RESISTANCE: Europe remains unwilling to walk in Israel’s shoes

The arrest order issued in Britain against Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni is nothing but one of many symptoms of a deep and long-running problem that is unlikely to be solved as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues.

The apology by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (whose own government would be well advised to deal with the issue, of which it has long been aware) and his government’s plan to tackle the problem through legislation, will not solve our troubles with the European Union.

The root of the problems lies in the fundamental disagreements between Israel and the EU regarding the manner in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved and our conduct vis-a-vis the Palestinians. The conclusions of the EU council of foreign ministers on the peace process, adopted last month in Brussels, and the harsh criticism of Israel voiced by the EU’s new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, are only the most recent examples of the deep gap that has existed for years between us and Europe.

Advertisement

The disagreements do not stem mainly from economic considerations and interests, although their role in shaping the positions of certain EU members should not be discounted. The reasons are deeper and are linked to the lesson taken by European states from the profound trauma of World War II. The preference for multilateral frameworks, the adherence to the principles of international law, the rejection of the use of force to change political realities, the sanctification of human rights as an absolute value (that is sometimes applied in a manner that leaves behind a sense of double standards) and empathy toward those who are perceived as being weak – all these are part of the principles by which the EU states conduct themselves.

The conduct of Israel, as a state that calls itself democratic, is not perceived by the EU countries as conforming to those principles. European politicians (if we permit ourselves to speak in generalities), not to mention the public, are generally unwilling to walk in the shoes of Israel, which operates as a democracy under threat, and to demonstrate understanding for the motivations behind its conduct. And any small understanding is not reflected in the media.

The threat of terror, which has become an inseparable part of Israel’s quotidian reality, and Israel’s responses – which are covered obsessively – bumps up against a European reality that with the exception of a few instance has not experienced the horrors of terror.

It follows from this that Israel’s responses to terror, which result in unintended harm to civilians, are not only met by a lack of understanding but represent a focus of harsh criticism.

One of the by-products of this criticism is the beginning of an open discussion among some European elites of the nature of Israel’s democracy as well as the extent of its legitimacy as a Jewish state, which is of great concern.

For years the EU has expressed its dissatisfaction with Israel’s political and military conduct with a policy of reward and punishment. When there are unilateral withdrawals and an active peace process, Israel receives a prize; the absence of a peace process and disproportionate military actions lead to punishments.

This pattern, which changes in accordance with the existence of the peace process or lack thereof, is based on a fundamental and mutual lack of trust.

After observing the situation for many years it is hard to escape the conclusion that Israel and the Europeans are conducting not a dialogue, but rather two monologues. A solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could lay the foundations for a new stage in our relations with Europe. Until that happens we must get used to reality, the expressions of which we have been witness to in recent weeks.

Ref: Haaretz

The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Germany.

Jewish Settlers: We’ll Burn You All!

While Jewish settlers were burning the mosque of the village of Yasuf near the city of Nablus in the West Bank and writing on the walls of the village “We’ll burn you all”, which is the phrase German Nazis used to write on Jewish homes in the 1930s, EU member states backed down from a resolution proposed by Sweden to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state after the interference – as a result of Israeli pressure – of France and Germany, two countries involved in building the Israeli nuclear arsenal.

Despite the fact that the draft resolution was better than the resolution taken, they both fell short of meeting the requirements of international legitimacy. The draft resolution stated that the EU Council “urges” Israel to stop all settlement activity immediately, including those in East Jerusalem, and dismantling those built since “March 2001”. It stresses that the settlements, the segregation wall built on the occupied territories, and house demolition were all “illegal practices” according to international law and constitute a barrier to peace.” When the Council expressed “extreme concern” for the situation in East Jerusalem, it “called on all parties”, i.e. nuclear-armed Israel and the unarmed Palestinians to refrain from “provocative practices.” In this way, the settlers who burned the mosque of the village of Yasuf and the unarmed Palestinian civilians besieged in Gaza are considered the same.

