Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A fascinating bit of business

On June 3, the Irish Senate discussed the Gaza flotilla. A transcript of the discussion can be found here.

The diversity of opinion - some of it beyond the pale, some of it staunchly in support of Israel, but most of it squarely in the middle (or what the right calls anti-Israel) - is fascinating, and some statmenets are individually noteworthy as well

For instance, our correspondent Mark Daly is on the record with this accusation against the truthfulness of Danny Ayalon:

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, said the flotilla would not even bring a letter from the mother of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured by militants four years ago who has been held without access to the Red Cross for that period. However, this claim is false. When the Free Gaza movement was asked if it would do so, Deputy Ó Snodaigh, Deputy Chris Andrews and I contacted Gilad Shalit’s family solicitor in Jerusalem to tell them that we would send an email outlining that we would bring the letters and hand them personally to the Red Cross or Mr. John Ging at the United Nations to try to get them to Mr. Shalit. However, it was portrayed as if the flotilla did not have the heart to do the right thing... Ireland has experienced what Israel and Palestine are going through. We know that genuine dialogue is the only way to achieve peace. The question is what has the Israeli Government done to the honourable State of Israel. What have the extremists in Israel done? They have brought dishonour to the name and people of Israel.

Also, included is this heated exchange, between Feargal Quinn and David Norris. On the evidence of the transcript alone (I know nothing about either man) it seems Senator Quinn is Israel's best friend in the Irish Senate. His remarks produced a threat from David Norris to leave the room in protest. See it after the jump:

Senator Feargal Quinn: I thank Senator Norris for allowing me to share his time. Like all Members of the House, I agree with the Minister’s expression of sympathy for those who have died. I support the Minister’s final remarks in which he called for an impartial, credible and transparent investigation that conforms to international standards. I do not support him when he asks “Who now could possibly argue that preventing this cargo from reaching Gaza was so important?”. I suggest that anyone who thought it should reach Gaza was not thinking straight. I am told that for the last five years, Israel has been subjected to at least 10,000 bombs and rockets from Gaza. Did anyone really expect a democratic country like Israel to allow a flotilla of ships to come in and go straight to Gaza without any inspection? I do not think that was possible.

Senator David Norris: There was inspection.

Senator Feargal Quinn: Does anyone believe these ships could be allowed to land in Gaza? Does anyone believe it was not acceptable to offer to accept the ships into an Israeli port, to examine them and to transport them into Gaza?

Senator David Norris: I am leaving in protest.

Senator Feargal Quinn: There are some goods that will not be allowed.

Senator David Norris: This is a disgraceful contribution.

Acting Chairman (Senator Maurice Cummins): Senator Quinn, without interruption.

Senator David Norris: I am ashamed of my colleague, Senator Quinn.

Senator Feargal Quinn: Those goods that are not allowed in include cement, which could be used——

Senator David Norris: It is a disgrace.

Senator Feargal Quinn: That is the reason they do it. If one has put up for many years with bombs being dropped and children being killed, it is not reasonable for one to be asked to allow ships to come in without inspection. Would anyone allow that?

Deputy Micheál Martin: No one has said that.

Senator Ann Ormonde: No.

Senator Feargal Quinn: The situation in Gaza seems to be disastrous and terrible. The people are running short of food and the other things they need to live, but they do not seem to be running short of guns and bombs. Hamas seems to be able to get these goods into Gaza, but it is unable to get food into Gaza. It is quite reasonable and rational to point that out. I say that as someone who is horrified about what happened. I do not understand the force that was used.

People have criticised the use of force in international waters, but I am old enough to be reminded of an incident that occurred in 1962 when I was on my honeymoon. It is probable that no one else here is old enough to remember it. Russians with loaded ships were heading towards Cuba in international waters but President Kennedy told them not to go any further. He told them to stop, just as Israel told the flotilla not to go any further in international waters. Fortunately, Russia agreed at the time to turn back. The Americans said they would not allow the Russians to land in Cuba with whatever was on board their ships. I see a similarity between what happened then and what is happening now. Israel said the flotilla would not be able to land in Gaza. It asked those involved to land in Israel and to allow inspections to take place so that the goods could be taken into Gaza.

I disagree with what has happened. I believe the investigation that will take place into these horrific killings will be fair. Regardless of where it takes place — I assume it will take place at UN or EU level — I am sure it will be impartial. I hope the investigation will consider the possibility that the flotilla could be accused of coat-trailing, to use an old term. In other words, they may have been acting in the hope of causing a scandal and embarrassing Israel. I am no defender of Israel in this situation, but I believe it would be irrational and unacceptable to expect the Israelis to allow uninspected ships to go into Gaza after they have been bombed continuously and suffered many deaths over many years. I believe we need a balance. That is what I would like to have in this debate.

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1 comment:

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