Thursday, July 06, 2006

Europe's response to the siege of Gaza is shameful

The Palestinians have no partner for peace. They will only have one if Israel agrees to recognise Palestine's right to function

Jonathan Steele
Thursday July 6, 2006
The Guardian


Thank goodness for the Swiss. Alone in Europe, their government has dared to condemn what the Israelis are doing to Gaza. It is collective punishment, they say. It violates the principle of proportionality. Israel has not taken the precautions required by international law to protect civilians.
Inevitably, the bloggers are pouring out the usual irrelevancies about the role of Swiss banks during the Nazi period. But as the depository of the Geneva conventions, one of the key legal advances to emerge from the ravages of the 20th century, Switzerland has a duty to speak out.

Its statement stands in contrast to the European Union's shamefully muted voice. The Palestinians kill two soldiers and take one prisoner and, in response, power stations are blown up, sewage and water systems grind to a halt, bridges are destroyed, sonic booms terrify children day and night, and all this is inflicted on a hungry people who are under siege in what is effectively a huge open prison. The EU's response? Vague expressions of "concern" and calls for "restraint".
Is it World Cup madness? The rush for last-minute cheap summer holiday deals? Couldn't European leaders show a tenth of the courage of Israel's brilliant columnist, Gideon Levy? "It is not legitimate to cut off 750,000 people from electricity. It is not legitimate to call on 20,000 people to run from their homes and turn their towns into ghost towns. It is not legitimate to kidnap half a government and a quarter of a parliament. A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organisation," he wrote this week in Haaretz.

In a two hour appearance before MPs on Tuesday, all that Tony Blair could produce was a classic fence-sitter: "I have learned enough about this situation over the years to realise that going in and condemning either side is not deeply helpful."

European impotence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is of course an ancient problem. The disease's latest aggravation began in January after Hamas's election victory. Here was an event which was bound to have huge repercussions in Israel, on every state's relations with the Palestinian authority, on the future of political Islam throughout the Arab world, as well as on the west's image among Muslims. In short, it was a moment where the time-honoured diplomatic technique - a pause for reflection - was vital. The device is often used to cover unnecessary delay. This time there was a genuine need to analyse and consult before rushing to conclusions. There was no urgency since Israel was already refusing to negotiate with President Mahmoud Abbas.

Yet the EU promptly lined up with the US and Israel in demanding Hamas change its policies or be punished. The Quartet, a relatively recent body set up to coordinate policies between the US, the EU, Russia and the UN, became a trap, acting as an arm of the US state department for keeping other states in line. The Quartet's demands on Hamas were identical to Israel's.

Some European diplomats now regret their haste. The decision to cut aid as well as contacts with the Palestinians is seen as a mistake. Last month's French initiative to find a mechanism for resuming aid to Gaza was the Quartet's first admission of error.

Refusing contact with Hamas was equally mistaken, especially as Hamas had maintained a unilateral ceasefire for over a year (a point which Israel tries to suppress). The fact that Hamas is defined as a terrorist organisation need not have been a bar, since governments have spoken to similar movements with nationalist agendas, be it the IRA, the Tamil Tigers, or Eta. But again, thank goodness for the Swiss. As non-EU members, they keep contact with Hamas and act as intermediaries for other European governments which have trapped themselves into not doing the same.

The outcome of the current crisis is unclear. However it ends, the moment has surely come for Europe to break from its useless policy of backing the US and Israel. The Olmert government is trying to destroy not only Hamas but Mahmoud Abbas. Like Sharon's, it wants to undermine every moderate Palestinian by showing them up as powerless. It seeks only domination, not negotiation. Whether the ultimate agenda is to starve all Palestinians into fleeing to Egypt, Jordan and even further afield, or merely to keep Gaza as a prison of the unemployed and the West Bank as a bunch of Bantustans, Israeli policy mocks every UN resolution on the conflict.

The EU should admit that the Palestinians have no partner for peace. They will only have one if Israel recognises Palestine's right to function. Statements that Israel recognises a Palestinian state's right to exist are empty as long as Olmert expands Jewish settlements and the separation wall, and refuses to spell out how that state can operate as a viable entity. Without the right to function, the right to exist is hollow.

Olmert and his Labour party allies must also come clean on the last serious Israeli peace formula, the Barak proposals which were put at Taba five years ago. The Palestinians did not accept them, but political circumstances were inauspicious - a fading Baruk government and an ill Yasser Arafat. The same proposals might be acceptable now and should be revived. If Kadima thinks of imposing or offering anything less than Taba, then Israel cannot claim to want an end to the conflict.

