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Recognition of Palestinian state a peaceful fulfilment of our international obligation – McDonald

10 December, 2014 - by Mary Lou McDonald TD

 Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald spoke in the Dáil this evening during a Sinn Féin Private Members’ motion to recognise Palestine as a state.

 The text of her speech is outlined below in full.

“Firstly I want to welcome the Government decision to support this motion.  While yesterday the Opposition had occasion to catalogue their faults and failings, the non-partisan position they have taken on this issue provides an instance of contrast.  In this case, they do appear to have listened to the will of the Irish people and furthermore seem prepared to do the right thing.  That deserves acknowledgment.  So does the support of Fianna Fáil and the Independent deputies.  If we can show unity on this issue, that is real leadership.  Even though it is not binding in itself, the consensus resolution nevertheless represents an historic move that sends a strong message of solidarity to the beleaguered Palestinian people in their time of great need.

Ireland remains in the minority of UN Member States that do not yet recognise the State of Palestine.  This motion would have Ireland join the global majority of 135 other countries who have already extended this recognition, including the 8 EU Member States who have done so.  For Ireland to sit on the sidelines waiting for an EU common position to emerge is to shame ourselves as a nation.  As a people who have our own experience of colonialism and foreign military occupation, Ireland has a particular responsibility of human rights leadership on this issue. Let that start in earnest today.

I want to emphasise that the PLO and Palestinian National Assembly’s 1988 Declaration of the Independence of the Palestinian State based on the pre-1967 borders, was a statement of compromise by the Palestinian leadership, representing a claim to only 22% of the historical territory of Palestine.  This most emphatically does not threaten the existence of the State of Israel.  Neither does it negate the Israeli peoples’ right of self-determination.  Rather, it intentionally creates the conditions for a viable two State solution, and peaceful coexistence based on equality.

Like other members, I have received correspondence from the Israeli Embassy urging me not to support this motion, to which I have proudly signed my name.

But the Israeli Embassy has got it particularly wrong on the question of self-determination, when it states in the letter that ‘recognition of the Palestinian right to self-determination should be postponed’.  One people cannot veto the self-determination rights of another people – temporarily or otherwise.  It doesn’t work that way. 

The right to self-determination is one of those small handful of norms in international law considered jus cogens.  That means it is a ‘peremptory’ norm, yes, protected by the UN Charter but also as a matter of customary international law.  In other words, this fundamental human right cannot be conferred, it cannot be deferred, interference with the lawful exercise of this right is prohibited, and enforcement of the right itself is lawful.  In fact it is the settled law of the UN Charter, given expression in UN General Assembly Resolution 2625 on Friendly Relations Among States, that forcible deprivation of the right to self-determination of a people – including by way of foreign occupation or Apartheid – activates the right of that people to obtain assistance from the international community in their resistance to same.  That means the Embassy also gets it wrong when it invokes another jus cogens norm, that of anti-intervention, in support of its position when it claims that ‘Ireland as a neutral country, would be intervening in a foreign conflict’ by recognising Palestine. 

On the contrary, such recognition constitutes a peaceful fulfilment of our international obligation to either assist or not obstruct the Palestinian exercise of the right to self-determination, in a manner fully consistent with international human rights law, international humanitarian law and the UN Charter provisions on the use of force.

I should add that, in addition to this letter, I also received other correspondence, including from those 900 prominent Israeli citizens who wholeheartedly endorse this motion and the recognition of Palestinian statehood on the basis of the 1967 borders, as necessary to a two-state solution and a peaceful future of coexistence as equals.  These 900 citizens including former Israeli Ministers, diplomats and Nobel Peace Laureates, have stepped forward at great risk and deserve commendation.  So do those other progressive Jews in Israel and the world over – from the Women in Black to Jews Against the Occupation to the military conscientious objectors or sarvanim including Yesh Gvul and others – whose humanity and commitment to equality and human rights has sustained them in their defiance of the illegal occupation of Palestine and the racist ideology that seeks to appropriate for itself the claim to represent all Jewish people.  That is not true, and no one should be fooled into believing this, or drawn into anti-Semitic commentary.  Let me be clear, opposition to Zionist ideology and the racist Zionist State is one thing, but there is no room for anti-Semitism in the campaign for Palestine.  

I want to acknowledge that the Jewish campaigners I referred to have a crucial contribution to make towards ending the occupation of the Palestinian territories and the ongoing expansion of settlements, contrary to international law, and thus to securing a peaceful future for the region.

 Finally, I want to recognise and commend the Irish citizen at the head of the UN Human Rights Council’s Fact Finding Mission on the 2014 Israel –Gaza conflict.  Professor William Schabas, a naturalised citizen of Jewish descent who lost family in the Holocaust, is also a world renowned genocide scholar and former Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway.  He has come under sustained attack by Zionist campaigners for taking on this role ever since his appointment earlier this year.  Like the organised vilification of the distinguished Professor Richard Falk and Judge Richard Goldstone before him, this has included subjection to a despicable smear campaign intended to impugn his academic integrity and his character as a jurist.  I want to state for the record that we are proud that an Irish citizen of his calibre has been selected to make this important contribution to holding to account those responsible for human rights violations and war crimes in this terrible phase of the conflict.  

We trust that his findings and recommendations will even-handedly expose and criticise perpetrators from whatever side of the conflict, without fear or favour.  Professor Schabas deserves the support of this House, and we wish him every success in the difficult task ahead.”

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