up in their beds. It should never be forgotten that all of our hopes are for a peaceful two-State solution to this decades-long crisis. However, it is naive in the extreme to think that the right-wing hawks in the Israeli Government are interested in such an endeavour when they continue their occupation of, and illegal expansion into, Palestinian territory, and continue to inflict persecution and a form of apartheid on the Palestinian peoples in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Once again, I call on the Government and the State to avoid being temperate in their language or condemnation. I call for them to speak truth in whatever form it comes. I welcome the fact that across the Chamber we will agree that a form of annexation is taking place. That is important.
I gave great consideration to the Government's amendment but I will not be supporting it on the grounds that it equates to a form of "both sidesism". Of course, we condemn Hamas for firing rockets into Israeli territory and acknowledge that 12 Israelis have died in this conflict. We condemn that in all of its forms. However, not to see the disproportionality in the response from the Israeli Government would be to be meek, to create a false equivalence and to give the false impression that both sides are equal in this endeavour, when one has access Iron Dome military defences and a billion-dollar armoury that is funded by the US among others and the other is a population that is living in one of the poorest and most densely-populated parts of the world and is being bombed and targeted.
Once again, I wish to refer to what is happening in Gaza as a form of state-sponsored terrorism. Two weeks ago, Human Rights Watch referred to the situation unfolding in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a form of apartheid. We must remember that and acknowledge it. We must be deliberate in our responses to it.
I welcome the position the Minister is adopting today. It is brave and it is a stance that will reverberate around the world. However, the Government must go further. Now is the time to enact the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018. We simply cannot accept that an annexation is happening but state that business will continue as usual. It cannot. We cannot trade in an area of the world in which we now recognise that an annexation is taking place. It has been a point well made, but we cannot call for a two-state solution and continue to fail to recognise Palestine as a state in its own right. I will go further than that and call for an Irish ambassador to be placed in Ramallah. It would be a most significant and important step to take.
Last week, I took the decision to co-sponsor a motion that was brought by People Before Profit calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. It was not a decision that I took lightly, but it is one that I stand over. I wish to speak on this issue in the time remaining. I believe that Israel is an apartheid state that is engaging in a brutal assault on Gaza, the most densely-populated internment camp in the world. I reiterate that 248 people were killed in the recent bombardment, many of whom were children. Of the 66 children who died, 11 were participating in a Norwegian Refugee Council programme that provides support to children in Gaza to help them deal with trauma. These innocents, who were already emotionally and physically scarred from previous violence, died under Israeli missiles. Many died under burning rubble, with their entire extended families. The Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres, stated: "If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza." Those are strong words, but where was the action against Israel for inflicting this hell on those children?
The response of the international community to the carnage in Gaza has been shameful and craven. The UN Security Council could not even agree to release a statement calling for a ceasefire. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, has stated that the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador would not be helpful. I strongly argue that words or platitudes would not be helpful.
Prior to the latest assault, Israel had been engaged in the forced eviction of Palestinian as it continued to expand its illegal settlements. There comes a time when inaction in the face of relentless human rights abuses and war crimes becomes complicity.
Most importantly, this will send the message to the people of Gaza that we support them and are with them.
I intend to move the People Before Profit amendment No. 1 to this motion. I am sharing time with Deputies Gino Kenny, Bríd Smith and Barry.
I thank Sinn Féin for introducing its motion. It makes many very important points about the annexation of territory in the West Bank and Jerusalem seized by Israel after 1967. However, our amendment, and I will mainly speak to that, seeks to go further because we believe the crimes of Israel go beyond that. They need to be called out as they are. Most importantly, we need action to hold Israel accountable for those crimes and to play our part in ending the criminal behaviour of Israel in respect of the Palestinians. To put it simply in the short time I have, we believe the Israeli ambassador should be expelled as part of a comprehensive package of economic, political and cultural sanctions against Israel for war crimes, ongoing systematic ethnic cleansing not just since 1967 but from the foundation of the state in 1948 and for being a fundamentally apartheid state in its basic laws and practices, particularly laws such as the Israeli law of return and the basic nation state law.
There is no equivalence between the two sides. Indeed, there is not two sides in this conflict. It is not a conflict. There is the apartheid state of Israel that has sought to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people since its foundation in 1948. It has continued that campaign, practises systematic apartheid and has repeated relentless war crimes against the Palestinian people. We now must treat the Israeli apartheid state in the same way as we treated apartheid South Africa. For goodness sake, today there is talk of EU sanctions against Belarus, which is quite right. However, Israel has systematic apartheid policies, commits war crimes repeatedly in Gaza and ethnically cleanses the Palestinian people on an ongoing and systematic basis, yet people do not call for sanctions or for the expulsion of the ambassador. It is not acceptable and we must call it out clearly.
