For the open letter from European Jews for a Just Peace to Lady Ashton and the EU, expressing ‘extreme dismay’ at the EU Israel Association decisions, click here
The EU seems oblivious to the fact that Tel Aviv is using the Syria violence to encourage disastrous regional conflict and divert attention from Palestine
By Stuart Reigeluth, Special to Gulf News
July 26, 2012
The annual EU-Israel Association Council meeting was meant to be about trade, but it was mostly about the next round of war between Israel and its Arab neighbours.
At the Council for the European Union in Brussels last Tuesday, Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, announced that “Syria is the biggest concern today” and that if Syria were to provide “chemical and biological weapons to Hezbollah” then Israel would consider this a “casus belli [justification for acts of war]” which will lead to a “completely different ballgame”.
Having picked up expressions like ‘ballgame’, Lieberman is obviously used to addressing North American interlocutors, but the Europeans understood the lingo. Concerning Iran, after three rounds of negotiations, Lieberman simply said that Israel “cannot negotiate forever”.
These statements come in the aftermath of the bus bombing in Bulgaria on July 20 in which five Israeli citizens were killed. This was the worst attack on Israeli citizens outside of Israel since the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Argentina, killing 85 people. On both accounts, Hezbollah is accused.
And that was how Lieberman connected the dots: Hezbollah and Iran are accused of being behind the Bulgaria bombing, Syria is allied to both, so if Syria provides chemical weapons to Hezbollah, then Israel will attack Syria, and Iran would most probably respond, giving the US the reason Israel has been looking for to declare war as well.
Recall that Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East and that Iran’s quest for nuclear power is perceived as a threat to Israel’s regional hegemony. Nuclear parity between Israel and Iran would indeed change the regional equation. Israel’s response was to kill some Iranian scientists. There was virtually no international condemnation for such extra-judicial killings. And then there’s Gaza.
Israel was also most probably behind the assassination in February 2008 of one of Hezbollah’s top men, Emad Mughniyeh, in Damascus — no international condemnation, rather congratulations from Washington. Then there was the bombing of the nerve centre of the Syrian regime earlier this month that could not possibly have been the work of the Free Syrian Army or other inexperienced rebels.
As the revolts in Syria become increasingly significant, Lieberman is encouraging disastrous regional implications by upping the ante. Politically, he is also calling on the EU to put Hezbollah on its blacklist as a terrorist organisation, something Washington did after the Beirut bombings that decimated the US Embassy in 1983.
Here’s another EU inconsistency: while Hamas has never carried out any extra-territorial attacks against Israeli citizens, the Palestinian group is on the EU blacklist; but Hezbollah has purportedly carried out such attacks and is not on the EU blacklist, but this time the attack occurred on European soil.
Acting on behalf of the Cypriot EU presidency, Foreign Minister of Cyprus, Erato Kozakou-Markoullis had a prepared response to the Israeli appeal for the terrorist branding of Hezbollah. Such a decision, like all pan-European decisions, requires unanimity among the 27 member states — no small feat — and more importantly the Lebanese Party of God is an integral part of the Lebanese government.
Hezbollah has been part of the State of Lebanon since the 1990s and declaring it a terrorist group would essentially give Israel carte blanche for some more carpet bombing of its northern neighbour. This would be the occasion for Israel to restore its military dominance after its poor display in the July 2006 war against Lebanon which Hezbollah effectively did not lose.
Israel is therefore pushing this political agenda to create a military escalation that would provide the necessary casus belli while advancing in tandem with incremental economic trade clauses with the EU. Not surprisingly, the EU-Israel Association Agreement is now extended to December 2012, after 12 years of “solid, vibrant partnership” since June 2000, according to Kozakou-Markoullis.
More disconcerting is the overshadowing of European concern for the “situation of the Arab minority and the Bedouin community” in Israel — as expressed by EU Neighbourhood Commissioner Stefan Füle — with the announcement of intensifying relations with Israel via 60 new activities in 15 different fields!
Here is an occasion for Brussels to say ‘no more trade until you respect some basic tenets of international law and the most elementary human rights’, but instead the Europeans are exploring greater economic and scientific cooperation with Israel.
Israel remains the EU’s biggest trading partner (with a cumulative trade balance of €30 billion (Dh110 billion) in 2011, which explains in part the move towards more trade than ever, and highlights how masterful Israel has become at wagging the dog.
Israel is in a win-win situation: with attention diverted by terrorist attacks and the threat of chemical warfare, the source of the regional opposition to Israel — the occupation of Palestine — remains unaddressed as ever… and the Europeans keep on paying and getting paid.
Stuart Reigeluth is editor of Revolve magazine and works at the Council for European Palestinian Relations in Brussels.
[NOTE: Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio on Wednesday if ‘Israel discovers Lebanese Hezbollah militants are raiding Syria’s chemical or biological weapons stocks’, ‘For us, that’s a casus belli, a red line’. AP report.]
Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organisations/Al Haq
26 July 2012
Following the Association Council meeting on 24 July 2012 between the European Union (EU) and Israel, it was announced that the EU has agreed upon developing cooperation with Israel by offering it 60 new activities in 15 fields. The EU also declared that it would continue technical discussions with Israel aimed at identifying areas for future cooperation. As organisations dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), we are strongly concerned about the EU’s lack of commitment to human rights in light of what is essentially an intensification of bilateral relations with Israel. In recent months, the EU has made progress in recognising and condemning Israel’s practices and policies in the OPT which constitute systematic violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. We welcomed the 14 May Council Conclusions which expressed “deep concern about developments on the ground which threaten to make a two-state solution impossible” and waited for words to turn into action from the EU’s side.
The Association Council, the most high-level meeting to take place between the EU and Israel, is, however, a step backwards. Aggravatingly, the Association Council statement comes at a time when Israel is relentless in expanding its illegal settlement enterprise; maintains the continued closure of the Gaza Strip which amounts to collective punishment; continues to revoke residency permits of Palestinians; displaces the Palestinian people, especially those residing in Area C; discriminatorily allocates natural resources, such as land and water; as well as continuing the construction of the Annexation Wall.
Indeed, in the past two months alone Israel has issued demolition orders to some 50 structures in Susiya and ordered the demolition of eight Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills so that the land can be used for the training of the Israeli military. These are all methods and means of the Israeli Government aimed at fragmenting the OPT, illegally appropriating Palestinian land for the benefit of the settler population and Israel, and diminishing Palestinian presence and control over Palestinian lands. The statement also comes at a time where Israel remains unaffected by the Palestinian prisoners nearing death in Israeli prisons, and where Israel unabatedly resorts to excessive use of administrative detention.
By agreeing to further develop bilateral relations with Israel, the EU has failed to adhere to its self-commitment to international law, and appropriately implement the recent EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy which emphasised that the “EU is founded on a shared determination to promote peace and stability and to build a world founded on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law” and that these principles are to underpin EU’s external policies. Moreover, individual member states of the European Union are under a legal obligation to respect and ensure respect of the Geneva Conventions. The recent intensification of relations is certainly not based on consideration of seeking conformity with these legal obligations.
If adherence to international law is to be a corner stone of the EU then it must make a link between its actions and its verbal and written condemnations. As such, the EU needs to stress to Israel that until it shows tangible progress in its compliance with international law it will not benefit from further cooperation with the EU, on the basis of or outside the current EU-Israeli Action Plan. Only in the instance that the EU does not allow for Israel to enjoy impunity will Israel be persuaded to comply with all its international legal obligations, including those owed towards the occupied Palestinian people.
As Palestinian human rights organisations, we are deeply disappointed with the EU’s decision to sideline human rights and humanitarian law when it suits the EU and Israel, and thus oppose the EU’s decision to effectively upgrade its relations with Israel. The recent agreement amounts to the condoning of Israel’s illegal practices and, by virtue of the acquiescence of the EU, contributes to both their continuation and the deterioration of the human rights situation in the OPT.
Addameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association
Aldameer Association for Human Rights
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
Defence for Children International, Palestine Section
Ensan Center for Human Rights and Democracy
Hurryyat – Centre for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights
Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies
Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling
[Note: Article 2 of the Association Agreement states:
‘Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.’]
EU Critical of Israel’s Human Rights Violations While Strengthening Economic Cooperation
By Adalah, PHR-I, PCATI, Media release
July 29, 2012
Haifa/Tel Aviv/Jerusalem–In a statement issued by the EU-Israel Association Council, the European Union (EU) sharply criticized Israel for a wide range of human rights violations in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT).
Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) welcome language in the statement calling for rectification of human rights violations in Israel and the OPT. Among other issues, the statement refers to Israel’s obligation to protect the rights of the Arab-Palestinian minority, stressing the “importance to address it as a core problem in its own right,” and to seek equitable and sustainable solutions with regard to the unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages in close consultation with the communities affected. Additionally, the statement reiterates EU support for human rights defenders as a “long-established element of the European Union’s human rights external relations policy;” condemns the “excessive recourse by Israel to administrative detention;” and urges Israel “to refrain from actions which may…curtail the freedom of association and freedom of speech [of civil society].” With these statements, as well as its condemnation of Israeli practices in the OPT, the EU has made clear its concern for ongoing human rights violations by the Israeli government.
However, despite recognition of these violations by the EU, the Association Council Statement also indicates that the EU will significantly enhance joint economic activities with Israel: 60 concrete activities in over 15 specific fields.
In the view of the human rights organizations, Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI):
“While it is crucial that the EU continue to raise concerns about human rights violations by the Israeli government, the EU statement demonstrates an alarming inconsistency between practice and rhetoric, and we fear that it may only promote additional impunity. The EU has offered Israel improved economic and strengthened bilateral relations, while at the same time expressing strong concern about the deteriorating situation of human rights in Israel and the OPT. The principles of human rights, deep democracy, and international law are essential for maintaining a coherent EU external relations policy. Mainstreaming these principles in EU-Israel relations and concrete improvements in Israel’s human rights conduct on the ground must steer any enhancement of its trade relations with Israel.”