Full Speech Transcript:
It is positive we have this time to discuss the Amnesty International report and the situation in Israel and Palestine. The report has detailed a cruel system of control over Palestinians by Israel. Palestinians have been left impoverished and in a constant state of fear and anxiety. The report ultimately concludes that this occupation and control meets the definition of apartheid under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and under the United Nations anti-apartheid convention.
While there has been much attempt to discredit this report, it needs to be looked at in context, such as the context of the Human Rights Watch report that talks about the oppression of Palestinians, which the organisation says “has reached a threshold and a permanence that meets the definitions of the crimes of apartheid and persecution”. Even before the Human Rights Watch report, we had the report from B’Tselem, the Israeli NGO, which said “One organizing principle lies at the base of a wide array of Israeli policies: advancing and perpetuating the supremacy of one group … over another”.
These reports do not come out of nowhere. We have been hearing this for a long time. Many other reports highlight this embedded, entrenched, institutional discrimination. Breaking the Silence has regularly reported the testimony of soldiers who have talked about how they would ignore the crimes of settlers and would arrest Palestinians and how settlers would throw stones and assault Palestinians while the soldiers would ignore them and arrest the Palestinians for doing the same or even for doing nothing.
Bimkom, the Israeli NGO of planners for human rights, has regularly spoken out about the entrenched racism in the Israeli planning system, especially when it comes to the administration of occupied Palestine. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has spoken out against racist laws and laws that are applied unevenly, depending on whether one is Israeli or Palestinian. It has detailed in the past at least 50 laws, if not more, that have entrenched discrimination on the statute book.
The NGO BADIL talks often about the Palestinian refugees’ right of return and how this is enshrined in international law. This right of return has been utterly ignored. Compare that with the law of return and how anyone seeking to make aliyah to move to Israel can return. Discrimination is entrenched in that.
Like many other Members of this House, I have seen this discrimination at first hand. I have stood on the rubble of a Palestinian home that was demolished. Not only was the home demolished, the family was given a tent by the Red Cross, and because it was pitched on the same property, it was considered a building and the Israelis came and demolished the tent.
While I stood on the rubble of this house, I could look over a settler-only road, across the separation barrier, to a hill opposite where there was an illegal outpost of the Neve Daniel settlement. This outpost was not just illegal in the way we talk about settlements being illegal in terms of international law, which they are and which the Minister recognises, but even illegal under Israeli law. This outpost was never going be demolished. Here we have a Palestinian home that is demolished and, a hundred yards away, an Israeli home that will never be demolished. What is that if not entrenched legal discrimination?
As I stood there, I could see the cars on the settler-only road flying into Israel, whereas just up the road from it was a checkpoint choked with Palestinians struggling to get through to get some work to earn some money to feed their impoverished families, as the Amnesty International report says. I have seen settlers throwing stones and assaulting Palestinians while soldiers have done nothing. All a Palestinian has to do is look at the settler wrong and he or she will be arrested, exactly as the Breaking the Silence report has said.
I have visited the Aida and Dheisheh refugee camps. I have seen refugees denied their international law rights to return to their homes. Again, this is entrenched legal discrimination. All of that adds up to apartheid. It is not just that, but what we see in Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians is a deliberate inflicting on Palestinians of a way of life calculated essentially to bring about their destruction in part and the destruction of their communities. That is what we are witnessing here, ultimately.
We have seen an attempt at a rebuttal within this complex of the Amnesty International report. All we heard was the same regurgitation of the same tired debunked hasbara, the same lies that are told to justify the occupation. The crushing reality of the occupation never got a look in. The settlement building, the wall, the checkpoints, the home demolitions, the random arrests, the ID cards and the arbitrary nature of all of this kind of administration of the occupied Palestinian territories did not get a look in. All we got was the same tired hasbara that has all been debunked before. To listen to it was infuriating.
If international law is to be real, we must find a way to enforce it. To allow one state to act with impunity emboldens others to do the same. We have seen it in recent weeks with regard to Ukraine. We also see it in Western Sahara with the Moroccan occupation there. They know they can get away with it because they know their friends in Israel are getting away with it. If we allow the breach of international law to happen anywhere, it becomes an insipid cancer that eats away at peace and prosperity everywhere.
Palestinians are looking on, hurt and confused and wanting to know why they are different and not getting the same response. I spoke to one Palestinian during the week and the hurt was palpable as that person spoke about this.
We need to ensure the International Criminal Court is strengthened and can act on this and that we support and fight against that. What is the use in that? The Goldstone report detailed strongly the concerns about breaches of international law, and again nothing happened. It is deeply infuriating. We need to find ways to enforce our commitments under the Geneva Convention.
Deputy Haughey talked about recognition earlier. The Minister has spoken about recognition and said we had the most leverage with the threat of recognition before we actually do it. However, what leverage are we getting? All I see is the Israelis acting with impunity and ignoring what the world says. If we do not get any leverage out of it, what is the benefit to it?
In terms of the cost of recognition, let us look at what happened to Sweden when it recognised Palestine – nothing.
In my conversations with members of the department of foreign affairs in Sweden, they told me that they had no problem and faced no restrictions. The department of foreign affairs in Sweden told me it faced no problems in terms of its programmes within Palestine after the recognition. IKEA may have had some furniture returned but that was about it.
If we are not getting leverage from it and there will not be a cost from it, surely this is one small symbolic act we can do to support the Palestinians.
We all stood together in this House to recognise and call out the annexation that is taking place, which is a crime in international law. The Minister has spoken out in the past about the settlements being illegal and in breach of international law.
These criminal enterprises are happening. If a company here was engaged in criminal enterprises, would we allow it to bid for government contracts? Companies that are engaged in criminal enterprise over there are bidding for government contracts here. There is a disconnect there. Surely, we should be saying that anyone involved in a criminal enterprise, whether at domestic level or internationally, should not be getting Government contracts.
I share the frustration of Deputy Boyd Barrett. This is a deeply frustrating and upsetting subject. I am conscious that I am in a very safe, privileged place, whereas Palestinians are living under occupation and, right now, some of them are probably being arrested and their homes raided.
We need to find ways to do more because what we are doing is not enough. The occupation is not just continuing; it is grinding on and down and becoming more entrenched. The lives of Palestinians are being destroyed as a result.