Imagine what would happen if Irish politicians from across Dáil Éireann – from Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, The Green Party, Labour, and Sinn Fein – came together to demand a policy change that they all agreed on, and, what is more, if they were willing to make a very visible public demonstration of their agreement to the national and international media? What then would be the reaction if trade unionists and grassroots activists joined them in their demands for change, holding joint press conferences and publishing articles together in order to make their point heard?
Surely the reaction to this outbreak of solidarity, of unity at a time when each of these groups are at loggerheads would be one of surprise, excitement, joy and floods of words written in multiple columns in Irish newspapers. Wouldn’t the airwaves be choked with the news that at last they have found something that they can agree upon?
The answer is, of course, no, nothing of the sort would happen. Or rather didn’t happen, because the act of solidarity has already occurred and no one seemed to notice. And this lack of interest seems to be because the thing they agree on is not the Irish economy or public sector pay. It is that the international community should sanction Israel through a cultural and economic boycott or hold it to account in an International Court for its criminal actions against the Palestinian people.
As Norman Finkelstein has said in his recent book This Time we went too far’ – Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion: “Operation Cast Lead” (the codename for Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza in December 2008/January 2009) was designed “to restore Israel’s deterrence capacity by using massive lethal force against a defenseless society.” The report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission headed by Judge Richard Goldstone has so damaged Israel’s reputation that “the prospects for a just and lasting resolution of the conflict are better now than ever before” – but only if activists, within and outside Palestine, take full advantage of the Goldstone Report.
In an attempt to explore these new “prospects for a just and lasting resolution of the conflict”, the Phoenix magazine has published a special 16-page supplement on the Goldstone Report, edited by members of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC). The supplement was launched at a press conference in Buswell’s Hotel on 20th May – but not a single journalist showed up, with the exception of a photographer from Indymedia!
The supplement includes articles from a number of politicians and commentators, activists and trade unions leaders.
Kader Asmal, a founder of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, introduces the supplement and cites Justice Richard Goldstone’s comment at the publication of his report in Geneva in September 2009: “A culture of impunity in the region has existed for far too long”. Asmal adds: “No more impunity. Israel’s leaders must be held accountable before our courts on the basis of universal jurisdiction”.
In Lara Marlow’s piece she describes the political resistance being mounted against the report, citing the Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, calling on Goldman to repudiate his own report. Accusations of anti-Semitism are a stock response, says Marlow, who goes on to describe how the accusation was levelled at Irishman Desmond Travers, a member of the Goldstone team:
“The Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, a right-wing think-tank, said Desmond Travers, the retired Irish Army colonel who participated in Goldman’s team, was ‘an individual who is not qualified to take part in any serious fact-finding mission’ because ‘his views are suspect of being motivated by anti-Semitic prejudices’”
Marlowe also mentions that the report considers that the attacks by Hamas, who launched 8,000 rockets and mortars since 2001, “would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity” too. However, “he did not say that the total Israeli fatalities from these attacks have been fewer than two dozen”.
Desmond Travers writes a very interesting piece too, which discusses the development and rational of the “Dahiyia concept” as provided by Israeli military theorists. The name Dahiyia comes from, explains Travers,
“…an area peopled by Sh’ia Muslims notionally supportive of Hisb’Allah, which was targeted [in 2006] by Israeli Air Force. Maj Gen Gabi Eisenkot explained: ‘…what happened in Dahiyia… will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on..We will apply disproportionate force…These are not civilian villages: they are military bases. This is a plan and it has been approved’ (Goldstone Report, Para 1195).”
The Dahiyia concept was not unique, he explains and cites a 2005 paper called “Assassination and Preventative Killing” which recommends casualty avoidance and risk aversion by Israeli troops. “Risks were transferred to non-combatants regardless of age or gender”.
Harry Browne has a piece on the invasion itself, describing events as they proceeded and reminding us:
“Israel also attempted to make itself invulnerable to international criticism by keeping journalists out of Gaza. This tactic however backfired as many news organisations turned to a few locally based journalists and to other Palestinian civilians for eyewitness accounts of the slaughter.”
Other important contributions include an extract from an article originally published in Huffington Post by Hajo Meyer, a holocaust survivor who makes a comparison between his experiences in Germany before 1939 and those suffered by Palestinians today.
Paul Callan SC, makes the argument that Ireland has an obligation to support international law which the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its 2004 Advisory Opinion considers to be breached when Israel constructed a wall in the occupied Palestinian territory. This obligation includes the possibility of arresting visiting Israeli politicians or military personnel under Universal Jurisdiction.
However, as an illustration of the Irish cross-party political consensus on the issue the supplement provides statements from Fianna Fail TD Chris Andrews, Green Party TD and Junior Minister Ciaran Cuffe, Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins, TCD Senator David Norris, Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa and Sinn Fein TD and spokesperson for housing, justice, equality and human rights, and international affairs Aengus O’Snodaigh.
On top of that there are comments from Jack O’Connor of ICTU and Jimmy Kelly of Unite.
But the strongest point throughout the pieces is the complicity of support that Israel continues to enjoy from both the Irish government and the EU. Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Michael Martin has expressed dismay at the action of Israel in Gaza, but as the editorial in the issue of Phoenix containing the supplement mentions, didn’t follow through with this by using what power it had to send a message to Israel.
“On the one hand, Martin made genuflection to Irish sensibilities about the plight of Palestinians by expressing “reservations” at the OECD about Israel’s continuing occupation of the West Bank. On the other hand, he refused to actually do anything material by exercising the veto Ireland possesses at the OECD and block Israeli membership as a peaceful pressure on Israel to halt its barbarous behaviour towards its Palestinian neighbours.”
As Jamal Juma, co-ordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, argues, things at the EU level are even worse. On March 10, 2010, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on EU Member States to demand implementation of the UN’s Goldstone Report. Despite this sentiment the EU itself continue to implement the EU-Israeli Association Agreement.
It’s also worth noting that some of those who have contributed to the supplement are part of the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, which expects to arrive at its destination within 48 hours (according to a press release issued today) “despite Israel’s vow to block the mission from delivering much-needed aid”.
“Among the ships heading towards Gaza is the 1,200 tonne Irish cargo ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, which is owned by the Free Gaza Movement. The ship is carrying a cargo of cement and other vital reconstruction materials for the people of Gaza. The Irish participants in the flotilla are Denis Halliday (Dublin), Caoimhe Butterly (Dublin/Cork), Chris Andrews TD (Dublin), Fintan Lane (Cork/Dublin), Mairead Maguire (Belfast), Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD (Dublin), Senator Mark Daly (Kerry) and Fiachra Ó Luain (Donegal). The Irish crew members on the MV Rachel Corrie are Derek Graham (Mayo), Jenny Graham (Mayo) and Shane Dillon (Dublin).”
This supplement, which was published in the 20th of May edition of the Phoenix is available in the usual newsagents, and was co-ordinated with the help of Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. It is available separately at a cost of EUR2 from the IPSC (http://www.ipsc.ie/phoenix/ ).
Below is an audio recording of the introduction by IPSC Chairman David Landy at the press conference to announce the publication of the supplement.
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