Irish human rights groups call to stop EU-Israel Association Council
In an open letter issued today, 18 Irish human rights groups, civil society organisations and trade unions called for the Irish government to act to stop the reconvening of the EU-Israel Association Council scheduled for next month.
The letter follows on from other calls for cancellation directed to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, from MEPs, Amnesty International and Palestinian and international civil society groups.
The signatories, which include Trocaire, Christian Aid Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Fórsa, the Communications Workers’ Union, ActionAid Ireland, Sadaka and the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, say that the reconvening the joint talks – the highest level forum for EU-Israel relations – “will be interpreted by the Israeli government as an implicit approval of its actions that contravene international law and human rights norms.”
The letter (full text bleow) goes on to note that since the decision was taken to reconvene the Association Council in July, “Israel has waged another brutal war on Gaza, intensified its attacks on Palestinian civil society organisations, continued plans to expand settlements and intends to impose strict new rules on foreigners in the West Bank.” “The message is clear,” the authors say, “the EU is emboldening Israel to proceed with impunity by giving a clear signal that there will never be accountability for its actions.”
The letter concludes by calling on the Irish government to use its veto to revoke the decision to reconvene the Association Council, or that “clear and concrete conditions should be set before reconvening the Council,” including an end to all Israeli settlement building and full compliance with Israel’s obligations under international law.
Speaking about the letter, Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign Chairperson, Aisling Micklethwaite, said: “Just last week, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney said that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people was ‘unacceptable and illegal’. The EU should not be hosting prestigious diplomatic meetings with states that act in such a manner. Ireland has the power to ensure that this treatment is not rewarded. Ireland has the power to ensure that unacceptable means unacceptable.”
FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney TD
Department of Foreign Affairs
80 St. Stephen’s Green
26th September 2022
Dear Minister Coveney,
We, the below-signed Irish human rights and civil society organisations, were dismayed to learn that the European Commission intends to revive the EU-Israel Association Council.
Reconvening the joint talks – the highest level forum for EU-Israel relations – that have been suspended since 2013 will be interpreted by the Israeli government as an implicit approval of its actions that contravene international law and human rights norms.
Indeed, this decision was taken at the time when a historic mass eviction and forcible transfer of over one thousand Palestinians is taking place in Masafer Yatta. Furthermore, the approval of the E1 settlement plan is looming, something which the EU has repeatedly stated as being a red-line issue.
These recent developments are merely the continuation of the systematic policy of unilaterally advancing both de jure and de facto annexation, an annexation that the Irish parliament unanimously recognised in May 2021.
The situation on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has been seriously deteriorating, and while Israel advances its agenda of annexation on the ground without any meaningful reaction from Europe, Palestinians grapple with the reality of inhuman conditions without any prospect for justice after decades of dispossession, oppression and occupation. A growing consensus among international, Palestinian, and Israeli human rights organisations, alongside United Nations experts, concludes that these actions amount to the Crime of Apartheid.
Reinitiating the Association Council with the intention of engaging Israel in addressing these issues without a clear mechanism of accountability, would be a very dangerous step.
A government which controls and subjugates 5 million people under occupation, which arrests and prosecutes children in military courts and which persecutes human rights defenders under the pretext of ‘counter-terrorism,’ cannot be an unconditional partner of the European Union. These acts are hallmarks of authoritarian states, not democracies. In the absence of clearly stated conditions, endorsing an institutionalised form of cooperation with the Israeli government and resumption of the Association Council will send entirely the wrong message.
Indeed, since the decision was taken to reconvene the Association Council, Israel has waged another brutal war on Gaza, intensified its attacks on Palestinian civil society organisations, continued plans to expand settlements and intends to impose strict new rules on foreigners in the West Bank. The message is clear; the EU is emboldening Israel to proceed with impunity by giving a clear signal that there will never be accountability for its actions.
The EU should not reward a government which engages in human rights abuses, international law violations and war crimes. Thus, the decision to reconvene the Association Council should be revoked, or, at the very least, clear and concrete conditions should be set before reconvening the Council. These should include:
– An immediate halt to the demolitions and evictions in Masafer Yatta and elsewhere in the Occupied Palestinian Territories;
– An end to the E1 settlement plan and all settlement building;
– Full compliance with Israel’s obligations under international law and an end to occupation, colonisation and discriminatory practices, including that of barring family reunions for Palestinians;
– The immediate and unconditional lifting of the Gaza blockade;
– An end to the practice of Administrative Detention and the release of child prisoners and political prisoners;
– Co-operation with all investigations including those by the International Criminal Court, UN Special Rapporteurs, and the granting of visas to UN Human Rights staff;
– Revocation of the designation of leading Palestinian civil society organisation as ‘terrorist organisations’ and an end to attacks on these groups
The imposition of such conditionality can be called for by just one Member State, and importantly, a single Member State can block the reconstitution of the council. Ireland should be that Member State.
When speaking of Israel’s assault on Palestinian civil society groups, EU High Rep. Borrell said clearly that Israel’s “actions are not acceptable”; you yourself have used the same terminology to describe Israel actions on numerous occasions.
Ireland now has the power to tell Europe that unacceptable should mean unacceptable.
We urge you to use that power.
Paola Rivetti, Co-chair, Academics for Palestine
Karol Balfe, CEO, ActionAid Ireland
Stephen McCloskey, Director, Centre for Global Education
Rosamond Bennett, CEO, Christian Aid Ireland
Rebecca O Byrne, on behalf of Comhlamh Justice for Palestine
Seán McDonagh, General Secretary and Ivor Reynolds, President, Communications Workers’ Union
Thomas Mc Donagh, Director, Financial Justice Ireland
Zoë Lawlor, Coordinator, Gaza Action Ireland
Aisling Micklethwaite, Chairperson, Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Patricia King, General Secretary, Irish Congress of Trade Unions
Kevin Callinan, President, Irish Congress of Trade Unions and General Secretary, Fórsa
Sue Pentel, on behalf of Jewish Voice for a Just Peace – Ireland
John Parkin, Chairperson, Kairos Ireland
Frank Keoghan, Secretary, People’s Movement/Gluaiseacht an Phobail
Marie Crawley, Chair, Sadaka – The Ireland Palestine Alliance
Zaid Albarghouthi, Chairperson, Trinity College Dublin BDS Group
Richy Carrothers, Chair, Trade Union Friends of Palestine
Caoimhe de Barra, CEO, Trócaire