Europe has ‘abandoned Palestine’ across political spectrum, FF MEP says

Few countries have spoken out for Palestinian people, Billy Kelleher said, with action needed long before current tragedies

Europe’s approach to Israel and Palestine has been “quite shameful” over recent years, Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher has said.

Only a few countries and MEPs were speaking out for the Palestinian people, he told reporters at the party’s ardfheis. “The vast majority have abandoned Palestine, in my view, and that’s right across the entirety of the political spectrum”.

The Hamas attack on October 7th that sparked the war in Gaza has given a “real urgency to do what we should have been doing for the last number of years way in advance of the tragedies that are unfolding before our eyes”, he said.

Mr Kelleher, the party’s Ireland South MEP, visited the West Bank in 2018 and said Fianna Fáil co-sponsored the Occupied Territories Bill at the time.

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He said that what had to happen now was full recognition of Palestine as a state and a two-state solution as envisaged in the Oslo Accord, which should be implemented.

Asked what they were doing as MEPs Dublin MEP Barry Andrews said that they had signed a letter requesting the review of the Israeli association agreements, which privileges Israel in terms of access to the European market, “a very favourable agreement for Israel”.

They signed that last year and “we got signatures across the European Parliament”. He said he and Mr Kelleher “have been recognised as really speaking out for Unrwa, Palestinians and access to humanitarian aid”, when funding was being withdrawn over allegations that some personnel in Unrwa the UN humanitarian aid programme for Palestine, were members of Hamas.

He said the controversy and Ireland’s support for Unrwa funding left Ireland very isolated.

Now it was the mainstream view that the situation in Gaza cannot go on.

“We need a ceasefire immediately. To think that we really had to argue for that back in October is really extraordinary, but I think we have a reasonable record to present to the people in that context.”

Protests in solidarity with Gaza were scheduled to continue around Ireland on Saturday, with demonstrations outside the US and German embassies in Dublin along with other events planned for Cork, Belfast and many other towns.

The Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis unanimously backed a motion that calls for a United Nations military protection force in Gaza, and to exclude both the Israeli army and Hamas from the territory.

The motion, tabled by Cathal Brugha of the Dublin Rathdown Comhairle Dáil Ceanntar, also called for a similar action in Ukraine that would exclude Russian forces.

Taoiseach Simon Harris said on Friday night that formal recognition of Palestine, announced last week by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin, was coming closer.

Speaking alongside Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez, he said: “When we move forward, we would like to do so with as many others as possible.”

Mr Sánchez said Ireland, Spain and others would support recognition of Palestine as a state and its full membership of the United Nations.

“We do this with two clear objectives. The first is to send a message of hope to the millions of Gazans and Palestinians who are suffering in the region. And secondly, to show the world that in Europe there are also countries willing to defend respect for the international order in all cases,” he said.

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