Irish Government Should Seek Safe Passage for MV Saoirse and Gaza Freedom Flotilla II
Below is a letter sent by today – Tuesday 21st June – by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign to Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore TD, requesting that on behalf of the Irish State he demand safe passage for the Irish ship going to Gaza next week (the MV Saoirse) and for the whole of ‘Freedom Flotilla 2 – Stay Human.
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Dear Minister Gilmore,
We are writing to you on behalf of the 25 Irish citizens who will be sailing to Gaza later this month on board the Irish ship MV Saoirse, as part of the Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human. Many of these brave people are members of our organisation, the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC).
We are aware that, in view of the threats issued against participants in the Flotilla by the Israelis, the Department of Foreign Affairs has advised Irish citizens against all travel to the Gaza Strip, including the waters off Gaza. However, we regard it as unacceptable that an Irish government should view the threat of violence against its citizens in international waters as an occasion for admonishing those citizens rather than the rogue state issuing the threat.
It is our belief that the member states of the European Union, including Ireland, have failed in their responsibility towards the protected people of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and in particular towards the people of Gaza who have been subjected to an unprecedented siege by the Israeli state over the last five years. This period also saw the criminal onslaught dubbed “Operation Cast Lead” in the course of which some 1400 men, women and children were slaughtered by the Israeli army. Yet there have been no negative consequences for Israel – its trading privileges with the EU remain intact, and there are even voices within the EU calling for its status to be upgraded – while the EU has continued to support the boycott of the democratically elected Hamas government, and has done nothing to pressurise Israel into ending its illegal siege of Gaza.
In a statement marking the fifth anniversary of the siege (on 15th June), the UN’s Chris Gunness said “It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution.”
It is for this reason that EU citizens, including the 25 Irish people from all walks of life who will be sailing on the MV Saoirse, are once again risking their lives to demonstrate to the people of Gaza the kind of solidarity denied to them by our governments.
We wish, therefore, to request that you publicly urge the government of Israel to allow free passage to the MV Saoirse and, indeed, to the entire Freedom Flotilla. There may also be other Irish citizens travelling on other boats in the Flotilla, not just on the MV Saoirse. In the event of Irish citizens being kidnapped, suffering violence or even death at the hands of Israeli commandos, we believe that the government of Ireland will not be able to wash its hands of responsibility. Instead of taking this risk, is it not better to warn the Israelis in advance that there will be serious consequences for their relationship with the EU if they intercept the Flotilla, which is embarking on a humanitarian mission in international waters?
We urge you, Minister Gilmore, to set an example to your EU colleagues. Please do not abandon these brave Irish citizens who are undertaking a responsibility that should, by right, be that of your government.
Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign