The European Union Shows Bias Against Israel

To adapt a saying of the British politician David Lloyd George, the European Union (EU) has sat on the fence so long on issues regarding Israel that the iron has entered its soul. It showed this once again in its one-sided approach in a new policy statement on the Gaza conflict between Hamas and Israel. The EU Foreign Ministers at their Council meeting in Brussels on August 15, 2014 declared they were “extremely concerned about the fragile situation on the ground following the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip.” Understandably, they strongly welcomed the ceasefire that has been in place since August 11, though only once is the word “Hamas” mentioned.

The declaration does mention just once the threat to Israel posed by Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza by their rocket attacks and tunnel construction. But its main trust and “concern” as usual is limited to “the disastrous humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip particularly the conditions of the displaced population, water supplies, electricity services, unexploded ordinance as well as destroyed and uninhabitable homes.”

Of course, the statement admitted that Israel had a right to protect its population, but using the current fashionable word it asserted that Israel must act “proportionally” and ensure the protection of civilians. The EU said nothing about the thousands of rockets and missiles that had rained down on Israeli civilians nor about the enormous wastage of resources by Hamas in building its more than 30 tunnels to be used for attacking Israel. Nor did it discuss the war crimes of Hamas in using children and other civilians as human shields to prevent Israeli retaliation against attack. Instead, it deeply deplored the loss of innocent lives and the high number of wounded civilians in the Gaza Strip and the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation.

The ministers of the EU therefore reiterated their readiness to contribute to a comprehensive and sustainable solution for the security, welfare, and prosperity of Palestinians and Israelis. To this end they proposed actions in a number of areas for relief, reconstruction, and rehabilitation. Surprisingly, disregarding the fact that Hamas occupies and controls Gaza, the ministers propose a training program for Palestinian Authority customs personnel and police for redeployment in Gaza.

Again, without concern for the security of Israel, the ministers will study options for full access and movements through all Gaza ports of entry. Israel must lift the blockade of Gaza to allow a fundamental improvement of living conditions of the Palestinian people in Gaza. The ministers are also preempting final-stage negotiations between Israel and Palestinians. In favoring a two-state solution, what they call “two democratic states,” the ministers hold that the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967 and will be part of a future State of Palestine.

Can the EU be taken seriously on this issue? Their recent actions, along with statements by their officials, cast doubt. The High Commissioner, Catherine Ashton, has never been the closest friend of Israel, but she believes she is concerned with the soul of the State. In November 2013 she expressed the view that the boycott of goods from Israeli settlements can save Israel from itself since the expansion of the settlements means the creation of a single bi-national state.

In similar fashion, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the Danish diplomat who is the EU Ambassador to Israel, acknowledged he was losing patience with Israel because of the expansion of settlements beyond the Green Line. He argued that because of this, countries would issue warnings to their citizens against conducting business with companies in the settlements.

The EU actions speak even louder than its words. Most recently, at the UN Human Rights Council on July 23, 2014, those actions were significant. The resolution of the UNHRC condemned “in the strongest terms the widespread, systematic, and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations” in Gaza. It also called for an “international commission of inquiry” to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law “in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” It was carried by a vote of twenty-nine nations to one, the United States.

All the eight members of the EU entitled to vote abstained, even the Czech Republic that in November 2012 was the only EU country to oppose granting nonmember state status to the Palestinians at the United Nations. Ireland was even prepared to vote in favor of the resolution. The behavior of the EU was all the more disconcerting because it explained that the resolution was unbalanced and inaccurate and prejudged the outcome of the investigation.

Indeed, the choice of William Schabas, the Canadian academic, as head of the commission of inquiry seems to bear this out. In 2001 he took part in a panel of the Russell Tribunal whose aim was to find Israel guilty of “the crime of apartheid.” He held that Benjamin Netanyahu should be in “the dock of an international court” and was the single individual most likely to threaten the survival of Israel. It is difficult to conceive how Schabas can approach the Gaza issue with an open mind.

In casting his negative vote at the UNHRC meeting on July 23, Keith Harper, the U.S. ambassador, spoke of the resolution’s one-sided approach to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and that it was essential that the community of nations take a balanced approach to these issues.” The European Union should take heed, act with some courage, and not see Hamas as morally equivalent to Israel.