25 Apr 2008IPSC Home
Letter from IPSC to members of the Oireachtas - 25th April 2008As an organisation that campaigns for justice for the Palestinian people, we write to seek your support
- For the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement
- For action to end the siege of Gaza, in particular, the opening of the Rafah crossing to Egypt
- For pressure to be put on Israel to cease its violation of UN Security Council resolutions
The EU-Israel Association Agreement
The Association Agreement with Israel under the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership gives Israel privileged access to the EU market. Article 2 of this Agreement makes clear that this privileged access is conditional on Israel respecting “human rights and democratic principles”, which is said to constitute “an essential element of this Agreement”.
The IPSC is not alone in believing that Israel has singularly failed to respect “human rights and democratic principles” in the territories it has occupied since 1967, the most recent of many examples being its isolation and economic strangulation of Gaza. This has produced the worst humanitarian crisis there since the occupation began, according to a recent joint report by Trócaire, Oxfam, Amnesty International, Christian Aid and other NGOs.
On 2 March 2008, the EU also described Israel’s actions as “collective punishment of the people of Gaza”. A statement by the EU Presidency said:
“The Presidency condemns the recent disproportionate use of force by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) against the Palestinian population in Gaza and urges Israel to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from all activities that endanger civilians. Such activities are contrary to international law.”
Collective punishment of people under occupation is contrary to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Reporting to the Security Council on 26 February, John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, echoed Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner, saying:
“The effective Israeli isolation of Gaza is not justified, given Israel’s continuing obligations to the people of Gaza. It amounts to collective punishment and is contrary to international humanitarian law.”
The Government agrees with this assessment. Dermot Ahern said so in the Dail on 11 March:
“I remain deeply concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza. It is unacceptable that Israel should isolate the people of Gaza and cut off essential supplies in order to exert pressure on them to reject Hamas. I agree with the United Nations that this constitutes collective punishment and is illegal under international humanitarian law.”
In our opinion, therefore, there is little doubt that Israel has failed to live up to its obligations in the Association Agreement to respect “human rights and democratic principles”. In the light of this, we believe that the Agreement should be suspended.
Opening of the Rafah crossing to Egypt
In November 2005, with the signing of the Agreement on Movement and Access by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians in Gaza were promised access to the outside world free from Israeli control through a border crossing to Egypt at Rafah. Commenting on this when the Agreement was announced, Condoleezza Rice said:
“… for the first time since 1967, Palestinians will gain control over entry and exit from their territory. This will be through an international crossing at Rafah … .”
And Javier Solana reinforced this promise on behalf of the EU:
“This is the first time that a border is opened and not controlled by the Israelis. … So as you can imagine, this is a very important step ….”
This promise to the Palestinians has not been fulfilled. In practice, Israel has had a veto on the opening of the Rafah crossing. The EU, which has provided a small force (EU BAM Rafah) to monitor the operation of the crossing, has consistently refused to send its personnel to open the crossing when Israel doesn’t want it open.
The EU BAM website states that the crossing “can only be opened by agreement between the Parties”, in other words, the EU accords Israel a veto over its opening. This is in flat contradiction to the promise made by Javier Solana that the crossing is “not controlled by the Israelis”.
The IPSC believes that this promise made to Palestinians by Javier Solana on behalf of the EU should be honoured. And so should the other promises made in the Agreement on Movement and Access:-
- other crossings for people and cargo between Israel, Gaza and the West Bank will be expanded
- regular bus and truck convoys between the West Bank and Gaza
- the reduction of obstacles to movement on the West Bank
- a seaport and airport at Gaza
None of these promises has been fulfilled. We believe they should be fulfilled.
Ending Israel’s violation of UN Security Council resolutions
Israel is violating over 30 UN Security Council resolutions, dating back to 1968, resolutions that require action by Israel and Israel alone. For example:-
- resolutions 252, 267, 271 and 298 require Israel to reverse its annexation of East Jerusalem,
- resolutions 446, 452 and 465 demand that Israel cease building Jewish settlements in the territories it has occupied since 1967, including in Jerusalem
- resolution 487 calls upon Israel to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA supervision
- resolution 497 demands that Israel reverse its annexation of the Golan Heights, which were captured from Syria in June 1967
The present Irish Government is committed in its Programme for Government to “continue Ireland’s strong support for the primacy of the UN in international affairs”. If this commitment is to be fulfilled, it is essential that pressure be put on all states, including Israel, to implement Security Council resolutions. The Irish Government should use its voice in the EU Council of Ministers to seek the implementation of these resolutions.
In our view, these matters are crucial to bringing about justice for the Palestinian people. The undeniable sympathy in Ireland for justice for the Palestinian people has deep roots in our own history. This obliges Irish politicians to take a strong stand on these issues. We would greatly appreciate an opportunity to meet with you to discuss them further with you.