At a media conference in Dublin yesterday, Bishop Raymond Field, Chair of the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs (ICJSA), Bishop John Kirby, Chair of Trocaire and Rev Dr Eoin Cassidy of the ICJSA, launched a position paper Palestine/Israel, Principles for a Just Peace before a briefing meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern TD.
Bishop Field said: “Today we shall meet with Minister Ahern and raise with him the issue of the EU-Israel Association agreement. While we welcome cooperation between the EU and its neighbouring countries, nevertheless such cooperation should not be at the expense of a large segment of the indigenous population — in this case the Palestinians. Where there is evidence of systematic abuse of human rights on a large scale as in the Occupied Territories there are questions that must be asked concerning the appropriateness of maintaining close business, cultural and commercial links with Israel.
“We also intend to raise the issue of the restriction of movement in the Occupied Territories. We are calling for an end to restrictions on family reunification, and an end to humiliating treatment of people at checkpoints. The Palestinian people need freedom of movement to work, visit family, obtain medical treatment and be educated. At present it is extremely difficult for Palestinian Christians from East Jerusalem to pray at the Church of the Nativity or for Christians in Bethlehem to attend Sunday Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. At this time, no Bethlehem resident is allowed to visit Jerusalem without special permission from the Israeli army. In effect, the communities of Bethlehem and East Jerusalem are forced to live divided by a 25 foot wall that surrounds Bethlehem on three sides.
“We also intend to raise with Minister Ahern the intolerable situation that is the daily lot of the Palestinians who live in Gaza, a territory just six miles wide and 25 miles long and home to 1.3 million Palestinians. As things presently stand Gaza is little more than a large prison. Israel retains control of its land borders, airspace and territorial waters and imposes severe restrictions on the rights of Palestinians in Gaza to either enter or leave the territory. This injustice is exacerbated by the restrictions that are placed on Palestinians engaged in a commercial activity such as fishing — a key source of income in a territory such as Gaza with a relatively long coastline.”
The ICJSA is a Commission of the Irish Bishops’ Conference. Dr Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, launched it on 13 June 2005.