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A protest at the Israeli Embassy in Dublin. (File) Eamonn Farrell/

Taoiseach will not follow Amnesty International in using 'apartheid' in relation to Israel

Micheál Martin said using the term apartheid would not “add anything right now”.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said he will not use the term “apartheid” in describing Israel’s policies against Palestinians following the publication of an Amnesty International report that does so.

Martin described some policies followed by Israel as “counterproductive” but added that using the term apartheid would not “add anything right now”.

Last week, Amnesty International labelled Israel an apartheid state that treats Palestinians as “an inferior racial group,” joining the assessment of other rights groups which the Jewish state vehemently rejects.

Amnesty stressed it was not comparing the situation to apartheid-era South Africa but that Israeli conduct met the criteria for the crime of apartheid under international law.

New York-based Human Rights Watch in April last year became the first major international rights group to publicly level the allegation.

Amnesty now asserts that Israeli-enforced apartheid exists in occupied Palestinians territories and within Israel itself, where Arab citizens make up more than 20% of the population.

Israel has strongly rejected Amnesty’s claims, with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid saying they were “divorced from reality”. 

In the Dáil today, Independent TD Catherine Connolly said that Amnesty’s report was “a damning indictment of what Israel is doing to the Palestinian people”. 

She asked Martin whether he had read the report and added: 

Does the Taoiseach agree with the conclusions that an apartheid system is in operation?  Will he raise it at EU and UN level?  Does he agree that the International Criminal Court should consider the crime of apartheid in its current investigation in respect of the occupied territories, Israel and what it has done? 

In response, An Taoiseach said that he visited Gaza in 2009 and that “not much has changed in terms of segregation and the routes Palestinians have to take in the occupied territories”. 

He added that the Amnesty report was being examined by the Department of Foreign Affairs and that he also “will get through it as quickly as I can”.

“We believe that Israeli policy is counterproductive to the emergence and triumph of moderate opinion within Palestine, in both the West Bank and Gaza.  In many ways that policy has allowed extremists to get the upper hand, in my view. We have pointed this out time and again,” he said.

mm Taoiseach Micheál Martin

Connolly disagreed with Martin’s assertion that “very little has changed”, arguing that “the apartheid regime has become entrenched. 

“It is no longer just statements from various politicians.  It has become entrenched in legislation, policy and practice, while the suffering of the Palestinian people has intensified,” she said. 

Martin said that the Ireland’s voice on Middle Eastern conflict has been “objective and honourable” and that the country is a strong supporter of human rights and relief works.

This included, he said, the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees.

“We fund civil society and have continued to fund civil society and human rights organisations that Israel has labelled as terrorist or whatever,” Martin said.

“We do not accept that labelling and we are pushing our European colleagues to continue to support these organisations. I will not use the term “apartheid” because I am not sure it will add anything right now.”

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