EU foreign ministers have offered an unprecedented aid package and an upgrade to ‘special privileged partnership’ if Israel can reach a final peace agreement with Palestine. Israeli diplomats have dismissed the offer as ‘empty words’. Iarael, the foreign ministers implied, must stop acting as though the whole land is theirs (settlements, home demolitions). Although Palestinians have been warned to do nothing rash, the burden of responsibility for the talks is clearly on the Israelis.
Building new homes for Israeli Jews, knocking down existing homes of Palestinians (including Israeli Bedouin) constitutes Israel’s violent drive to control all land in Palestine/Israel, preferably confining Palestinians to refugee camps. Here, 36 charities and aid groups sign a statement calling for an immediate end to the demolitions. ICAHD and the ECCP issue a more political statement on demolitions, the EU and international law.
Israel’s hostility to the EU seems at an all-time high, with the IDF prepared to rough up EU diplomats engaged in the perfectly legitimate task of delivering humanitarian aid to West Bank Palestinians. Perhaps Israel might care to ask why Palestinians need help from a foreign agency? From inside their bunker, the Israeli government declared the EU mission ‘a provocation’.
Tentative and unpublicised moves between EU and Hamas representatives have been proceeding since 2011 when the Arab uprisings threw out the EU’s old chums and officials had to hastily rethink who they had relations with in Arab countries. This was an opening for Hamas who have taken the initiative in try to reverse its label as a ‘terrorist organisation’ which thus prohibits diplomatic relations. The sticking point is Hamas’s refusal to reocognise the state of Israel – although its acceptance of a 2-state solution is a de facto recognition.
Recently, a former communications officer from Netanyahu’s office wrote an hysterical column charging Germans with reverting to their past and boycotting Jews – because Germany has accepted the EU law that imports from Israeli companies be labelled with place of origin.The German ambassador delivers a measured rebuke.
A by-product of Kerry’s mission to to Israel/Palestine is disarray in the EU. The EU has remained consistent in the policy of supporting two states, opposing settlements, and supporting the labelling of settlement products. The US thinks the EU should stay still while Kerry pursues his mission, a position which Lady Ashton agrees with.
In a report for the European Council of Foreign Relations (not a EU body) former diplomat Nick Witney writes with unusual lucidity and honesty about the EU’s cowardice on Israel/Palestine. The EU wants to be a player, but only through its diplomats who can only see their role as ‘mediators’ in an essentially unequal power conflict. Comment on report by Sam Bahour is second.
A proposed new law defines Israel as ‘the nation-state of the Jewish people’, at a stroke defining those of us who live elsewhere as expats, or perhaps outposts of the great colonising enterprise that is the Israeli state. Uri Avnery marvels at the cheek – and more seriously wonders about the future of the non-Jews in Israel and whether history is shaping the future of Israel-Palestine as part of a regional common market.
Palestinian efforts to get the EU (parliament and Commission) to take up issues of Palestinian human rights have increased and become more focussed in the last year. With several organisations now representing these interests, including the UFree network (based in Oslo) and the CEPR (Council for European Palestinian Relations), Palestinians hope that the EU’s reiterated commitment to unversal human rights will lead to more action to enforce those rights in their dealings with Israel.
A report written by UN official Jeffrey Feltman for the quarterly meeting of the Security Council on Palestine warns that the Syrian crisis has created new urgency for finding stability in Israel/Palestine via a negotiated settlement. Various actors took part in the debate last week, including representatives from China, the EU and the Non-Aligned Movement. Not one of them supported Israel’s rigid grip on the status quo.
The EU is not moving to ban settlement products as many have reported. The EC is acting to enforce EU rules that goods made in the oPt should not be falsely labelled as Made in Israel which allows the makers to benefit from preferential tariffs. Nor, as Israeli officials have complained, is the EU ‘picking on Israel’ alone amongst countries with ‘controversial’ policies. Israel is the only ‘favoured’ nation to practise illegal military colonisation of a subject people.
Companies making goods for export in the oPt claim their production is for the good of Palestinians who make the goods. Apartheid South Africa told the same story in the contemptous belief that the alien worker cared for nothing but earning a wage. Stephanie Westbrook (1) challenges the story and Alon Aviram (2) describes the hardship of wage-labour for Palestinians in Israel.
In the 2nd article here, Ramzy Baroud challenges the argument that settlement goods only should be boycotted; they could not be produced without huge support from Israel. In the first article, Dalia Hatuqa looks at the failure of the EU to achieve a ban on settlement products via honest labelling of provenance.
The EU has two voices on Israel and Palestine The quiet voice discreetly makes preferential trade deals with Israel. The louder, political one – including the EU consuls in the West Bank and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton – is angry that Israel has rejected all diplomatic means to establish a Palestinian state. Israel wants to sell its goods, without labelling settlement products, to a market it treats with contempt.
In this article for JfJfP, Adam Keller (Gush Shalom) looks at two issues where Israel has been censured from outside: a lack of law on incitement to hatred, and ethnic cleansing. Remembering that ethnic cleansing was a term coined in Europe he looks at instances of ethnic cleansing, beyond the pale of Fortress Europe. He doesn’t need to mention the biggest ethnic cleansing of all – of Jews from Europe 1933-45.
The Mediterranean island of Cyprus is still divided along a ‘Green Line’ between the southern Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state, and the north, invaded by Turkey in 1974 following a coup carried out by the Greek military junta. Since then southern/western Cyprus has established itself as one of the family of EU members – and joined the part which recognises Palestine as a small state that wants independence.
Gershon Baskin explores what steps Europeans might take to put their words of disapproval into action. He thinks this would make Europe more influential in Israel ( although as most Israelis associate Europe with antisemitism it is unlikely to be a favourable influence). UPDATE: Lieberman invokes Holocaust.
After all the UK/USA/German efforts to persuade the PA not to go to the UN General Assembly and their loyal acts of not supporting the PA’s resolution, all in the name of the 2-state solution, Netanyahu has done what he does best – gone off in a huff and ordered construction which destroys that EU/USA policy.
22 NGOs, Christian and secular, have taken up what EU institutions have flunked: a campaign to press the EC and EU members to practise their policies on the illegality of Israel’s settlements and what they produce. CAABU media release plus excerpt from the report Trading Away Peace.
The EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) has commissioned surveys in nine EU countries as part of its ongoing research into antisemitism today. The questionnaire is online and you can access it through this posting. It is for Jews (by any definition) aged 16 and over.