By Declan Bree (Sligo County Council)
The deliberate killing by Israeli snipers of 60 unarmed Palestinian protesters and the wounding of 3,000 including 200 children can only be described as a crime against humanity.
Firing live ammunition at unarmed demonstrators is immoral, illegal and indicative of the disregard that Israel and the world has for the lives of ordinary Palestinians.
Tuesday the 15th of May marked the 70th Anniversary of Nakba Day – the Day of the Catastrophe – the day which Palestinians commemorate the ethnic cleansing of over 750,000 indigenous Palestinians from their homes, two thirds of the Arab population of the time, forcing them into exile so that the state of Israel could come into existence.
Of course, it did not all happen on one day – it was a continual process between 1947 and 1949. Unfortunately, as this weeks events make clear, the Palestinian catastrophe is a process ongoing to this day.
In the weeks leading up to Nakba Day Israeli forces killed more than 100 Palestinian protesters in Gaza and wounded approximately 12,000. These protesters were demanding the implementation of the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, who make up 70% of Gaza’s illegally besieged population.
In this context the Israeli apartheid state now needs to be isolated: economically, politically, culturally, diplomatically, and militarily.
The decision of the Irish Government to condemn the shootings and to summon the Israeli Ambassador to Iveagh House is welcome. However words are not enough. Action is now required. The Government has promised to recognise the State of Palestine, yet it has failed to do so. Faced with the ongoing violence in Gaza, and the continued expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, surely now the Government should live up to its promise by formally recognising the State of Palestine.
In addition the Israeli ambassador should be expelled and the Irish ambassador in Tel Aviv recalled. The government should also seek the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
Ironically just a couple of months ago the Government had no difficulty expelling a Russian diplomat because of unproven speculation by the British Prime Minister. Yet, despite the slaughter of scores of unarmed Palestinians and the wounding of thousands, the government refuses to expel even one member of the staff of the Israeli embassy.
The decision of the Trump Administration to transfer the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem shows flagrant disregard for international law, Palestinian rights and international opinion. It certainly inflamed tensions in Gaza and Palestine.
The reality is that the U.S. and Israel are not committed to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. This has been clear for many decades, during which Israel has relentlessly colonised East Jerusalem and the West bank whilst paying lip service to the two-state solution.
In addition the EU maintains a web of military relations, weapons research, banking transactions and settlement trade with Israeli companies, banks and institutions that are deeply implicated in human rights violations.
For example, the EU imports goods from the Israeli settlements to an estimated annual value of $300 million. This is more than 17 times the average annual value of Palestinian goods imported by the EU between 2004 and 2014.
European banks continue to trade with Israeli banks, despite the latter’s pivotal role in financing, providing services to, or otherwise supporting Israel’s illegal settlements.
Although the EU still votes as a bloc in support of UN resolutions upholding basic Palestinian rights, including the right of return for Palestine refugees, and still condemns Israel’s settlements as illegal, these positions have not been translated into any effective measures of accountability against Israel.
In contrast, the EU swiftly adopted sanctions against Russia after its takeover of the Crimea, which pales in comparison to Israel’s 50-year-old military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Nothing can justify this hypocrisy.
Former South African anti-apartheid leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Far from being “neutral,” the EU is enabling the oppressor to carry on its injustices. It is high time to end that complicity.