That Dáil Éireann:
— notes that recent weeks have seen the most serious escalation of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (i.e. the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip) since 2014, with a tragic impact on innocent civilians and loss of life, including the deaths of at least 65 children;
— condemns the targeting of civilian infrastructure, and the loss of civilian life, and recalls the obligations on all parties under international humanitarian law and international human rights law to protect civilians;
— welcomes the announcement of the ceasefire of 21st May, and calls on all parties to support its implementation;
— emphasises the importance of immediate and unimpeded access for vital humanitarian assistance for those in need;
— affirms that a just and lasting peace requires addressing the poverty, inequality, injustice and underlying root causes of these cycles of violence, and meaningful accountability for breaches of international law; and
— recognises that the forced displacement of the protected Palestinian population and the presence and expansion of Israeli settlements, in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, undermines the prospects of peace, not just in recent weeks but over decades, and represent flagrant violations of international law;
further notes that:
— the annexation of territory, whether de jure or de facto, is a violation of the fundamental principle of international law enshrined in Article 2(4) of the United Nations (UN) Charter which states ‘All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations’, and UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2334 (December 2016) on Israel underscores ‘the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force’, echoing the original phrase from UNSC Resolution 242 in November 1967;
— the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and their protocols, bind Ireland as a High Contracting Party, and provide that parties to the Conventions must respect and ensure respect for the Conventions;
— the transfer by an Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies is prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention;
— in its 2004 advisory opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the International Court of Justice held that the construction of the wall and its associated regime ‘create a “fait accompli” on the ground that could well become permanent, in which case, and notwithstanding the formal characterization of the wall by Israel, it would be tantamount to de facto annexation.';
— Israel has altered and purports to alter the character and status of Jerusalem, by annexing the territory de jure, and has extended its ‘law, jurisdiction and administration’ to the occupied Syrian Golan and the UNSC has condemned both steps as having ‘no legal validity’ and constitute ‘a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention’ in UNSC Resolutions 476 and 478 (Jerusalem) and 497 (Syrian Golan);
— there are now over 600,000 Israeli settlers living in illegal settlements established in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Israeli Government continues the expansion of these settlements;
— the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, in his report to the UN General Assembly 73rd Session on 22nd October, 2018, concluded ‘Statements of political intent, together with Israel’s colonizing facts on the ground, its legislative activity, and its refusal to adhere to its solemn obligations under international law or to follow the direction of the international community with respect to its 51-year-old occupation, have established the probative evidence that Israel has effectively annexed a significant part of the West Bank and is treating this territory as its own’; and
— the Minister for Foreign Affairs stated on 23rd April, 2020, regarding developments in Israel, that ‘Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law, including the UN Charter, whenever and wherever it occurs, in Europe’s neighbourhood or globally. This is a fundamental principle in the relations of states and the rule of law in the modern world. No one state can set it aside at will’;
recalls that Ireland distinguishes between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967, including illegal Israeli settlements, land appropriated for future settlements, and territory incorporated by the wall and its associated regime;
condemns the recent and ongoing forced displacement of Palestinian communities in the occupied Palestinian territory;
further condemns the annexation by Israel of East Jerusalem and its settlement activity there and in other areas of the West Bank, as serious breaches of international law and as major obstacles to peace that undermine the viability of the two-State solution;
declares that Israel’s actions amount to unlawful de facto annexation of that territory; and calls on the Government:
— not to recognise as lawful any situation created by any such serious breach of international law, nor to imply such recognition, and to not render aid or assistance to the responsible state in maintaining the situation so created and to cooperate to bring the serious breach to an end;
— to urge Israel to bring to an end all settlement activity and not to impede the collective right to self-determination of the Palestinian people as a whole; and
— to focus its efforts on bringing an end to settlement activity and to regularly update Dáil Éireann.
Recently, we have witnessed another sustained, brutal and unforgiving assault on the Palestinian people by Israel, in which hundreds of civilians, including 65 children, were slaughtered. There was the deliberate destruction of homes, media offices, libraries, police stations, the university and the only Covid test centre in Gaza. These are all breaches of the Geneva convention, in other words a war crime. This violence did not take place in a vacuum It was a direct consequence of 54 years of Israeli occupation and colonisation of Palestinian lands. We have brought forward this motion with the support of Trócaire, Sadaka, Christian Aid, ICTU and a broad section of the Oireachtas, whom I thank for co-signing the motion. These include the Social Democrats, the Labour Party and numerous Independent Deputies.
A fundamental tenet of modern international law is a legal maxim which translates to the effect that a lawbreaker cannot benefit from an illegal act. Since 1967, the international community has been unequivocally clear that the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank broke international law and constituted a clear crime. The Israeli programme to populate Palestinian lands, otherwise known as the settler programme, has been the engine that has driven annexation. It is what has turned an Israeli military occupation into a colonisation of Palestinian lands and yet, despite all the legal rulings, the international ire, the 30 UN Security Council resolutions and the hundreds of resolutions that have emanated from the UN General Assembly, Israel has never been held to account for its actions.
The reality is that in Palestine the application of international law is determined by the variables of the power equation. I do not need to remind anyone of the disparity of power in this conflict. It is this power asymmetry that allows Israel to pursue a policy of managing the conflict rather than seek a meaning rapprochement with Palestinians in order that the illegal policy of annexation be allowed to continue to the point where there no longer remains a cohesive coherent entity that was once the Palestinian people.
Remarkably, if we pass this motion, we will be the first European country to attempt to frame a fresh discourse around the conflict through the acknowledgement that annexation is taking place - a discourse based on the applicability of international law and of natural justice, and a belief in the moral obligation of nation states to refrain from the implementation of the policy of apartheid and the programme of colonisation which we term annexation. We will be the first European parliament to formally acknowledge that illegal annexation is taking place in the occupied Palestinian territories. For years, the EU has equivocated with the line that is a line in the sand that if it happens, they can introduce all sorts of serious measures. The EU claims to have prevented annexation from happening last summer. This is not the reality on the ground, which is that de facto annexation is happening. We have the potential to change the EU position.
In January, the Israeli Government approved construction of more than 2,500 settlement housing units across the West Bank, including 460 in East Jerusalem. According to Peace Now, during 2020, Israel approved or advanced construction of more than 12,000 settlement housing units - the most in a single year since the organisation began its monitoring work in 2012.
In the nine-week period from 18 January to 21 March 2021, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, reported at least 204 Palestinian casualties in the West Bank alone resulting from clashes, protests, search and arrest operations and settler attacks.
The respected humanitarian groups, Human Rights Watch, Al-Haq and B'Tselem have all labelled the Israeli Government as an apartheid regime. The Israeli regime, which strives to promote and perpetuate Jewish supremacy in the entire area between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, is an apartheid regime. Accordingly, land is used to develop and expand existing illegal settlements and build new ones, while Palestinians are dispossessed and corralled into small crowded enclaves that are effectively Bantustans.
I acknowledge that other Deputies have brought forward amendments to the motion but I believe that it is important that we act with one voice. I agree with the measures outlined in the People Before Profit amendment but today is about generating unity around one specific issue, that is, annexation. Ultimately, the discourse needs to move onto what sanctions and measures need to be imposed as a consequence of the continuous breaching of international law. I believe it is important that we remain focused on what we can achieve here by supporting this motion.