The Council also called on “those detaining the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to release him immediately, while it completely ignored the fate of tens of thousands of Palestinian prisoners [held by Israel] kidnapped years ago, including women, children and elected members of the Palestinian parliament. This timid language does not condemn Israeli crimes like expelling the native people of the land and burning their homes. It considers the whole policy of ethnic cleansing and collective punishment mere “illegal practices” which do not (according to the draft resolution) require deterrent punishments for the Israeli rulers committing them in the same way Hamas should be punished and Iran should be punished for its nuclear policies.

In order to avoid showing the ugliness of Israeli crimes, it calls “all parties to refrain from provocative practices.” Thus the EU considers the Palestinian toddler whose home was demolished by Israel in the Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem, and who is sleeping in a tent with his family like hundreds of other Palestinian families in Gaza, as “a party” that should not provoke Israel!

All this European generous tolerance to Israeli crimes and all this timidity in standing up to them, even verbally, was faced by a ferocious Israeli campaign which was able to prevent the draft of a mere modest statement like this to be published. It succeeded in replacing the shy language which “urges,” “applauds” and “encourages” in an abstract, vague and unbinding language that does not have any force to stop the crimes or deter those who commit them.

Such a complacent European stance will not have a lasting political influence in favour of the cause of freedom and democracy in Palestine. That is why, and since the Zionist government realizes that blackmailing Europeans is an effective policy, prevented a European parliamentary delegation from visiting Gaza without fearing any firm European reaction. The Europeans found it sufficient to say “it was strange for the visit to be cancelled a few hours after the EU Council statement which is supported by a strong European position in relation to the creation of a Palestinian state within the borders of 1967, and stopping settlement in the West Bank, including “East Jerusalem.’”

But the fact is that the EU did not express a “strong position” in relation to Jerusalem and the two-state solution. It rather bowed to Israeli blackmail and turned a blind eye to Israeli crimes against humanity. That is why it had to accept more Israeli blackmail when its MEPs were prevented from entering Gaza, and had their permission cancelled three hours after it was given. This official humiliation of the MEPs would not have been accepted by the smallest country in the world. So, how could it be accepted by the largest parliament Europe has ever known?

If the EU Council continues to succumb to Israeli pressures made by an extremist government, Israeli crimes against civilians will continue. International statistics show that between last year’s anniversary of the Human Rights Declaration and this year’s, Israel killed 1,460 Palestinians with Europe watching. Nevertheless, the EU Council equates “the parties”, the Israeli killer and the Palestinian victim.

Nevertheless, some people believe that for Sweden, which holds the current EU presidency, merely to dare propose a draft resolution considering Jerusalem the capital of two states, this means a positive shift and an act of breaking the barrier of fear which haunted Europe for decades as a result of the Holocaust-related guilt complex. I do not understand why the past continues to haunt those who were born after the Holocaust: the current generation of Europeans is not responsible for the Holocaust committed by the Nazis against German Jews. And the Israeli Jews of today are not victims of German anti-Semitism. They are those who kill Palestinian people and deprive them of freedom, democracy and human rights.

The only thing Western papers were interested in, as far as this important issue is concerned, is that Europe finally gave in to Israeli pressure which succeeded in curbing this European move. Articles in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, and the CNN report were all based on an Israeli source saying that Europe backed down from its call for considering East Jerusalem as capital of Palestine, and that this backing down was in the interest of Israel which is planning to Judaize Jerusalem, i.e. ethnically cleansing it by demolishing Palestinian homes and expelling Palestinians. What they are doing is actually leaving future European generations with a guilt complex greater than the one felt by the current generation’s guilt as a result of the Holocaust.

Their children and grandchildren will find it difficult to understand how their ancestors chose not to see facts because they feared Israeli blackmail, because of their greed for Jewish money or in order to get a political position.

