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Israeli Apartheid: Weak Response from Irish Government

Photo by TIMO from Pexels

This week, Dáil Éireann debated the Amnesty International Report which was released on February 1st this year entitled “Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity”. The report had been researched for four years and included examples which Amnesty found amounted to the crime of apartheid.

“Our report reveals the true extent of Israel’s apartheid regime. Whether they live in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, or Israel itself, Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights. We found that Israel’s cruel policies of segregation, dispossession and exclusion across all territories under its control clearly amount to apartheid. The international community has an obligation to act”

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General
Photo by Musa Zanoun from Pexels

The Amnesty report is the latest  in a long line of rights organisations who have called out the unjust occupation of Palestine as a system of apartheid, including Human Rights Watch, UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard, B’Tselem, Yesh Din and a full panel of UN experts.

The Irish Government have been criticised by the opposition and by Palestinian rights groups for refusing to endorse the use of the term “apartheid” to describe the Israeli regime. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett’s contribution went viral after he called out the glaring double standards in treatment of Russia, including swift and decisive use of sanctions, and the treatment of Israel.

The report was first debated in the Seanad on 1st march. A long term advocate for Palestinian rights, Senator Frances Black was frank:

Let us be clear. Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has constructed a regime of apartheid over Palestinians in the entire territory under its control. By continuing to not take action, Ireland and the Government are complicit in crimes against humanity. As a responsible member of the international community of nations, totally dependent as a small nation on the rules-based order and no longer able to pretend we did not know, we are now obliged to act. Israel must be accountable for the crime of apartheid.

Contributions in the Dáil broadly supported the findings of the report, but Minister Simon Coveney stopped short of endorsing the use of the term apartheid saying “the Irish Government does not use the term “apartheid” because we do not think it is helpful in this context.” He outlined support for the Palestinian right to self-determination, which was welcomed by the Mission of the State of Palestine in Ireland.

Deputy John Brady, Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs spokesperson, criticised the Minister sharply saying

“History will judge those who sit on the fence. History will shame those who bury their heads in the sand while the Palestinian people continue to suffer at the hands of the oppressive, brutal, occupying apartheid state that is Israel. The Minister must act. He cannot afford to sit on his hands and not act. He must call out Israel for the apartheid policies and apartheid regime it operates against the Palestinian people.”

The findings of the Amnesty report are indisputable. What remains to be seen is what, if any, action will be taken to uphold international law and defend the rights of Palestinians.

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