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Senator Black supports Senator Norris Motion calling on Bank of Ireland to reverse its decision to c

As chairperson of the Friends of Palestine cross-party Oireachtas group, I support the motion tabled by Senator Norris. I also support the fantastic Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign group that was set up to highlight the struggle of the Palestinian people. It is totally unacceptable that Bank of Ireland has closed the bank account of the IPSC and refused to comment on the reason for this action.

I would like to make my position clear from the outset. I believe that all violence is wrong and I am sure that we all hope for a lasting peace in the Middle East. I will refer to the great work done by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign group. Yesterday I attended its presentation in the AV Room and what I heard was most upsetting. The presentation was delivered by Ayed Abu Qtaish who is the accountability director for an organisation called the Defence for Children International Palestine. I was shocked to hear details of the arrest, detention and ill treatment of Palestinian children by the Israeli Defence Forces. All of this makes it highly unlikely that peace will be achieved in the near future. A children's rights NGO has recorded around 50 deaths of Palestinian children at the hands of Israeli forces since last October that roughly marked the onset of the third Palestinian uprising. The Defence for Children International Palestine organisation reported the fatalities. It said that the absence of transparent and neutral investigation into such incidents had turned the killing of Palestinian children into normality. Ayed Abu Qtaish complained that international agencies and the United Nations had failed to meet their responsibilities in defending the rights of Palestinian children.

The IPSC has worked tirelessly on this issue and provides great support to the Defence for Children International Palestine. The IPSC was set up by a group of established Irish human rights and community activists, academics and journalists who were deeply concerned about the situation in the Occupied Territories. The IPSC works in partnership with Palestinians now living in Ireland. It was originally formed to provide a voice for Palestine in Ireland. The IPSC is an independent, non-party political organisation that is run by volunteers who are all committed to a just and sustainable peace in the Middle East. The IPSC is a member-based organisation that is funded by their members' annual fees, standing orders and donations.

I will outline some facts that the IPSC tirelessly highlights. As many as 11,700 Palestinians are currently imprisoned. The Israeli unemployment rate is 9% while the Palestinian rate of unemployment is estimated at 40%. The US gives more than $7 million per day to the Israeli Government and military. Since 1967, Israel has demolished 18,147 Palestinian homes that has left over 100,000 people without shelter. Israel has been targeted by at least 65 UN resolutions while the Palestinians have not been targeted. All of this shows that the work done by the IPSC is vital and so must be commended.

It is essential that human rights violations are highlighted and that oppressed peoples are supported by us. We have a duty to speak out against the ill treatment of children no matter who is responsible. Again, it is unacceptable that Bank of Ireland has closed the bank account of the IPSC and refused to comment on the reason for doing so. The closure of the bank account is believed to be due to the Israeli Government exerting pressure on banks to close the accounts of organisations that advocate the boycott of Israeli goods similar to the boycott of South African goods during the apartheid era. If this is the case then the closure of the account is interference by Israel in the business affairs of a sovereign country and needs to be challenged. Banks should not have the power to threaten the very existence of organisations unless there is concrete evidence that the organisation has been involved in illegal transactions and then there is an onus on the bank to report these activities to the Garda.

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