Emergency Gaza Debate by Kildare County Council Blocked By Fianna Fail and Fine Gael

Kildare County Council was yesterday denied to opportunity to vote on a motion calling for an end to the siege of Gaza and action to put pressure on Israel to end its brutal attack on the defenceless Palestinian population. The Fianna Fáil mayor ruled that because the motion was submitted after the deadline for motions, it came under the part of Standing Orders that says only motions ‘related to a function of the council’ can be taken as matters of urgent business. In this the mayor was advised and supported by Fine Gael. I was denied the right to argue why my emergency motion was a valid matter of urgent business; and the mayor ruled there would be no vote on whether the motion should be debated.

In my opinion the use of procedures to control debate is always political: if those in control wanted a debate, they could have had one.

FF and FG know that the Dept. of Defence, with headquarters in Newbridge, bought military radar from an Israeli company that supplies radar to the Israeli military for use on the illegal apartheid wall protecting Israeli settlers in the West Bank – and probably on the Gaza ‘fence’. The same company, Elbit Systems, makes drones that have been used in attacks on Gaza.

All of Kildare’s councillors know this because I sent them the information. Is it not a ‘function of the council’ to ask another institution of state, situated in County Kildare, to stop supporting a company that profits from the oppression and killing of defenseless people who have been dispossessed from their land and blockaded in a besieged enclave for seven years? We act as advocates for local people suffering because they can’t get services. Should we not also advocate that local institutions cease contributing to the suffering and killing of others? The use of ‘protocol’ to block debate stopped this question being put in public.

The mayor reported on an official visit she made to the Curragh Camp, commenting on its ‘strong links’ with County Kildare; she proposed a minutes’ silence for the dead in Gaza and the MH17 plane crash; she also made a statement (verbal) condemning the killing in Gaza. But debate on my motion proposing action in opposition to the Israeli invasion was blocked by procedural means.

It will be September 22 before another motion on Gaza can be tabled at KCC. In the meantime, I urge those who want to do something in opposition to the siege to step up the boycott of Israeli goods; and contact all and any councillors and TDs, calling on them to demand an end to trade with companies that supply the Israeli military with their instruments of oppression against Palestinians. Check out the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) at http://www.ipsc.ie or Trocaire for details.

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The other councillors were fully aware of what is going on in Gaza, the importance of acting and of Kildare County Council’s links with the apartheid regime as I had sent the following letter and information to all of them the previous weekend to help inform the debate.

For info: letter to KCC councillors.

Fellow Councillors,

I have submitted an emergency motion on the Gaza crisis (below) for debate by Kildare County Council at its meeting on Monday 28 July. It was submitted on the morning of Tuesday July 22nd, after the normal deadline of July 16th, because the intensification of the ground invasion of Gaza did not take place until the weekend of Friday 18th – Sunday 20th of July.

The motion has been sent to the Protocol Committee, which will decide on Monday morning whether or not to present the motion to the full Council for debate. I am confident that the Members of that Committee will decide to support a suspension of Standing Orders or other mechanism to ensure this motion is tabled for debate at the full Council meeting. Should the Protocol Committee decide to do that however, the other Members of the Council will not have much time to consider the motion in advance of making a decision upon it.

I am therefore taking the abnormal step of circulating this emergency motion to all Members of Kildare County Council in advance of the meeting of the Protocol Committee.

I am doing this because we are in an abnormal situation: 1.8 million Palestinians are under attack in Gaza, while trapped in a blockaded enclave with no means of escape and with vital infrastructure being destroyed.

The seven year siege and blockade of Gaza have already made life intolerable for the people of Gaza – and have been condemned as an illegal ‘collective punishment’ by Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Israeli officials are now talking of “expanding and intensifying” the assault on Gaza. Surely we must learn from the siege and killings in Srebrenice: we must not remain silent, or knowingly turn away, and not act while defenceless people are under direct attack – as is now happening in Gaza.

Secondly, there is a direct relationship between the people of Kildare, the institutions of state based in Kildare, and the breaches of international law and international human rights treaties carried out by the state of Israel in relation to the Palestinians.

Trocaire reports that the Department of Defence has contracts with an Israeli military equipment company, Elbit Systems, for the supply of ground surveillance radar: ten pieces of this equipment were bought by the Dept. of Defence between 2009 and 2014. In Israel this equipment is used on the Apartheid Wall, which the International Court of Justice has ruled is illegal and in breach of the human rights of Palestinians. Elbit also makes ‘drones’ which have been used in attacks on Gaza.

This radar equipment may be located in the Curragh Camp. The Dept. of Defence has significant operations based in Kildare from where the purchase of this equipment may have been organized. Whether or not this is the case the Dept. of Defence – which bought it – interacts directly and indirectly with the people of Kildare. We therefore have a responsibility to engage with the Dept. Of Defence on matters of human rights abuses to which the Dept. may be an indirect contributor through purchases that sustain Israeli military industries.

Trocaire – along with civil society organisations in Palestine and other international human rights organisations like War on Want – call for governments to cease trading with Israeli companies which are involved in activities in Palestine that breach international law and human rights treaties. I support this call. Elbit Systems is one such company.

In response to such calls the Gates Foundation (of Bill Gates) recently sold its $110 million stake in G4S – which provides security services for the imprisonment by Israel of over 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners.

As an elected political institution representing the people of Kildare, Kildare County Council has a responsibility to draw to the attention of other institutions of state located in Kildare – and to the population of Kildare at large – that the state is a party to contracts with companies that benefit from the oppression, suffering and denial of human rights to the people of Palestine – now and in the past.

We should not simply close our eyes and ears to the suffering of a whole people while contributing to the profits of companies that collude or participate in the oppression of that people – and pretend that it has nothing to do with us. It is our responsibility to reveal what is being done in secret elsewhere; and to act, when we are in a position to do so, to stop the suffering of others.

A public debate on the matter is therefore essential.

Dublin City Council, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown and Galway County Councils have very recently passed motions calling for an end to the attacks on Gaza. I look forward to a full debate on this emergency motion at the meeting of Kildare County Council next Monday.

Regards
Brendan Young

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There will be a third All-Kildare Palestine Solidarity protest in a row next Tuesday August 3rd. Assemble at the Main Square in Maynooth. Thank you.

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