The only just solution is the return of the Palestinian refugees, as guaranteed under international law, to the places from which they were expelled in 1948, and the self-determination of the Palestinian people. That has to be achieved through a complete and comprehensive boycott of the apartheid state of Israel through a campaign similar to the one conducted against apartheid South Africa. Anything less is meaningless. Sure, we must call out the annexation since 1967, but the truth is that the entire Israeli project is a criminal project of ethnic cleansing and extermination of the Palestinian people and their attempt at national self-determination. It cannot be allowed to continue. My appeal is to expel the ambassador and impose those sanctions until there is true freedom, justice and self-determination for the Palestinian people.
I thank Sinn Féin for proposing this motion and the NGOs that put the motion together. We have had many duels with the Minister in this Chamber about this matter. I have said that I do not doubt the Minister's sincerity in this regard; what I doubt is his policy of appeasing apartheid Israel. It does not work, and it never will. One cannot appease racists and murderers. Even today, the hypocrisy of the European Union is unbelievable. It says it will sanction Belarus. A number of days ago Israel was murdering children. Over 65 children were murdered by the Israeli state. How can one quantify that? At the same time, the EU has a trade agreement with Israel that is worth billions per year, and it is never sanctioned. How is that right? It cannot be right. South Africa was isolated as a result of sanctions and international solidarity because people knew that the system was absolutely rotten to the core. Israel is the same. We must stand with the Palestinian people and say what Israel is all about. It is a racist state and it must be isolated.
I attended the two very large demonstrations in Dublin city during the last two Saturdays along with the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and many Palestinians who live here. I also have a friend who lives in one of the towns that was under attack for ethnic cleansing by the Zionist militia when the latest phase of ethnic cleansing broke out. I telephoned him to see how he and his Palestinian wife and children were. He said: "It is unbelievable, Bríd. If you could imagine, in your homes in Ballyfermot, marauding gangs that are armed to the teeth, with American, Russian, French and Canadian accents, coming down your street, protected by the police who will allow them to do anything, and running into your homes, throwing your family out and claiming your homes and gardens, that is literally what is going on." That is what ethnic cleansing means. I thought about that a great deal. What in the name of God would we do but scream for international support?
This is a new phase in the battle by the Zionist militias and the Netanyahu Government to make that country a Jewish-only country. When I say that, some will point the finger and say I am an anti-Semite. There is no way that I am an anti-Semite. As a young woman, I spent many months of my life defending the Jewish population against Holocaust denial, which was creeping into this country in the form of the far right. There is no way one can equate an attack on the Zionist pogroms against the Arab people with being anti-Semitic. That is what people tried to do to Jeremy Corbyn and others, but they will not do it now. This is a new phase, and a new phase internationally. We must wake up, smell the coffee, be absolutely 1,000% with the Palestinian people and call for the ultimate sanctions - the ultimate sanction of expulsion of the ambassador, the ultimate sanction of imposing boycott, divestment, sanctions, BDS, on Israel and the ultimate sanction of full solidarity.
We now have a ceasefire in the Middle East but there is no cessation of occupation, no cessation of oppression and no cessation of the forcible denial of the rights of the Palestinian people. In the past week, the Palestinian people will have clearly seen their allies and their enemies. The most obvious enemy is the Israeli capitalist state and its ruling class, which implement an oppressive regime of occupation, siege, racism and apartheid. Then there are the major capitalist and imperialist powers, led by the United States and the states of the European Union, that arm and back the regime. For them the Israeli state, the fourth largest military power in the world, is an asset which they can use to continue to dominate and economically exploit the Middle East, as they have done for over a century, resulting in conflict, wars and the impoverishment of its people. Despite their past rhetoric, the other corrupt repressive regimes of the Middle East are not friends of the Palestinian people. They dutifully defend and uphold an economic, social and political order which defends the interests of their super rich and those of the multinationals and oil companies that exploit the region.
The real allies of the Palestinians were seen in the inspiring mass protests in recent weeks in cities as diverse as Dhaka, New York, Baghdad, London and cities across Ireland. They were seen through the decision of the Italian dock workers who refused to handle arms destined for Israel, and the strike action taken by South African dockers against the massacre taking place in Gaza. A key ally is the working class and oppressed in the Middle East, Arab, Iranian, Turkish, Kurdish and others. Crucially, a key potential ally was seen in the actions of Israeli Jewish workers and young people who joined the public demonstrations that united Jews and Palestinians under the banner, "We Refuse to be Enemies".
The Palestinian masses will rely on their own strength to advance their own cause, strength shown in the Palestinian general strike last week. However, the past week has shown clearly who will be their friends, who can be their friends and who will be their enemies.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this emotional subject. It is important that we reflect on the violence we have seen on our television screens over the past number of weeks. I condemn violence from anybody. A situation where innocent children, men and women are being killed is not the way to do business, no matter the cause. We have seen this situation recur. It is important for us to reflect on the fact that this country has had a lot of struggles and death. Many innocent people have been killed. However, we have got to a stage, through consensus, where we understand that we must respect one another and live together. We must make sure that violence does not return to our country.
