The Occupied Territories Bill

 

Sir, – Contrary to what Alan Shatter claims (Letters, October 19th), the ban on trade with Israeli settlements prescribed by the Occupied Territories Bill is the very type of measure required to facilitate a Middle East peace process capable of leading to a just peace.

One “crucial cornerstone of the Irish peace process” which Mr Shatter fails to mention was its participants’ compliance with the so-called Mitchell Principle. According to that principle, participation in the peace process was conditional upon cessation of any illegal activity inconsistent with the peace which it eventually achieved.

By contrast, since the beginning of the Middle East “peace process” in the early 1990s, Israel has continued to plunder vast amounts of Palestinian land – the issue at the very heart of the conflict – for the construction of more and more illegal settlements. Indeed, the vast majority of these settlements have been built since that process commenced, resulting in the dispossession of many thousands of Palestinians of their land and homes.

As the UN special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territory, Prof Michael Lynk, recently noted, this has happened because of the international community’s “persistent unwillingness to confront Israel with any meaningful injunctions”. It bears noting that this failure stems in part from the repeated vetoing by the US – the supposed “honest broker” of the Middle East “peace process” – of UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel’s actions.

Mr Shatter’s complaint that the Occupied Territories Bill discriminates against Israel rings hollow. It is an extremely modest measure by comparison with those reflexively (and rightly) applied by Ireland as a member of the international community in relation to other flagrant violations of international law – Russia’s annexation of Crimea, for example. Mr Shatter’s grievance is with the fact that the Bill, which is of general application, fails to provide Israel with the special exemption it has become accustomed to receiving from the international community.

Every new Israeli settlement amounts to a war crime under international criminal law and a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Perhaps less well known is the fact that the authorisation of settlement building is an offence punishable by up to life imprisonment under our own International Criminal Court Act – a rare example of Irish legislation which criminalises conduct no matter where in the world or by whom it is committed.

Nobody doubts that dialogue is central to the resolution of any conflict. What can never be up for negotiation, however, is gross criminal activity. – Yours, etc,

GERRY LISTON,

Legal Officer,

Sadaka – the

Ireland Palestine Alliance,

PO Box 110,

Ballyshannon PO,

Co Donegal.