Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Press Release

15 May 2008
The Lisbon Treaty Debate: Questions the EU must answer
The Lisbon Treaty debate
Questions the EU must answer
The Lisbon Treaty debate provides a unique opportunity for questions to be raised about the role of the EU in Palestine and we urge members and supporters of the IPSC to do so at meetings and on any other occasion.

If passed, the Lisbon Treaty will have a significant impact on Ireland’s foreign policy decisions. First, it will create a new position of EU foreign minister – named the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy – who will be appointed by the European Council by qualified majority voting. Ireland won’t have a veto.

Neither will we have a veto over the policy to be implemented by the new foreign minister. Under Article 17 of the Treaty, EU common foreign policy positions will be decided by qualified majority vote in the European Council. In such a scenario, it is possible that the EU foreign minister will pursue foreign policy on our behalf with which we don’t agree, for example, in the Union’s relations with Israel. The Foreign Minister’s position is strengthened by the requirement that “...member states shall co-ordinate their action in international organisations and....uphold the Union’s positions in such fora....” This will include the UN.

We suggest the following questions should be raised during the Treaty debate about the role of the EU in Palestine:

1. Why does the EU refuse to suspend its Euro-Med Agreement with Israel despite Israel’s continuing human rights abuses?

Israel has privileged access to the EU market through the Euro-Med Agreement. 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 acquired through force in 1948 nor 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.

There, the EU states unequivocally that Israel’s isolation and economic strangulation of Gaza breaches international humanitarian law. There isn’t the slightest doubt, therefore, that Israel is in breach of its human rights obligations under Article 2 of the Euro-Med Agreement and that the Agreement should be suspended. But the EU refuses to hold Israel to account. As a consequence Israel is emboldened and knows it can continue its policy of ethnic cleansing and expansion into Palestinian territory without fear of sanction from the EU. One is left wondering what has Israel to do in order to provoke the EU into suspending the Agreement.

The EU is not alone in declaring Israel’s isolation and economic strangulation to be “collective punishment” contrary to international humanitarian law.

Listen to this from John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, reporting to the Security Council on 26 February:

“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.”

And from our own Dermot Ahern 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.”

There is no doubt that Israel has failed to live up to its obligations in the Euro-Med Agreement to respect “human rights and democratic principles”. The Agreement should be suspended.

The IPSC asks: considering Ireland's tradition of respect for human rights and solidarity with oppressed peoples everywhere why has the Irish Government not called for a suspension of the Euro-Med Agreement with Israel despite Israel ’s continuing human rights abuses?

2. Why has the EU accorded Israel a veto over the opening of the Rafah crossing from Egypt into Gaza?

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.

The IPSC asks: Why has the EU accorded Israel a veto over the opening of the Rafah crossing from Egypt into Gaza?

The EU made other promises to Palestinians in the Agreement on Movement and Access signed in November 2005:

· 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.

The IPSC asks: What is the EU doing to get these promises fulfilled?

3. Why does the EU remain silent about Israel’s violation of Security Council resolutions while applying sanctions to Iran to enforce 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 EU (and Ireland) has remained silent about Israel’s violations of these Security Council resolutions.

By contrast, the EU is applying sanctions to Iran to enforce the implementation of Security Council resolutions. Double standards are being applied here.

The IPSC asks: Why does the EU remain silent about Israel’s violation of Security Council resolutions while applying sanctions to Iran to enforce Security Council resolutions?

Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Thursday, 15 May 2008 (Nakba Day)

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