Our experience and position as a member of the UN Security Council make it our responsibility to lead efforts to find lasting solutions to conflict. We can do that. Everybody in the House and country would stand with the Minister and Government in trying to lead efforts to provide a peaceful solution. It is not easy. The allies we need are the UN, the European Union and the United States. The whole motivation behind any action is to achieve a lasting peace that will allow people to live together and respect one another.
There is an opportunity to do this now. A ceasefire is in place. The next step will be delivering humanitarian aid to the people who have suffered so much over the past number of weeks. The third step will be to get meaningful negotiations in place. The first item on the agenda must be respect for fellow human beings. We are not here for any reason other than to live together.
The situation also reminds us that the Irish troops who work in UN peacekeeping roles all over the world need to be commended. They have kept peace in places across the world and we do not even think about it. It is only when we see violence that we realise the destruction it causes and how horrific it can be to watch people suffering. It is important that Ireland takes advantage of the privileged position it is in and the respect we have across the world as a result of our UN peacekeeping missions. We must use all that influence across the globe to try to get consensus on achieving peace.
When there is strife in any part of the world and people are dislodged from their homes, we must look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we have treated the asylum seekers who have come to this country fairly. Many of them have come here as a result of war in their home countries. They have been discommoded, taken out of their countries and dispersed to the four corners of the earth. We must look at the direct provision centres in this country and how we have treated asylum seekers who have come here. I am not proud of what is going on in modern Ireland. We must find a better way of dealing with asylum seekers.
I offer my support to the Minister in everything he does. I know he will act genuinely to ensure we reach a global consensus on this difficult issue. I hope we will see peace return, and a lasting peace at that.
I thank Deputy Brady for bringing this important motion before the House. It gives us another opportunity to discuss and debate this important matter, particularly in light of the significant events of the past number of days. I welcome last week’s ceasefire and the tentative cessation of hostilities that it has brought about. While I appreciate it is early days yet, the truce, thankfully, appears to be sticking. I urge all sides to respect, protect and support that truce because it is all we have. It is the only hope we have and it is a first step towards, and indeed a precondition for, a lasting peace in the region.
My only regret is that the truce did not come soon enough for the hundreds of people who were unnecessarily killed, on both sides of this conflict, the vast majority of whom were innocent women and children. It is, however, self-evident from the casualty roll that the vast majority of casualties were on the Palestinian side. The vast majority were civilian. People were killed and seriously wounded. It disproportionately affected the Palestinian people in Gaza. As a doctor, I know that the worst way to die is unnecessarily and the events of the last few weeks only serve to confirm and emphasise that important point.
It is important that humanitarian aid is now allowed to flow freely and unimpeded into Gaza. I welcome the Minister's comments last week in which he announced additional humanitarian assistance for the region. An extra €1 million will go to UNRWA and an additional €500,000 will go to UNICEF. That funding is badly needed and I encourage all nations in the world to follow Ireland's lead in that regard. Gaza needs massive assistance as soon as possible, preferably now.
Now that the crisis phase of this tragedy has passed, we need to shift focus to the root causes of the problem. As terrible and all as the events of the past few weeks have been, we must remember that they are only the symptoms of the crisis and that the underlying cause must be tackled. The cause of the conflict is downright poverty, injustice, inequality, hopelessness and, most important and more significantly, the malign interference in the region by the great powers. Unless we tackle these root causes, the conflict will inevitably persist. We must focus on those areas.
I would like to see the European Union take on a more active role in solving this crisis. It is no longer enough to be an interested observer or to leave the problem to the great powers. As we all know, the great powers' interest in the Middle East has to do with self-interest, not with the interests of the people who live there.
I thank Deputy Brady again for bringing forward this important motion and I wish the Minister, Deputy Coveney, well with his shuttle diplomacy as he seeks to kick-start the Middle East peace process by breaking the Iranian nuclear deal impasse. I wish him the best of luck in that regard.
We have all seen across our news channels and social media the images of children, women and men who are being left distraught at what has happened between Israel and Palestine. In the past nine days or so, 66 children have been killed. That is 66 children too many. Nearly 450 buildings in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or badly damaged, including six hospitals and nine primary care health centres, since this conflict began. A United Nations humanitarian agency has said that some 48,000 of the 52,000 displaced people have gone to 58 schools run by the United Nations.
In 2017, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Clarles Flanagan, said:
Ireland's views on Israeli settlements couldn’t be clearer. Indeed, the views of the international community on settlements couldn’t be clearer – they are comprehensively set out in UN Security Council Resolution 2334 and in the declaration of the Paris Conference ... [at which he had participated]. These settlements are illegal, they actively undermine the prospects for a sustainable negotiated two-state solution, and the relentless expansion of settlements inherently involves injustice and provocation for Palestinians.
