Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
التضامن الإيرلندي الفلسطيني

WATCH: Omar Barghouti at the Oireacthas Foreign Affairs Committee

On Thursday 10th May 2018, Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement appeared before the Oireacthas (Irish Parliament) Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence.

Below is the full video of this presentation, plus the question and answer session. A transcript of the meeting is also included.

TRANSCRIPT – original link

Brendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)

In part B of today’s meeting, we meet Mr. Omar Barghouti to discuss the current situation in Palestine and the growing non-violent civil society movement that opposes Israel’s occupation. Mr. Barghouti is welcome.

Before beginning, I remind members, witnesses and those in the Public Gallery to ensure that their mobile phones are switched off completely for the duration of the meeting, as they cause interference, even on silent mode, with the recording equipment in this room. I remind members of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person or body outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the joint committee. However, if they are directed by the Chair to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

I call on Mr. Barghouti to make his opening statement.

Mr. Omar Barghouti:

Good morning. I am honoured to address the esteemed parliamentary committee and am grateful for this opportunity to share with members a glimpse of the Palestinian people’s existence, resistance and inextinguishable insistence on freedom and self-determination after 70 years of colonial oppression. Like all Palestinians, I feel more at home in Ireland than in any other western country. Its heroic struggle against centuries of colonialism has always inspired Palestinians. This is why I shall speak from the heart.

At a time when Israel’s regime of military occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid is implementing a shoot-to-kill-or-maim policy against peaceful Palestinian protesters in Gaza marching for freedom and refugee rights, charitable rhetoric is not enough. It is time for accountability. The EU still votes as a bloc in support of UN resolutions upholding basic Palestinian rights, including the right of return, and condemning Israel’s settlements as illegal, but it has yet to take effective measures of accountability against Israel. In contrast, significant EU sanctions were imposed on Russia soon after its military takeover of the Crimea.

Despite Israel’s descent into unmasked, right-wing extremism, particularly with the current escalation of its repression, and notwithstanding the EU’s rhetoric, the Union, including Ireland, remains largely complicit in enabling and maintaining Israel’s grave violations of Palestinian human rights. Israel’s serious breaches of international law trigger legal obligations for the EU, Israel’s largest trade partner, and its member states. As reiterated in the 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice, ICJ, states must refrain from any act that would entail recognition of Israel’s settlement enterprise and from providing any form of assistance that maintains the illegal situation arising from it. By trading with Israel’s illegal settlements and supporting companies that are involved in the settlement enterprise, as defined by the UN, the EU is violating both obligations of non-recognition and non-assistance.

The EU, including Ireland, maintains a web of military relations, weapons research, banking transactions and settlement trade with Israeli companies, banks and institutions that are deeply implicated in violating our rights. For example, the EU imports goods from the Israeli settlements at an estimated annual value of $300 million. Through its Horizon 2020 research programme, the EU has approved more than 200 projects with Israeli companies, such as Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, that are accused of deep complicity in war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. Another Israeli beneficiary of EU funding is Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, a main hub for developing Israeli weapon systems used to perpetrate crimes against Palestinian civilians. Merely labelling some of the illegal products of Israeli colonies instead of banning them is considered by Palestinians as yet another EU failure to uphold European and international law.

As Israel’s regime becomes more overtly associated with the global far right, including white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups in the United States and Europe, and as it becomes the model for Trump’s xenophobic policies, its popularity continues to sink. A recent BBC poll shows that Israel has the fourth lowest popularity rating among many countries. Crucially, support for holding Israel to account is growing among Jewish Americans and the broader US public.

Israel is intensifying its land-grabbing construction of illegal settlements and walls in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem. It is tightening its fatal siege of 2 million people in Gaza, denying them basic necessities while counting the per capitacalories that are allowed in. The UN predicts that Gaza will be unlivable by 2020. Israel is entrenching what even the US Department of State once characterised as a system of “Institutional, legal, and societal discrimination” against Palestinian citizens of present day Israel, enforced by more than 65 racist laws. It also continues to deny the internationally recognised rights of Palestinians in exile, who account for 50% of all Palestinians.

