Ireland, Israel and Palestine

 

Sir, – The Ireland Israel Alliance would like to respond to Dr Ronit Lentin’s article “Deep empathy of Irish for Palestinians is in no way anti-Semitic” (Opinion & Analysis, February 4th).

While it would be spurious to claim that everyone who supports the “Occupied Territories” Bill is anti-Semitic, applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected or demanded by any other nation, most certainly is. Likewise, legislation that is carefully drafted to apply to Israeli settlements in the West Bank while avoiding settlements in occupied territories such as Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus, most certainly is.

Using the Geneva Convention to support the supposed illegality of West Bank settlements, from which products would be banned if the Bill becomes law, is problematic, as Israel does not engage in deportation or transference of its population.

Rather, Israel’s administration of West Bank territories is a result of its defensive action against five Arab Armies in 1948, itself a direct result of those armies’ rejection of the 1947 UN Partition Plan.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are very rarely built on land privately owned by Palestinians and occurs only occasionally where a genuine mistake has been made, since it is not permitted under Israeli law.

There is only one such case where an Israeli court gave legal recognition to a settlement built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank (the Mitzpe Carmit settlement near Ramallah) and where the settlers had settled “in good faith”, not knowing the land was privately owned.

Most of the checkpoints which were erected to prevent terrorist attacks in Israel have been removed following the construction of the West Bank security barrier, as B’Tselem itself has recognised.

Attacks by Israeli settlers are shameful and should rightly be condemned, but the number is very small.

According to UN figures, in 2017 there were five such attacks per month causing casualties and nine causing property damage. Before we rush to point the finger of blame and condemn our Jewish neighbours too harshly, it might be worth remembering that in the year ending June 2018, Irish crime figures showed a sharp rise in violent crimes, with over 4,000 assaults causing bodily harm. Fortunately for us, our proverbial dirty washing is not hung out to dry in the international arena.

The EU and Israel have mutual agreements to promote research and innovation, and which benefit the EU as well as Israel. Under these agreements, grants, prizes and loans are made to support joint projects out of a fund to which Israel contributes as well as the EU. As the EU does not regard the West Bank as Israeli territory, it issued guidelines in 2013 clarifying that these grants, prizes and loans should not be provided to Israeli companies and bodies based in Israeli settlements. However, the EU does not prohibit its citizens from trading with businesses in Israeli settlements or studying or working with Israelis there. Thousands of Palestinians do just that, laying the essential basis for peaceful coexistence.

To persistently conflate our own Irish history of “colonial brutality” with the Israeli-Palestinian situation is not only disingenuous, but dangerous. Justice for Palestinians will only take place when the Palestinian leadership take responsibility for their actions. As it currently stands, they have no incentive to do so. – Yours, etc,

JACKIE GOODALL,

Ireland Israel Alliance,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Stephen Collins’s article “Occupied Territories Bill irresponsible act of political posturing”, Opinion & Analysis, February 7th is both contradictory and misinformed suggesting, on the one hand, the Bill will “have no effect” and, on the other, that it will torpedo a “Middle-East peace initiative” sponsored by Ireland and France.

An informed observer of the Middle-East would know that there is no “peace process” to speak of or any prospect of one as Israel continues to colonise the West Bank apace and has illegally settled 600,000 colonists on Palestinian land. Takis Tridimas, professor of law at King’s College London, in an opinion on the Occupied Territories Bill, found that the prohibitions imposed by the Bill “do not run counter to European Union law”. Indeed, he argues that the Bill seeks “to promote the objectives of, and give effect to, fundamental rules of international law which also bind the EU”. Therefore, the Bill is in compliance with international law and EU policy which has consistently condemned Israeli settlements “as an obstacle to peace”.

Your columnist finds the “level of outrage generated in Ireland by Israel’s illegal actions” as “odd” by comparison to “general indifference to massacres and war crimes carried out by a variety of actors around the world”. My experience of the Irish public and civil society has been one of commendable, unstinting condemnation of human rights abuses wherever they occur. Suggesting otherwise is a terrible slur on Ireland’s laudable record of engagement with international development and human rights issues, particularly in the global south. – Yours, etc,

STEPHEN McCLOSKEY,

Director,

Centre for Global

Education,

Belfast.