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The EU response to Israel’s ‘death penalty for Palestinians’ bill is painfully weak

January 4, 2018 at 5:43 pm

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) holds a joint press conference with High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Council Federica Mogherini (R) at the European Council headquarters within the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, Belgium on 11 December 2017. [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]

Israel is planning a law which allows its military courts to sentence Palestinians to death. The bill to bring this about has passed its first reading in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. The aim of the legislation has been backed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who justified his stance before the parliamentary vote by stating, “A person who slaughters and laughs should not spend his life behind bars but be put to death.”

Given that the countless Palestinian civilians murdered by Israeli settlers and soldiers are conveniently forgotten by him and his odious colleagues, reminding Netanyahu that his words could just as easily be applied to the citizens and army upon which his colonial entity depends is useless. The difference between the judicial system applied by Israel to its violent settlers in the occupied territories and Palestinian civilians who are resisting colonial violence is astounding. There is an intentional disregard for Israel being the epitome of permanent provocation which has, over many decades, consolidated its colonial presence with impunity; it acts as if it is above the law in order to subjugate the colonised population.

Unsurprisingly, the EU has preferred to exclude this violent context from its reprimands to Israel, preferring instead to rely upon statements which serve as preludes to a discussion about the death penalty, rather than an argument against Israeli colonialism which the penalty will serve. To highlight its dismissal of the subject, the EU delegation in Israel voiced its opposition on Twitter, with one tweet merely stating: “The death penalty is incompatible with human dignity. It constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment, does not have any proved deterrent effect and allows judicial errors to become irreversible and fatal.”

The tweet does not go beyond shards of consciousness and basic knowledge. What the EU has intentionally left out is Israel’s quest for completing cycles of violence which leave Palestinians with no options for their resistance to its brutal military occupation. While the international community is desensitised to violence, politics have singled out exceptions that are still worthy of mention for political mileage. Genocide —the fact that the term is applied selectively depending upon the victims to be exploited notwithstanding — is one such example of extreme violence used for political benefit. The death penalty, under the auspices of maintaining a civilised society, is another. Astonishingly, an openly colonial state seeking to annihilate Palestine and its people does not fall within the international community’s concept of extreme violence.

Read: Israeli security interests dominate EU diplomacy

The EU is no exception to this warped reasoning. Indeed, given its focus upon diplomacy while keeping a lower profile in other matters such as foreign intervention, the EU promotes such selective and discriminatory politics. However, given that Israel is expanding its possibilities for enshrining its state violence in law, it can also be said that the EU’s purported politics of non-violence is no longer adequate to conceal its lenient approach to Israel’s various forms of aggression against the Palestinians.

Furthermore, the EU has neglected to mention that the death penalty legislation can be used by Israel to criminalise Palestinian resistance irreversibly through state-sponsored killings. This complements its extrajudicial killings of Palestinians across the occupied territories, which have also become normalised forms of violence in the eyes of the international community.

If the murder of Palestinians in their homes, schools and streets — following the pattern set by Israel’s foundation upon terrorism and its regular use of violence for the past 70 years and more — fails to shock EU leaders and is ignored within the context of the proposed death penalty legislation, then Europe can abandon all pretence of being concerned about Israel’s application of the ultimate sanction against civilians convicted by a military court while living under colonial rule.

Israel is a serial offender in terms of international laws and conventions, but as the EU knows full well — and all too frequently condones — it treats such legalities with contempt. It is high time that Europe delivered more than mild rebukes to the Zionist state; its response to this bill is painfully weak.

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