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The EU boycott of Israel’s 1967 celebration does not change its perception of the Zionist state

A Palestinian flag is seen on a flag pole outside the European Commission building before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels, Belgium on 26 March 2017 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]

Israel’s plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its military occupation of Palestine seem to have been shunned by the EU Ambassador to the Zionist state, Emanuele Giaufret. The decision, communicated by the ambassador’s office, unleashed the usual barrage of pompous complaints which is synonymous with Israel and its expectation that all countries, entities and institutions must make obvious their subjugation to its whims and wishes.

On the rare occasions when the opposite happens, Israeli officials and settler leaders scramble to issue statements intended to demean the decision and the decision-maker. These range from condescending remarks to belligerent outbursts aimed at establishing boundaries between the self-righteously superior host and the most obviously inferior guest.

According to Mark Gallagher from the EU’s political and press section, Giaufret declined to attend due to “long-standing EU policy not to attend official events in occupied territory.” The Canadian Embassy also issued a similar statement: the ambassador will not be attending “because it is a Government of Israel event being held in the West Bank.”

Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev attributed Giaufret’s decision to “ignorance”, and added with great arrogance that if the ambassador “would bother to learn about the history and heritage of [Judea and Samaria] he would ask to be seated in the front row.”

According to Knesset Deputy Speaker Oren Hazan of the right-wing Likud Party, “There is no physical barrier stopping the ambassador from attending the event.” In support of Israel’s political tantrum, former ambassador to the US Michael Oren sought to persuade Giaufret to attend, calling the refusal “outrageous” and insisting that “if the European Union and Europe want to play a role in the region, they have to accept facts on the ground that have been here for 50 years.”

Read: The EU’s toleration of Israel despite ‘unprecedented’ rate of demolitions

How much further the EU will take the decision to boycott Israel’s commemoration of the 1967 war remains to be seen. The trend so far has been that of Europe availing itself of visible political opportunities to assert its independence, while it continues to have diplomatic relations with Israel. Giaufret’s decision is not a novelty, it is merely a stance that has been communicated and taken in line with the EU’s façade of peace building. It is upon these grounds that Europe continues to advocate for the two-state compromise; the illusion of negotiations can also be read as a metaphor of its early involvement in the colonisation process and its reluctance to act decisively in favour of Palestinian rights.

However, Israel is also exposing its dependency upon the international community for bolstering its image. With every communicated decision which Israel deems wrong or, at best, miscalculated, it is also revealing its fragile foundations; that it is built upon terrorism and premeditated ethnic cleansing which paved the way for a fabricated historical narrative to accommodate a society of illegal colonial settlers. Its continued existence is a manifestation of the international refusal to unite in decolonising Palestine.

It is within this context that the EU ambassador’s decision should be viewed. Refusing to attend an event is simply a shift in protocol and does not, in any way, suggest a change in the EU’s perception of Israel, its colonisation process and its dehumanisation of the Palestinians.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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