In light of this ongoing Nakba, and given the failure of the international community to hold Israel to account, the non-violent, Nobel Peace Prize nominated Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, BDS, movement for Palestinian rights was launched in 2005 by the broadest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It calls for an end to the 1967 occupation, full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, BDS has consistently and categorically opposed all forms of racism and discrimination, including anti-Semitism, anti-black racism and Islamophobia. We uphold that one’s identity should never diminish one’s entitlement to rights. The BDS movement is supported by a near consensus in Palestinian society. Days ago, the Palestine Liberation Organization, PLO, which is the sole legitimate representative of our people, reiterated its support for BDS.

At the most basic level, Palestinians are calling on Ireland, the EU and the world at large to uphold their profound moral and legal responsibility to do no harm to us. Beyond responsibility, we are asking for solidarity, not charity. In a show of effective and genuine Irish solidarity with the Palestinian struggle a few weeks ago, Dublin became the first European capital to adopt BDS for Palestinian rights. Derry was the first Irish city, in 2016, to endorse BDS. The Irish trade union movement, the student movement, artists and academics across Ireland have adopted BDS in support of Palestinian rights.

In response to the impressive growth of support for Palestinian rights, particularly through BDS, and evoking memories of McCarthyism, Israel has waged a global war on the movement since 2014, including extensive propaganda, legal warfare and espionage. A desperate Israeli Government Minister has established a “tarnishing unit” to smear Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders in the BDS movement while another has publicly threatened us – my name was mentioned in that threat – with “targeted civil assassination”. Amnesty International has condemned these threats. Ireland, along with the EU in general, Sweden, the Netherlands and others, has upheld the right to call for BDS against Israel to achieve Palestinian rights as a matter of freedom of expression.

To fulfil Ireland’s obligations under international law vis-à-visthe Palestinian people, we appeal to the committee to consider the following concrete measures of accountability: imposing a two-way military embargo on Israel, as was done against apartheid South Africa and as has been called for by Amnesty International; banning the import of products of companies implicated in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise and ensuring that companies involved in grave misconduct, such as HP and G4S, are excluded from State tendering processes in line with the EU directive on this matter; supporting the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement until Israel abides by its human rights clause; halting all financial transactions with Israeli banks that finance Israel’s settlement enterprise; and stop considering the import of Israeli natural gas or electric power, given Israel’s pillage of Palestinian energy resources.

Yeats once wrote: “I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” He also wrote: “In dreams begin responsibility”. Indeed, in presenting my people’s dreams and aspirations before the committee, I sincerely hope that members shall not tread on our dreams of dignity, emancipation and a just peace, but will act with responsibility to make them come true.

Brendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)

I thank Mr. Barghouti for his presentation, which gave a concise and clear outline of his organisation’s position and of the issues he wants us to consider and put to the Government.

I understand Senator Bacik has commitments in the Seanad. I will take her contribution first, to be followed by Deputy Niall Collins.

Ivana Bacik (Labour Party)

I thank Mr. Barghouti for, as the Chairman said, such a concise and clear presentation. I think he has set out very succinctly why Ireland should support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, BDS, programme. I am personally a supporter of it. I am proud to support it on behalf of Labour, my party. Students’ unions across Ireland have backed it, as have other unions. We need to act on it. I would ask, on a related issue that we have heard about in this committee and which some of us have been working on, the systematic demolition of Palestinian infrastructure by the Israeli authorities, notably of EU-funded Palestinian infrastructure. Mr. Barghouti might say a word about that. I have always thought that was strong leverage within the EU for Ireland to take a position in defence of the funding that the EU has provided for structures that have since been dismantled or destroyed by Israeli authorities as part of the illegal settlement programme. I express my support and thank Mr. Barghouti for coming.

Niall Collins (Limerick County, Fianna Fail)

I do not have anything to add. Senator Bacik has discovered the questions I had. I thank Mr. Barghouti for his presentation.

Mr. Omar Barghouti:

The issue the Senator raises is extremely important, especially because she mentions EU-funded projects. Over the last years, Israel has intensified its demolition of Palestinian homes, schools, clinics and just about all infrastructure Palestinians have built, especially in Area C, the 60% of the West Bank that is under Israel’s military and security control, where Palestinians cannot do anything without Israeli permission. Despite these projects being funded by the EU and although the heads of missions of EU states in Jerusalem have always raised the facts very clearly to their capitals, there has been no accountability. There has just been rhetoric of condemnation, even very light condemnation, without any action on the ground. There has not been one measure to hold Israel to account or request that it pays back European tax money that has been invested in supporting Palestinian infrastructure. This really raises the question of why Israel is put on a pedestal above international law. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa once asked, why does it get away with all these violations of international law with no accountability?

