11 March 2010 Edition
Fringe meeting discusses Palestine solidarity
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún, Pat Sheehan, director of the party’s Middle East Desk, and Phillip O’Connor from the Sadaka solidarity organisation also joined the panel discussion hosted by the party’s International Department, which around 100 people attended.
Introducing the speakers, Pat Sheehan outlined the longstanding solidarity between Sinn Féin and the Palestinian people and the work that the party has carried out over the past year to develop this solidarity since the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, including formalising links with Palestinian political forces.
Abdul Rahman is an independent member of the PLO and was a founding member of the PFLP. He spoke to the meeting on the refusal by Israel to abide by existing agreements and of the role of the U.S. in tolerating Israeli aggression.
“We thought 20 years ago that the discussions and process we began would deliver peace with justice in the Middle East. But this so-called peace process began the era of a new apartheid in Palestine as Israel chose to go down the path of a rogue state,” he said.
“When Barack Obama was elected U.S. president, he initially made strong statements and moves in favour of creating conditions acceptable for negotiations between the PLO and Israelis. But he has since then backed down and is now trying to insist that the Palestinians resume ‘negotiations without preconditions’.
“What this means is that Israel is allowed by the U.S. to continue its colonial settlement expansion and annexation across the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, in a flagrant breach of its commitments under the 2003 Road Map.
“It is impossible for any Palestinian leadership to negotiate directly with Israel under such conditions.”
Bairbre de Brún then recounted her experience of her two trips to Gaza over the past year, saying that nothing had prepared her for the shock of witnessing such devastation.
Her second trip as part of the largest European Parliamentary delegation ever to visit Gaza in December showed the ongoing impact of the siege on the lives of Gaza’s people, and also its impact on preventing reconstruction, she said.
“Of the $4.5 billion promised by donors towards reconstruction at the Sharm el Sheikh conference last year, not a single dollar has reached Gaza,” she said.
De Brún also slammed the blockade for the impact it is having on the unity of the Palestinian national forces.
“But while our attention is naturally focused on the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, what is going on in the West Bank is the slow and quiet death of the dream of Palestinian statehood as Israel cuts up the territory with settlements, outposts, bypass roads and the wall.
“We need a global campaign that is strong, united and sustained, not sporadic, in order to stop the further colonisation of Palestinian land and bring about a two-state solution, and we have a strictly limited time to achieve this before the prospect disappears entirely. If there’s no just peace in Palestine, there’s no peace in the Middle East, or anywhere.”
Phillip O’Connor commended Sinn Féin for its role in building solidarity with Palestine in Ireland and called on the Irish government to become a leading advocate for the Palestinians in the EU and globally.
“The Irish state should champion the cause of the Palestinian people on the world stage and make the suspension of the preferential trade agreements that the EU has with Israel, such as the Euro-Med Agreement, a foreign policy priority.”
Each of the speakers supported the growing BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaign against Israel, and O’Connor said it could have a profound political impact and shape the outcome of the conflict.