Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Press Release

7 Jan 2009
IPSC Letter to Minister Martin Re: Gaza Atrocities
Micheál Martin TD
Minister for Foreign Affairs
80 St. Stephen’s Green
Dublin 2
6th January 2009

Dear Minister

We very much welcome your repeated strong messages of condemnation of the Israeli onslaught on Gaza and also the call by the Taoiseach for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and a restoration of the ceasefire.

It is clear, however, that Israel is not going to yield to a call for an immediate ceasefire unless it is accompanied by economic and political pressure. It is equally clear that the US is not going to apply the necessary pressure under the current presidency, and maybe not even under the next. The EU is the only body that is capable of applying that pressure at this time – and thereby bringing the appalling slaughter in Gaza to an end.

We say this because Israel has important economic and political relations with the EU, relations which are highly valuable to Israel – and a suspension of these relations by the EU, or even a threat to do so, is likely to make Israel think twice about continuing its murderous assault. We believe that the EU should make it plain that its Association Agreement with Israel will be suspended (under Clause 2 which makes it contingent on Israeli compliance with international humanitarian law) and any further upgrade in relations will be put on hold, unless military action against the Palestinians in Gaza is ended immediately.

We urge the Irish Government to put its weight behind this policy stance in the EU. While it may not be possible to persuade the EU to adopt this position at this time, the very fact that Ireland and perhaps other EU states are contemplating such unprecedented action might cause Israel to think twice about continuing the awful slaughter in Gaza.

In our opinion, the Government would have the overwhelming support of the Irish people for such a stance. The onslaught on Gaza has provoked an unprecedented response across all sectors of Irish society, from senior political figures, trade union leaders, and church leaders to NGOs and civil society. A few days ago (31 December), your colleague Chris Andrews called for a review \"of all political and economic relationships\" with Israel.

Secondly, if an immediate ceasefire is achieved, it is essential that more permanent arrangements be put in place of the kind that were reached last June between Israel and Hamas, with the assistance of Egypt. Under those arrangements, in exchange for Hamas and other Palestinian groups undertaking to stop firing rockets and mortars out of Gaza, Israel would end both its military operations and its economic strangulation of Gaza.

Israel’s assault on Gaza in in breach of international law. Indeed, its economic blockade of Gaza, which has reduced the population there to poverty and misery, was denounced by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, as “collective punishment … illegal under international humanitarian law. (Dáil, 11th March 2008). Israel’s stated aim of “destroying” the Hamas political and military leadership is also a war crime under international law – it is now conveniently forgotten that Hamas won the Palestinian Council elections of February 2006, which were generally regarded as free and fair.

The June-November 2008 ceasefire didn’t lead to a complete ending of rocket firing out of Gaza, but they brought about comparative quiet along the border between Israel for over 4 months, during which no Israeli citizens were killed – even though Israel failed to lift its economic blockade.

Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the UN Secretary-General, was able to report to the Security Council on 18 September about Gaza in the following terms:

“The one area where there is positive news is security. The ceasefire has continued to hold during the reporting period. Hamas has made efforts to prevent the launching of rockets and mortars into Israel and, during the reporting period, two rockets and one mortar were launched. No IDF incursion or air strike was reported during this period; the IDF has responded to isolated rocket fire by closing crossings for a period. One Palestinian was injured by IDF fire in southern Gaza.

“On all other fronts, there is little positive to report. The humanitarian situation is extremely grim, given continued closure [of crossings].”

At the time Robert Serry spoke, and up until 4 November, it would have been impossible for Israel to justify its murderous assault on Gaza as a response to rocket firing. There was little or none. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion the Israel broke the ceasefire on 4 November by killing 6 Palestinians (when the world was watching the election of Barack Obama) in order to provoke the rocket fire necessary to justify the assault of 27 December.

It is essential that new ceasefire arrangements stop once and for all Israel’s economic strangulation of Gaza. The experience of the last ceasefire leads to the inevitable conclusion that this won’t happen unless political and/or economic pressure is applied to Israel from outside. Again, the EU must and can take the lead on this.

This will only be possible where the initiative is taken by a Member State. We would urge you to lead the Irish Government in a brave stance among your colleagues on the Council of Ministers in presenting an honourable course for the EU to take in this crisis.

We look forward to meeting you as early as possible in the New Year to discuss these matters further with you.

Yours sincerely,

Marie Crawley
Chairperson, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
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