Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Gerry Adams calls for recognition of a Palestinian State - opening speech in full

9 December, 2014 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams tonight opened Sinn Féin PMB  calling for recognition of a Palestinian State. 

Full text of speech below (check against delivery). 

A Message of Hope

Ceann Comhairle, I want to welcome the government’s decision not to oppose the Sinn Féin motion.

The government’s decision means that both houses of the Oireachtas will now support the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination; the recognition of a Palestinian state and sovereignty for the Palestinian people.

This is a substantial and positive development which means that we are a significant part of the consensus for peace and progress in the Middle East.

It also means that we are standing with progressive Israeli opinion which wants a lasting peace arrangement with the Palestinian people.

I have long argued that we as a colonised people with a history of resistance and a peace process could play a leadership role in the search for peace in the Middle East.

Ceann Comhairle, this is the correct stand for Ireland. It is the moral stand.

This Sinn Féin motion is about advancing this.

It is very straightforward.

It recognises the right of Palestinians to self-determination, ‘and to have their own state as well as the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure borders.’

It calls on the government to ‘officially recognise the State of Palestine, on the basis of the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital, as established in UN resolutions, as a further positive contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;

do all it can to assist in the development of the democratic and state institutions of the Palestinian State; and

do everything it can, at the international level, to help secure an inclusive and viable peace process, and two-state solution, in order to bring about the positive conditions to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.’

This motion is about hope.

In a region where there is precious little hope at this time and where tensions are increasing daily, there is an onus on the international community to provide meaningful leadership.

I travelled to the region last week.

It was my fourth visit in 8 years.

Five years ago I spent two days in Gaza, as well as visiting Ramallah and Jerusalem.

In Gaza I saw for myself the devastating impact the Israeli war of 2008-09 had on the people and infrastructure of Gaza.

This time the Israeli government refused me entry.

It gave no explanation.

The Israeli assault during the summer was even more shocking than that of five years ago.

2,200 Palestinians were killed, including 500 children.

Over 90 entire families were wiped out.

The physical damage to the infrastructure of Gaza was enormous.

Thousands of families whose homes were destroyed now face a cold winter.

In Ramallah and Jerusalem I met with President Abbas and others in the Palestinian Authority, to NGOs and representatives of Palestinian organisations.

In Jerusalem I met with Israeli activists and NGOs.

In my view many Israeli citizens understand the deeply corrosive affect the occupation of Palestinian land, the apartheid system Israel has created and the brutality and dehumanising impact of IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) actions.

Over five million Palestinian refugees are scattered in camps in the west Bank, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and Jordan.

Children and Parents and grandparents have known nothing but refugee camps, many of which came into existence in 1948.

Last week one of those I spoke to – Yehuda Shaul – a former Sergeant and Commander in the Israeli Army.

Yehuda Shaul is co-director of ‘Breaking the Silence’ an organisation made up of former Israeli soldiers who speak out against the actions of the IDF.

This NGO is deeply concerned at the moral price Israel and its citizens are paying to maintain the occupation as well as the terrible impact on Palestinians.

These former soldiers are also an Israel patriot who believes that speaking out against injustice is necessary to defend Israel, as well as to advance the rights of Palestinians.

Yehuda Shaul dismisses Israeli government claims that its military operations are defensive and to oppose terrorism.

He believes that that is only a small part of the strategy.

The reality on the ground is that Israeli actions have led to the de facto annexation of large sections of the West Bank.

Shaul also believes that claims by successive Israeli governments that the occupation is temporary and will end with a peace deal, is not true.

He believes that the current Israeli policy of occupation, separation and settlements is not designed as a temporary measure but is intended to be permanent.

Yehuda Shaul said: ‘It’s all about maintaining Israeli military control over Palestinians’.

Ceann Comhairle I understand that the Taoiseach visited the region some years ago.

I don’t know if he had the opportunity to see for himself the obscenity of the Separation Wall.

But during my visit last week it was a constant oppressive presence.

In a landscape of walls the Separation Wall is different.

It is a scar on the land and conscience of Israel and of the international community.

It stretches for 700 kilometres.

It is a multi-layered, often 60 metre wide exclusion zone with a concrete wall eight metres high.

It snakes up and down hills, alongside motorways, down the middle of streets and through Palestinian communities.

It prevents Palestinian farmers from getting to their farmland.

It captures within its boundary Palestinian land that is then annexed by the Israeli government.

It is all about control.

The wall and the system of hundreds of IDF military checkpoints and roadblocks drives a wedge between Israelis and Palestinians, but also between Palestinians.

For Palestinians to move around even within the west Bank there is a whole monitoring system of Israeli government permits and permissions which significantly limit their freedom of movement and severely inhibits economic growth.

