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Senator Bacik speaking on attacks in Gaza and the Pamela Izevbekhai Case

29 January 2009

Order of Business

Senator Ivana Bacik: I know others have raised the matter in this House. I ask that we take some time in this House in the next week or so to debate what can be done to ensure Israel is held accountable for the undoubted war crimes that it committed in inflicting such appalling onslaughts and attacks on the people of Gaza. We saw 1,300 Palestinians killed, with a third of them children, there were an enormous number of injuries, and homes and infrastructure were destroyed. We must ask what can now be done. It appears the worst is over but Israel is continuing to perpetrate attacks and kill innocent Palestinians.

Everyone welcomes President Obama's appointment of George Mitchell as Middle East envoy. That is certainly a development about which we can be optimistic. However, Members must ask what action the Seanad can take in the context of seeing to it that pressure continues to be applied at EU level to ensure Israel is held accountable. The Government has been extremely strong in respect of this matter. However, the Seanad could play an important role in supporting the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign's call that the favourable position Israel currently holds in the context of trading with the EU should no longer apply. We could also support the campaign's call for a consumer boycott of Israeli goods and services. When Ministers are calling on us, as Irish citizens, to do our patriotic duty by not shopping in Northern Ireland it would be far more important if we did our patriotic duty as citizens of the world by not buying Israeli goods and services. Israel deserves to be treated as a pariah state.

I was among those who called for an end to diplomatic relations with Israel at the height of the appalling carnage that occurred. That was an appropriate call to make at the time. The Seanad could take a strong role - I am aware that there is cross-party support for this - in the context of trying to hold Israel accountable in respect of what was done.

I also wish to request a debate on female genital mutilation, especially in the wake of the recent judgment in the case of Pamela Izevbekhai case. A number of Senators have raised this matter in recent months. I am of the view that there might be support in the House for a cross-party motion calling on the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to allow Ms Izevbekhai to remain in this country on humanitarian grounds. The House previously passed an all-party motion expressing solidarity with Ingrid Betancourt, the French-Colombian detainee. It would be appropriate for us to draw up a motion relating to Ms Izevbekhai's case, particularly in light of the appalling circumstances of female genital mutilation. Everyone recognises that in any civilised country the latter must be seen as torture. I ask the Leader to accede to my call in respect of this matter. I would be happy to assist in drafting a wording that might garner cross-party support.