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Vote No: EU foreign policy shelters Israel regardless of its gross human rights violations

Minister Dermot Ahern, speaking on RTE’s Saturday View programme, recalled how difficult it was to get the Council of Foreign Ministers to agree to call for a ceasefire as Israel bombarded Lebanon in 2006.

His comments confirm what we in IFPAL (Irish Friends of Palestine Against Lisbon) say about EU foreign policy sheltering Israel regardless of its gross human rights violations. The EU’s Common Foreign Policy – now Irish Foreign Policy – does not have to conform to international humanitarian law, the UN Charter, not even the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Only foreign policy “legislation” has to abide by these standards.

Foreign policy, given direction by the European Council, is at the discretion of the Council of Foreign Ministers which decides policy in conclave, remote from any public scrutiny. It is dominated by Britain, Germany and France, states with significant economic, political and voting leverage. A well-funded Israeli lobby embedded in the political architecture of these states ensures they defend Israel regardless of its crimes. As a result, the EU is incapable of agreeing actions that would sanction Israel for its human rights abuses, as evidenced by Minister Ahern’s comments. Britain’s fulsome support for Israel was clear when it facilitated its rapid re-arming with American supplied bombs knowing they were for use against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Lebanon.

The hypocrisy of claims by proponents of the Lisbon Treaty that the EU’s actions are guided by the values, human dignity, liberty, the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights is exposed when examined against its record of support for the belligerent Israeli state. EU policy facilitates what Jewish Israeli historian Professor Ilan Pappe described to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs in February as the “genocidal policies” of the Israeli state. The decision of the Council to upgrade relations with Israel in June 2008 after it killed over 380 Palestinians, including 60 children, gave Israel the green light for its assault on Gaza earlier this year, killing 1417 Palestinians including 352 children. Despite this, the EU refused to impose sanctions, suspend the EU-Israel Trade Agreement, seek reparations or demand an end to the ongoing siege of Gaza.

The Lisbon Treaty will exacerbate and set in stone this system of governance that gives a handful of people free rein to decide foreign policy for 500 million people without any legally defined criteria and no independent oversight. Ireland currently has a veto over foreign policy but our existing government, to its shame, failed to use it to block decisions that facilitated Israel’s genocidal actions in Gaza. The Lisbon Treaty allows the European Council to change foreign policy decisions from unanimity to qualified majority vote, removing Ireland’s veto and giving others the power to decide Irish foreign policy.

Proponents of the Treaty say no Irish government would ever agree to this change, but they can not know that. If it would never be agreed then why enshrine this ticking bomb into a legally binding Treaty?

It was hardly for this that past generations of Irish people sacrificed so much to win our right to espouse a foreign policy in keeping with our values, free from coercion by others. It would be folly in the extreme for this generation to give up that right in a moment of economic crisis and fear brought on by the neoliberal policies promoted by the architects of the Trojan Horse Lisbon Treaty.

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