In the wake of this shameful European submission to Israeli blackmail, events have shown that this has only boosted Israeli arrogance. There is no difference in this regard between the government and the settlers: while the Israeli government decided to prevent MEPs from entering Gaza so that they do not see the atrocities perpetrated against the Palestinian people, Israeli settlers, as usual, attacked the villages of Nablus this time where they burned a new big mosque in the village of Yasuf in the northern part of the West Bank, including its furniture and library, destroyed the electricity network and left Hebrew graffiti saying: “we’ll burn you all”, “prepare to pay the price.” With all this happening, the EU and others are merely asking for clarifications for the cancellation, clarifications for demolition, clarifications for killing, clarifications for expulsion, clarifications for humiliation. The only reasonable and logical clarification is that the Zionist entity is a racist entity based on the destruction of the native people, destroying their culture and institutions, depriving them of a free and dignified life and accusing them of threatening Israel’s security. But the racist Israeli entity is no longer a danger to the Palestinian people alone; it is endangering the relationship between Muslims and the West and peace and security in our region and the world. It is not the Palestinians alone who should confront this horrendous racism. Europe and the West should shoulder their responsibility in this regard. Hence, Israeli promotion in the West of ideas like banning minarets and veils and putting more restraints on Muslims all lead to aggravating conflicts between peoples.

Fortunately, however, the cowardice of western governments is countered by the courage of conscientious people and opinion leaders of the Western world. This is a transitional phase before the civilized world realizes the danger of the Zionist model not to the Arabs alone, but to international peace and security. Hence, taking a firm European decision against ethnic cleansing, settlement and killing is the Europeans’ duty not only towards Palestinians but towards Europeans themselves.

Ref: asharq-e.


Rewarding Israel’s criminal behaviour (Israel is no liberal Western-style democracy, it is an ethnocracy with a racist agenda)

Israel is no liberal Western-style democracy, it is an ethnocracy with a racist agenda.

By Stuart Littlewood

Members of the European Parliament recently took a critical view of proposals to upgrade the EU-Israel Association Agreement and put down amendments designed to toughen up the conditions. “It’s time for the Israeli government to stop considering itself above the law and start respecting it,” warned Luisa Morgantini, the Parliament’s vice-president.

As a result, the vote was postponed – “a political stunt”, said the frustrated Israel lobby. In the meantime, all 27 EU ministers voted unanimously to approve the upgrade. However, it is not a done deal just yet. The EU Parliament still has to vote on this.

Most citizens, myself included, are baffled by the way the EU operates. One thing is certain: it has little to do with democracy. I seem to remember that when they voted in 2002 to suspend the EU-Israel Agreement on account of Israel’s continual violation of human rights, they were ignored by the Commission and Council of Ministers – that’s Western democracy for you.

* Meet Israel’s European friends

Why would anyone in Europe think it a good idea to reward Israel’s disregard for international law and common decency? One of the MEPs in my region in England, a Conservative Friend of Israel, explained his position:

I have been closely following recent developments in the Middle East… I believe there is significant benefit in closer economic and commercial ties between the EU and the only functioning and embedded democracy in the Middle East. I have great sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians … but, in my view, the state of Israel has been placed in an impossible position by the continuation of terrorist attacks mounted from Gaza. The motive behind the Israeli restrictions was a refusal to tolerate unending and increasing attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups… I wish to see a two-state solution with an essentially Jewish state of Israel at peace with an essentially Palestinian neighbour, which is free from thuggery and terrorism, and where democracy and social and economic well-being can flourish.

Another, also Conservative, wrote in similar vein:

I am familiar with the situation in Israel and the occupied territories as well as the suffering of many innocent Palestinian caught up in the maelstrom of the terrorist actions of Hamas and the Israeli counter attacks… The Conservatives are opposed to any new settlement building in the occupied territories yet I support an enhanced agreement with Israel, because Israel, as a democratic government, is very similar to Britain. They hold free and fair elections, have a free press, healthy and lively public debate, an independent judiciary and uphold the rule of law. Because of these values Israel finds itself at the front line fighting the existential threat of Islamists.

Note the way the situation is redefined to make Israel smell good: Hamas the terrorist, Israel only responding, Israel imposing “restrictions” (when in truth it’s a full-blown blockade all the way down to shelling Gazan fishing boats), wishing to see a Palestinian neighbour “free from thuggery” (that’s funny coming from people who admire and support an apartheid state, the plain-language description of Israel by the president of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto, and many, many others).

