A motion proposing the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador and to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court was defeated in the Dáil on Wednesday night. The motion fell by 85 votes to 55.
It came as thousands gathered outside to push for peace and freedom for the Palestinian people of Gaza after a week in which the death toll from the Israeli genocide reached 11,500, including almost 5,000 children.
Israel’s envoy to Ireland, recently appointed, is Dana Erlich (pictured,right), who appeared earlier this month at the annual conference of the Fianna Fáil party, one of the three government parties who have defended Israel.
Last weekend, it was Sinn Féin’s turn to hold its annual Ard Fheis, during which the ambassador of the Palestinian Authority made a symbolic and emotional keynote speech, to huge applause.
Sinn Féin’s foreign affairs spokesman Matt Carthy described introducing Ambassador Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid (pictured, left) as one of his proudest moments. He led the conference in a chant of “in our thousands and or millions, we are all Palestinians” as delegates rose to their feet to welcome the ambassador to the stage.
Thanking the people of Ireland, Ambassador Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid said: “You never fail to hear our call for freedom.”
The ambassador said the international community has failed Palestinians “for decades”.
“It has allowed Israel to continue its horrific aggression against our people with impunity and in grave violation of international and humanitarian law,” she said.
“Israel must be held accountable for the war crimes committed in Gaza and the West Bank, including in Jerusalem.”
The ambassador said “political and moral failure” has led to the conflict in Gaza, which she described Gaza as “hell on earth”. She criticised the targeting of hospitals, schools and bakeries.
“This is beyond rage and revenge. Now, there is no safe place in Gaza. There is hardly shelter, food, water or fuel.
“Neither peace nor security can prevail while the rights of Palestinians are denied.”
Dr Wahba Abdalmajid received another standing ovation following her speech and was embraced by party president Mary Lou McDonald and vice president Michelle O’Neill as well as former leader Gerry Adams.
It was part of an emphatic statement of support for the Palestinian people by the Sinn Féin leadership at the conference amid near daily protests demanding greater Irish action against Israel, as well as a protest at the German embassy over its support for the genocide.
Sinn Féin has called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to Ireland and is also bringing a motion to the Dublin parliament seeking a referral of Israel to the International Criminal Court by Ireland.
The party’s spokesman on foreign affairs, Matt Carthy told the conference that “it is time again for Ireland to make a stand in defence of international law”.
He told the conference that there must be consequences for “Israel’s deliberate targeting and killing of thousands of civilians”.
He condemned the Hamas attack on October 7 and called for the release of all hostages. However, he said “history did not begin on October 7”, adding that it did not provide justification for the “war crimes committed by Israel every day since”.
Party leader Mary Lou McDonald also diverged from the prepared text off her Presidential address to reveal the demand to expel the Israeli ambassador.
“The Irish Government must take the lead and refer Israel to the International Criminal Court and send the Israeli Ambassador home,” she told the conference.
She added: “When the European Commission gives carte blanche to Israel to massacre Palestinians, we say, no, never,” Ms McDonald said. “They do not speak for us.”
Hopes had risen for a further shift in the policy of the coalition government on Tuesday when the Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said Israel’s original right to defend itself against Hamas had now become “a war on children and you cannot build peace on the mass graves of children”.
“It is unfortunate that a country has become blinded by rage,” he told the Dublin parliament.
People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said he agreed with the minister’s remarks but asked “what is he [Mr Harris] going to do about it?”
“Simon Harris, tomorrow night, having said to the world this is a war on children, is going to come into the Dáil and is going to vote to say Ireland will not make a referral to the International Criminal Court for a war on children that is taking place,” he said.
The Dublin South-West TD said it summed up the “utter hypocrisy of the Irish government on this issue”.
A crowd of over a thousand pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside the Dáil for the debate in Wednesday evening, vowing: “From the river (Jordan) to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Speaking during the debate, Mr Carthy said he was “ashamed” at the international community’s response to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza “and particularly ashamed by the response of the EU.
“I think EU leaders have ensured that the European Union no longer has any credibility to be a voice for peace, international law and for the basic rules of humanity for so long as they refuse to take a stand.”
Sinn Féin TD Chris Andrews said the “double standards” from the government were “absolutely sickening”.
“There was no issue or problem referring Russia to the International Criminal Court. The hypocrisy is absolutely clear and unacceptable,” he said.
The Dublin Bay South TD said over the last 24 hours he had received thousands of emails from the public asking that “Ireland take a stand”.
“A stand against the horror, the genocide, the carpet bombing engulfing the Gaza strip,” he said. “From contacts there I’ve been told that dogs are starting to eat the corpses of the bodies in the rubble and it’s a never ending horror.
“We are witnessing genocide in Gaza. Today it’s Palestine, tomorrow it could be anyone.”
However, in a series of divisions on Tuesday and Wednesday, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and even the Green Party voted together to defeat a series of opposition motions by some 20 or 30 votes, with the assistance of some independents.
Events are again being planned by the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Committee around the country this weekend, including a national demonstration in Dublin at the Garden of Remembrance on Saturday, as well as in Belfast, Cork, Skibberreen, Drogheda, Ennis, Bandon, Youghal, Gorey, Kilkenny, and Ballinasloe.