In addition the Israeli settlements – which are illegal under international law – also act as barriers to movement.

Palestinians are forbidden to enter these territories.

On a daily basis the Israeli authorities decide what goods are transferred from city to city and village to village.

They decide what businesses are open, who can pass through the checkpoints and who gets to school.

Houses, motor vehicles, electronic goods, farm animals can all be taken at the discretion of a soldier.

Sometimes they even ‘confiscate’ people for use during training exercises to practice arrests.

The fabric of life for Palestinians is rooted in fear; it is arbitrary and constantly changing at the whim of the Israeli authorities.

It is no way for families, for children, for millions of Palestinian citizens to live.

Nor is it acceptable that the Palestinian Authority has sole jurisdiction over only 17% of the west Bank.

That would be the equivalent of this government being told by a foreign government that it has jurisdiction over just two thirds of Leinster.

Almost two thirds of the west Bank – known as Area C – is under total Israeli occupation.

Ceann Comhairle the Separation Wall, and the sterile roads that Palestinians are banned from, are symptomatic of an institutionalised, deliberately structured system of economic, cultural and social apartheid that brings shame to Israel and to the international community that has failed to take a stand against it.

Yehuda Shaul said: ‘Occupation takes place every day; it is an offensive act every day.’

It is, he said, a ‘national security concept dependent on absolute control – a status quo that is not a frozen reality and is being entrenched every day.’

Shaul concluded that; ‘The International community is failing Israelis and Palestinians. There is a lot of talk but no action. Nowhere in history,’ he said, ‘did people wake up one morning and give up their privileges...

Shaul concluded that: ‘the international community has to raise the price for Israel of the current status quo…No one will live in dignity or freedom here. Neither the Palestinians or Israelis until there is a sovereign Palestinian state. This is the right patriotic position.’

Ceann Comhairle, the Irish people suffered centuries of colonisation and occupation.

We understand the human, economic and divisive costs of colonisation; the poverty and hunger and discrimination and inequality that goes with subjugation.

We understand also the role of struggle in the achievement of freedom and independence.

Consequently Irish people identify with the circumstances confronting the Palestinian people.

Irish people are instinctively supportive of the Palestinian people.

That doesn’t mean that we are anti-Israeli.

On the contrary our desire is to see two sovereign states established in which all of the citizens of Israel and Palestine can live in peace and mutual respect and in states which embrace equality and parity of esteem.

A first crucial step on the road to this outcome must be recognition that Palestine is a sovereign state.

In Jerusalem I met brave Israeli citizens deeply concerned for the future.

Among them were Alon Liel and Ilan Baruch.

Both are former professional diplomats in the Israeli government and both were Ambassadors for Israel.

They have been hugely critical of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinian people.

And both support the campaign to secure official government recognition by EU states and others of a Palestinian State.

This week they are in Brussels lobbying in support of that position.

They share the belief of the Palestinian leadership that such a move will create a new dynamic in the peace process.

They also believe it is a right, a principle, that for too long has been conditional on the agreement of Israel.

And that is the core of this debate.

Why should the right of the Palestinian people to sovereignty and statehood be dependent on Israel?

Israel is a state. It has an embassy in Dublin and others scattered around the world.

The Palestinians have a ‘Mission’. This is wrong.

I have raised this with the Taoiseach regularly.

The people of Palestine have the right to freedom and independence and statehood.

Their right to self-determination should not be conditional on Israel or subject to any veto by it or any other state.

Alon Liel and his colleagues initiated a campaign in support of a Palestinian state.

A letter now signed by over 900 prominent Israeli citizens, including Nobel laureates, writers, academics, business people, and broadcasters, was sent to Parliamentarians in Sweden, in Britain, in France, in Spain, in Belgium and in the Dáil, seeking support for a Palestinian state.

Their letter is self-explanatory. It states:

"We, citizens of Israel who wish it to be a safe and thriving country are worried by the continued political stalemate and by the occupation and settlements activities which lead to further confrontations with the Palestinians and torpedo the chances for a compromise.

It is clear that the prospects for Israel's security and existence depend on the existence of a Palestinian state side by side with Israel.

Israel should recognize the state of Palestine and Palestine should recognize the state of Israel, based on the June 4 1967 borders.

Your initiative for recognizing the state of Palestine will advance the prospects of peace and will encourage Israelis and Palestinians to bring an end to their conflict".

Ceann Comhairle we must stand with the Palestinian and Israeli citizens who want peace – who are taking risks for peace.

The passing of this motion is an important contribution to this..

The Irish government should now use our success with the Irish peace process to take up a leadership role in pushing for greater action by the international community.

It should also follow the logic of this motion and upgrade the Palestinian Mission to that of a full Embassy.

Go raibh maith agat.

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