In 2017, Deputy Flanagan also called for Israel to reverse the decision to build more settlements and to commit to the two-state solution. Ireland was one of eight EU member states to express explicit support for the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 2017 on the settlements, which involves the compilation of a database of all businesses and enterprises that have enabled or profited from the creation and growth of Israeli settlements.
I, too, issue my comhghairdeas to the Sinn Féin Party and, indeed, to Deputy Martin Kenny for bringing forward this motion. I know the Deputy has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to try to get as much support and achieve as much unanimity as possible. We had that, or as near as possible to it, in a debate here last week. As I said then, since independence, Ireland has had a proud record of being neutral country. We were recognised worldwide and our diaspora abroad was very proud of that. I salute and thank our peacekeeping forces, from those in the Congo when I was a buachaill óg right up to the present day, for the way in which they commit to and carry out their well-recognised, sterling duties of peacekeeping in very troubled areas.
Our history teaches us about the situation in Northern Ireland and the conflict from 1969 to 1998 where more than 3,000 lives were lost. One life lost because of political difference is one life too many. That is not to mention the women and children, homes, hospitals and primary care centres, and the savagery that apartheid Israel - one can call it nothing else - has perpetrated. The demolition and destruction of the Palestinian people is just mind-boggling and shocking.
We have a ceasefire, thankfully, after eight or perhaps nine days. It is a fragile peace but the guns and bombs are not going off. There is still an incremental takeover, wipe-out and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, however. This is not acceptable in a modern world. Our voice must be heard more loudly and clearly. With our seat on the UN Security Council, we must be able to be proud and find our feet again as an independent neutral nation. We must not be afraid of vested interests and global interests and not be kowtowing to European global interests.
Call it what it is - ethnic cleansing. It is an apartheid as bad as that under Mugabe in South Africa. It is nothing short of that. It must be stopped because the children and because of our children. We do not know the day or the hour when we will be in some kind of perilous situation and need small nations around the world to show empathy, courage and bravery to try to stand up for us.
I was very disappointed in the new President of America, Joe Biden, whose words were quite measly when he half-condemned Israel but then said he also recognised the situation in Israel for what it is. The Americans are obviously welded to the Israelis and are supporting their might. They are arming them and spending a fortune in that global trade of weapons of destruction. One could say weapons of mass destruction when one compares the might of Israel with the small area and small population of the Palestinian territories. They are weapons of mass destruction from that point of view.
Tá súil agam go mbeimid ábalta píosa beag a dhéanamh. I hope we will play a small part and for history to record that we did not stand idly by, as I said a week ago when quoting former Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, but that we played our part as a sovereign country and nation. We want this stopped now.
I fully support this motion and the amendments that have been tabled. I am sorry the Government did not see its way to supporting it. Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I will hand over to Deputy Connolly.
I am sharing time with Deputy Harkin, who has five minutes. Fáiltím roimh an deis páirt a ghlacadh sa díospóireacht seo. Fáiltím roimh an sos cogaidh freisin ach maraíodh na sluaite sular tháinig an sos cogaidh sin, de bharr nach raibh muidne in ann aon rud a dhéanamh mar nach raibh muid in ann ár nguth a úsáid.
I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate. I believe I have nine minutes when the clock is fixed; I am anxious to keep an eye on it. I thank Sinn Féin for working hard on the ground to get cross-party support for this motion, which I believe it is very important. I also see where People Before Profit is coming from with my own sense of impatience but I went with trying to get the most voices on board. I believe the Israeli ambassador needs to be hauled in. I see where People Before Profit is coming from but I will stick to this motion for the moment.
I welcome the ceasefire, which I actually spoke about last week. It is difficult to speak on this topic without getting emotional. I welcome the work the Minister has done on it. I welcome the extra time given to me by the Rural Independent Group because it is difficult to put emotion aside and actually focus in on what we are talking about.
We have a ceasefire but only after 248 Palestinian people lost their lives, 66 of whom were children, 39 women and 17 elderly people. Of course, I condemn the loss of life in Israel equally. The imbalance of power is absolutely palpable, however. Look at the figures, and again, I am not comparing one death with another. The killing of 12 Israeli people, including two children and an Israeli soldier who lost his life, must be condemned. We cannot ignore the figures and the imbalance of power, however. Neither can we ignore the swift action from Europe and from our own country with regard to what has been described as piracy in the skies.
I honestly read with utter disbelief today that Europe acted as one with 27 voices. Nobody was killed. What happened is certainly deplorable and I condemn it. Nobody lost their lives, however, and yet 27 European countries stood together to strongly condemn the forced landing in Belarus. We called it piracy in the sky. The Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, reflected on the erosion of democratic norms.
