‘Serious concerns’ persist over Israeli move against NGOs, says Coveney

Accusations of links to terrorism have wider consequences, Dáil is told

Richard Boyd Barrett said that the Government had been better than others in terms of  highlighting the Palestinian people’s plight but, he added, ‘the problem is, nothing ever changes’. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Richard Boyd Barrett said that the Government had been better than others in terms of highlighting the Palestinian people’s plight but, he added, ‘the problem is, nothing ever changes’. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said he is working closely with EU partners to secure further clarification on the designation by Israel’s Ministry of Defence of six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist entities last month.

Mr Coveney said he has “serious concerns” regarding the designation of the organisations, some of which are in receipt of Irish and European aid.

“We were not informed in advance of these designations, nor have we received substantial evidence to support them,” Mr Coveney told the Dáil during a debate on the issue on Tuesday night.

“These designations have the potential to impact not only six organisations but civil society more broadly and to seriously undermine legitimate humanitarian development and human rights work in the occupied territories,” he added. “Ireland has consistently and strongly opposed illegal settlement activity. We do so on the basis of international law and the resolutions of the UN Security Council.”

Mr Coveney said during his visit to Israel at the beginning of November there was “useful and constructive exchanges” on a range of issues including the situation there and the occupied Palestinian territory, anti-Semitism and the response to Covid-19.

“Progress requires dialogue. Ultimately there can be no substitute for direct negotiations between the two parties. I remain committed to taking all appropriate actions to assist in resolving this conflict and to ensuring equitable treatment for both peoples,” he said.

Labour TD Brendan Howlin said there were “very few issues that unite all of this House, but this is one of them”.

He said Israel’s designation of six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organisations was “a clear and absolute assault on democratic mechanisms of accountability and human rights monitoring”.

“No democratic nation, no nation that presents itself to be fully democratic can be allowed to simply extinguish human rights bodies from existing within their territories. The impact of this is immediate,” he said.

“There is an immediate concern for all the people working, sometimes for decades, in advocating human rights, in monitoring what is going on in the ground in Israel and in the occupied territories.

“They will be subject to arrest if they enter their own premises, if they access their own funding, so the whole idea is to stop them functioning as human rights organisations. Even totalitarian regimes haven’t resorted to that.”

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the plight of Palestine “mirrors so closely our own history under colonial rule”.

“I don’t mind admitting that the Irish Government is better than most Governments, at least in terms of the statements it makes about the mistreatment of the Palestinian people. The problem is, nothing ever changes.”