SIR – Frank Adam’s letter from Manchester, in response to criticism of Israel’s ongoing brutality and illegal actions, sought to disappear Palestinians as indigenous people of the occupied territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
Through this pretence, apologists of the past have sought to promote the idea that Palestinians did not exist and that Israel was created on virgin land in 1948. This despite the fact that the Palestinians’ claim is predicated on the right of ownership evidenced by uninterrupted possession and occupation since the dawn of recorded history.
At the time of Israel’s creation, the area had some 750,000 inhabitants – made up of about 92 per cent Arabs (Muslim and Christian) and 8 per cent Jews. The British colonial power with mandate for the area specifically referred to it in the Balfour Declaration: ‘His Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.’
The purpose of such fallacious argument as an ‘empty land for a homeless people’ was to justify the otherwise indefensible, such as the Zionist terrorist actions against Palestinians and the aggressive settling of the area in the mid-20th century. Those who now defend Israeli aggression have resorted to using the ‘empty land’ argument again despite it being ridiculed by Jewish historians including the renowned Benny Morris and Avi Shlaim.
Today, the narrative is drawn on to provide the immigrant Jewish settlers from around the world with a “right” to what would otherwise have to be recognised as stolen Palestinian land and to provide them with the necessary illusion of the new frontiersmen as of the American West. The “empty land” narrative, however false, is also used today to justify Israel’s lack of defined or internationally recognised borders and to give credence to self-designation as ‘the sovereign state of the Jewish people’’ while ignoring the rights of non-Jews and to give excuse to over 50 years of military occupation and imprisonment of Gazans.
Israel relies on this narrative when:
• it refuses to acknowledge the international law (4th Geneva Convention, UN Resolutions etc) that denies it sovereignty of the occupied Palestinian territories
• it forces populations out of their confiscated homes and land
• it inflicts collective punishment, demolitions, the use of military courts which deny fair trials or holding of prisoners without charge, etc, etc.
This year, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, passed the Regularization Law which allows Israel to retrospectively expropriate private Palestinian land on which settlements have been built. Prime Minister Netanyahu insists that there will never be a Palestinian state under his watch thus denying the only internationally-recognised option for peace.
As with past successful Irish actions on sanctions against South African apartheid, the time has come for similar action and the Senate bill against ‘the import and sales of goods, services and natural resources originating in illegal settlements in occupied territories’ is a hopeful initiative. If approved by the Dáil, it can be used against goods and services from Israeli-occupied territories to bring pressure on Israel.
The bill clearly has cross-party support, but Simon Coveney appears to be either bending under US and Israeli lobbying against it or refuses to accept the advice of legal experts such as Irish Senior Counsel, Michael Lynn, ICC judge, Professor James Crawford or Takis Tridimas, a professor of EU law at King’s College London, all of whom insist that the bill would not contravene EU law.
Our own West Cork legal expert, MEP Brian Crowley is, as ever, silent on such issues.
Ireland has as much a stake in peaceful resolution as other international actors so long as Israel continues to generate refugees for the rest of the world to sustain or accommodate and where every new violent incident involving Palestinians (irrespective if Muslim or Christian) feeds into fundamentalist organisations such as Al Qaeda and IS to radicalise young Muslims against what is loosely called ‘the West.’
Sadly, Israeli operations such as the bombing of Gaza and the use of lethal fire against unarmed protesters, medics, press and children over recent months, serve only to provide extra ammunition for such terrorists.
Without such actions as the Occupied Territories Bill and a cessation of unconditional US political protection to Israel, there will be no incentive for Israel to make significant changes that recognise the human rights and self-determination of Palestinians.