People not politics must be the priority when it comes to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza – Naughten

In Blog by Denis Naughten

As a people, we are all sickened and deeply troubled by the increasing violence and its devastating impact on Gaza’s population, as well as the growing number of deaths in the West Bank.


Every one of us is appalled by the unprecedented level of casualties on both sides and the severe suffering this conflict is inflicting on innocent civilians, including older people, women, and especially children.


I must strongly condemn any acts of violence against civilians, which are completely against international humanitarian law.


Although the International Criminal Court is already probing allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in both Palestine and Israel, including those since October 6, 2023, these investigations need to be expedited.


Currently, the capacity for a thorough investigation, ongoing for the last 32 months, is lacking, and I welcome the Sinn Féin motion tonight, which has exposed this intolerable delay.


I agree with the Tánaiste that it is crucial for all nations that have signed up to the Rome Statute to now live up to that responsibility and provide the necessary financial and political support to the International Criminal Court to conduct comprehensive and prompt investigations into all allegations of such crimes, including those since October 6, 2023.


Regarding the Social Democrats’ motion tomorrow, I have received hundreds of emails asking me to

“Please put aside Party Politics for Human Decency”.


And that is exactly what I intend to do.


I’m not speaking here without some understanding of the issues in this part of the Middle East. I have been directly involved in a peacebuilding process in this region over the last few years.


In recent weeks, I’ve had a very modest yet informed role in conversations concerning the ongoing crisis. My involvement has primarily been in supporting efforts towards establishing a humanitarian pause in the escalating situation.


This is not the time for political manoeuvres.


It is time to halt the violence and save lives.


Diplomacy and dialogue are needed now more than ever.


We cannot abandon our citizens in Gaza, and in particular little Emily Hand, who is held hostage there as we speak.


Nor should we abandon our defence force personnel who are serving in peacekeeping roles in the region and reliant on Israeli support.


Speaking with my colleague Cathal Berry, who has served with the Defence Forces in the region, he has pointed out that it appears this proposal to expel the Israeli Ambassador has been made with little or no consideration given to the real-world consequences of such an action.


Ireland has almost 10% of its army, or almost 500 personnel, deployed to the Middle East at all times. An incredible statistic, unmatched by any other international country.


Should the Israeli ambassador be expelled from Dublin, Israel would not only reciprocate by immediately expelling our ambassador from Tel Aviv but would also likely revoke the visas of the 11 Defence Force officers in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, who are based primarily across Israel and the West Bank.


This would not only reduce the likelihood of evacuating our citizens from Gaza and the safe return of our 8-year-old hostage but it would also undermine Irish efforts to deter the conflict from spreading to the West Bank and Jerusalem in particular.


The risk of an Irish UN post being shelled as a reprisal would also increase.


Furthermore, a standing arrangement whereby higher-level medical care is provided to Irish peacekeeping troops in the Israeli hospital in Tiberias may also be compromised.


We must collectively strive for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire from both sides in this conflict and urge the release of all Israeli hostages held by Hamas.


And as a matter of urgency, we need to ensure that sufficient humanitarian aid, including vital fuel supplies, is allowed into Gaza.


This aid is necessary to provide some relief and meet the basic needs of its people.