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06 Opinion


October 26th 2010 Israel and Palestine; Ireland’s involvement


With UCC hosting fresh debates on the Israel/Palestine conflict, Enda Kenneally looks back at the history of Irish involvement in the dispute.


The Israel/Palestine debate is a


sensitive issue and deputies on the Oireachtas Joint Committee for Foreign Affairs frequently make reference to the need for balanced debates and the focus is usually constructive. The aim of a debate is to find a solution rather than chastise an act or denigrate an in- dividual, mindful that both Israel and Palestine have painful sacri- fices to make. This desire to be neutral can be


found as early as 1967 when Ire- land rejected a request by Turkey to co-sponsor a resolution of Pales- tinian refugees, even though Frank Aiken was troubled by their fate and wanted the UN to fully com- pensate them. Ireland supported the formation of the Euro-Arab di- alogue and the Irish position was one of inclusiveness. Ireland was one of the few states for the involvement of the Palestin-


ian Liberation Organization in UNGA, a radical position for Rory Miller, but Ireland voted against any draft resolution that ignored Is- rael. Ireland’s position in the UN during the 1980s won the respect of countries like Lebanon because it condemned Israeli violence. The Iranian Ambassador appeared be- fore the committee to give his input on the Gaza conflict. He did not miss the opportunity


to use human rights as the stick to beat Israel with, but the hypocrisy was not lost on the deputies. Deputy Billy Timmins enquired about President Ahmadinejad’s de- nial of the Holocaust, the sale of arms to Hamas, as well as suppres- sion of the Baha’i community. Deputy Michael D. Higgins crit-


icised the US for not condemning the Israeli murder of a Palestinian civilian. The EU “should have been more active because the quar-


Currency wars


In anticipation of the upcoming G20 talks, Irial Ó Ceal- laigh investigates the climate of financial competition and what the future may hold.


A currency war generally ensues


when national currencies are com- petitively devalued in order to in- crease exports. A nation can make its own money less valuable. This increases exports by making goods cheaper on the international mar- ket. The international community may often remain indifferent to de- valuation if a country is in danger of becoming unstable, even if this means a threat to manufacturing jobs in competing states. Devalua- tion is generally seen as a necessity for a struggling economy but in the Great Recession, where all nations suffer its worth can be more dam- aging than good as every economy seeks to devalue. This has all the hallmarks of


Machiavellian anarchy with every nation/bloc in competition with the next. There are many ways to de- value. The first is to artificially peg (maintain central control of) a cur- rency rather than let a currency be floated (controlled by the market). The second weapon which can be deployed by central banks is quan-


titative easing. Basically additional money is printed, or even more simply, banks add an extra digit onto their electric accounts. This has the two-fold effect of devalu- ing domestic currency, thus in- creasing exports, and making money flow into competing for- eign currencies, increasing the value of competitors’ exports. Currently the Chinese are buy-


ing up US dollars and keeping it strong by reducing the available supply. The US counters by print- ing more money and keeping sup- ply high and thus the intrinsic value of the dollar low. However, the People’s Republic maintains an unfair advantage in that the Chi- nese Renminbi is not a free float- ing currency on the international market and the People’s Bank of China can keep the Yuan unnatu- rally low. The PRC receives most blame for the current conflict be- cause its trade surplus with the US is unnaturally high and this is forc- ing the US to keep the Dollar weak in order to compete. The US treas-


tet’s ownership of the road map has been eroded” and that the EU should assert its authority so that the US is not the sole major power controlling the peace process. Higgins also denied that the EU


was largely pro-Palestinian and countered that the “Israeli position is well protected by the largest power in the world which refuses to condemn assassination”. This al- lusion to America’s flouting of in- ternational law and patchy human rights record was taken up by Deputy Noonan. He backed the EU to get in-


volved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process because the UN could not be an honest broker as it lacks “legal and moral authority” owing to the fact that three mem- bers of the Security Council (Britain, the US, and Russia) have violated international law. Anwar Darkzally, of the Irish-