Yet another Conservative MEP the other side of the country sent out the same distorted framing of the situation, which we can assume is “standard issue” in the Conservative Party. He too was “very familiar with the situation in Israel and the occupied territories”, adding that the separation barrier had “considerably reduced the ability of human bombers to cross over and kill innocent Israeli civilians who are still subject to Hamas rockets launched from Gaza”.

It angers me that these MEPs claim to know everything but actually know only the nonsense they are spoon-fed. Israel is no liberal Western-style democracy, it is an ethnocracy with a racist agenda. I am deeply offended to be told by such ignorant people that we in Britain share its values. And when I recently asked a newspaperman in Jerusalem if the Israeli press was free he laughed in my face. Most of the time Israel bars journalists, and even medics, from entering Gaza to witness and report.

Upholding the rule of law? Maybe for Jews. Some 9,000 Palestinians, including women and children, abducted from their homes, are banged up in Israeli prisons, many without charge or trial. There are several reports, even by Israeli organizations such B’Tselem, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and the Centre for the Defence of the Individual, drawing attention to Israel’s torture and medical neglect of prisoners and detainees.

When the Palestinians exercised their democratic right in free and fair elections in 2006, Israel and Western leaders rejected their choice and resolved to destroy their embryonic democracy and bring Palestinian civil society to its knees in an orgy of vicious collective punishment. As for the Hamas government now confined to Gaza, does it not have a perfect right under international law to take up arms (the same right the Israeli government pretends is exclusively its own) to defend its people against the brutal oppression of an illegal invader and occupier?

As for terrorists, anyone who has been to the Holy Land knows who they are.

How come the EU finds it so difficult to uphold justice in the Middle East? Meet the European Friends of Israel (EFI). And what does the EFI do? Its purpose includes:

At the core of EFI’s work, says the website, is a belief that Israel deserves better recognition of the cultural and democratic bonds that it shares with the EU. EFI’s objective is to “improve and help foster an environment in which Israel’s commercial interests are enhanced. Our aim is to increase the number of Europeans who share this belief and encourage them to take individual political action.

In signing up to support such a lawless foreign power, how can our politicians possibly conform to the Principles of Public Life, in particular the Principle of Integrity, which lays down that holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organizations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties?

And have they bothered to read and understand the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which they are pledged to observe and promote?

EFI, as you might expect, is economical with the truth. It says that Israel didn’t really want to build the Wall and resisted doing so for more than 35 years, but “was forced to act… It is important to stress, as repeatedly mentioned by Israeli officials, that the fence is not political, and is not a border.”

On the contrary, the Wall has been instrumental in Israel’s seizure of more than 38 per cent of the West Bank, including prime agricultural land and strategic water resources. These areas are now off-limits to Palestinians. Eighty per cent of the West Bank’s precious water is diverted to illegal settlers while Palestinians are strictly rationed or go without. If it is simply a security fence, then why wasn’t it built within Israel’s recognized border?

* Is an Israeli life more precious than a Palestinian life?

Another EFI gem was this statement after 27 months of siege:

Faced with unremitting rocket attacks from Gaza (4,000 rocket and mortar attacks on its civilians since the Jewish state dismantled every settlement and removed every settler from Gaza in 2005), the government of Israel has shown great restraint as it takes action to defend its citizens, the right and the prime obligation of any nation.

We hear the non-stop mantra about home-made rockets “raining down” on Sderot (although only 1 in 500 causes a fatality) but nothing of the countless thousands of Israeli bombs, missiles, grenades and tank shells that are blasted into Gaza’s tight-packed humanity. And nothing about how Israel still occupies Gaza’s airspace and coastal waters and all the Strip’s entries and exits.

EFI urges the freeing of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and “wants to keep awakening the conscience of the world, to display to Gilad’s family that Europe has not abandoned their son”. But it shows no such concern for the 6,500 children arrested by the Israeli army in the last eight years, usually after bursting into their homes between midnight and 4 a.m., and the use of handcuffs, blindfolds and leg shackles on these youngsters. They are held for up to 90 days, incommunicado and without access to a lawyer.