Finally, Israel must renounce violence, in particular the assassinations of Palestinian leaders. The number of civilians killed in these attacks this year alone far exceeds the number of Israeli victims since Hamas declared its ceasefire last year. The facts do not support the notion that Israel is "retaliating" to provocations. Last week's Palestinian attack on a military outpost followed much greater carnage by Israeli shells.

Some will argue that if the EU were to condemn Israeli actions, it would lose influence with the Israeli government. But what has this alleged influence managed to achieve since Sharon and Olmert have been in power? The record is paltry.

Governments have greater effect by being morally clear and politically firm. Condemnation and psychological isolation create "facts on the ground" which can alert electorates, if not immediately their governments. But the audience is not only in Israel. There is a global audience which expects Europe to take the right stand. Whether Israel chooses to listen should not be the decisive factor.

14 Comments:

At 4:57 PM, Blogger Oleh Yahshan said...

"The Palestinians kill two soldiers and take one prisoner and, in response, power stations are blown up, sewage and water systems grind to a halt, bridges are destroyed..."

Would you be happier if Israel used the Tit for Tat?? Killed 2 Palestinians At random?? I guess the Life of Israelis isn't that high these days.


"Olmert and his Labour party allies must also come clean on the last serious Israeli peace formula, the Barak proposals which were put at Taba five years ago. The Palestinians did not accept them, but political circumstances were inauspicious - a fading Baruk government and an ill Yasser Arafat. The same proposals might be acceptable now and should be revived. If Kadima thinks of imposing or offering anything less than Taba, then Israel cannot claim to want an end to the conflict."

Wow this guy is really Smart! I always try to re-offer stuff after people reject them without any counter offer! This guy really knows what he is talking about... I want to know where he gets his drugs from.

Maybe there is a good reason why the EU is being so quiet. Maybe EVEN they have had enough with the Lies that the PA has been trying to sell the world, for the past few years. Maybe some people woke up to realize what Hamas has been saying since they came into Power - that they will never live side by side with Israel. And with All due respect to Abu Ma'azen - he has proved very well in the past few months that he has no real power in the PA, so I see no point in talking to him (other than over a cup of cofee some time - let him talk about his life)

 
At 8:39 PM, Blogger Richard said...

... 'kin ...elle ...

oleh ... are you a bandit?

 
At 8:41 PM, Blogger Gert said...

"Would you be happier if Israel used the Tit for Tat?? Killed 2 Palestinians At random?? I guess the Life of Israelis isn't that high these days."

Innocents die at random in this conflic nearly every day, on both sides.

"I guess the Life of Israelis isn't that high these days."

I guess you meant the "price of life". Works both ways, Oleh. Palestinians that have nothing to do with young Gilad also suffer and die.

The idea that this kind of suffering will lead the Palestinians to turn their back on their elected Government is a pipe-dream, which has been proven not to work in other historical situations.

Regards the EU, it continues to slavishly follow the US line of policy, that's all there is to it.

Regards your position on Abbas, you're only confirming the stereotype of an Israeli that's not interested in talking to any Palestinians, unless of course completely on Israeli terms.

To this is probably what is needed, in your wet dream of a solution:

1. Palestinians to stop the Kassams and all armed resistance

2. Hamas to fully and unconditionally recognise Israel

3. Palestinians to accept settlers in the West Bank

4. Palestinians to give up hope on a shared capital of Jerusalem

5. Palestinians to completely reliquish any right of return

6. Palestinians to emigrate en masse to neighbouring Arab states

Then you'd be ready to negotiate, but about what?

Your blog's name and motto - "Israel Rules: Truth thru Superior Firepower"... Says it all really, don't you think?

 
At 10:13 PM, Blogger Oleh Yahshan said...

"To this is probably what is needed, in your wet dream of a solution:

1. Palestinians to stop the Kassams and all armed resistance

I know it's a crazy Idea - stop fighting in order to try to get peace.

2. Hamas to fully and unconditionally recognise Israel
It can be partly as well, like maybe following the Agreement their previous Govt signed. I know Int. Law only applies to Israel not them, once again Silly for thinking of this crazy thing.

3. Palestinians to accept settlers in the West Bank
Why Does the Palestinian State HAVE to be Judenrien?? There are ways around it. But it no way do I see this as conditional to anything. If I thought there was a chance of peace I could see moving a bunch of Israelis to other places. But then again if there were true peace why would we need to??

4. Palestinians to give up hope on a shared capital of Jerusalem

Only if Israel gets to Share London with you guys! Why, I don't know, Because we want to - it's just as good a reason as the Palestinians are giving.

