Statement by President Higgins on ongoing violence in the Middle East
Date: Thu 2nd Nov, 2023 | 17:05
“The ongoing horrific loss of civilian life in Gaza and Israel has to be addressed. It should concern us all. Violence by non-State as well as State actors must be described for what it is – breaches of international law. If international law is to respected, it is important that hostages be released and an immediate humanitarian ceasefire be put in place.
In this terrible ongoing loss of civilian life, that is having such a devastating impact on families on all sides, with the large proportion of those killed being women and children, it is important that there be a verification of figures, that the lives lost are not reduced to competing press releases.
The enlistment of civilians for military purposes on any side has to be recognised and addressed; collective punishment is not something we can accept and claim to be advocates of international law. It is simply unacceptable that hospitals and those being cared for within them are threatened by the basic lack of resources, damaged or indeed threatened with destruction, or those within them forced to be evacuated.
Those in the international community who are anxious to support international law, see it vindicated in its fullest sense, including the Geneva Convention, must press for an independent verification of the facts.
International bodies, including the European Union and members of the broader international community, who remain silent or allow their messages to have ambiguous construction have a responsibility to commit to vindicating international law. This is needed to give credibility to what is a much-invoked multilateralism. Not to do so is to accede to little less than the granting of impunity to those involved in a conflict.
When it comes to the protection of children, no other issues should stand in the way for even a minute. Friendships, alliances and partnerships are tested by what cannot be avoided if diplomacy is to return and replace war.
I am proud of the Irish NGOs who are responding to the present horror that is unfolding in Gaza, great acts of courage and humanity are taking place in the worst of circumstances. One can only admire the extraordinary courage and commitment of the medical personnel who, while enduring unimaginable difficulties, are staying with those for whom they care, putting their own lives at risk. That so many members of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), including teachers, have already lost their lives in that task illustrates the terrible price that threatening civilians with terror, war and its response delivers. What they are facing are the experiences of this suffering.
If we are to move past the present events, we need the capacity to verify what are the facts on the ground and to respond to them, removing all blocks to humanitarian relief, indicating how a space for diplomacy can be found, and out of all of this how a consistent diverse body of proposals might come forward. Ones that can deliver a reasonable security to citizens of Israel, and at the same time achieve the delivery of the long-neglected rights of the Palestinian people; offering the prospect of peace to future generations who must share space and life together as neighbours.”