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The EU’s shameful complicity with Israeli aggression on Palestinians

October 4, 2021 at 10:23 am

European High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell gives a press conference at the end of the Special video conference of European Foreign Ministers to discuss recent developments in the Middle East in particular the ongoing violent confrontation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in Brussels, on 18 May 2021. [OLIVIER HOSLET/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

Last week, the European Parliament approved an amendment to block €20 million ($23 million) in aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) if immediate changes promoting “coexistence and tolerance” with the Israeli occupation are not made to Palestinian school textbooks.

According to the amendment, the Palestinian curricula must promote peace with the Israeli occupation based on the two-state solution, which the EU still claims is the best and only way to solve Israel’s settler-colonial enterprise. The EU also wanted the Palestinian curricula to be purged from alleged hate speech against Israel.

But what has the EU done to prevent hate speech uttered by Israeli officials against Palestinians? What has the EU, which protects the Israeli occupation and forges strategic partnerships with it, done to protect the Palestinians who have endured more than 70 years of Israeli violations and aggression?

Going back to the recent past we see that the EU did not demand Israel to stop striking Palestinian civilians in Gaza in May at the time when the occupation army killed more than 200 Palestinian civilians, including more than 60 children, and injured more than 1,500 others over a period of 11 days.

The EU, instead, condemned the Palestinian resistance which fought back against the continuous and barbaric Israeli bombardment of mostly civilian facilities and homes. “We condemn the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups on the Israeli territory. And we fully support Israel’s right to self-defense,” EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said.

Here the EU declared its full support for the kind of “self-defense” which targets children, unarmed women and the elderly, as well as civil infrastructure.

The EU has done little to keep the two-state solution as a viable option, but is keeping it going “at the level of rhetoric” only, the Centre for European Reform’s Beth Oppenheim has said.

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The Israeli occupation state is not interested in the two-state solution and has been doing its best to make it unviable through the continuous expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements. The UN Security Council has branded Israeli settlements as illegal and as violations of the Geneva Conventions, but the EU has done nothing to force these actions to cease.

All the while, the occupation has imposed a stifling air, ground and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip, making life almost unlivable. Palestinians live with insufficient electricity, severe lack of medical equipment, shortages in medication, limited access to clean water, strict restrictions on their movement in and from the besieged enclave and the inability of those in need of urgent medical care to access it abroad or in the occupied West Bank.

A picture taken on May 18, 2021 shows a general view of EU ambassadors with European High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell during a special video conference of European Foreign Ministers to discuss recent developments in the Middle East in particular Palestine-Israel in Brussels. [OLIVIER HOSLET/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

“Israel’s policy of de facto annexation in the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza violate international law,” Oppenheim said. But the Israeli “prime minister nurtured relationships with illiberal, nativist governments in Europe, sowing division in the EU and paralysing its decision-making on Israel-Palestine,” she added.

Despite the death of the peace process and the prospects of the two-state solution, “bilateral relationship between Israel and the EU has continued to deepen without conditions… They have signed over a dozen bilateral agreements to supplement the overarching Association Agreement in areas including police co-operation (2018), development (2018), aviation (2013), agriculture (2012) and industry (2010). Israel participates in EU research and innovation programmes, and Israeli students can take part in the educational exchange programme Erasmus+.”

“The EU is Israel’s largest trade partner, comprising a third of Israel’s total exports, and Israel was the EU’s 27th most important partner in 2018.” This proves that the issue is not related to hate speech or promoting the peace process, but is one based on shared interests and benefits.

The EU is able to take punitive measures that would force Israel to stop its crimes and human rights violations, but it does not have the political will to put real pressure on Israel. In 2014, “the EU agreed swiftly to impose hefty economic sanctions targeting Russia’s financial, energy and defence sectors when Moscow seized the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine – land that Russia still holds,” a special report by Reuters says. Thus, if the EU has the will to take real action, it can do so without hesitation.

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Many analysts and critics believe that the EU member states can make difference regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Countries which support taking action against Israeli crimes and violations of international law should unite and mobilise against the violations. They should also recognise the State of Palestine.

When it comes to Israeli crimes against Palestinians, the only words the EU has is “concerned” and “worried”, while stressing the occupation state’s “right to self-defense”. Where the acts of the legitimate – under international law – Palestinian resistance is concerned, the EU chooses “terrorists”, “aggression” and “attacks”. The bloc continues to defend the Israeli occupation in international forums.

Andrea Dessì from Social Europe, a Rome-based think tank, wrote: “When coupled with the legal and diplomatic cover for Israel provided by Europe and the US in international fora, such policies amount to complicity in Israel’s policy of creeping annexation and settler-colonial violence against the Palestinians.”

All of this and many other situations prove that the EU is not only complicit, but shamefully involved in the violations and crimes against Palestinians. The EU, if it is serious about its support for peace, must leverage its strength to do so, but the decades of silence and support for bias US policies prove that is not it’s primary aim.

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