Gerry MacLochlainn Attends EU Parliament GUE/NGL Conference – Recognition of the Palestinian State

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Gerry MacLochlainn attending the EU Parliament GUE/NGL Conference Recognition of the Palestinian State


EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT GUE/NGLCONFERENCE-RECOGNITION OF THE PALESTINIAN STATE

On Tuesday 29th January, Sinn Fein representative, Gerry MacLochlainn, addressed a major seminar in Brussels at the European Parliament on the implications of the recent UN decision to grant Statehood to Palestine.

PANEL SPEAKERS:

1. Bassam SALHI, General Secretary of the Palestinian People’s Party, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Palestinian People’s Party http://www.palpeople.org/ was founded in 1982 as the Palestinian Communist Party, is a socialist political party in Palestine 48 and among the Palestinian diaspora.

2. Mohammad BARAKEH, President of HADASH, Member of the Knesset. He is http://www.knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mk_eng.asp?mk_individual_id_t=197 an Israeli Arab politician and member of the Knesset for Hadash, of which he is the General Secretary. He was first elected to the Knesset in 1999, and was re-elected in 2003, 2006 and 2009. Since 2003 he has served as a Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. Hadash Party is http://hadash.org.il/ The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality is a Jewish and Arab socialist front of organizations that runs for the Israeli parliament. It currently has four members in the 120-seat Knesset.

3. Leila SHAHID, General Delegate of Palestine. She is the first woman ambassador of Palestine. Shahid was the official representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Ireland from 1989. Since 2006 she has been the General Delegate of Palestine to the EU, Belgium and Luxembourg.

4. Patrick LE HYARIC, MEP GUE/NGL is a French journalist, politician and Member of the European Parliament. elected in the 2009 European election for the Île-de-France constituency. He is the director of the newspaper L’Humanité since 2000. Le Hyaric is a member of the executive of the French Communist Party and also the federal secretary of the Communist federation in the Morbihan. In 2009, he was selected to lead the Left Front list in the Île-de-France constituency ahead of the 2009 European elections.

CHAIRED BY Gabi ZIMMER, President GUE/NGL. Gabi has been a member of the East German communist party, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and its successors, continuously since 1981

SPEAKERS: Bassam SALHI, General Secretary of the Palestinian People's Party, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Mohammad BARAKEH, President of HADASH, Member of the Knesset, Leila SHAHID, General Delegate of Palestine, Patrick LE HYARIC, MEP GUE/NGL FRANCE. CHAIRED BY Gabi ZIMMER, President GUE/NGL

ISSUES TO BE DEBATED:

1. End the occupation of Palestine

2. Recognition of an independent and viable state of Palestine

3. End impunity of the state of Israel

4. Stop the “upgrading” of EU-Israel relations

5. The impact of the result of the 22.1.2013 Israeli elections on the prospects for negotiations and a solution to the Palestinian problem

BRUSSELS-GUE/NGL European Parliament Conference - Recognition of the Palestinian State

The agenda sought to deal with the way ahead for the campaign to end the occupation of Palestine, recognise an independent and viable state, stop the “upgrading” of EU bilateral relations and to consider the impact of the recent Israeli elections on the prospects for negotiations and a solution to the Palestinian problem.
Introducing the Seminar, Gabi Zimmer, President of the GUE/NGL group referred to the recent UN vote and pointed out that it represented a change and it was now time for the world to turn this into a reality. The world needs to stop the continued expansion of settlements, which she described as “practically a declaration of war” by Israel. The world, she insisted, had to come out on the side of Palestine and support Palestine’s right to exist within safe state within defined borders.

Bassam Salhi, spoke of the inequity whereby Israel is a state and Palestine is not. The failure of the 20 years of negotiation, he argued, stemmed from this structural failure. Israel was happy to negotiate as long at it has the upper hand. And while negotiations dragged on, Israel continued to “change realities on the ground”, taking more land from Palestinians and seeking to prevent East Jerusalem from ever becoming the capital of a Palestinian state. Meanwhile Israel continues to reduce contact and links between Gaza and the West Bank. All of these actions are designed to prevent a viable, secure Palestinian state being established.

This was why it was vital to go to the UN and seek recognition of the state of Palestine. The overwhelming vote at the UN showed that international support and it was supported by all the factions, Hamas made it clear that they supported the UN motion.

It is now necessary to turn that into reality and the International community must support the emergence of a real independent Palestinian state. Action must be taken against Israel for its actions such as confiscating assets from Palestine, or building more walls or establishing more colonies – which he explained is what the “settlements” actually are. War crimes must also be dealt with by bringing offenders before the ICC in the Hague.