Pádraig MacLochlainn (Sinn Fein)

My colleague, Deputy Seán Crowe, is in the United States on behalf of the committee so he sends his apologies for not being here today and has asked me, as a Sinn Féin Senator, to convey those apologies and to ask some questions, if that is okay. My party supports BDS. In Ireland, we are very proud of the Dunnes Stores workers. Many years ago, they worked for Dunnes Stores here in Ireland and took a stand against apartheid in South Africa. We celebrate them today because they were absolutely vindicated. It strikes me that the boycott campaign internationally, against the apartheid regime in South Africa, had a successful impact eventually. It was a successful campaign. It was a way of peacefully conveying our opposition to what happened. The efforts that the Israeli state has gone to with some of its allies, to undermine a peaceful and dignified opportunity for those in the international community to express their opposition to what has happened to the Palestinian people, are remarkable. There is also their frustration at their own political leaders for their failure to take decisive action on behalf of the Palestinian people. I believe that the overwhelming majority of the Irish people are in solidarity with the cause of the Palestinian people. I believe that the overwhelming majority of Irish people believe that we should do what is dignified and peaceful to support the Palestinian people.

We hoped to bring legislation through the Upper House, the Seanad, relating to the banning of goods from illegal settlements internationally, which would obviously also include the occupied territories in Palestine. That legislation has been deferred and will, I believe, come before the Upper House later this year. I want to get Mr. Barghouti’s views on that legislation. What would that mean to the Palestinian people if it was passed? On events in Gaza, and the shootings and killings of Palestinian protestors, what is the mood relating to that? Can we get an update on the imprisonment of Ahed Tamimi and other Palestinian children and on what we can do in Ireland? On the wider issue of Jerusalem and the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital by the American Trump Administration, what are the reactions and repercussions in Palestine? What is the current mood among Palestinians? I am conscious that BDS is an initiative of the Palestinian grassroots civil society as distinct from the political leadership. There have not been elections in Palestine for a long time so how can we really assess who the political leaders in Palestine are if there have not been elections in a long time? I would look at Palestinian civil society as being representative of the Palestinian people. What are the views of all of these matters among civil society?

Mr. Omar Barghouti:

I will try to answer the six questions as succinctly as possible. I thank the Senator for raising those very important points. We deeply appreciate Sinn Féin’s support for the BDS movement. It is important that the Senator has mentioned South Africa in this context because Ireland, in particular, played a leading role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against apartheid South Africa. Although British artists like to think that they were the first, Irish artists were the first to call for a cultural boycott of South Africa. South Africans and Palestinians know this history quite well. Regarding some of the issues the Senator has raised, regardless of the BDS movement, Palestinians are asking Ireland and other states to fulfil their legal obligations.

This is a key issue connected to the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, which was deferred, as the Senator mentioned, which would prohibit the entrance into Ireland of products of illegally built settlements in occupied territories, which obviously applies to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem as defined by the United Nations. We think this would be a basic first step. It does not fulfil all of Ireland’s obligations. It is the beginning of fulfilling Ireland’s obligations under international law. We do not buy the pseudo-legal argument made by the Government about why it is deferring this, saying that it abides by EU directives and laws. There is nothing in EU legislation that would prevent Ireland or any European state that is a member of the EU from fulfilling its legal obligations. Those obligations are triggered because settlements are considered a war crime in international law. Building settlements is a war crime. It triggers legal obligations for all countries. This is basic international law. Ireland is obligated by it and it became part of domestic Irish law that international law applies in Ireland.

Another point is military embargo. One of the main slogans raised by the tens of thousands of unarmed protestors in Gaza, protesting against the siege and for the right of return for refugees, is for a military embargo now. Amnesty has called for a military embargo. That is a basic responsibility, to export no weapons to an area of conflict regardless of what one’s opinions are on the conflict. The Irish Government claims that it does not have much of a military trade but some facts we have seen show that millions of euro worth of weapons, weapon parts or technology used for weaponry or military purposes are bought from and sold to Israel.

