Monday, July 22, 2013

The European Union: What Was Not Said By Michael Curtis

The EU might truly help the Palestinians by helping the development of the Palestinian economy, and the introduction of the rule of law, equal justice under law, transparent and accountable governance, a free press, and other human rights. Sadly, however, it is hard not to come to the conclusion that the EU is not so much interested in helping the Palestinians so much as in helping them to sabotage Jews.
When it comes to matters of Israel and Palestine, the European Union (EU) has made no attempts to mask its biases. The Europeans' June 28th announcement of sanctions on Israeli products produced outside of the 1949 cease-fire line serves as yet another example of how the EU's stances on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not only slanted, but profoundly unproductive.
For more than thirty years the European Union (EU) has issued statements critical of Israel, and been supportive of the Palestinian cause. The EU Venice Declaration of 1980, the first statement it issued on foreign policy, while understandably supporting the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, asserted, however, the unacceptability of any unilateral initiative to alter the status of Jerusalem, proclaimed the need for Israel to end its control over those lands since 1967, and declared that Israeli settlements were an obstacle to peace.
What was not stated was that the only reason these lands became "occupied" in the first place was that in 1967, for the third time in twenty years, entire coalitions of Israel's neighbors – including Egypt, Jordan and Syria -- initiated wars against Israel (they initiated the earlier wars in 1947 and 1956); that under Jordanian rule, which lasted from 1948 until 1967, many parts of Jerusalem was not only prohibited to Jews, but, for example, Jordanians took gravestones from the holy Mount of Olives cemetery and used them as the floors for their latrines, and Jewish holy sites were desecrated.
What was also not stated was that since 1967, Israel has constantly sued for negotiations and peace, but as of the "Three Nos" of the Khartoum Conference of 1967 {No peace, no negotiations and no recognition), the Arab countries are the ones who have rejected all proposals, or else inserted the "poison pill" precondition of "right of return" -- a way of demographically overwhelming Israel with millions of Arabs, and therefore an assured deal-breaker. Finally, not stated is that according to the official Charters of both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas,all of Israel is one big settlement -- to be destroyed and displaced by themselves, possibly in "stages." Maps currently show "Palestine" supplanting all of Israel, with the border running, as the Palestinians vow, "from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea."
The EU has been critical of many of the activities of Israel, including the alleged treatment of the Arab minority and of the Bedouins, but particularly and unrelentingly of the Israeli settlements, built upon land they think should be given to the Palestinians for a future Palestinian state, but on about 2% of which Israelis have started to live. Again, there has been no known discussion in the EU even of the reasonableness of expecting Israel to hold these disputed lands in perpetuity for people who not only reject every peace offer, but who are officially committed to destroying Israel.
On December 10, 2012, the EU nonetheless issued a statement: "[A]ll agreements between the State of Israel and the European Union must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, namely the Golan Heights, the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip."
As such, the EU's recent decision to ban all funding, collaboration, scholarships, research grants, and awards to "Israeli entities" in the West Bank and East Jerusalem should surprise no one. By its declaration, the EU unilaterally decided that the borders of Israel did not embrace:
  • East Jerusalem, seized by Jordan in 1948;
  • The West Bank, taken by Israel in a defensive war after having warned Jordan not to invade. Jordan, however, apparently nervous it would be left out of the spoils it imagined its neighbors would be gleaning, on the fifth day of the Six Day war attacked Israel, but were driven back;
  • The Gaza Strip
  • The Golan Heights, taken by Israel on the Sixth Day of the Six Day after Syria for years had been using the plateau to shoot down at Israeli farmers in the valley below.
Such unilateral action by the EU, while consistent with historical EU positions, undermines US diplomatic efforts. The EU position makes it even more likely that the Palestinian Authority will reject a peace agreement.
As of now, the Palestinians have agreed to discuss holding discussions – apparently the best semblance of a peace negotiation that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry could come up with. If the Palestinians do eventually agree to enter to direct negotiations, they will likely continue to insist on a number of calculatedly deal-breaking preconditions, including a complete settlement freeze and acceptance of the ceasefire lines of 1949 as the borders of a Palestinian state.
With an economy accounting for 20% of world trade and with a number of liberal democracies among its members, the EU could be a major player in the Middle East. How is it that that Iran's nuclear proliferation, the rise of Islamism, and the increased role of al-Qaeda in regional conflicts visibly concerns the EU less than a few dunams of disputed land? The EU might truly serve the Palestinians by helping to develop the Palestinian economy and the introduction of the rule of law, equal justice under law, a free press, and transparent and accountable governance. Designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, while pressing for human rights, democracy, and stability in the Arab world, might be of primary concern to the EU, as well. Sadly, however, it is hard not to come to the conclusion that the EU is not actually interested in helping the Palestinians so much as in helping them sabotage Jews
Insisting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the main security problem in the Middle East provides a convenient narrative, but conveniently overlooks the turmoil produced in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and imminently by Iran, and the rising prominence al-Qaeda and its affiliates in the Middle East over the past years. It especially overlooks damage being caused by the countries promoting and funding this turmoil -- primarily Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar.
Still, all considerations of priority aside, is the EU's decision to sanction Israeli products produced beyond the 1949 ceasefire line at all productive? It is one thing to propose two states as the only feasible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is quite another to attempt unilaterally to resolve the conflict by putting direct economic and political pressure on Israel.
The EU has done a great disservice to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians by making it even more impossible than it already is for any peace to come into effect.

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