Ireland’s President Criticizes EU Leadership Over Gaza Conflict
Ireland’s President, Michael Higgins, has criticized European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for her comments on the Gaza conflict. Speaking at the World Food Forum in Rome, Higgins joined a growing chorus of voices calling for better performance from EU leadership.
The criticism stems from von der Leyen’s failure to demand that Israel comply with international humanitarian law in its response to the Hamas attack on October 7. Following the attack, Israel launched airstrikes against the Gaza Strip, resulting in the deaths of over 3,700 Palestinians and injuring 12,500 in just over 10 days.
Von der Leyen’s tweet stating that “Israel has the right to defend itself” without acknowledging its legal obligations drew strong criticism. Higgins emphasized that her statement did not represent Ireland’s opinion or stance on the matter.
Furthermore, von der Leyen’s comment that “how Israel responds will show that it is a democracy” without mentioning its legal obligations also drew ire. Israel’s response has included cutting off essential supplies such as food, water, fuel, and electricity to Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants, leaving hospitals on the brink of collapse.
Ireland’s Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, has accused Israel of pursuing “collective punishment.” Higgins echoed this sentiment, questioning the legitimacy and authority behind von der Leyen’s decisions. He emphasized the need for better performance in European Union diplomacy and practice.
As airstrikes continue in Gaza, over a million people have been displaced from their homes in the north. The United Nations reports that 60 percent of these displaced individuals are concentrated in an 8-mile area south of the evacuation zone.
Higgins warned that if Israel continues with its stated intentions, international law designed to protect civilians during conflicts would be rendered meaningless. He expressed concern about Israel openly announcing its intention to break international law and subjecting innocent civilians to its actions.
The President stated that such actions would reduce the significance of the code established after World War II and enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, which aim to protect civilians during times of conflict. He emphasized that these actions would leave international law in tatters.
The criticism from Ireland’s President adds to the mounting pressure on EU leadership to take a stronger stance on the Gaza conflict. Many have called for the EU to demand that Israel comply with international humanitarian law and cease its disproportionate use of force against Palestinians.
The conflict in Gaza has garnered international attention and condemnation. Human rights organizations and world leaders have expressed concern over the high number of civilian casualties and the dire humanitarian situation in the region.
As the situation continues to unfold, it remains to be seen how EU leadership will respond to the mounting criticism and calls for action. The Gaza conflict serves as a reminder of the importance of upholding international humanitarian law and protecting innocent civilians during times of conflict.