The Irish Government claims that it does not have much military trade but evidence we have seen shows that there is, indeed, millions of euro worth of weapons, weapon parts or technology used for weaponry and for military purposes being sold to and brought from Israel. This needs to stop because the highest priority demand of the Palestinians everywhere is to stop arms trade with Israel.

Regarding Ms Ahed Tamimi and the hundreds of other Palestinian children in Israel prisons, this issue has been raised even in the US Congress, where it is really difficult, and several congressmen and women have courageously sponsored a Bill that would withhold US aid to Israel equivalent to the amount used in detaining, interrogating and torturing Palestinian children. Coming from the US, from the belly of the beast, as it were, this would be an important move, and we hope that Ireland can push the EU to take similar action, not only of condemnation but accountability, on child prisoners in Israeli prisons.

The Trump Administration’s Jerusalem embassy move is very dangerous, not only for Palestinians but for the entire region, if not the world. Trump is undoing decades of US foreign policy and he is isolating US policy from the international consensus. The United Nations and an absolute majority of nations around the world do not recognise Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem and all of them recognise East Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian territory. In fact, Trump is isolating the US from this international consensus. In a way, he is lighting a powder keg in a dangerous way in a very volatile area to start with. We think this will enable Israel to build more settlements, to kill more Palestinians, to arrest more children, and to confiscate more Palestinian land and continuing with its ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians, especially in East Jerusalem to colonise the city.

Finally, on civil society and the political leadership, the Chairman is absolutely right that there has not been any election in a number of years for Palestinians. However, most recently, the PLO, which still symbolises the leadership of the Palestinian people everywhere despite its many problems and despite many demands to democratise the PLO, has adopted BDS. Even the highest authority among the Palestinians has adopted BDS. Among civil society, NGOs, trade unions, women’s unions, academics and farmers’ unions, there is wall-to-wall support for BDS. Every main entity among Palestinians, in Palestine as well as in exile, has adopted BDS as one of the most effective popular resistance movements and as the most effective movement of solidarity with Palestinian rights.

Brendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)

I thank Mr. Barghouti. In general terms, with regard to the encroaching settlements which have existed for some time now, how feasible is the two-state solution now? A former foreign Minister of our country, the late Brian Lenihan senior, was the first person in the European Union to advocate for, and then have, a distinct policy in regard to that, and it is one that is held strongly in this country. How feasible is it nowadays?

Mr. Omar Barghouti:

In the BDS movement, we do not adopt any position on two states versus one state because we stick to rights. As a human rights movement, we stick to the basis three rights: ending the occupation, ending the system of Apartheid and the right of return.

My personal opinion is that the two-state solution has not been feasible for quite some time. Especially with the Trump-Netanyahu far-right alliance and the support of the far right around the world, it has become even less possible than ever before. In reality, we have one state already, one Apartheid state, with different rights allocated to different groups depending on their ethnicity and religion. This was seen as extremely racist and frowned upon by the entire world when it was the case in South Africa but it is tolerated by almost all states today around the world while it is happening in Palestine. We already have one state under Israeli control with Apartheid laws applying to Palestinians. Even Palestinian citizens of present-day Israel suffer from more than 65 discriminatory laws. Even if we forget the Occupied West Bank and Gaza, including East Jerusalem, for now, we still have a system of Apartheid within Israel itself. It is not so feasible.

The main point is not theoretically. It is, what is needed to push for a just peace? The world is stuck in a dogmatic obsession with two states and one, and this is not the real issue. The real issue is rights. In the Oslo Accords, the big omission was of human rights. There was no mention of human rights in the entire Oslo agreement between the PLO and Israel. What the world needs to push Israel to accept is that it has to meet its obligations under international law and respect Palestinian rights. That is the main element that is missing.

The second point is accountability. Israel has total impunity. It is drunk with power, given Trump’s blanket support. Without accountability, it will not only endanger our very existence as a nation in our homeland, but endanger the entire region and, therefore, the world.

Brendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)

Before I bring in Deputy Seán Barrett, I have a further question. Is Mr. Barghouti, who I appreciate is answering these specific questions in a personal capacity, stating that the policy advocated by the European Union, by Ireland as a member state and by other member states is obsolete?

Mr. Omar Barghouti:

Whether it is obsolete or not is debatable, but it is certainly a distraction. The main point is whether the EU is meeting its obligations to stop enabling and endorsing Israel’s crimes against Palestinians. Distracting our attention from this very important obligation with an empty rhetorical political debate about whether the two-state solution is the best solution or not does not serve anyone’s purposes if a real just and durable peace is what we all aim to achieve.

Brendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)

We would all advocate a two-state solution based on the principle of human rights and not only as a mantra. The mantra would be meaningless, if there were not the basic human rights and civil rights to follow for all people.

Mr. Omar Barghouti:

Actually, I am not sure this is accurate. In the European Union’s discussion of the two-state solution, there is no mention today of the basic rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, for example. They represent 12% of the entire Palestinian people and they live under conditions of Apartheid with dozens of laws discriminating against them. The current discussion about the two-state solution just speaks of fulfilling the Palestinian right to self-determination by establishing an independent state in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza, including East Jerusalem. That is fine, but what does one do with the rights of refugees? Fifty per cent of the Palestinians live in exile. Even among Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, a significant minority are refugees. What does one do with the Palestinian citizens of Israel? Without addressing the three rights, no solution will be ethical and no solution will, therefore, be sustainable. To be sustainable, a solution has to be comprehensive. It has to fulfil the basic rights of all Palestinians, not only the convenient part – the 38% who live in Gaza and the West Bank. Those are only 38% of the entire Palestinian people. If the EU was serious, it would have to address the basic rights of all Palestinians.

Brendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)

I thank Mr. Barghouti.

Seán Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)

How does Mr. Barghouti’s organisation deal with the Israeli problem? As an outsider looking in, Israel has from time to time changed its style of leadership. I would have thought that the present regime would be the least favourable towards the Palestinian situation. That is an outsider’s view looking in. At the end of the day, there is no solution to this problem unless we get a reasonable Israeli approach to dealing with the Palestinian problem. It is one matter condemning Israel. I believe that within Israel, which I have visited, there is a great deal of sympathy towards the Palestinian situation but that is not probably reflected in the manner in which the present regime goes about its business. From time to time, the situation has become fluid because of changes of regimes within Israel but in trying to find a solution to the problem, we cannot move with the change of regime. As a country, our approach would be, along with the EU, to try to find an overall solution to this ongoing problem.

I appreciate where Mr. Barghouti is coming from and what he represents. However, in trying to find a solution to the problem wise heads are needed in the long term. Taking polar positions will not bring a solution that is to the benefit of the unfortunate people who have to live under these circumstances.

Brendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)

Senator Mac Lochlainn is next and I will then bring in Mr. Barghouti.

Pádraig MacLochlainn (Sinn Fein)

The discussion about the two-state solution was a good opportunity for us. On the basis of the Oslo Accords everyone in Europe subscribed to the two-state solution and the idea of the Palestinian people having their own state, limited as it is.

I was in the occupied territories some years back. A presentation was made by an eminent professor. He demonstrated to us the nature of the actual land in possession of Palestinian people today. I understand it is approximately 5% of historical Palestine. There is no two-state solution. When I saw the presentation I was shocked to the core. There is no feasible Palestinian state left because we have allowed the Oslo Accords, limited as they were, to be ripped to shreds by occupied territories, settlements and the carving up of the limited territories. It would be useful to hear some testimony and Mr. Barghouti is far better qualified than me in that regard. My understanding is based on a presentation from some years back. It would be useful to hear some comment about the reality of what is in the possession of the Palestinians today.

Brendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)

I have to go now as the Taoiseach is addressing the chairpersons of the various committees and I have a speaking slot. I will ask Deputy Barrett to take over.

Mr. Omar Barghouti:

When Ireland was resisting British colonialism I imagine no one in Ireland would have appreciated anyone from the outside looking upon the British and the Irish as two equal parties. They were not involved in some husband-and-wife conflict in which a therapist is needed to bring them together to talk about peace. I am certain that the absolute majority of the Irish people then were seeking justice. I imagine they expected everyone throughout the world to hold the British accountable for crimes of colonialism committed in Ireland over centuries and to support the Irish quest for freedom and self-determination.