There is an article in The Irish Timestoday by a former ambassador and, significantly, there is not a single line on Gaza. It has gone off the front page and the inside pages. That amount of life is not worthy of a comment but we have a half page from a former ambassador, significantly, telling us that the threat from what happened with the Belarusian Government is a threat to a rule-based international order. He actually quotes Bob Dylan and talks about the sound of thunder rolling out as a warning. Significantly, that gentleman, and other men and women like him, have failed to talk about the thunder in the sky that led to the deaths of babies, children, women and elderly people in Palestine. No standing together for that but we can stand together all of a sudden with regard to piracy in the sky and a threat to rule-based democracy. What rules govern the behaviour of Israel? What rules govern our response to Israel when one looks at the background with regard to Palestine?
I do not have time but I will look back at some of the events. I have absolutely no hesitation in condemning the actions of Hamas and its rockets into Israel. Since 2007, Israel has launched major offensives. Does the Minister know what they called it? "Mowing the lawn". During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, between 8 July and 22 August, 2,104 Palestinians were killed. The small numbers killed on the Israeli side were equally unacceptable. The imbalance is clear to be seen, however. I refer to Operation Pillar of Defense; this is an abuse of language.
Between 14 and 21 November 2012, 167 Palestinians were killed in that operation, including 87 civilians. Six Israelis were killed, two of them soldiers and four civilians. Operation Cast Lead took place in 2008-09 and I ask the Minister to consider the name of that operation. Between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, an estimated 1,391 Palestinians were killed, including in the region of 759 civilians, 344 of them children and 110 women. How many Israelis were killed? Thirteen - ten soldiers and three civilians. Only one side has clearly violated international law. When Israel acts, we call it self-defence. When the Palestinians act, we call what they do acts of terrorism. Surely the least the Minister might do is help to clarify language in this area?
I am not sure why he is not supporting this motion. I would describe it as a very modest and moderate motion. Indeed, I would have liked it to go further. However, as I said at the beginning, I am supporting it in the interest of unity in this small Parliament in this small country, in the hope that it will use its one voice and its moral courage to stand up to what Israel is doing. My empathy, going back, has always been with the Jewish nation. That is what we were reared on. However, what has happened in regard to Palestine is simply butchery and it is unacceptable. It is a blatant breach of international law. Words fail me in this regard, which is unusual, particularly in terms of the language used regarding the piracy in the sky and the action in Belarus.
More than 100,000 people have had to leave their homes. According to UNICEF, 800,000 people have no access to piped water. Infrastructure was deliberately targeted, including schools, churches, hospitals and clinics. The headquarters of the Ministry of Health was targeted directly. We are in trouble at the moment following a cyberattack on our computers because we foolishly did not act in time to protect them. We think we have problems. All of these bombs and this thunder in the sky are being inflicted on a civilian population. Yet we cannot act in unison, we who have a proud history of standing up to colonisation, and say with one voice, "Please, you cannot do this in our name". This is colonisation by Israel. It is illegal occupation.
The programme for Government commits to recognising the state of Palestine as part of a lasting settlement. It goes on to say, because the Government anticipated it would be necessary, "... or in advance of that, when we believe doing so will progress efforts to reach a two-state solution or protect the integrity of Palestinian territory." How long more is the Minister going to wait to protect the integrity of Palestinian territory? Will he wait until there is no territory left, not to mention the men, women and children whose lives will be lost? At what point is he going to come into the Dáil and tell us now is the time to protect the integrity of the Palestinian nation and fulfil the commitment given in the programme for Government?
I thank Deputy Brady for bringing forward this motion, to which I was happy to add my name. When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there are no easy answers. If there were, we would have found them by now. A two-state solution is the only solution but it only works where there is trust. There is no trust. We have seen one UN Security Council resolution after another flagrantly ignored and dismissed by Israel. We see Palestinians herded into the open prison of the Gaza Strip, often with no proper access to clean water, sanitation, energy or medical supplies.
Many Palestinians have no future. When you have no future, then you have no hope for the future. All you can do is revolt. This is not an equal conflict and it cannot be approached from that perspective. The reality of the hard-line oppression of Palestinians, the denial of their life choices and the denial of hope have created a cauldron of anger, bitterness and distrust. Annexation of stolen land, illegal settlements and forced evictions stoke the fires of conflict. This is a David and Goliath situation and we know it. We must recognise that the Palestinians are not blameless. However, we need to place the responsibility where it belongs, squarely on the shoulders of Israel.
There have been many attempts to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinians over the years. There have been many interventions by those who created the problems in the first place, when the British, French and Americans carved up the Middle East in their own interest. Today, self-interest is still the dominating influence on the policies of those countries, which have significantly involved oil, arms supplies and election outcomes, notably in the US. Self-interest, unfortunately, has almost always been a contributing factor to this conflict. Those who are responsible for the creation of the nations of Israel and Palestine are core veto holders of permanent seats on the UN Security Council.
