Deafening silence from Ireland and the European Union on arrest of elected politicians and incursions into Gaza condemned

A Palestinian woman attending the funeral of Mohammad Abed Alal, 25, killed during an Israeli air strike on Rafah refugee camp, June 30, 2006. (MaanImages/Hatem Omar)

The failure of Spokespersons on behalf of the European Union and member countries to respond to the recent events in Gaza and the West Bank reveals the appalling moral vacuum into which European Union policy has descended in relation to the Middle East.

While it is important to condemn unequivocally the taking of hostages and the placing of lives at risk it is also important to be even handed in ones response to events in the region. In this regard there is a striking contrast between the tactic of moral suasion which characterises the Europe Union’s policy in relation to Israel and, on the other hand, the sanctions it has imposed against the Palestinian people.

The European Union has lost the opportunity to respond to the Eighteen Point Initiative put forward in May by prisoner representatives of four groups – Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Poplular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – which was endorsed by President Mahmoud Abbas.

This initiative, which leads to a national government in the Palestinian territories, meets most of the demands of the peace process known as the Road Map. At the same time as this initiative, an important breakthrough, was taking place, we have witnessed further massive breaches of international law on the part of the Israeli authorities. While it is important that there be international pressure for the release of hostages, such as Corporal Gilad Shalit, nothing can justify the detention of elected members of the Palestinian Parliament and the indiscriminate placing at risk of civilians in Gaza and elsewhere.

The European Union is behaving with appalling bad faith. It called for elections in the Palestinian territories, it acknowledged that they were fair, and it punishes the Palestinian people for the result.

The deafening silence of the Spokespersons of the Union and its member States, their failure to defend international law, is appalling.

This morning at the order of business, I sought to have under a Standing Order 31 motion, to have these matters discussed and the Ceann Comhairle ruled it was not in order.

At Question Time this afternoon I raised these matters again but unfortunately there was no assurance that Ireland would be calling on the European Union to condemn the latest breaches of international law.

Once again members of parliament of the EU and the international community are standing by and watching the flagrant breach of international law

At present international law is at the lowest point it has been for decades with clear departures from its principles being advocated by the most powerful – Iran, illegality being ignored in Palestine, random threats being made to other countries in the Middle East, and a comprehensive silence from the Foreign Affairs Spokespersons of the European Union.

Michael D Higgins TD is the Labour Party President & Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs in Ireland.

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