The UCD Law Society in association with the UCD Islamic Society held a panel discussion on the topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The event which ran as a part of a wide Palestine week run across the campus discussed the history of the conflict, its current state and the effect it has had on the people who lived there.
Asad Abushark spoke first of the history of the conflict from the Palestinian perspective. He spoke of the Zionist decision to build a state on the lands of Palestine for the Jewish people modelled on the colonial states of Europe. To this end, he claimed the Israeli state was in effect attempting to wipe the people, the history and the culture of the Palestinian people from the land. He likened this to the plantations of Ireland under the British empire, which saw the Irish people lose their lands and the near eradication of the Irish language.
Abushark spoke of the desire of many Palestinians to return to their homeland, saying that there were nearly 17 million Palestinian refugees worldwide, more than were in the remaining lands of Palestine. This he claimed was by design, all an organised effort to ‘eradicate the Palestine people’ and that Israel was perpetrating the largest ethnic cleansing in history. Closing out his remarks he said that Israel will never agree to a Palestinian state and that the only way for one to exist was with the support of the international community, including support of the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanction) movement.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barret spoke next, giving the audience insight into his time in Israel, and how the attitude of the state and the people in it were a large part of the problem, not just the current government. He spoke of ‘Zionist gangs attacking Palestinian villages’ and how the basis of the state was a racist one. The most recent example of this he could cite was the recent law passed by the Israeli parliament which suspended the right to self-determination for all people in Israel except for citizens. The right to self-determination is one laid down by the UN and protected by international law. Currently, under Israeli law, any Jew who comes to Israel is entitled to citizenship, however, most Palestinians are prevented from gaining citizenship.
Boyd-Barret said that we needed to move beyond the idea that this was an intractable problem. He said this was not an issue of religion nor a religious conflict, this was an issue of racism and apartheid. He claimed that there were many connections between the founders of the Israeli state and the apartheid governments in South Africa. He said that most people sought a state where all people were equal, but that any efforts to achieve this fell on deaf ears.
Concluding his remarks, he said that change could not be instigated without efforts such as the BDS movement. The debate he said was shut down by the Israeli’s by calling any efforts to criticise them as anti-Semitic and ensuring that no debate could truly be had.
Adil Dahlan spoke next, starting with a bit of history about how the Palestinian people welcomed the Jews that fled Europe in the aftermath of World War Two into their lands and homes. He said that they did not expect to lose their homes or become refugees themselves when they welcomed them in. Dahlan emphasised that this was not a religious conflict, but rather an effort by the Israeli state to destroy the Palestinian state. He said that the main aim of the Palestinian people worldwide was to return home and build a state for all Palestinian people regardless of creed or ethnicity.
Most importantly he said that there was a need to address the needs of the people who are still within the former lands of Palestine, coupled with the need to permit people to return to Palestine. Without this there could be no end to the conflict, which he reiterated was a conflict between the Palestinian Zionist issue.
The final speaker for the night was UCD Chaplain Scott Evans who mentioned how despite this not being a religious conflict, there was a need for faith-based voices. This is due to the religious dimension of the conflict. Evans spoke about how he learned of the depth of the conflict from his brother who was a pastor for a time in Israel. From this time, he learnt how when you brought the various cultures and groups together in the pursuit of a single goal resulted in conflicts being overcome.
James Brandon the LawsSoc auditor said in a statement to the Tribune that ‘’We felt the event went really well in facilitating a hugely important discussion that simply isn’t being had to the extent it needs to be today. Palestine is an issue that many shy away from due to its perceived complexity, and we hope that in hearing from leading academics, politicians, and those who have the first-hand experience of what is happening over there, people were able to take away something positive from the discussion’.
By Aaron Bowman – CoEditor