I listened to what the Minister and Ambassador Byrne Nason had to say, both inside and outside the UN. I fully support the Minister but sometimes words are not enough. The pledge he made on Ireland's accession to the Security Council seat was powerful. He stated: "This means saying no at times and standing up for ourselves and our own principles, even when it is a friend coming calling." The power of those words will be immense if they are backed up. If we say "No", we must mean it. I recognise that it is easy for me to ask the Minister to act, but I do so in good faith and not in any attempt to back him into a corner. I believe his heart and head are in the right place.
Deputy Howlin spoke of the actions of the Norwegian wealth funds. The world's largest sovereign wealth fund has excluded two Israeli companies because of their construction work in the Gaza Strip. Norway's Council of Ethics, the independent body that advises this €1.3 trillion fund, stated: "[The] Israeli settlements in the West Bank have been built in violation of international law and... their existence and constant expansion causes significant harm and disadvantage to the area's Palestinian population." Its action is a small step but it matters. We also need to take a step. We could pass the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018), which would be a statement and a step. Whatever we do, we need to move beyond mere condemnation. We cannot salve our conscience with words or by sending aid. Both are necessary but not sufficient. We know they will not work and have never worked. We will not be alone if we take that step to action. I ask the Minister and his colleagues to take it. Even if we are alone, it will be the right thing to do and it will give heft to the words the Minister used on our accession to the Security Council seat. We need to say "No" and we need to mean it.
I thank Deputies for their statements on this important issue. The Government is deeply concerned at the intensification of violence in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel in the past two weeks.
We welcome the ceasefire on 21 May and I repeat the call of the Minister, Deputy Coveney, for its full and proper implementation, not least to ensure vital humanitarian can reach those in need. We have all looked on with horror at the scenes of destruction, death and fear that have been beamed across our television screens and across social media, the fireballs in the skyline of Gaza followed by dusty bodies of those who survived as they walk from the scene and the dusty bodies of those who did not. Those scenes of terrified women and children stand in stark contrast to the hard words of hard men, which so often dominate these discussions. The events of recent weeks have been shocking; most of all they have had a lasting and dreadful impact on Palestinian and Israeli civilians. The number of child casualties - over half of all civilian fatalities - is particularly deplorable. How can this be justified? The protection of all civilians is of paramount importance and indeed is an obligation under international humanitarian law.
As was outlined by the Minister, we support the substantive motion and our amendment seeks to strengthen it. The amendment proposed by the Government condemns these attacks and also addresses the disproportionate impact of Israeli strikes on civilians in the Gaza Strip. The impact on children is especially worrying, including the long-term psychosocial impact of the trauma. As many Deputies have raised today, the escalation has worsened an already difficult humanitarian situation. Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip may be targeted at terrorists but they hit homes, they hit schools, they hit hospitals and they hit basic facilities for the people of Gaza. The destruction of homes and damage to vital infrastructure such as roads, electricity networks and water installations is equally unacceptable. It is particularly concerning to hear that UNRWA buildings have damaged have been damaged during military operations in Gaza. UNRWA plays a vital humanitarian role in Gaza and needs to be protected and never targeted. We will receive an assessment from the Commissioner-General of UNRWA at the UN Security Council meeting on Thursday. The €1.5 million in additional funding from Irish Aid announced last week will support the UN in delivering emergency humanitarian supplies to those in acute need. The support for psychosocial services is particularly important as the toll of recent hostilities will be long-lasting. I would like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the dedicated staff of UNRWA and another UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, the Red Crescent and the NGOs which continue to provide critical services and support even in the most harrowing of circumstances. It is our duty to do all we can to protect them and ensure unimpeded access for all the vital humanitarian supplies they need to carry out their work. Ireland will continue its development support through the Irish Aid programme managed by our mission in Ramallah. This programme focuses on a number of key areas including education and the promotion of human rights, including support to the important role of civil society. This year Ireland will provide €10 million in funding through this channel in support of the Palestinian people.
As many Members have acknowledged, the underlying causes of the situation in Gaza are political and cannot be solved by funding alone. What is needed is the lifting of the blockade in order that normal life and normal economic activity can resume. Gaza faces many challenges but the blockade dominates people’s lives in Gaza to such an extent that it is difficult to address other issues. Israel’s continued strategy of expanding settlements and the discriminatory practices by Israeli authorities against Palestinians are also key underlying factors in the recent escalation and tensions in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel.
Today’s motion sends a clear signal of our opposition to Israel’s settlement policy, which is in breach of international law and undermines the viability of a two-state solution. It is our view that this in fact de facto annexation. The Human Rights Council is meeting in special session Geneva on Thursday to discuss the recent events in the occupied Palestinian territory. Ireland has supported the holding of this session. We fully support the need for an independent inquiry into these events. Ireland remains deeply concerned about the lack of accountability for violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory. There are many aspects of the Israeli occupation which raise human rights concerns and Ireland supports a range of Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations who are combating these issues directly on the ground.
