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Israel's colonial expansion does not happen in a political vacuum

An Israeli soldier and border guard stand by as an excavator demolishes a Palestinian house located within the area C southeast of Hebron in the occupied West Bank on March 8, 2021 [HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images]
An Israeli soldier and border guard stand by as an excavator demolishes a Palestinian house located within the area C southeast of Hebron in the occupied West Bank on March 8, 2021 [HAZEM BADER/AFP/Getty Images]

When European diplomats visit the occupied Palestinian territories to observe the damage wrought by Israel's home demolitions and forced displacement, the only response is generally to "urge the Israeli authorities to cease such actions." As a settler-colonial state based on the ideology of Zionism, Israel was built upon and maintains an expansionist agenda, so such calls are a total waste of time, and the EU knows it.

This year has seen an increase in Palestinian-owned structures destroyed and the level of forced displacement. Recent statistics published by the Office of the European Representative of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip notes a 70 per cent increase in the number of forcibly displaced Palestinians, in comparison with the same period last year. Notably, since the Bennet-Lapid government was sworn in on 13 June, demolitions have increased by 148 per cent when compared with 2020.

The EU's greatest discrepancy lies in its responses to Israel, as well as its diplomatic relations with the settler-colonial state. Less than two weeks ago, the EU's Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell lauded his meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid as an opportunity "to restart relations with Israel," as if relations with Israel were ever cut, and are not an integral part of EU foreign policy. If the EU chooses to prioritise its diplomatic relations with Israel, then it should clarify its futile responses to Israeli demolitions of Palestinian dwellings, as well as its forced displacement of Palestinian civilians, beholden to the politics that govern EU-Israeli relations.

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In that case, statements from the Head of the EU Representative Office Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff can be read within a context that dispels any notion that there might be concerns for the Palestinian people. "As a representative of the EU and a member of the WBPC together with likeminded countries, we continue to demand that Israel ceases forcible transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscations of homes, all of which constitute violations of international humanitarian law," von Burgsdorff stated, knowing full well that demands for Israel to cede any scrap of its colonial expansion will not be heeded. The EU official also knows that Israel can operate with impunity, and no sanctions will ever be considered, let alone imposed, by his political bosses.

The EU has also accepted the fact that Israel will demolish structures that the bloc funds as part of its humanitarian support for the Palestinians. If such wilful destruction only elicits a brief reprimand from Brussels, the EU's humanitarian investment for the people of occupied Palestine, while a necessity due to deprivation, is more about maintaining Israel's agenda of forced displacement than it is about helping Palestinians to survive the consequences of colonial expansion.

Israel has made the two-state compromise unfeasible, but not without accomplices. Its colonial expansion does not happen in a political vacuum. Hence, the EU's constant reminders that settlement expansion undermines the two-state compromise must also be contextualised within the parameters established by the EU to keep Palestinians in the loop of Israeli demolitions and forced displacement.

The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, has repeatedly reassured everyone that Israel can go about its business as usual, with statements that do nothing to protect the Palestinian people. A look at the PA's official news agency, Wafa, illustrates the subservience and dependence upon international institutions to condemn forced displacement and home demolitions, but never produce any policies or remedies that indicate a shard of concern for the Palestinian people's loss of land. With such a weak and dependent leadership, what the EU does in the absence of political demands from the PA will remain driven by Israel's settler-colonial agenda.

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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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