Former UN Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday said it was imperative that the Obama administration support Ireland's call on the Israeli authorities to ensure safe passage for the Irish-flagged Rachel Corrie to carry humanitarian aid to Gaza, the Irish Times reports. Speaking by satellite phone from on board the Rachel Corrie, Halliday called on Irish-Americans to lobby the Obama administration: "We also feel there is a role for the Irish diaspora here, in the U.S. and elsewhere to lobby politicians over this continued illegal blockade of Gaza, which is causing such hardship to the Palestinian people."
Halliday has some experience with this issue, having resigned from his position as UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq in 1998 over the impact of UN/U.S. sanctions on Iraqi civilians.
The issue of the Gaza blockade has tremendous resonance in Ireland, partly because of Ireland's high degree of engagement in international humanitarian causes -- John Ging, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, who had called on the international community to break the siege by sending ships loaded with aid, is also Irish -- but also, of course, because the Irish people have some experience with the consequences for civilians of a colonial blockade.
Between 1845 and 1850, more than a million Irish people starved to death under British rule while, as Sinead O'Connor famously noted, food was shipped out of Ireland under armed guard. A million more fled Ireland to escape starvation, many to America, including Falmouth Kearney, President Obama's great-great-great grandfather. Many Irish people -- and Irish-Americans -- take the responsibilities of this legacy very seriously.
Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has said:
The best possible commemoration of the men and women who died in that Famine, who were cast up on other shores because of it, is to take their dispossession into the present with us, to help others who now suffer in a similar way.
That's what Halliday is trying to do. Doesn't he deserve all our support?
UPDATE:: Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois [also Irish-American] writes:
We could act to deter an Israeli attack upon MV Rachel Corrie by invoking International Criminal Court Prosecution. According to the ICC Rome Statute, Article 12 (2) provides "2. In the case of article 13, paragraph (a) or (c), the Court may exercise its jurisdiction if one or more of the following States are Parties to this Statute or have accepted the jurisdiction of the Court in accordance with paragraph 3: (a) The State on the territory of which the conduct in question occurred or, if the crime was committed on board a vessel or aircraft, the State of registration of that vessel or aircraft; ... " If one of the vessel is Irish vessel and the attack was committed against the vessel, the ICC may exercise its jurisdiction over this situation since the Ireland is a State Party to the ICC Statute. Israel's attack may constitute a crime against humanity of murder, imprisonment, torture and other inhumane acts under Article 7 of the ICC Statute.
Ireland is a party to the Rome Statute. Hence if Israel were to attack the MV Rachel Corrie, the highest level Israeli officials could be prosecuted for the attack. If we got this word out internationally, it might do some good.