Thursday, March 7, 2013

Israel flouts international law

In separate letters to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and in the Dáil on Tuesday, I urged the Irish government to use the good offices of the Presidency of the EU, which it currently holds, to raise the report of the EU Heads of Mission in Jerusalem at the next meeting of the EU Leaders. The Taoiseach agreed to do this.

The content of the EU report has only emerged in recent days although the report itself was handed over to EU governments in January.

It makes grim reading and is a scathing indictment of the Israeli government’s flouting of international law and its violation of the rights of Palestinian citizens living in East Jerusalem and the occupied territories. 

The report finds that the Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the west bank are ‘the biggest single threat to the two state solution.’ 

The EU report accuses the Israeli government of implementing a settlement policy that is ‘systematic, deliberate and provocative’. 

It concludes that Israel is pursuing a deliberate policy of seeking to drive Palestinians out of East Jerusalem through restrictive zoning and planning, demolitions and evacuations, discriminatory access to religious sites, an inequitable education policy, difficult access to health care and inadequate provision of resources. 

The 15-page report from the EU diplomats identified settlement construction on the southern flank of east Jerusalem -- in Har Homa, Gilo and Givat HaMatos - as being the "most significant and problematic". 

The diplomats warned that this construction would likely cut the area off from Bethlehem by the end of the year. 

‘The construction of these three settlements is part of a political strategy aiming at making it impossible for Jerusalem to become the capital of two states … If the current pace of settlement activity on Jerusalem's southern flank persists, an effective buffer between east Jerusalem and Bethlehem may be in place by the end of 2013, thus making the realization of a viable two-state solution inordinately more difficult, if not impossible.’ 

The report also focuses on plans announced by Israel late last year to build 3,426 units in E1 -- a strip of West Bank land east of Jerusalem. If this project goes ahead the EU report concludes that it will effectively cut the West Bank in half. 

The Heads of Mission Jerusalem Report 2012 indicts Israel of violating ‘international humanitarian law’. 

The report, which was written by the EU heads of mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah, makes six recommendations. It calls on the European Union to ‘prevent, discourage and raise awareness about problematic implications of financial transactions, including foreign direct investments, from within the EU in support of settlement activities, infrastructure and services.’  

It recommends that the EU, which is Israel's largest import and export market and accounts for about a third of Israel’s total trade, should take sanctions against settlements in East Jerusalem and the west Bank. It wants settlement products clearly labelled to ensure that ‘imports of settlement products do not benefit from preferential tariffs’. “ 

The information in this report cannot be ignored or set aside.  

It also has to be seen in the context of the deteriorating political situation following the death in disputed circumstances of Arafat Jaradat, who was arrested by the Israeli Army for throwing a rock and who died five days later on Saturday February 23rd in Megiddo Prison. His family, who party colleague Pat Sheehan met several days ago in Palestine, have accused the Israeli authorities of torture.
The UN Middle East peace envoy Robert Serry has called for an independent international inquiry into Israel's treatment of Palestinian detainees. I would echo that call.
A letter sent by the Palestinian UN Ambassador to the security council revealed that Jaradat was ‘subject to severe beatings, abuse and medical negligence during his captivity’. The letter said that Jaradat had six broken bones in his neck, spine, arms and legs along with other injuries.
The situation was exacerbated by the shooting of two children by Israeli troops. 13 year old Mohammed Khaled Qurd was shot twice by an Israeli soldier. Film footage shows him standing some distance from where a petrol bomb was thrown at a heavily fortified Israeli outpost.
The continuing detention of over 4,500 Palestinian prisoners and their conditions of imprisonment has been the catalyst for much of the recent violence. It is usual for prisoners to be held in solitary confinement, some for years, and they are frequently denied visits from their family. Many of those being held are also kept in constant lockup with little access to fresh air or exercise.
The UN Middle East peace envoy Robert Serry has called for an independent international inquiry into Israel's treatment of Palestinian detainees. I would echo that call.
I also believe that the Irish government needs to provide leadership on this issue. It currently holds the Presidency of the EU. This EU report provides clear evidence of Israeli breaches of international law and the implementation of policies that are reminiscent of the homeland policy of the old apartheid regime in South Africa.
The Irish government should act urgently on the information and recommendations made by EU officials. This should include the introduction of EU wide legislation to prevent Israeli products manufactured or grown in Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank from benefitting from preferential tariffs agreed under an Israeli-EU trade agreement.



No comments: