In this posting a news report from the Palestinian Information Centre is followed by an article from the Palestine Studies Group
For previous posts on the EU-Israel Association Council and Palestinian anger see:
EU speaks with forked tongue
EU-Israel Association Agreement,
EU cowers before bellicose Lieberman and ditches Palestinian principles,
MEPs vote that all EU bodies should enforce policies on West Bank and E. Jerusalem
Palestinian youth group attacks EU for cowardice and complicity
EU’s crash in reputation in Palestine as it gains another human rights critic
80 Palestinian organizations protest against EU
By Palestinian Information Centre
September 06, 2012
GAZA, (PIC)– Eighty Palestinian non-governmental organizations condemned the European Union’s recent decision to upgrade its economic and diplomatic relations with Israel in more than 60 fields.
The organizations considered the European decision as a disavowal to the European-Israeli partnership agreement that stipulates an Israeli commitment to the international human rights principles, where Israeli occupation continued its daily violations of the international human rights conventions.
A delegation of the Palestinian NGO Network visited the European Union office in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. In addition the network in Ramallah handed a petition to the European Union office in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
The Delegation of the network expressed the Palestinian people shock towards the European decision to widen its relationship with Israel despite the Israeli violations of international law and the fourth Geneva Convention, stressing on the good relations between the EU and Palestinian people.
The delegation called on the European Union to impose tough sanctions on the Israeli occupation, and not to reward it for its violations and crimes.
It is noted that the EU will offer Israel upgraded trade and diplomatic relations in more than 60 areas at a high-level meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, just weeks after European foreign ministers warned that Israeli policies in the West Bank “threaten to make a two-state solution impossible”.
EU: Too Much Doom and Gloom
By Emile Badarin, Palestine Studies Group
August 5, 2012
While the EU condemns Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, it simultaneous rewards Israel with a strengthening of trade and political ties. In this article the author questions whether or not this signals that Palestinians are wrong to focus too heavily on appeasing public opinion in foreign countries as the primary tool in their struggle for freedom and equality.
The EU’s many “doom and gloom” condemnations of Israel’s policies against the Palestinians and settlements expansion in the West Bank are vacuous. The essence of the EU’s foreign relations vis-à-vis Israel is a simple one: On the one hand, the EU condemns and excoriates Israeli decisions and practices against the Palestinians. On the other hand, it counterbalances such “verbal attacks” by simultaneously providing Israel with practical and concrete economic and diplomatic rewards, in spite of those very Israeli decisions and policies which the EU will have just recently condemned and expressed its concern over.
The EU Foreign Affairs Chief, Catherine Ashton, declared on June 8, 2012 that Israel settlements are “illegal under the international law and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible. Settlement activity is detrimental to current peace efforts”. Furthermore, the EU foreign ministers called on the Israeli Government to “exercise the highest sense of responsibility by reversing these decisions to demonstrate its commitment toward the peace process, in full respect of international law.” The EU foreign ministers denounced Israel’s demolitions of Palestinians homes and settler violence toward Palestinians throughout the West Bank.
In June 2012, a report written by a delegation of British lawyers on the treatment of Palestinian children under Israeli military law exposed with “undisputed facts” that Israel is in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The investigation found that Palestinian children are tortured and discriminated against under Israeli military rule and its military court-system, which considers every Palestinian child to be a “potential terrorist”. The UK Government expressed its concerns and willingness to confront Israel on that matter. Ostensibly, the EU’s language is critical of the Israeli encroachments on international law and other conventions. Therefore, the position of the EU appears even-handed (unlike the US), and legal and human rights oriented. Yet, it is a language empty of any effective measures to put real pressure on Israel to change its discriminatory policies. In fact the EU took, and often takes, opposing steps that seem almost to atone for its denunciations of Israeli policies.
The first reward came in July 2012 when the EU offered Israel a promotion in its status for trade and diplomatic relations, whereby “the EU formally accepts for the first time the authority of Israeli ministers over goods produced in West Bank settlements. The package also promises to ‘further bilateral co-operation’ between Israel and key EU agencies, including the EU’s Judicial Co-operation Unit and the European Police Office.”
The second reward was the “open-skies” deal with Israel agreed to on July 30, 2012. The agreement elevates the economic (inter alia) relationships between the EU and Israel. It also aims to reduce airfares to and from Israel, and expand mobility and links between Israel and the EU countries.
It is hard to speculate with accuracy on the geographical definition of Israel and its corresponding airspace without reading the terms of the agreement (as it is still unpublished). However, the official Israeli definition of its airspace includes the airspace of the West Bank and Gaza. If this was the case, first, the “open-skies” agreement contravenes international law because the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza are considered occupied territories by international law. Second, it furthers discrimination against the Palestinians because at least half of the population living under the designated “sky” are de facto (and de jure according to Israeli administration) omitted from the agreement and will not make gain from the agreement for two reasons: (a) there are no Palestinian airports and (b) they are not permitted to use the Israeli ones.
If the agreement excludes the West Bank and Gaza’s airspace, it is still underpinning discrimination in that part of the world. The agreement is a new tool in a system of denial, discrimination and apartheid carried out by the Government of Israel towards the Palestinians. After all, the majority of the population living under the designated “sky” (in this case living in the West Bank and Gaza) are excluded from the agreement. The “open-skies” deal denies the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza from using their own “sky”. It entrenches the apartheid system because it enables discriminatory outcomes. It advances the interests of a specific group of people while restricting the rights of another, even though both are dwelling under the same sky. In other words, the settlers living in illegal settlements in the West Bank are able to fly and make use of that airspace, whereas the Palestinians are not permitted to for the reasons (a) and (b) mentioned above.
The problem is not only with these agreements per se, but also with their implied significance: rewarding the illegal.
This leaves us with the following questions: If political business goes on as usual, in spite of EU condemnation of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, then what is the value of those EU statements? What is the value of public opinion if it does not influence EU governments’ policies? What is the point of the numerous UN, World Bank and NGO reports? What is the point of this bureaucracy if it does not entail pursuant per-formative effects on the ground?
Public opinion should not be belittled. It has value. However, it needs not to be overestimated as it has the potential to inspire dependency —as in the example of the increasingly (in-)famous case of Palestinian aid-dependency. That is, providing a hope —which is unlikely to happen— for a savior coming to come outside in order to save the Palestinians. Moreover, perceiving public opinion as a vehicle for seeking out freedom induces the Palestinians to focus to heavily on “chasing public opinion in outside countries,” rather than focusing on internal strategies for achieving their rights. Dependency forces the Palestinians to “politically please” donor countries and certain “publics,” such as in Europe and the United States, in hope of receiving financial and public opinion support. Ultimately the injection of appeasing to public opinion in foreign countries as the primary focus in Palestinian political calculations, places limitations on them much in the same way aid limited the Palestinians options and helped further the Israeli occupation.
Emile Badarin is a PhD candidate in Middle East Politics at University of Exeter, MSc. International Relations, MSc. Political Science, MSc. Spatial Planning.
[See original for footnotes]