Impose ban on imports from Israeli settlements
OPINION:The Republic and the EU have been outspoken critics of settlements, but both continue to import goods from colonies built on occupied land, writes JUSTIN KILCULLEN
IF A factory was built on land seized off a neighbouring enterprise and had repeatedly been deemed illegal by the highest courts in the land, it would be highly improbable that it would continue to be permitted to trade. Its operation would be closed down; its produce made disappear from our supermarket shelves.
And yet this situation is not as far fetched as it appears.
The Israeli settlements in the West Bank have been built on occupied land. Their very existence has been repeatedly deemed illegal by the United Nations and the International Court of Justice. The EU has been an outspoken critic of the settlements, yet goods produced there continue to be stocked on European supermarket shelves.
Irish and EU policy towards the Israeli settlements defies logic. We consider them illegal, yet we economically support them. We repeatedly criticise them, yet we pursue policies which benefit them. Our relationship with these illegal settlements is defined by empty words and implicit support. We condemn them with statements and support them with actions.
Since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank began in 1967, the settlements have been promoted and expanded under every Israeli government. Today, 42 per cent of West Bank land has been allocated to the establishment of over 200 settlements, now home to more than 500,000 Israeli settlers.
In many cases, these settlers are given generous economic incentives to set up home in luxurious compounds on land the international community recognises as being Palestinian.
Continued settlement expansion is recognised by the EU as one of the biggest obstacles to peace in the region. In May 2012, the EU Foreign Affairs Council recognised the urgency of the situation on the ground and condemned developments “which threaten to make a two-state solution impossible”.
Israel has created in the West Bank a regime of separation and discrimination, with two separate systems of law in the same territory. It is a system in which rights depend on the national identity of the individual.
One system grants settlers the rights of citizens in a democratic state; the other system imposes military law and restrictions of movement on Palestinian civilians.
The settlements have successfully turned the West Bank into a series of disconnected Palestinian enclaves. It is roughly equivalent to an area previously the size of Dublin, Louth, Meath and Westmeath being reduced to the size of just Meath. Palestinians “enjoy” autonomy in urban centres such as Bethlehem, Jericho and Ramallah, yet these centres are completely surrounded by land under strict Israeli military control. Living in an open prison does not equate to freedom.