Ireland has consistently and strongly opposed settlements at EU level and at the UN Security Council and will continue to do so. The Government's position on settlements is that we are absolutely opposed to them. Ireland distinguishes in all of its dealings between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967. UN Security Council Resolution 2334, adopted on 23 December 2016, calls on all states to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967. This resolution reflected the position already held by Ireland, the EU and the UN for many years. For example, the Horizon 2020 Agreement, signed by the European Commission and Israel in June 2014, states clearly in Article 6 that the agreement does not apply to the territory occupied by Israel in 1967.
As the Taoiseach said last week, diplomatic relations maintain the channels of communication and engagement with all governments, including those that we may disagree with or that might have different perspectives on issues. As has been said already, cutting diplomatic ties will not save the life of one Palestinian, or anyone else for that matter. The Government remains committed to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. As well as important initiatives like the motion before us today, it is also critical that the international community remains fully engaged, as only by ending the occupation will these problems truly be resolved.
Over the past fortnight, 213 people, including 61 children, have been killed in Gaza. The number of Palestinians wounded stands at 1,400, with tens of thousands being displaced from their homes, according to the United Nations. Rallies were held all over Ireland, including two in County Kerry; one was in Killarney and the other in my home town of Tralee, which is twinned with Beit Sahour in the West Bank. We sent a strong message of solidarity to them. The other rally I was at in the last fortnight was up in Gortaglanna in the north of the county, where four men were lined up and shot by the Black and Tans 100 years ago this week. One survived and was able to counter the narrative that there was a battle and that the Black and Tans had shot the three men in self-defence. With this motion we are countering the narrative that the State of Israel is acting in self-defence, the narrative that there were clashes between Palestinians and Israel, that the attacks by Israel were attacks on Hamas or that it is acceptable to bomb a building and kill 20 children because someone from Hamas is suspected to be present.
We in this county also know of gerrymandering, false majorities and about discrimination. Israel continues to refer to the Palestinians as a minority even though they are in the majority between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean. Israel maintains a veneer of democracy, even though many Palestinians are disenfranchised. The real story is that 750,000 Palestinians were removed from their homes in the 1940s. They were moved to refugee camps and according to Israel, those refugees have no connection to this land. The truth is that Jerusalem was illegally annexed in 1967 and the annexations continue to this day. The UN resolutions state that any actions to alter the status of Jerusalem are illegal. The story is that Israel continues to allow settlements to be constructed, contrary to international law. We know about the Jewish nation state law, enshrining Jewish superiority and further eroding the status of Palestinians, downgrading their language and promoting Jewish settlement. The truth is that attacks that kill 20 children are not self-defence under any recognised definition. The truth is that the international community, especially the USA and the UK, has let Israel away with it. I heard the Minister saying we will do all we can but I do not believe we are doing that. Israel is acting with impunity. Palestinians have little power. Bob Dylan was mentioned. We are standing in the doorway and we are blocking up the hall rather than doing anything about this properly. We must formally recognise the state of Palestine, implement the occupied territories Bill and demand the right of return. We are on the UN Security Council so we need implement resolutions. We need to send a strong message now. To quote Ian Brown from the Stone Roses:
How many mothers to cry?
How many sons have to die?
How many missions left to fly over Palestine?
‘Cause as a matter of facts
It's a pact, it's an act
These are illegal attacks.
The EU has given a very clear response to this, otherwise we are giving all the wrong signals. European leaders will, I hope, send a very strong signal to a regime that is repressing its own people, expelling foreign journalists, silencing civil society and human rights defenders. If indecision or weakness is shown by the EU, it will reinforce in the minds of the decision makers in that country that we have done the right thing here. The response must be clear, tough and to happen quickly. There must be an independent international inquiry into what happened. EU leaders must make clear this will not be tolerated.
What is needed now is a specific response. The EU and its institutions have clear options in terms of sanctions but they have to be sanctions that will be noticed and cause concern. The structure is there. This is something that needs a very strong response in terms of sanctions. It cannot be strong words or press releases, there has to be a real edge. These are not my words, they are a reflection of the words of the Minister for Foreign Affairs speaking about Belarus this week.
It is not a point that needs to be overstated that the response to a country that has killed almost 250 people and injured thousands in bombings of civilian areas in just a few weeks requires a much stronger response. That has not come, however, and the EU and its allies fund lsrael either directly or indirectly to carry out the massacre of Palestinians.
Palestinian dispossession through home demolitions and land theft are what brought us to the present moment, which began with an attempt to evict Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah on the basis of a racist and discriminatory law. Only a reality in which Israelis and Palestinians alike enjoy equal rights and dignity will bring quieter times to this region, and that is the reality towards which we must work together. Ceasefire is not enough; we must also advance steps to address the core and underlying problem of occupation and inequality and ensure that Israel does not take unilateral action that would undermine the chances of peace. There must be consequences for violations of international law.