Similarly, Palestinians have sought nothing more than our right to freedom, justice, equality and self-determination. We are asking for people to do no harm. That is not much of a charitable act. It is a profound moral obligation to do no harm. By doing nothing the EU, including Ireland, is doing harm to us. By continuing to support or to be apathetic towards Israeli crimes, the EU, including Ireland, is doing harm. Importing settlement goods and products and trading with companies that are complicit in Israel’s violations amounts to doing harm. Doing no harm, which is a profound obligation, is what we are asking for.

This should apply regardless of whether the current Israeli regime is the most racist in Israel’s history, which it is. Since 2015, Israel has elected the most far right government ever. The premise of extraordinary sympathy for Palestinian rights among Israelis is not borne by empirical facts. Almost all polls, studies and surveys that we have seen in recent years show an absolute majority of Israelis supporting the current government. They support the racist policies, including those relevant to within Israel and not only in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. A majority of Jewish Israelis today say they do not want to live next to a Palestinian within present day Israel, let alone the West Bank and Gaza.

Again, the point is not to consider this as a conflict of symmetric powers. It is a colonial situation and a situation of apartheid, settler colonialism and occupation. That means obligations are triggered. Accountability is the most important issue. Of course we need Israelis ultimately to agree on a just peace. We cannot achieve it alone. How do we get them there? Is it by using carrots, carrots and more carrots? The EU has provided tonnes of carrots during the past decades but to no avail. Nothing has happened. The EU has forgotten what a stick looks like when it comes to Israel. With Russia, China and even the United States, the EU has adopted sanctions. In recent decades the EU has imposed sanctions on every imaginable power on earth except on Israel.

When Palestinians accuse the EU of hypocrisy, double standards and putting Israel on a pedestal, we know what we are taking about. There is no accountability. That is the only thing that will entice a majority of Israelis to recognise that this is not sustainable. They cannot have their cake and eat it too. They cannot maintain oppression against Palestinians while enjoying free access to the European markets, military trade and so on. No price is being paid by Israel for its crimes against the Palestinians. We believe that making Israel pay for its crimes is the most important factor missing in getting a majority formed in Israel for a just peace. I am not referring to a rhetorical peace that is lacking in justice and Palestinian rights.

A question was asked about Palestinians in Israel. In fact, the relevant figure is 3%. Palestinian citizens of Israel control only 3% of the land under Israel’s control. By law, not only by policy, Israel through some very convoluted laws and policies has kept 93% of the land under its control for Jewish development only. This means if a person is a citizen of Israel but is not Jewish, that person is not entitled to the same rights as Jewish citizens to buy, lease or live on 93% of the land under the control of Israel. That is the case even if we ignore the West Bank and Gaza. In the West Bank, 60% of the most fertile land with water resources is controlled by Israel. That is where settlements are growing most.

The general tendency, as has been rightly mentioned, is towards a shrinking space for Palestinians, shrinking land ownership by Palestinians and growing colonialisation of the entire land. Oslo has acted as nothing more than a fig leaf for intense colonisation of Palestinian land, usurping Palestinian natural resources and demolishing more and more farms, lands and homes. This is making it impossible for Palestinians – the indigenous people of the land – to continue living on most of the land of historical Palestine. It is becoming less and less sustainable. Gaza is the most extreme case. We expect the territory to become unliveable in a year and a half. The West Bank is not unliveable yet but it is becoming extremely difficult for Palestinians to sustain any life with the encroaching settlements taking over the most fertile lands and water resources.

Seán Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)

Thank you, Mr. Barghouti. On behalf of the joint committee, I thank you for your comprehensive presentation and for dealing with our questions. It is an interesting opportunity for us to meet people like yourself. We may not always agree on the pros and cons but I believe we share a common interest, that is, to seek peace for the Palestinian people, to seek proper respect for their rights as well as allowing Israel to co-exist. I congratulate you on presenting your approach to what you see as a solution to this problem. Thank you for coming in. I enjoyed your presentation.

Mr. Omar Barghouti:

I appreciate the opportunity to be here. Thank you for hosting me.