Palestinian Solidarity group, urged the Irish Government to use its friendly relationship with America


ury secretary, Tim Geithner, has also come under scrutiny as to the Fed’s culpability in manipulating money. Developing economies and Chi-


nese competitors with currencies floated on the market have suffered most from the collateral damage caused by the Sino-American ac- tions. The combination of vast in- flows of money from Western stimulus packages into the curren- cies of developing economies and the inability to peg their currency like the PRC have placed huge strains on developing countries. Currencies like the Japanese Yen and Thai Baht (the one that caused the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis) include just some of the big boys affected. But the country which has suf-


fered most according to Goldman Sachs is Brazil which has the most overvalued major currency in the world. Due to its economic strength and abundant resources, foreign capital has cascaded into the Real. The Brazilian Finance Minister, Guido Mantega, began talking about ‘currency wars’ in September and had been pushing for a resolution at the upcoming G20 until he realised efforts were futile and withdrew from upcom- ing talks. The Brazilians have used another weapon in this economic war by increasing taxes on some


to raise awareness about the plight of Palestinian refugees. Neverthe- less, the Irish Government support the work of the Quartet in their in- sistence that a two-state solution is the only viable solution. The posi- tion of deputies in the committees corresponds with that of Amnesty International as Israeli and Pales- tinian terrorist acts are condemned in equal measure and Irish politi- cians and Colm O’Gorman, Chair- person of Amnesty, are adamant that they are not ant-Israeli. The illegal advance of the Israeli


wall in Gaza, which openly flouts EU and UN resolutions (some of which have been sponsored by Ire- land), the bombardment of UN buildings by Israeli forces more re- cently, an attack on a flotilla offer- ing humanitarian assistance. In addressing the Seanad, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen stated that “human rights issues are always prominent in our thinking on this conflict”. The Government showed themselves to


foreign capital inflows from two to six percent in order to dampen an overheating economy. There is one other weapon in


mitigating economic conflict: co- operation. A resolution will be the main priority for the upcoming G20 meeting in South Korea. Res- olutions over trade tension have usually been achieved as central banks realised the dangers of an economic war but consensus on an accord seems less likely this time. The increasing consensus is that the status quo could continue for the time being, especially if calls for a new global currency are not answered. The IMF managing di- rector, Dominique Strauss-Khan stated, ‘There isn’t the mood for that kind of an international agree- ment’. The Economist states that the


Seoul summit will have little chance of solving the problem but should instead ‘clarify the debate and keep up the pressure. It will get fewer headlines; but this is a war that is best averted, not fought’. But the international system could well see increased political ten- sions as we have already seen with US Congress proposing protection- ist policies against Chinese trade, Sino-Japanese


tensions and


Brazil’s flouting of the G20. The main reason for this is the lack of political will in solving this


be sensitive to public outcry when, during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, arms that were meant to flow from the USA to Israel via Ireland were diverted to Scotland. After the attack in the Rachel


Corrie, Martin stated that trade with Israel would not cease. Simon Coveney applied this logic to China, arguing that condemnation can only lead to exclusion and that EU favours engagement as this wins influence. The Lisbon Treaty and the creation of the European Defence Agency have resulted in Israel becoming a significant con- tributor of military equipment to the Irish army. This may be criti- cised by commentators but it forms part of the Irish policy of engage- ment. The stance of the Irish Govern-


ment on Israel/Palestine has been largely consistent and has accom- modated the actions of the EU and the UN as well as trying to balance the interests of Israel and Palestine.


issue. Even though Chinese growth is at 9.6% there is growing consen- sus that the economy is dampen- ing. The Vice Minister of Commerce of China, in April, pre- dicted slacker export growth but stated that the government was nonetheless determined to shore- up trade and continue consolidat- ing status as a major trading power. To do this “trade friction will also become more serious”, hence a competitive edge would be main- tained even if it created friction with other nations. Many are afraid of trying to ‘shock’ or force the People’s Bank into conforming with sanctions or threats. Ultimately the continuation and


deepening of this conflict may re- sult in huge problems, including the overheating of developing economies leading to bubbles, and in rapid inflation brought about by quantitative easing. The PRC itself could suffer by alienating the inter- national community and face in- creased trade restrictions as well as more expensive imports which would lead to a slow-down in do- mestic consumption, seen by many in the PRC as the future direction of Chinese growth. It remains to be seen whether the international community has the political will to avert what could be a contributing factor to double dip and the contin- uation of the ‘Great Recession’.


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