Imagine the army crashing into your home in the middle of the night. Imagine comforting your crying children as guns and flashlights are pointed at them. Imagine standing in the cold and watching as your home is demolished and your land handed over to someone else.
Palestinians do not have to imagine this sort of horror. This is the reality of the military occupation people in the West Bank live under.
Each year, more and more of their land is seized in order to construct illegal Israeli settlements.
The United Nations, the European Union and the Irish government all agree that this situation is illegal, immoral and unjustifiable. They all agree that illegal settlement construction is a major obstacle to peace.
The long-standing position of Ireland, as stated by the Department of Foreign Affairs is that, “Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible.”
And yet the world – including Ireland – continues to support the settlements economically by trading with them.
Our words are hollow when our wallets speak louder.
This week, Ireland can take an important step towards supporting human rights in the West Bank by backing an important piece of legislation that will be debated in Seanad Éireann on Tuesday evening.
The Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 was introduced into the Seanad by Independent Senator Frances Black.
If passed into legislation, it would ban trade with territories where there is a clear international legal consensus – through the International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice - on the status of the occupation. Such consensus exists in the case of the West Bank but the legislation could be extended wider to firmly embed human rights at the heart of Irish trade law.
It is important to note that the bill would impact only the illegal settlements. This is not a ban on trade with Israel, it is a ban on trade with settlements which the international community regard as illegal and unjust.
Such a move would be legal under EU rules, which allows member states to alter trade rules “on grounds of public morality, public policy or public security, and the protection of health and life of humans”.
A Palestinian boy protests outside an illegal Israeli settlement built on Palestinian land in the West Bank. (Photo: Garry Walsh/Trócaire)
Senator Black says that the Bill is aimed at ensuring Ireland is upholding its commitment to international law.
“This is a chance for Ireland to stand up for the rights of vulnerable people,” she said. “It is about respecting international law and refusing to support illegal activity and human suffering.
“In the occupied territories, people are forcibly kicked out of their homes, fertile farming land is seized, and the fruit and vegetables produced are then sold on Irish shelves to pay for it all. We condemn the settlements as illegal but support them economically. As international law is absolutely clear that the settlements are illegal, then the goods they produce are the proceeds of crime. We must face up to this – we cannot keep supporting breaches of international law and violations of human rights.”
The Occupied Territories Bill 2018 will be debated at Second Stage in Seanad Éireann on Tuesday, January 31st 2018 and will be streamed live on Oireachtas TV. It has been co-signed by Seanad Civil Engagement Group Senators Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane, Grace O'Sullivan, Colette Kelleher and John Dolan, as well as Senator David Norris.
Trócaire is calling on Senators from all parties to support this important piece of legislation.
Find out more about what Trócaire does in Israel and Palestine.