Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Speech Given to IAWM Demonstration Against the Slaughter in Gaza, Tuesday January 7th

The given version of this speech at the Israeli Embassy was shorter than the text version and spoken without notes. The only significant differences are the brief tribute I paid to Tony Gregory and his human rights record in the given speech which does not appear below, and the fact that I did not get a chance to use the concluding part of the speech in which I quote Chris Hedges.


A chairde,

My name is Dermot Looney. I am a Labour Party candidate in next year’s local elections in Tallaght and have been asked to speak to you on behalf of the Labour Party. I would like to give the apologies of our relevant Oireachtas spokespeople, who I understand are attending the funeral of the late Tony Gregory tonight.

I want to be brief with you because I know we will have many speakers with different insights to this slaughter.

I am here to speak on behalf of and for the Labour Party to express our complete and total solidarity with the Palestinian people. That solidarity is rooted in the membership of the Labour Party, who have at successive Party Conferences and meetings expressed a desire for the self-determination of the Palestinian people and a just peace in the Middle East.

And that same solidarity is led by our Party President and Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Michael D Higgins, who is a true friend of Palestine and of a just peace, in the face of vicious opposition from Zionists, imperialists and neocons at home and abroad.

Let us be clear. The Israeli government, represented in this embassy, have no respect for international law or the most basic of human rights. Their backers in the United States administration have just as little.

Both have continually flouted, broken, stymied and undermined the will of the United Nations. And they have done so not just in the past week, with the Israeli invasion of Gaza and the United States’ blocking of a UN resolution which simply called for a ceasefire. They’ve been at it for more than 60 years, right back to UN Resolution 194 in 1948 which called for the right of return.

As my party colleague Michael D Higgins has pointed out, the US has armed Israel to a point that has gone well past self defence. It has turned this nuclear-armed state into the greatest prospect for regional and global destruction, as it canvasses for US permission to make a strike against Iran.

This latest attack on the people of Gaza has already led to the slaughter of more than 500 people. It is just the latest in years of savage attacks on Palestine, be they bombs from the sky, invasions on foot, the blocking of food, cash and fuel, or any other of the series of Israeli interventions to deprive the Palestinian people of their basic human rights.

On behalf of the Labour Party I unreservedly condemn and oppose the attacks on Gaza and call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. Such a ceasefire can’t merely be a lull to allow the Israeli war machine pause for breath. Nor can it be a substitute for meaningful talks to resolve the wider issues of which there are too many to name.

It is no coincidence that the Israeli elections are scheduled for next month. The actions of the so-called Labour Party Minister for so-called Defence, Ehud Barak, and the Kadima leaders are particularly despicable, and seem to be made to shore up electoral support against the increasingly disgusting Benjamin Netanyahu in opposition.

But we stand tonight in solidarity with those Israeli progressives and peace activists in Israel whose voices may seem lonely in the fearful wilderness of today’s Israel. Those progressives and refuseniks are supported not only by justice and right, but by the billions worldwide who stand for peace over war, and oppressed over oppressors.

To conclude, friends, let us address where we can best channel our support for the Palestinian people and our opposition to Israeli state terror. We must make clear to the people of Gaza that we in Ireland stand in steadfast solidarity with them. To that end, I propose tonight that my own area of Tallaght be twinned with Gaza City, in a display not just of symbolic solidarity, but of material and infrastructural support from the people of Tallaght and South Dublin Council in the time ahead.

Here at home, too, we must pressurise our Government, who talk much about Palestine but do little, to impose sanctions on Israel and to act within the EU to that same goal. As long as Israelis continue to build settlements in the occupied territories and carry out the most heinous military and socioeconomic attacks, no one here can stand idly by or spout the same old platitudes.

Like it or not, Hamas is the democratically-elected government in Gaza. It is time that fact is realised by the Israeli government and the so-called Quartet, that totally spineless institution which has done more to destroy the peace process than aid it.

To finish, my solidarity, and that of the Labour Party, is entirely on the side of the suffering Palestinian people, entirely on the side of those Israelis who oppose their government’s slaughter, and entirely on the side of a just peace.

A journalist called Chris Hedges, who worked for the New York Times in the Middle East, has put it better than I have heard elsewhere. He noted that the Israeli government has said it is engaged in a “war to the bitter end” against Hamas in Gaza.

“A war? Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely crowded refugee camps and slums. Israel attacks a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command and control, no army, and calls it a war. It is not a war. It is murder.”