© Michael Gallagher

IPSC members and other supporters greet the
heroes at Dublin Airport
Speech by Freda Hughes,
National Events Coordinator of the IPSC

7th July 2009, Radisson Blu Hotel, Free Gaza Homecoming Press Conference.

Last Monday 29th June, Derek and Mariead set sail on the Free Gaza boat the Spirit of Humanity, along with 19 other international peace activists on a mission to deliver much needed medical supplies, food, toys and olives tree to the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip has been officially under siege since 2007. A recent International Committee of the Red Cross report highlighted the stark living conditions for the people of this beleaguered strip.

For example seriously ill patients are not getting the treatment they need and thousands of Gazans whose homes and belongings were destroyed half a year ago remain without adequate shelter. It states that the almost 4.5 billion dollars pledged for reconstruction by donor countries will be of little use as long as Israel prevents building materials and other essential items from being imported into the Gaza Strip. Essential water and sanitation infrastructure remain insufficient: every day the equivalent of 28 Olympic-size swimming pools of sewage is pumped directly, more or less untreated, into the Mediterranean. Hospitals are struggling because complex and lengthy Israeli import procedures slow down the delivery of basic medical necessities. The ICRC demanded that the restrictions on the movement of people and goods be lifted. This is also the stance of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

© Michael Gallagher

The Gaza 2: Derek Graham and Mairead Maguire

On a diplomatic level, the IPSC is calling for the suspension of the EU-Israel Association agreement (also known as the Euro Med Agreement) on the grounds of constant Israeli breaches of Article 2 of the agreement. The agreement grants Israel preferential trading relations with EU member states, as well as cooperation in scientific, educational and artistic fields .

Article 2 states that respect for human rights and democratic principles are - quote- "an essential element" - unquote - of the Euro Med Agreement. Essential, not optional. The Israeli slaughter in Gaza at the beginning of the year that left over 2,400 people dead, and the ongoing brutal Siege of Gaza in place since 2007 are just two in a long line of actions that have shown Israel's contempt for human rights and democratic principles.

The IPSC feels, given that the EU is Israel's biggest trading partner, that even the threat of suspension of the Agreement could see a change in Israeli behaviour towards the Palestinians. However, it is not something the EU seems willing to act on. The IPSC therefore calls on the Irish Government to take a leading role in Europe in arguing for the suspension of the Euro Med Agreement.

On an individual and institutional level, we advocate a comprehensive Economic, Cultural, Sporting and Academic Boycott campaign against the Apartheid State of Israel and its representatives, similar to the international campaign adopted against Apartheid South Africa. We also call on businesses involved with Israel to divest.

We must remember that the kidnapping of the 21 Free Gaza activists, which, however horrific for the abductees and their families, is merely the latest in a long line of Israeli acts of disregard for international law - from the ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Palestinians in 1948, to the illegal Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, to the brutal suppression of the first and second intifadas, to the ravaging of Gaza earlier this year, through to the ongoing Siege of Gaza of which the kidnapping is a part. The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign will continue to fight against these, and future, injustices.

© Michael Gallagher