By Éamonn Meehan, Trócaire Executive Director
It is not enough to express horror at so many innocent lives having been lost in the latest round of violence in Gaza and Israel, we must instead ask how we can break the cycle that leads to this slaughter.
The region is trapped in a cycle of violence. Rockets are fired into Israel, followed by cyclical large-scale military invasions of Gaza. We utterly condemn the risks to civilians by both the rocket fire and the military invasions.
However, until we begin the tackle the underlying causes behind this conflict, this cycle will continue.
Through the European Union, Ireland can play a positive role in tackling these under-lying causes.
Regrettably, however, Ireland’s position on Israel and Palestine is contradictory and self-defeating.
Officially, the Irish Government condemns the military occupation of the West Bank, the continued expansion of illegal settlements and the blockade on Gaza.
Earlier this month, the Government issued advice to Irish businesses and citizens, warning against conducting business with illegal Israeli settlements. The government noted, “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…[the settlements] are built on occupied land and are not recognised as a legitimate part of Israel’s territory.”
Yet, despite recognising continued illegal settlement expansion as a key driver of the conflict, the Irish Government and the EU continues to make these settlements financially viable through trade.
Trade between the EU and the settlements is conservatively estimated to be at least €96 million a year. The actual figure may be as high as €160m, which stands in contrast to the total amount of Palestinian exports to the EU, which amounts to approximately €12m annually. This trade incentivises Israel to continue to expand the settlements by confiscating land and demolishing homes of Palestinians.
It is utterly self-defeating to condemn illegal settlements while at the same time ensuring their financial viability and incentivising Israel to continue to confiscate land from Palestinian families.
We must remove contradictions from Irish Government policy. We must stop condemning with one hand and supporting with the other. We must stop making the occupation financially viable while at the same time funding the humanitarian crisis it creates.
Until we do this, we are incentivising the continuation of this conflict.
It is a fallacy to believe that cyclical military invasions of Gaza, which result in large numbers of civilian deaths, will bring peace to Israeli and Palestinian civilians.
The only way this peace will happen is through a long-term political solution.
Ireland can and should do what it can to make this a reality.