Ireland Supports Landmark Motion to Condemn Israeli 'De Facto Annexation' of Palestine

A pro-Palestinian demonstrator marches on O'Connell Street in Dublin during a May 22, 2021 protest. (Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Ireland Supports Landmark Motion to Condemn Israeli 'De Facto Annexation' of Palestine

"The scale, pace, and strategic nature of Israel's actions on settlement expansion and the intent behind it have brought us to a point where we need to be honest about what is actually happening on the ground."

In a landmark move by leaders of a nation whose people suffered centuries of settler-colonial oppression, Ireland's foreign minister on Tuesday said the country's government will vote in favor of a parliamentary motion declaring Palestinian land under "de facto annexation" by Israel.

"The forced displacement of the protected Palestinian population and the presence and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank... represent flagrant violations of international law."
--Irish parliamentary motion

The Irish Timesreports Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney--a member of the center-right Fine Gael party--said during a debate in the Dail, the lower house of parliament, that the government would vote to approve a motion by the opposition Sinn Fein party to codemn Israel's annexation if it would drop its objection to condemning Hamas rocket attacks.

Sinn Fein's assent means Ireland is now poised to become the first European Union nation to acknowledge Israel's annexation of much of Palestine--a step beyond the illegal occupation recognized by many of the world's nations and international organizations including the United Nations. The draft motion will be debated on Wednesday evening.

"The scale, pace, and strategic nature of Israel's actions on settlement expansion and the intent behind it have brought us to a point where we need to be honest about what is actually happening on the ground," Coveney declared. "It is de facto annexation."

The entire modern state of Israel was established through Jewish settler colonization and ethnic cleansing of what was previously a British mandate, and for 400 years prior to that, a province of the Ottoman Empire. In 1967, Israeli forces conquered Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and since then the construction and expansion of Jewish-only settlements have forced thousands more Palestinians from their homes and land.

During the tenure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel has planned to permanently annex nearly one-third of the occupied West Bank. Many Palestinians and human rights advocates argue that de facto annexation has already occurred.

Coveney asserted that "Israel's actions in increasing the scope and density of settlements and surrounding infrastructure, which effectively cuts off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, indicates an intention of permanency."

"We cannot return to the flouting of international law, with the relentless expansion of illegal settlements, settlements in occupied Palestinian territory," Coveney insisted. "We cannot return to forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank. We cannot return to demolition of Palestinian property, violence, and intimidation."

The parliamentary motion states that "the forced displacement of the protected Palestinian population and the presence and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, undermines the prospects of peace--not just in recent weeks but over decades--and represent flagrant violations of international law."

Passage of the motion would require Ireland to expel Israel's ambassador and impose economic, political, and cultural sanctions against the country.

"Do we stand with the brutalized, traumatized refugees of Gaza--or with the Israeli military machine?"
--Mary Lou McDonald,
Sinn Fein

RTEreports a member of the center-left Social Democrats said the party is proud to co-sign the motion, while prominent Labour Party lawmaker Brendan Howlin said that "periodic condemnation" of Israel's illegal policies and actions "is simply not enough."

Howlin accused the Israeli government of seeking to undermine Palestinian statehood "through deliberate, brutal, calculated action."

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald urged the government to "hold Israel to account," saying the motion represents "an acid test for the international community."

"Do we stand with the brutalized, traumatized refugees of Gaza--or with the Israeli military machine?" she asked.

Richard Boyd Barrett, a lawmaker from the socialist Solidarity-People Before Profit coalition, argued for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and said that anything short of a complete boycott of Israel "is meaningless."

Sinn Fein foreign affairs spokesperson John Brady said that "we are baldly stating that Israel is acting illegally under international law." He noted that Israel has approved 2,500 new illegal settlement homes this year alone, and that it has "approved or advanced" 12,000 such homes since 2020.

Brady further argued that "Ireland has the potential to be a pathfinder for a principled and morally robust approach within the European Union and the U.N. Security Council" on the the issue of Israeli crimes in Palestine.

There is a long history of solidarity between the people of Ireland and Palestine, largely rooted in the two nations' histories of colonial oppression and ethnic cleansing. What is today the Republic of Ireland was, for 750 years, subjected to English rule that sometimes approached genocidal brutality.

Beginning in late-20th century Northern Ireland--part of the United Kingdom--and continuing to this day, Catholics fighting British rule have drawn comparisons with Palestinians resisting Israeli usurpation and expansion.

In Dublin--where the Palestinian flag flew over City Hall in a 2017 show of solidarity to solemnly commemorate 50 years of Israeli occupation--thousands of people took to the streets earlier this month to protest Israel's attacks on worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, imminent ethnic cleansing of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, and bombardment of Gaza that killed 248 people including 66 children.

Numerous members of the Irish Parliament--which in 2018 passed an ill-fated bill that would have criminalized "trade with and economic support for illegal settlements in territories deemed occupied under international law"--also wore Palestinian flag or keffiyeh-patterned masks during the debate over the annexation motion.

Ronit Lentin, an Israeli-Irish sociologist and author who has explored the roots of Irish-Palestinian solidarity, wrote in 2019 that the deep affinity of the former for the latter "is in no way antisemitic," as some Israelis and their supporters have argued, but rather the natural result of "human empathy between those who have been victims of colonial brutality."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.