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Statement on Gaza

11 January 2009





In recent weeks and days, outrage has been mounting here and throughout the international community about Israel's continuing brutal bombardment of Gaza. As many of us said in a letter published in the Irish Times initiated by Deputy Chris Andrews (9th January), Israel's actions are disproportionate and counterproductive to achieving either security for the people of Israel or peace in the Middle East.

The question now is how many more innocent civilians must die before Israel will stop its onslaught upon Gaza. Each day brings news of further atrocities. In continuing to act with apparent disregard for the lives of civilians, including children, in Gaza, Israel is in flagrant breach of international law, notably well-established laws on the conduct of war and the treatment of civilians in warfare.

It is heart-breaking to read of Palestinian children dying, being mutilated by bombs, and left to starve beside the dead bodies of their mothers. It is unbearable to read the attempts by the Israeli Ambassador and his supporters here to justify the appalling actions of his Government in this illegal and unconscionable war.

Of course Hamas should stop firing rockets, and of course we must all condemn the actions of Hamas in provoking Israel; but it is obvious that their cynical targeting of Israeli citizens will not be prevented through military action. The sad truth is that the actions of Israel will do nothing to weaken or diminish support for Hamas. Rather, they will only strengthen support for the more extremist elements of the Palestinian movement and are likely to undermine support for the more moderate leaders. The other sad truth is that this onslaught cannot be seen in isolation from other actions taken by Israel over the years, notably their 2006 military intervention in Lebanon.

The international community is right to work for an immediate ceasefire by all parties, and a return to peace talks. But as news of the man-made humanitarian disaster unfolding in Gaza worsens, it is clear that Israel bears the moral responsibility to end this war now.

I join my voice with others calling for an immediate ceasefire and a recognition that there is no military route to peace in the Middle East. However, with the ongoing carnage in Gaza, I now believe that Israel should end this war unilaterally, and that if they will not do so willingly, the international community must ensure that they do in order to prevent the dreadful toll of civilians killed and injured from rising further.

I believe that ultimately a solution will have to be found through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians leading to mutual recognition of each others' rights to sovereignty. Perhaps the Irish peace process can serve as some sort of useful indicator that even the most apparently intractable conflicts can be resolved peacefully in the end.

Ivana Bacik, Independent Dublin University Senator, Seanad Eireann

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