These are not my words, they are those of a former interim President of Israel, Mr. Avraham Burg. I welcome the ceasefire but in the context of the de factoannexation, I call on the Government to say words are not enough and strong action is needed. The Government must support the Sinn Féin motion.
We have heard the arguments and we have heard the amendments. I again call on Members to remain focused on the magnitude of what we are on the cusp of achieving. We will become the first European country to formally acknowledge that the crime of annexation has taken place. The architecture of the Israeli Government strategy on the development of settlements signals the intention of making this a permanent fixture. The EU has talked about the need for Israel to avoid the red line of annexation but we have the potential to bring Europe over the line. We have the potential to move EU policy on Palestine. I welcome the comments of the Minister in formally and explicitly stating that what is taking place is de factoannexation.
This motion reflects the concern of the Irish people about the plight of the Palestinian people. The memory and consequence of colonisation live in the very marrow of our bones. It is right that with our unique understanding of the experience of colonisation, we will be first Parliament in Europe to call out Israel on its apartheid policies.
There is a need to address some of what I regard as the unfortunate comments of the Minister. I, along with a coalition of non-governmental organisations, reached out to the Government in good faith in respect of this motion and we were quite careful to explicitly condemn attacks on civilian population and infrastructure. I point out to the Minister that a civilian is a civilian and I do not distinguish one from another. Trying to imply otherwise does a disservice to what we are on the cusp of achieving with this motion.
Last week we had statements on Palestine following the most recent Israeli onslaught against Palestinians. What was remarkable was the evidence of cross-party unity on the matter of Palestine. I was touched by the emotion in some of the contributions and I appeal to all Members here today, of all political hues, to direct that emotion, feeling and concern for the Palestinian people towards achieving a tangible, very real victory for the cause of justice and humanity. With the potential to move the goalposts on this, we can set in train a process that can rip the gates off the open air prison that is the occupied Palestinian territories.
We all share the frustration of the Minister when he talks about the UN Security Council needing two weeks to agree a response. If we can get this motion adopted, all who speak for this Dáil will carry the imprimatur of the Irish people. What next? On this I turn to a letter from Professor Stanley Michael Lynk, United Nations special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, who felt compelled to write to the Minister, Deputy Coveney, on the strength of this motion coming before the Dáil. He states:
Accordingly, I would call upon your Government to adopt meaningful accountability measures respecting the Israeli occupation that would include:
- Halting all Irish economic activity and trade with the illegal Israeli settlements;
- Reviewing and downgrading Ireland’s military relationship with the Israeli military;
- Recognizing that Israel has de factoannexed much of the West Bank, which is as illegal under international law as de jureannexation; and
- Using its voice within the European Union for Brussels to support measures to review and downgrade its economic, cultural, military and diplomatic relationships with Israel until the occupation fully ends.
The comments of the special rapporteur spell out what this Dáil needs to do. We must pass the occupied territories legislation. We must look at sanctions. We must formally recognise the state of Palestine. The Israeli ambassador should go.
In passing this motion we are mandating our Government to move forward to the next stage, which is to work internationally to introduce measures that will hold Israel truly to account. I commend the motion to the Dáil and I hope it will be fully supported by all.
I move amendment No. 1:
To insert the following after "settlement activity and to regularly update Dáil Éireann": - publicly declare that the State of Israel is guilty of war crimes for its killing of innocent men, women and, most horrifically, 63 children in the Gaza Strip over recent weeks;- acknowledge that:- publicly assert that the Israeli apartheid system, through its ongoing ethnic cleansing, brutal state repression and murderous military violence – including four savage military assaults on Gaza in recent years, has no place among the international community of nations; and
- the recent escalation of violence was provoked by the attempt to ethnically cleanse 28 Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jerah area of Jerusalem and replace them with illegal Israeli settlers;
- these latest atrocities and war crimes perpetrated by the State of Israel are not isolated incidents but are part of an ongoing and systematic campaign by the Israeli State to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people from their land and deny them basic rights under international and human rights law – a campaign that has been pursued relentlessly since the foundation of the State in 1948; and
- Israel, in its basic laws and practices, is an apartheid state, similar to the former apartheid state of South Africa, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (UNGA Resolution 3068 (1973)) and that Israel’s apartheid character has been confirmed by both the main Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem and the main United States based human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch;- therefore to:- expel the Israeli ambassador and all Israel diplomatic staff from Ireland;
- apply a comprehensive package of economic, political and cultural sanctions against the State of Israel, similar to that applied to apartheid South Africa; and
- maintain sanctions and promote them within the EU and internationally until the entire Israeli apartheid system is dismantled and all the Palestinian people enjoy national self-determination and full and equal rights, including the right to return of all Palestinian refugees expelled since 1948 and all their descendants, as required by international law (UN Resolution 194).