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Ireland should impose sanctions on Israel to stop Palestinian deaths – activists

Lubnah Shomali, an advocacy manager at Badil, and Shawan Jabarin, general director of Al-Haq (PA)
Lubnah Shomali, an advocacy manager at Badil, and Shawan Jabarin, general director of Al-Haq (PA)

Two Palestinian human rights activists have said Ireland should implement sanctions on Israel, arguing that recognising the state of Palestine will not stop the deaths.

Shawan Jabarin, general director of the Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq, and Lubnah Shomali, an advocacy manager at BADIL, a resource centre for Palestinian refugees, are due to give talks in Dublin and Belfast this week.

Al-Haq’s visit is being hosted by Trocaire and Christian Aid Ireland, while BADIL’s visit is hosted by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The two human rights defenders told the PA news agency that although Ireland’s plan to recognise Palestinian statehood would be a welcome step, it would not stop people in Gaza from being killed in Israel’s military offensive.

Mr Jabarin, who received an alumni award from the University of Galway on Friday, said consequences were needed to prevent violations of international law.

“I think this is a good step. Even if it’s late, this is a good, important step,” he said of Ireland’s plan to recognise the Palestinian state.

“But the question is, which actions after that they take? Without actions, without consequences, things will continue as it has forever. It’s not just the issue to give a symbolic step. We need also actions, we need consequences.”

Ms Shomali said that although some countries in the global south had imposed sanctions, “none of the global north have fulfilled their obligation to prevent genocide by implementing sanctions”.

She said that the recognition of Palestine “doesn’t fulfil the obligation of Ireland and other third party states to prevent and stop genocide”.

“I came here from South Africa,” Mr Jabarin told PA in Dublin on Monday.

Israel-Hamas conflict
Shawan Jabarin, general director of the Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq (Niall Carson/PA)

“I met the people that negotiated to dissolve the apartheid regime, and I met with the former defence minister, he was one of the negotiators. I asked him the question ‘What makes you change as a racist regime to remove the system?’.

“He said ‘sanctions’. This is what he said. And he said more than that: ‘when the US imposed sanctions on us, it was the turning point’. Things end and finish because of sanctions, it is the cornerstone.”

He added: “The Irish people in their relations with those who have Irish roots in the US, of course you can play your role. I’m not speaking only at official level, even the people, the public, they have the contacts, they have relations with the people in the US, they can push forward.”

He encouraged Irish universities to give more opportunities to Palestinian students, particularly those from Gaza, saying that it is “a very important thing for the future”.

Mr Jabarin, who had an Irish Aid scholarship in 2004/05 to study law at the University of Galway, and Ms Shomali are due to meet Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, Minister of State Joe O’Brien and Irish Aid officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.

“I used to say when I was in Ireland at that time, ‘the explosion is coming, the occupation is deepening, the apartheid system is there’. But no actions were taken against Israel, like sanctions, like the EU to freeze the association agreement with Israel.”

He said that the international system “has failed completely” and the Security Council, “who has to take care of security and peace over the world, failed 100%”.

“When I compare the reaction on what’s happened in Ukraine against Russia, we need only 1% of the actions that were taken against the Russians against Israel. That’s what we are asking for. This shows that there is no political will and also shows that there is north and there is south.”

Israel-Hamas conflict
Lubnah Shomali, an advocacy manager at Badil, a resource centre for Palestinian refugees (Niall Carson/PA)

Both Mr Jabarin and Ms Shomali stressed the difference between countries’ governments and their people and said that the support of people around the world marching and demonstrating gives them hope.

“When we hear what happened in Trinity College, and other universities here that the administration of the universities agreed and accepted the students’ demands to divest from Israeli businesses, this is very important,” Mr Jabarin said.

Asked whether they would encourage young people to become political or activists rather than become radicalised, he asked what people expect those who have lost everything to do.

“The young, they see how they kill their friends, how they killed their beloved, how they demolish their houses, how they raid and invade their homes after midnight and beat their parents.

“I think the environment that Israel are building through their actions on a daily basis, and also the persecutions they are carrying out against the Palestinians … That’s the case, the problem is not in the Palestinians’ DNA, we are humans and we are a tolerant people who are tolerant people.

“We are not asking, for instance, to do the same that the Israelis do against us. No way, no way, we will lose our humanity if we do the same as the Israelis do against us and against our people.

“Our problem is not with the Jews, our problem is with the racist, colonial political organisation called the Zionist movement. That’s the problem.”

Ms Shomali said that all Palestinians have “no choice” but to be politically involved.

“What that political activism looks like, I think is up to the individual or to the group or to the person.

“But when we talk about international law, when we have the denial of self-determination, Palestinians as a national people, wherever they are … in pursuit of their right of self determination, they have the right to resist with any means necessary. This includes armed and non-armed resistance. So it’s not radical to resist in all of the forms.”

Mr Jabarin added: “But I know one thing: Palestinians, they will not disappear, for sure.

“They will continue asking for justice and rights and they will not forgive or forget. As human rights defenders, we have no right to step back and to give up. We have to continue fighting for justice and rights and accountability.

“This is what we are trying to convey to our young generation. When I hear from my granddaughter, she is four years old, speaking about the Israeli checkpoints on her way to her kindergarten, every day, that the soldiers stop her mum.

“She spoke about Gaza children and asked me why they killed their mums? And said ‘my dad, he’s a strong, they can’t kill him’. It means that the youngest are learning also.”