It has been a week to be proud of for Ireland, who have shown support and anger at the plight of the Palestinian people. I’m proud of the strong political leadership and compassion displayed by Irish politicians, who stood out from the crowd in a cross-party display of solidarity, passing a motion publicly condemning the de facto Israeli annexation of Palestinian land.
The ongoing situation on the ground in this appalling crisis, sees daily abuse of human rights, with NGOs and activists reporting on the decades-long Palestinian experiences of systemic inequity – social, economic and legal.
I’ve been active around the Israeli-Palestine conflict for a number of years now, since I first supported the tireless work of my Seanad colleague, Senator Frances Black. Frances has shown great dedication in fighting for the rights of the Palestinian people over the years. It is down to the efforts of people like Francis, along with a number of my Green Party colleagues, Irish human rights activists and NGOs, that Ireland has become known internationally for its commitment to the plight of Palestinians.
Since shortly after being elected as an MEP, I’ve been the only Irish MEP to be a full member of the European Parliament’s Delegation on Relations with Palestine, and my work in this field continues.
The recent outbreaks of violence were distressing, so when news broke a few days ago of the Israeli security cabinet approving a ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza, a sense of relief spread throughout the world. Israel has said the ceasefire was proposed by Egypt and will be ‘mutual and unconditional’. That’s obviously good news, but in the wake of the suffering and death toll, things can’t go back to the way they were.
It’s imperative that the Gaza blockade be lifted, and that a steady supply of humanitarian aid be allowed through (including the aid pledged by Ireland). On a more long-term basis, there needs to be investigations around the possibilities of war crimes having been committed, and movement is needed on progressing a Two-State Solution.
One of the particularly distressing aspects of the recent outbreaks, was the unprecedented communal violence that was seen on the ground in mixed communities. Revisiting the possibility of future political unity in elections seeing Palestinians come into the political arena is unlikely to happen in the short term, but in the wake of lives being lost in the latest mis-matched and brutal assaults, I hope that mechanisms can be explored that can give some hope of a lasting peace.
It’s hard to be optimistic on this issue. When we hear news like that about US approval of $735 million dollars in weapons sale to Israel, it can make those of us who want to see a fair resolution of this decades-long dispute, despair.
In the EU too, as I indicated in a speech to the European Parliament last week, many member states give tacit approval to the recent and previous disproportionate Israeli onslaughts, by their inaction and silence.
Ireland’s views on the plight of the Palestinian people, are clear. They’re views that are not so widely (publicly at least) shared by many members the European Parliament and indeed parts of the wider international community.
The Israeli-Palestine conflict is not a straightforward one. The complexities and strongly held views on both sides are deep and challenging, and it’s hard to see any clear path to lasting peace.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been deeply engaged and outspoken on the situation. Over the most intense days at the height of the recent outbreaks of violence, I contacted Minister Simon Coveney and asked him to put pressure on his US counterpart to show leadership on this issue in the UN Security Council.
Last week I addressed the European Parliament on the issue and I submitted a priority Written Question to the head of the EU’s external action, Josep Borrell. I suggested the EU should use all tools available as Israel’s biggest trading bloc, to demand an end to forced evictions and enlargement of Israel’s illegal settlements, including targeted sanctions and reassessing the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
Just yesterday I addressed a European Parliament meeting with Human Rights Watch, where I questioned how it might be possible to get other EU countries to join Ireland in challenging the Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands.
Ireland has stood firm and united on the issue for a number of years, but this week we really shone, and took a position which I support and applaud. Here’s hoping that other countries throughout the EU and beyond will see fit to follow Ireland’s lead and publicly condemn the human rights violations that Palestinians face, day in, day out.