Palestine Update 322
Challenging EU’s complicity in the Israel occupation
In the current context of the Israeli colonization of Palestinian lands, the EU has neither demonstrated political vision nor the courage to challenge Israel’s disgusting and abrasive colonial policies. Palestine Updates has held firmly to the view that the EU is complicit in Israel’s occupation even if it makes-believe otherwise. A cursory analysis of EU policies highlight how its countenances punitive actions against Israel’s recurring violations of human rights standards and international law without meaning and strong objections. The problem is that EU’s implicit support to Israel comes in the form of soft-support to Palestinians rather than tangible political support to the cause of self-determination and justice. A stern analysis of EU aid packages and political inaction when it matters most, will reveal that the EU might actually be in tacit support of Israel’s detestable occupation. It has, for example, said and done little or nothing of any consequence on Israeli violence against innocent civilians, its army’s open support to settlers despite their revolting and unashamed behaviour against Palestinian children, youth, farmers, and harmless passers-by, and of frequent imprisonment without just cause and, in many cases, without trial. It has done little to stop halting of Palestinian economic development by Israel’s intrusions and destruction of agriculture, and by blocking economic policies at governmental level and business options that could open doors to livelihoods and economic advancement of the Palestinian populace. The EU has watched the siege of Gaza for over a decade and rarely seems to get distressed enough to take action from Israel’s inhuman blockade of the strip. Instead, the EU trades with Israel, and countenances economic ties between member states and Israel when, in fact, a comprehensive boycott is needed to stop Israel in its tracks.
Europe increasingly shares Israel’s racist approach to border security and adopting its deadly technologies. Europe is increasingly becoming one of the main markets for Israeli war and security technology – the same ones tried, tested and used against Palestinians and migrants and refugees trying to reach Israeli borders. Europe, and especially its rising far-right powers, has increasingly adopted Israel’s way of dealing with “inconvenient” populations.
The EU makes its occasional noises about boycotting settlement products. It ignores the hard truth that such a move in itself is of little or no real consequence. The question is: Where does that leave the Palestinians? Rising civil society solidarity and strong actions by a limited number of governments are ones that must be the future of political change in Europe. One is often reminded how European streets took their objections to apartheid in South Africa into their parliaments and into the field of economics through boycotts and sanctions.
What will 2020 bring that is new to the political discourse? Is there any chance that the EU will develop a paradigm shift that allows it to act by viewing the politics of the occupation from the prism of justice? Will the EU finally awaken to the real possibility that the Gaza will slip into an abyss and the suffering of people in the West Bank multiply? Will 2020 see the approval of more settlements and the dispossession of more Palestinians?
Or will the collective conscience of the Europeans awake in support to Palestinian resistance and heighten solidarity in ways that cause distress in Israel’s repulsive comfort zone? Will Europe act to shake the Israeli sense of assuredness that Europe is their eternal friend and will tolerate political immorality beyond all sense of proportion for all times?
Progressive people including Jewish groups, churches, trade unions, and academics/thinkers are actively intensively mobilizing consciousness about Israel’s injustices and seeking to change public perception as well as public policy. They are the ones who frequent Palestine to see reality, extend solidarity in ‘Olive picking campaigns’, study tours to understand the situation on-the-ground, and return as campaigners. Finally, it will be the constituents that can bring change. Europe has huge numbers of solidarity groups and travelers to Palestine. To multiply these numbers and to coordinate their responses is the task ahead. It can only come through a comprehensive isolation of Israel until it ends the occupation.
EU financial aid and the fragmentation of Palestinian society
European Union (EU) funding for Palestinian human rights organisations is not without its caveats. In line with its purported state-building initiatives, the EU has long imposed restrictions upon Palestinian organisations and their endeavours, in return for financial aid, thus stifling an important part of grassroots mobilization in terms of preserving Palestinian resistance and culture. As EU constraints upon Palestinian organisations escalated to the point of interfering with Palestinian politics, the newly-launched Palestinian National Campaign to Reject Conditional Funding has called upon Palestinian and international organisations to take a clear stance against the EU’s purported ‘anti-terrorism clauses’.
