'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 '
Summary of JOCFAD Presentation
The recent escalation of violence in Gaza and the West Bank is symptomatic of the continued struggle of Palestinian people against an Occupying Power. In her opening statement to the Committee, Dr.Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid, Ambassador of Palestine to Ireland, reminded the Committee of the importance of Palestinian elections, and the weight of giving a voice to Jerusalemites. This, along with continued human rights violations, is simply the latest action by Israel in a decades-long project to remove Palestinians from East Jerusalem and from large parts of the West Bank. As the Occupying Power, Israel’s goal is to take as much Palestinian land, with as few Palestinians on it, as possible, and to concentrate the greatest number of Palestinians onto the least amount of land possible thus permanently altering the demography of historic Palestine.
It is very clear from the facts on the ground that this is a permanent colonisation. It is a re-engineering of the spatial and demographic structure of the Palestinian territories. It is an annexation, pure and simple. The Occupied Palestinian Territory was placed under the effective control and administrative governing authority of the Israeli military during an international armed conflict in 1967, and has been under occupation ever since. This occupation has led to the forced removal of Palestinians from their lands, to make way for Jewish-only settlements and infrastructure. This taking of lands and altering of demography has been done separately and incrementally, so that the international community cannot see it as a whole – as annexation.
De facto annexation occurs when actions on the ground indicate the implied intent of the Occupying Power to permanently incorporate the occupied territory. In the West Bank we are seeing key indicators of de facto annexation taking place. This is not a temporary occupation. We have witnessed the construction of over 250 settlements and outposts in the Occupied Territories with connecting infrastructure back to Israel in addition to the illegal transfer-in of over 650,000 Jewish-Israeli settlers.
In 2020 Israel also accelerated settlement expansion and appropriated a further five thousand acres of Palestinian lands for settlements. We are now seeing an acceleration towards the conclusion of the colonisation of Palestinian territory. Palestine is disappearing before our eyes.
The homes of about one-third of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian population remain under threat of demolition. In 2020, during the pandemic, Israel demolished 73 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. This most recent removal of Palestinian people from East Jerusalem to make way for settlers is representative of the conditions under which Palestinians have lived for many years. This context needs to be emphasised, so that we don’t dismiss this latest episode of violence as skirmishes or conflict, or focus solely on the need to stop the violence, but instead we need to emphasise the root cause.
Despite what empirical evidence has demonstrated to us, we as an international community keep reverting to the fictions of temporality, military necessity, occupation, and peace processes, when it is clear that Palestinians have been marked for settler-colonial erasure, and that Israel intends to cement its apartheid regime.
With little reaction from the international community for continuing to annex Palestinian territory, Israel has expanded its territorial claims over Palestinian land. Now, as tensions increase, waiting for Israel to announce a de jure annexation is no longer acceptable as a response to grave breaches of international law and the fundamental rights of Palestinians. Annexation is happening, and it is happening now.
Under the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court those living under occupation are protected persons. They may not be removed from their homes or otherwise displaced, have their lands or other resources confiscated, or have their basic rights removed.
Israel is in breach of each of these laws.
Ireland, as a member of the UN Security Council, has a duty to ensure that breaches of UNSC resolutions are responded to in a forthright way, and with actual consequences for the state in question.
Failure to do so enables and incentivises further breaches.
In conclusion, and by way of recommendations, Ireland must act now to defend the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people. There are a myriad of actions and countermeasures available at both national and international level.The impetus is now on us to challenge the status quo of inaction.
Words of condemnation are no longer enough.