Nor is Israel based on the rule of law
By Sami Abou Shehadeh
In an opinion piece published on the 24 June in the Jerusalem Post , a right-wing Israeli newspaper, the Irish ambassador to Israel, Kyle O’Sullivan, claimed that Israel is a country based “on the rule of law, on democracy, and on respect for human rights and human dignity” https://www.jpost.com/opinion/ireland-pushes-israel-to-resolve-the-palestinian-conflict-opinion-671859. If that were the case Palestinian rights would have been fulfilled a long time ago. But clearly it is not the case and the piece not only disregards the Palestinian people but sends a strong message of support to those who are conducting Israel’s illegal policies and crimes of colonial settlement-building, occupation, annexation and Apartheid.
While we have heard similar arguments from groups such as Britain’s Conservative Friends of Israel, we were particularly astonished to see this coming from the representative of the Irish government and people. The long history of solidarity between the Irish and Palestinian peoples is based in a common struggle against colonialism and the denial of the rights of the indigenous population. The least we would have expected from an Irish ambassador is to honour this history and fully reject the Israeli occupation, and the system of institutionalised discrimination that Palestinian citizens of Israel, and in the occupied Palestinian territories, live under, rather than endorsing its core principles and paraphrasing its propaganda lines.
To explain my point it is not even necessary to talk about what is happening in the occupied Palestinian territory but to simply look at the reality of life for 1.8 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, survivors of the Nakba – who are 20% of Israel’s population.
As Palestinian citizens of Israel, we invite the Irish government to look at our situation and take steps that will support Israel becoming a state with equal rights for all its citizens, in addition to ending the occupation that began in 1967.
Victims of an institutionalised system of discrimination that promotes Jewish supremacy, there are at least 65 laws that only discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel and/or Palestinians in the occupied territory.
Just take as an example what we have been going through in recent weeks in a political battle to stop the extension of a discriminatory law that bans Palestinian family reunifications. Would Ireland praise any country’s commitment to “human rights” if it had a law aimed at preventing Jewish families from being together? Certainly, and rightfully, no.
When an Irish representative endorses the “Jewish character” of Israel, as he did, it is intrinsically backing the main reason such racist laws exist. The legal definition of Israel as a “Jewish State”, the Jewish nation-state law, negates Palestinian rights, and establishes a “constitutional” framework to perpetuate Jewish supremacy in all the territory under Israel’s control.
This is precisely what Human Rights Watch, B’tselem, Palestinian human rights organisations and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as well as countless prominent scholars have concluded, denouncing the crime of Apartheid against the Palestinian people on both sides of the Green Line.
Ireland’s history shows that colonialism and racism should never be tolerated. Ireland is a country that can represent such noble values in the European Union and make sure that Israel is not rewarded as long as the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people are constantly violated.
Just look at the attacks we have suffered in recent months, with Israel suppressing Palestinian citizens’ political and civil freedoms: carrying out brutal nationwide arrests with some reports of torture. It was against this background that we called upon the international community for protection. Regretfully we didn’t hear many responses from European countries. Shall we assume that Ireland’s silence was based on the position, stated in the article, that Israel is a “democracy” you “share values” with?
Ireland’s history shows that colonialism and racism should never be tolerated. Ireland is a country that can represent such noble values in the European Union and make sure that Israel is not rewarded as long as the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people are constantly violated. In our case, as Palestinian citizens of Israel, we invite the Irish government to look at our situation and take steps that will support Israel becoming a state with equal rights for all its citizens, in addition to ending the occupation that began in 1967. This is the basic formula for a just and lasting peace.
We would never have expected an Irish representative to attempt to normalise the reality of Jewish supremacy against the rights of our indigenous people in our homeland. Our party, Tajamu/Balad, part of the Joint List, will continue struggling for justice and equality for all Israeli citizens regardless of their religious, national or ethnic origin. And it is as part of this just struggle that we will continue looking to the Irish people for solidarity and support.
Sami Abou Shehadeh is a Palestinian historian living in Jaffa, a member of the Israeli Parliament for the Joint List, and leader of Tajamu/Balad party.