Nor do they urge the freeing of the 30-odd Palestinian MPs and legislators kidnapped and still under “administrative detention”.

So where is the balance expected of our EU legislators and decision-makers? Sad though it is, the Shalit story needs to be seen in context. To Palestinians, this is just another trained killer in Israel’s occupation force. How many women and children had his tank blown to smithereens? How many homes had it reduced to rubble? How much infrastructure, probably paid for by European taxpayers, had it wrecked?

Why aren’t the same powerful voices speaking up for the sons of Palestinians snatched from their homes and locked up in Israeli jails? In the Holy Land struggle eight Palestinians die for every Israeli. When it comes to children, the kill-rate is 11 to 1. Is an Israeli life deemed more precious that a Palestinian life?

I am greatly encouraged by the news that a group of human rights lawyers has now filed charges of crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court against Israel and its leaders – Olmert, Barak, Vilnai, Dichter and Ashkenazi. Their bloodstained hands have no doubt been eagerly clasped by their many “friends” in Brussels.

Ref: Al Jazeera
Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation

Speculate to accumulate

he International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation promised that more trade would help to eradicate poverty and hunger. Foodcrops? Self-sufficiency in food? They had a better idea. Local farms would be closed down or encouraged to concentrate on exports. This would make the most, not of natural conditions which might be good for growing tomatoes in Mexico or pineapples in the Philippines, but of the fact that production costs are lower in Mexico and the Philippines than they are in Florida or California.

Farmers in Mali would rely on more highly mechanised, more productive producers in the Beauce or the Midwest for grain supplies. The farmers would pack up, move into town and get jobs in some western firm that had relocated to take advantage of cheaper labour than it could find at home. The countries on the East African seaboard would lighten their load of foreign debt by selling their fishing rights to the factory ships of wealthier countries. The Guineans would import tinned fish from Denmark or Portugal. Never mind the additional pollution generated by transporting all these goods. A life of bliss was guaranteed and so were the profits of the middlemen – wholesalers, shippers, insurers, advertisers.

The World Bank, prime promoter of this “development” model, now tells us that there may be food riots in 33 countries. And the WTO fears a resurgence of protectionism: some food-exporting countries – India, Vietnam, Egypt, Kazakhstan – have decided to reduce exports in order to feed their own people. What a nerve! The North is easily upset by other people’s selfishness. The Chinese eat too much meat, that’s why the Egyptians are short of wheat.

Some states have followed the World Bank and IMF advice and turned over their food crops. They can no longer keep their produce for themselves. Well, they will pay, that’s the law of the market. According to UN Food and Agriculture Organisation figures, their bill for grain imports has risen by a massive 56% in one year. Naturally the World Food Programme (WFP), which feeds 73 million people in 78 countries every year, is asking for a further $500m.

Someone must have decided this was excessive, as it got only half that amount. But the sum it sought was only what the war in Iraq costs every couple of hours, and a tiny fraction of what the sub-prime mortgage crisis will cost the banking sector, which has been bailed out by the state. To look at it another way, the WFP asked on behalf of millions of starving people for 13.5% of the sum earned last year by John Paulson, the astute hedge fund manager who realised that thousands of Americans are in negative equity and face ruin. No one knows how much the incipient famine will yield or who will reap the profits, but nothing is ever lost in a modern economy.

History repeats itself, one speculation after another. The Federal Reserve’s monetary policy encourages debt, first the internet bubble, now the real estate bubble. In 2006 the IMF was still saying there was “every indication the mechanisms for granting loans on the US property market were still relatively effective”. Market effective. Perhaps the two words should be welded together once and for all. The real estate bubble has burst. So the speculators are resurrecting an old eldorado: the grain markets. Purchasing contracts to deliver wheat or rice at a future date and counting on selling them at a higher price. And what ensures prices will keep on rising? Famine.

So what does the IMF do? The IMF, which has “the best economists in the world” according to its managing director, explains that “one way to solve the problem of famine is to increase international trade”. The poet Leo Ferré once said that “all you need to sell despair is the right formula”. It looks as though they’ve found it.

Ref: Le Monde