EC data decision - Why should Israel get these files?

THE Government is to be congratulated on convincing the European Commission to delay Israel’s access to private data on European citizens.

Though this may be no more than a temporary position because of the sensitivity of Arab/Israeli peace talks in Washington it gives us time to consider why Israel should have any access to details about Europeans.

It gives us time to consider what mandate the EC has for sharing the minutiae of our lives with a belligerent state accused of war crimes. It also gives us an opportunity to ask our Government why it has shared this data with anyone and why the EC imagines itself in a position to bestow this gift on Israel.

This is especially so when the war crimes accusation comes from the United Nations. Judge Richard Goldstone concluded, in a 575-page report sponsored by the UN, that both sides involved in the Gaza bloodbath of January last year committed war crimes.

It must be remembered too that Israel has failed to dispel the suspicion that it provided its assassins with Irish passports to facilitate murder in Dubai. Neither should the disdain with which Foreign Minister Micheál Martin was treated when he raised the misuse – forgery or theft, whichever you prefer – of Irish passports with his counterpart Avigdor Lieberman be forgotten.

Ireland is still accused of being immorally neutral during World War II even though it was actively “neutral” on behalf of the Allies. It seems the EU has, without any debate, adopted the same position on Israel.

Javier Solana, EU foreign policy guru and once Nato secretary general, breezily declared last year that “Israel, allow me to say, is a member of the EU without being a member of the institution”. Since when?

The banks knew that no matter how badly they behaved governments would bail them out. Israel enjoys the same kind of cover from America and, increasingly, the EU. This week President Barack Obama naturally condemned an attack that left four “settlers” dead as “senseless slaughter”. He did not, however, distinguish between Israel’s security within its recognised borders and that of “settlers” in the occupied West Bank.

It was certainly senseless and it was certainly slaughter, but that is what happens when invaders violently displace communities who have owned and worked land for generation upon generation.

Mr Obama’s remarks were echoed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who responded with his usual aggression: “We will not let the blood of Israeli civilians go unpunished ... We will not let terror decide where Israelis live or the configuration of our final borders.”

The distance between the participants in the Washington talks was undermined when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak wrote this week that: “Israel should make no mistake: settlements and peace are incompatible ... A complete halt to Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is critical.”

It is saddening that Mr Obama, who seemed committed to confronting tyranny, should endorse an entity that so easily behaves in a way that would not be tolerated in Europe much less in America.

It is even more disturbing that the EU, in our name, should afford Israel the support it needs to sustain its inhuman and immoral behaviour. Our Government should be encouraged to do all it can to get the EU – and America too – to take a position that will encourage Israel, despite all the terrible provocation it faces, to behave in a civilised way. Denying them access to data on EU citizens would be a good if minor first gambit.

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