5. Palestinians to completely reliquish any right of return

Ya just like EVERY other country in the WORLD! If they want they can absorb them into their new Great Country. Anyways Why would they want to live in the Awful "apartheid"?

6. Palestinians to emigrate en masse to neighbouring Arab states

I never said that and never will. I have no issue with them living where they are - I have an issue with them trying to kill me!

I know these are all Crazy and outrages ideas.. Stopping violence in order to have peace, and keeping to ones OWN Govt. Laws and treaties - it's truly a "wet Dream"

 
At 2:01 PM, Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

hank gert for being an asshole shilling for jew haters..

if there is a god, i hope you are held in account.

 
At 2:02 PM, Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

thank gert for being an asshole shilling for jew haters..

if there is a god, i hope you are held in account.

 
At 2:19 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Oleh:

"Why Does the Palestinian State HAVE to be Judenrien?? There are ways around it. But it no way do I see this as conditional to anything. If I thought there was a chance of peace I could see moving a bunch of Israelis to other places. But then again if there were true peace why would we need to??"

If you're going to use very loaded terms like Judenrein, try at least to spell them right.

It isn't a question of the Palestinian state being free of Jews, as usual you attempt to turn the argument on its head. Jewish settlers arrived in the West Bank long before there was talk of a possible Palestine in West Bank/Gaza. They did so at first against the wish of the Israeli government and in clear contravention of International law (see also Res. 446).

There is also the serious issue of whether some, possibly many, of these settlers would want to live under Palestinian rule, even if it was a just rule. Not so easy to answer.

Also you'd reserve the right of return to "Palestine proper" (Gaza/West Bank) but by your reasoning above, why would the right of return to Palestnians inside Israel peoper not apply?

 
At 2:23 PM, Blogger Gert said...

what is "occupation":

You're slowly getting on my nerves. Repetitive commenting borders on "comment spamming". Also you're starting to veer to towards verbal abuse. If you want to call me all the names under the sun, feel free, but please do it at your own soapbox.

 
At 3:01 PM, Blogger Richard said...

Asshole? Gert? Shill for Jew haters?

Oh Gawd, here we go ... again.

 
At 3:34 PM, Blogger Oleh Yahshan said...

What is "Occupation",
While I don't agree with Gert and his opinion - what you are doing helps no one. I am not sure what the point of what you are doing is.

Gert,
Spelling aside, You didn't actually answer the question. you just it was a bad thing, and that Jews might not want to live there - that is not an answer to why the future Palestine has to see all it's JEWISH settlers removed.

AS for the right or return - I will say again it is not a practical issue today. And Creating a Palestine Should solve the issue of Refugees, since they will be HOME in their OWN country.

Should I assume you agree with me on the other 4/3 points??

 
At 4:39 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Oleh:

"Spelling aside, You didn't actually answer the question. you just it was a bad thing, and that Jews might not want to live there - that is not an answer to why the future Palestine has to see all it's JEWISH settlers removed."

If in a future Palestine Jewish settlers would agree to live under Palestinian rule, then in principle I don't see that as a problem. I've already discussed this extensively with David Zarnett. The problem is that the sheer amount of settlements and the amount of infrastructure needed to protect them currently is an obstacle to the formation of such a state.

Perhaps we could think of some kind of swap: settlements for right of return. No, that wouldn't please you either because you want to have your cake and eat it too...

"AS for the right or return - I will say again it is not a practical issue today. And Creating a Palestine Should solve the issue of Refugees, since they will be HOME in their OWN country."

It may not be parctical issue to you but it is to those 2 million Palestinian refugees living outside of Israel/Palestine.

Now let me get on with the job of demolishing Olah's latest scribblings (LOL)...

 
At 12:29 AM, Blogger Richard said...

Well, who'da thunk it, eh?

* EU warns Israel on Gaza attacks

The EU has accused Israel of using "disproportionate" force and making a humanitarian crisis worse during operations in the Gaza Strip.

On Friday Israel consolidated its hold on northern Gaza, as air strikes killed at least three Palestinian militants.

It followed the worst day of violence since Israeli forces entered Gaza over a captured Israeli soldier - 22 Palestinians and an Israeli died.

Israel's operations are the biggest since it withdrew from Gaza last year.

"The EU condemns the loss of lives caused by disproportionate use of force by the Israeli Defence Forces and the humanitarian crisis it has aggravated," Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said in a statement.

The EU is Israel's largest trading partner and rarely criticises the country in such terms military or security matters.

 
At 12:31 AM, Blogger Richard said...

Here's the link to that full EU/Israel/Gaza report, btw.

 
At 1:40 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Richard:

As always regarding the EU: too little too late... thanks for that link.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home