'Truth, Justice, Peace. It doesn't work in any other order.'
'Displacements and demolitions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories'
Presentation to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence (JOCFAD): 11th May 2021 '
Q&A Summary arising from JOCFAD Presentation
Deputy John Brady offered his condolences for the ongoing injuries and loss of life in Gaza and the West Bank due to current escalations of violence. He condemned the violence, and inaction of the international community, and suggested that the committee raise the figures of settlements with the Israeli Ambassador.
He then asked:
- What should be done by the government; by political parties in Ireland; and by the Irish People?
- Where is de facto annexation recognised in international law?
- What range of countermeasures are available to the international community by way of response?
- What role do you believe that the current toxic atmosphere that surrounds domestic politics within Israel is playing in stoking the tensions that have led to the unrest in East Jerusalem and the West Bank?
Senator Joe O’ Reilly echoed the sympathy of the Chair, and acknowledged the accelerated demolitions and settlements. He asked:
- Is this system of illegal settlements intended to block a two state solution – to make it a practical impossibility?
- Practically, why was it not possible to hold elections in Jerusalem? When could they possibly be held?
- What specific recommendations would you make to be carried out at the UN and EU level?
In response, The Palestinian Ambassador, Dr Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid, noted New Zealand’s submission of the Settlements Resolution to the UN security Council, and replied that (1) Ireland has a role in the UN Security Council to present something to support Palestinian rights, as well as to utilise our relationship with the current U.S. Administration. She asked for the support of Fine Gael in the motion to be brought forward on annexation, and asked that the Irish people keep educating themselves on the situation in Palestine, and continue to raise this issue with their local TDs. The Ambassador also responded to the questions on elections and politics (4 & 6), stating that the elections have been postponed, and that without East Jerusalem, there can be no elections. She also explained that the international community failed to put pressure on Israel to hold elections in Palestine, and that the right of elections for Jerusalemites is core. The international community has a responsibility to put pressure on Israel to allow the election in East Jerusalem.
Éamonn Meehan pointed out that Israel has already de jure annexed East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan, so it is clearly in breach of its international legal obligations. (3 & 7) He pointed to the range of countermeasures brought forward by the European Union against Russia in its annexation of Crimea. He also emphasised that we don’t need to wait for a recognition of de facto annexation.
Dr.Susan Power explained that (2) the prohibition of annexation in implicit in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, and that Article 8 of the Rome Statute criminalises any acts of annexation. She also referred to the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice – specifically the case against the separation wall – and the UN War Crimes Commission in Ethiopia as examples of the recognition of de facto annexation. In response to the question on countermeasures (3 & 7), she suggested that the UN database of corporations active in the settlements should be updated annually to keep a record of businesses working in the illegal settlements, as well as a convening of a UN Special Committee on apartheid, and pushing for the EU to implement the same countermeasures as those imposed on Russia to ensure consistency.
Professor Noura Erakat agreed with Dr. Power that there is a range of measures on offer at both the EU and UN levels ranging from unequivocal condemnation, to a more piecemeal approach, and stated that it is more a question of political will (7). She also emphasised that the political cost of doing nothing is low, but that we have the responsibility to change the course of history and to continue an Irish legacy of resistance. With regard to the question on the two state solution (5), Professor Erakat explained that the Oslo Accord documents only promise Palestinian autonomy, and that the Palestinian State is obsolete because Palestinians are separated from one another through twenty non-contiguous Bantustans. If a Palestinian State were to be created, she believes that it would be on the smallest amount of land possible, and that the international community might then give up on the cause of Palestinian self-determination.
Deputy David Stanton also offered his condolences and condemned the violence.
- What is the situation of the Covid-19 vaccination in Palestine?
- Where do people go when they have been displaced by home demolitions or evictions?
- Are there other measures besides cutting off diplomatic relations with Israel?
The Ambassador described the Covid-19 cases in Palestine (8), with over 300,000 cases, and 3,000 deaths. As the Occupying Power, Israel has a responsibility to vaccinate Palestinians, but has rejected calls from the international community to do this. Vaccinations for Palestinians have been secured from China, Russia, AstraZeneca, as well as Covax. In the meantime, 2.5% of the population of Gaza and 7% of the population of the West Bank have been vaccinated by donations from the Emirates. The vaccination plan is ongoing. The Ambassador then recalled that Palestine was recognised as a State by the UN in 2012, and this has been instrumental in the ongoing ICC investigation. She also stated that it is important for Palestinians to be able to claim nationality and defend their right to exist. In terms of dialogue, she asked ‘dialogue with whom?’ (5). Despite peace talks, so far no agreement has been reached, and the violence continues. Such dialogue is dependent on equal partnership and statehood.
Éamonn Meehan explained (9) that the objective of the demolitions is the make space for settlers, and that Israel is not concerned about the welfare of the people they evict, only that they leave their homes. The Palestinian citizens of East Jerusalem live in a state of permanent neglect, and should they be forced to leave their homes, they will not be allowed to return, as they are no longer permanent residents of Jerusalem.
In terms of freezing diplomatic relations, (10) this might not be the immediate course of action, but there is a suite of other measures which could be called upon.
Dr.Susan Power spoke about her experience of meeting with people who have just had their homes demolished (9), and described it as like a funeral with a palpable sense of grief and hopelessness. Continuous demolitions also take place, so that people are pushed out of areas and forced to move elsewhere, often breaking up the family unit. She also emphasised that demolitions rip the very fabric of Palestinian communities and society. With regard to the vaccines (8), she reiterated that Israel as the Occupying Power, under the Geneva Conventions, has the obligation to vaccinate the Palestinian population but has not fulfilled this.
Professor Noura Erakat again emphasised that Israel has the obligation to vaccinate the Palestinian population (8), and described how Palestinians are being evicted from their homes during a time when it is advised to stay home, as well as being exposed to tear gas during a pandemic that primarily affects the respiratory system. She also explained (10) how the peace process framework has become counterproductive to achieving any outcome with dignity for Palestinians, and how it has been used by the international community to deflect responsibility of calling for accountability. The state framework, she argued, obscures the power disparity as well as the core issues of rights including self-determination.Finally, in response to the question regarding displacement (9), Professor Erakat stated that 66% of the Palestinian population lives in exile – herself included. Once people are removed from the land, they can never return.