Dáil Diary no 52 – 1st December 2014
Irish Government must recognise State of Palestine…
At Ministers Questions for Foreign Affairs last week I raised the issue of the failure of the Irish Government to recognise Palestine, despite the fact that over 130 countries have done so, the most recent, Sweden. Minister Charles Flanagan made the weak argument that such recognition had not brought peace to the region, while ignoring the elephant in the room – Israel may continue with its campaign of genocide in Gaza as long as it has the support of the World’s Super Power, the United States of America. Israel could only do what it does with US backing – which makes the US Military machine complicit in this act of genocide, and sadly, given that the Irish Government allows Shannon airport to be used as a US Military airbase, we too have blood on our hands. I was given very little time in the Dáil Chamber to discuss the issue, merely to introduce the subject, which went as follows –
“In 1948 the Jews expelled, massacred, destroyed, and raped in that year, and generally behaved like all the other colonialist movements operating in the Middle East and Africa since the beginning of the nineteenth century.” “As a result of that campaign, five hundred Palestinian villages and eleven urban neighbourhoods were destroyed, seven hundred thousand Palestinians were expelled, and several thousand were massacred.
It was a genocide at the time. What is happening today is not very different. The Minister said he has not ruled out recognition by Ireland of the Palestinian state, which would be a step towards a two state resolution. Why should we wait any longer? Sweden did not wait. Does the Minister not believe that it is urgent that we do this now?”
Minister Charles Flanagan: Ireland as a state has always looked forward to being in a position to recognise a state of Palestine but in reality and not only as a symbolic gesture. I refer the Deputy to the statements and stances of successive Governments in that regard.
Our position is not set in stone. Against the background of the deteriorating situation on the ground, I will continue to consider any option, including early recognition of Palestine, which may advance the prospect of peace and help ensure that the two state solution still has a chance of being realised. On the question of international recognition of Palestine, while that is important, it is not a magic wand to resolve the conflict. I acknowledge what happened in Sweden and that discussions are under way on this issue in many of the European capitals. I contributed to the debate at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels last week. In spite of the fact that many states have formally recognised Palestine, the conflict continues. The talks process is not currently under way. I am sure the Deputy will agree that only a comprehensive peace agreement will end the occupation and allow the full establishment of a Palestinian rate, in reality as well as in theory. That is the goal and the objective. I will continue to ensure that Ireland's plays its full part in this debate.
Mick Wallace: In November 2013, the UN General Assembly decided to proclaim 2014 the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. But how has Palestine felt our solidarity this year? On the contrary, instead of solidarity, in 2014 we witnessed a brutal 7-week David and Goliath style bombardment by a US-backed Israel on the Gaza Strip, killing 2,100 Palestinians (mostly civilians); the ongoing 7-year siege of Gaza; and the continuing illegal expansion of Israeli settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Indeed, the 2014 onslaught on Gaza was followed by Israel’s greatest land grab in 30 years, with almost 1000 acres in Gush Etzion in Greater Jerusalem annexed in clear violation of UN Security Council orders. Where is the solidarity in this?
According to Noam Chomsky, Palestine’s path forward will likely follow one of two paths – either an internationally backed two-state settlement, or, more realistically, the continuation of the status quo where Israel will continue to brutally suppress the freedom of the Palestinian people, with the support of the US.
In the midst of all the brutality and apathy that the Palestinians have suffered in this year of “solidarity”, Sweden has decided to formally recognise the state of Palestine, becoming the first Western EU state - and 135th country in the world - to do so. Sweden has taken an active decision to confirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination – a right entrenched in the UN Charter. At a time when peace talks have stalled, not only is recognition an essential step forward in making the parties to this conflict a little less unequal, but it is also key to a two-state settlement. Although a two-state settlement is hugely dependent on the actions of the US, it is an aim which countries that profess solidarity with the Palestinian people should be actively striving to achieve.
There are those who will argue that recognition is premature, but it is imperative that we take a stance on it before it is too late. One only has to look at the ongoing and illegal expansion of Israeli settlements in Palestine, which is a clear, physical obstacle to the two-state solution.
According to Chomsky, the Israeli Palestinian conflict follows a distinct and repeating pattern of ceasefire followed by an Israeli attack on Gaza, a continuing siege, intermittent acts of violence, the construction of illegal settlements, violence in the West Bank, a ceasefire observed by Hamas and recognized by Israel until an Israeli escalation elicits a Hamas response. This then leads to a “mowing the lawn” exercise by Israel, such as Operation Protective Edge, Operation Cast Lead, and the list goes on. It happened in 2008, 2012, 2014 and will continue to happen unless the international community changes its approach. To quote Albert Einstein, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
Even if one puts aside the historical debate about why what happened in 1948 in fact transpired, no one seems to question the enormity of the tragedy that befell the indigenous population of Palestine as a result of the emergence and success of the Zionist movement. The Palestinians have been suffering at the hands of a brutal colonial oppressor and its superpower ally for decades, and it is time for the international approach to the conflict to change. Ireland should follow Sweden’s example and take active steps to improve the plight of the Palestinian people.”