In an open letter, the BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights described how, in order to access EU funding, Palestinian organisations are expected to act as informants against people involved in resistance. The EU requirement is yet another process facilitating the fragmentation of Palestinian society, at a time when the US is swiftly isolating Palestine, in terms of diplomacy and history. BADIL’s letter states that due to Israeli campaigns against EU funding for Palestinian organisations: “Funding constraints from various donors have escalated, which include conditions that we have resisted such as preventing engagement in the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (BDS), the defence and promotion of the right of return, and programs and projects in areas such as the Gaza Strip or Palestine 1948 (Israel).”
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Europe and the tragedy of Israel/Palestine
(Excerpts from an article)
Amid the intractable struggle in Israel/Palestine for the moral high ground of legitimate victimhood, Europe has a historic responsibility. There is a widespread conviction among Palestinians that their misfortunes are attributable to Britain. It was a British foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, who issued the eponymous declaration, in November 1917, which led three decades later to the establishment of Israel and to what Palestinians refer to as the nakba (catastrophe).
During the inter-war era growing numbers of European Jews sought sanctuary in Palestine, triggering protests and occasional explosions of violence from within the Palestinian Arab community. After World War II, the efforts of thousands of Holocaust survivors to reach Palestine -administered until May 1948 by the United Kingdom under what was originally a League of Nations mandate -were greeted with dismay by Palestinians who saw large-scale Jewish immigration as a demographic threat to their hopes of establishing a unitary and sovereign Palestinian state.
From an Arab perspective Britain has been a willing accomplice of the Zionist project. In issuing the Balfour declaration, the UK recognized Jewish claims to a privileged status in Palestine. In essence, the Balfour declaration was an act of political expediency, reflecting an exaggerated belief by UK policy-makers in the extent of Jewish power and influence. By pledging to secure the establishment of a Jewish ‘national home’ in Palestine, the UK hoped to consolidate Jewish support in various countries, including Russia and the United States, for its war effort.
It’s important to recognize that there was nothing natural or inevitable about the appeal of a Jewish state or ‘national home’ in Palestine -then a remote, impoverished and underdeveloped territory—for Jews long settled in Europe, north America or Russia. Limited but growing interest among diasporic Jewish communities in Zionism—in the creation of a Jewish state—began to gather momentum in the final decade of the 19th century almost entirely as a reaction to the unexpected resilience of anti-Semitism in even liberal, affluent and progressive European countries.
In particular, in the 1890s the notorious and widely reported Dreyfus affair in France demonstrated that virulent anti-Semitism was not confined to chronically ‘backward’ polities such as Tsarist Russia. In its wake, increasing numbers of secular Jews, including the Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl, questioned whether acceptance and integration were even attainable. Herzl and others started to focus their energies on the establishment of a Jewish state.
Restrictive and discriminatory postwar immigration policies, applied by the UK and other western countries, also help to account for the fact that thousands of Jewish survivors, particularly those who were young and whose family homes lay in the ECEE region, believed that their only real option was to make their way to Palestine. Displaced, dispossessed and deserted, they [Palestinians] were among the principal losers in the geopolitical lottery that followed the horrors of the Second World War. As argued by Klug, the ultimate tragedy of Israel/Palestine is that, despite what is now an overwhelming disparity in power between the two peoples and the illegality as well as immorality of the Israeli occupation of the territories, both Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews can present a morally compelling narrative. Despite the serial injustices inflicted on the Palestinians before and after the creation of Israel—including by Arab governments – both Palestinians and Israelis can reasonably claim to be history’s victims.
Israelis, having demonstrated exceptional tenacity in defending -and sometimes expanding -their state are unlikely to surrender their hard-won independence and sovereignty by agreeing to a new bi-national state in which Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, including millions of Palestinians living in the west Bank and Gaza, would enjoy equal citizenship. That is the stuff of political fiction.
If a just and lasting peace is to be achieved and if the lives of Palestinians are to improve significantly, Israelis must recognize the injustice and futility of holding on to the occupied territories and of maintaining their oppressive policies towards Gaza, which is home to an estimated 1.8 million Palestinians.
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“Liberators do not exist. The people liberate themselves”. (Ernesto Che Guevara)