DUBLIN, Monday, 26 September 2022 (WAFA) - In an open letter issued today, 18 Irish human rights groups, civil society organisations and trade unions called for the Irish government to act to stop the reconvening of the EU-Israel Association Council scheduled for next month, according to the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
“Reconvening the joint talks – the highest-level forum for EU-Israel relations – that have been suspended since 2013 will be interpreted by the Israeli government as an implicit approval of its actions that contravene international law and human rights norms,” read the letter.
Reinitiating the Association Council with the intention of engaging Israel in addressing these issues without a clear mechanism of accountability, would be a very dangerous step, added the letter.
Following is the text of the letter addressed to the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney:
Dear Minister Coveney,
We, the below-signed Irish human rights and civil society organisations, were dismayed to learn that the European Commission intends to revive the EU-Israel Association Council.
Reconvening the joint talks – the highest-level forum for EU-Israel relations – that have been suspended since 2013 will be interpreted by the Israeli government as an implicit approval of its actions that contravene international law and human rights norms.
Indeed, this decision was taken at the time when a historic mass eviction and forcible transfer of over one thousand Palestinians is taking place in Masafer Yatta. Furthermore, the approval of the E1 settlement plan is looming, something which the EU has repeatedly stated as being a red-line issue.
These recent developments are merely the continuation of the systematic policy of unilaterally advancing both de jure and de facto annexation, an annexation that the Irish parliament unanimously recognised in May 2021.
The situation on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has been seriously deteriorating, and while Israel advances its agenda of annexation on the ground without any meaningful reaction from Europe, Palestinians grapple with the reality of inhuman conditions without any prospect for justice after decades of dispossession, oppression and occupation. A growing consensus among international, Palestinian, and Israeli human rights organisations, alongside United Nations experts, concludes that these actions amount to the Crime of Apartheid.
Reinitiating the Association Council with the intention of engaging Israel in addressing these issues without a clear mechanism of accountability, would be a very dangerous step.
A government which controls and subjugates 5 million people under occupation, which arrests and prosecutes children in military courts and which persecutes human rights defenders under the pretext of ‘counter-terrorism,’ cannot be an unconditional partner of the European Union. These acts are hallmarks of authoritarian states, not democracies. In the absence of clearly stated conditions, endorsing an institutionalised form of cooperation with the Israeli government and resumption of the Association Council will send entirely the wrong message.
Indeed, since the decision was taken to reconvene the Association Council, Israel has waged another brutal war on Gaza, intensified its attacks on Palestinian civil society organisations, continued plans to expand settlements and intends to impose strict new rules on foreigners in the West Bank. The message is clear; the EU is emboldening Israel to proceed with impunity by giving a clear signal that there will never be accountability for its actions.
The EU should not reward a government which engages in human rights abuses, international law violations and war crimes. Thus, the decision to reconvene the Association Council should be revoked, or, at the very least, clear and concrete conditions should be set before reconvening the Council. These should include:
– An immediate halt to the demolitions and evictions in Masafer Yatta and elsewhere in the Occupied Palestinian Territories;
– An end to the E1 settlement plan and all settlement building;
– Full compliance with Israel’s obligations under international law and an end to occupation, colonisation and discriminatory practices, including that of barring family reunions for Palestinians;
– The immediate and unconditional lifting of the Gaza blockade;
– An end to the practice of Administrative Detention and the release of child prisoners and political prisoners;
– Co-operation with all investigations including those by the International Criminal Court, UN Special Rapporteurs, and the granting of visas to UN Human Rights staff;
– Revocation of the designation of leading Palestinian civil society organisation as ‘terrorist organizations’ and an end to attacks on these groups
The imposition of such conditionality can be called for by just one Member State, and importantly, a single Member State can block the reconstitution of the council. Ireland should be that Member State.
When speaking of Israel’s assault on Palestinian civil society groups, EU High Rep. Borrell said clearly that Israel’s “actions are not acceptable”; you yourself have used the same terminology to describe Israel actions on numerous occasions.
Ireland now has the power to tell Europe that unacceptable should mean unacceptable.
We urge you to use that power, the letter concluded.