Until these matters are dealt with there can be no real negotiations. Israel must recognise Palestine as a state and its land as occupied land NOT disputed land.

Mohammad Barakeh spoke too of the need to turn this motion into reality. The International Community has not done its duty with this decision; it is only the first step on a long term programme.
Hadash drew attention to the opportunities for new strategies. A peaceful campaign for human rights within the state of Israel, strengthened international peace movement, and end to internal divisions within the Palestinian people accompanied by “new forms of resistance” presented opportunities for progress. He drew the seminar’s attention to the recent innovative campaign by Palestinians to erect a village on Palestinian land that was earmarked for colonisation by a new settlement.

Mohammad spoke of the recent elections in Israel and predicted that the new government would be unlikely to survive the full term of office. International support especially from the EU and UN can open the way for a new way forward – one based on peace with safety and security for Israel and Palestine. Palestine needs security and safety too, he concluded.

This will require international solidarity to pressurise Israel. Israel must not be allowed to claim that human rights issues within Israel are internal matters. That is not an acceptable view anymore in international law. Recently announced plans to demolish hundreds of Bedouin villages in the Negev will lead to another 30,000 people driven from their land. This is not an internal matter for Israel.

Leila Shahid gave a stirring contribution, paying tribute to Palestinian steadfastness, in the face of massive suppression. Even after all these losses Palestinians are willing to share the land with their oppressors and support a two state solution.

Leila explained that Israel’s failure to make peace is only part of the story. Europe and the US have a particular responsibility for what is going on. It can no longer be acceptable to believe that the strongest can do what they want and those who resist are terrorists.

The twenty years of negotiations have failed to bring about peace and Palestinians made a mistake of accepting these open ended negotiations without moves to end the occupation. The ending of negotiations and the turn to the UN was vital to begin to change realities.

Israel had Resolution 181 which recognised its statehood – this motion recognises Palestine’s statehood. This resolution can have massive repercussions.

It can provide basis for government action in support of Palestine. But this must be taken further so that the recognition of a Palestinian state must be practical. The members of the PA cannot act as a government if they face Israeli checkpoints as they move about Palestinian territory.

The motion must not become just a “mea culpa” from the European nations but the basis for a new start based on rule of law, human rights and international law.

Gerry MacLochlainn addressing the panel - EU Parliament GUE/NGL Conference Recognition of the Palestinian State

Gerry MacLochlainn spoke of the current situation facing Palestinians. He drew attention to his recent visit to Gaza where he witnessed first-hand the Israeli aggression against Palestine. He spoke of hearing Israeli gunboats attacking fishermen within a couple of miles of shore, of farmers who could not till their own land, and of seeing huge destruction of schools, sports fields and of course domestic homes and the killing and maiming of civilians who lived there.

He spoke of the complete inequity of a powerful militarised state on one side and an occupied and besieged territory on the other. He reiterated Sinn Fein’s continued support for Palestine and our commitment to participate in the international solidarity campaign and to support pressure on Israel to join a genuine peace process.

He pointed out that Ireland had recently emerged from a period of intense and seemingly intransigent conflict and that it had transformed relations in Ireland and between Ireland in Britain despite the fact that some problems still persist.

Israelis need to understand that they have nothing to fear from peace, but that their security and safety is best guaranteed by reaching an agreement with the Palestinian people who have demonstrated enormous generosity by being willing to share with them.

Gerry MacLochlainn is a Sinn Fein Representative and a member of Irish Friends of Palestine. A staunch lifelong supporter of Palestine, as a member of Derry City Council in 2009 during Cast Lead he was able to secure a motion through Derry council in support of the City to boycott Israel. Gerry also co-led the 2nd convoy into Gaza after Cast Lead in 2009 which delivered 40 ambulances and medical aid. Upon return to Derry he co-founded Derry Friends of Palestine which then branched out to include Irish Friends of Palestine in 2012. In 2010 and 2011 he participated in the international steering committee meetings of the Irish Ship to Gaza and was a crew member on the first attempt which was sabotaged. Gerry has been to Gaza many times and has most recently led 2 all Irish Delegations to Gaza. As a former Irish Political Prisoner, he has participated in several international Palestinian Prisoner Conferences in Geneva, Ireland and Gaza. During his time as an Irish Republican Political Prisoner in a British Jai, he was uplifted when he received a letter of support from then Chairman Yasser Arafat of the PLO. He continues to work for a Free Palestine.

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