Thursday, April 13, 2006

Call to Europe -Stop punishing Palestinian people!


The European Union has joined the United States and Israel in punitive economic measures against the Palestinian people, ostensibly for having voted in the wrong government.

Although they pretend this will not affect humanitarian aid, going via non-governmental agencies, this is a cynical fig-leaf of respectability to still liberal fears. They know perfectly well that the Palestinian Authority, already being deprived of its own revenues by Israeli measures which amount to highway robbery, will be prevented from providing services and forced to lay off thousands of workers, into a society already reduced to penury and mass unemployment by Israeli land and water- grabbing, closures and isolation.
Israel's tightening grip is confining what remains of Palestine into walled ghettoes.

Israeli leaders celebrating the Passover will probably passo over the repeated Biblical injunction to "oppresseth not the stranger, for ye were strangers in Egypt". If they sing "Avadim Hayinu", Slaves Were We, they can add "But now we are Pharaohs!"

The British government and its allies hypocritically say that Hamas must "give up violence". But Hamas has already mainted a cease fire for two years, and says it is willing to talk. It is the Israeli government which has refused to negotiate even with President Abbas let alone the elected Palestinian leadership, and this week has been pumping 300 shells a day into the Gaza strip.

While Mr.Blair and others will no doubt be saying their prayers this Easter weekend and bleating about peace, they are crucifying the Palestinian people as a whole, and their children, for their elected representatives, and not even for what these have done but for whether they will accept humiliating conditions for future policy. One thing this does is take away any argument against boycotts and sanctions on Israel once its government's actions and policies are seen for what they are. Right now an economic boycott would be no more than tit for tat if it were effective.

Palestinians and solidarity campaigners have naturally protested against the EU decision. And they are not the only ones, as we see below. First we have a call from Israeli peace campaigners, which has been published this week in three Israeli newspapers, and was forwarded to us by veteran campaigning journalist Uri Avnery. Then there is a letter which European Jews for Just peace have sent to top EU officials.


We, Israeli patriots concerned about the future of our state, hereby call upon you, the leaders of the European Union and the heads of European governments:

Stop the blockade on the Palestinian government!

Don't starve a whole people in order
to overthrow its elected government!

Only three months ago, European monitors supervised the Palestinian elections. They confirmed Palestine as the first democracy in the Arab world (holding its second democratic elections, the first having been won by the Fatah movement.)

This time, a Parliament with a Hamas majority was elected. Now you are giving the Palestinians a lesson in democracy: you are telling them that, unless they overthrow the government they have just elected, there will be no milk for their children, no medicines for their sick, no work for their unemployed, no salaries for their doctors and teachers.You are fulfilling the cynical prescription of the advisor to our Prime Minister: "We need to make them lose weight, but not to die."

This is not only a barbaric policy, it is also a terrible mistake: no people in the world would submit to such brutal and humiliating pressure from outside. The inevitable result will be a further radicalization of Palestinian opinion, and a deepening of the hatred for Israel and the West in the whole of the Arab and Muslim world. That will make the prospect of peace even remoter, the peace we all need like air to breathe. It will lead to a bloodbath, which will cost the lives of thousands - Israelis, Palestinians, Europeans and Americans.

Talk to the Palestinian government! Start a dialogue with Hamas! Certainly, they must recognize the State of Israel's right to exist, just as Israel must recognize the right of the State of Palestine to exist. But such recognition will grow out of negotiations, not the other way round. Certainly, they have to stop violence, just as Israel must do so. But even at this stage a prolonged armistice can be achieved.Certainly, they must accept the Two-State solution, and so must Israel. But their leaders have already hinted that they are ready for it - and this must be put to the test of negotiations.

We call upon you, leaders of Europe: It is in the interest of Europe, as it is in the interest of Israel and Palestine, to achieve peace. Don't succumb to pressure from outside interests, whose policy has already led to several recent disasters in the Middle East. For the sake of all of us: follow an independent line, guided by wisdom and morality!

GUSH SHALOM The Israeli Peace Bloc
P.O.Box 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033
* *

EJJP letter sent to President Jose Manuel Barroso, and to Sr Javier Solana High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union on 10th April 2006

It is with great dismay, shock and concern that we note the proposed cutting of aid from the European Union to the Palestinian population. This amounts to a collective punishment meted out to approximately 3,500,000 Palestinians. Forcing people to go hungry is not an acceptable tool of international diplomacy. Yet that is exactly what this policy amounts to...

The Karni checkpoint has been closed for goods, leaving the people of Gaza without basic staples. At the same time Gazan fishermen are being denied access to fishing grounds prevented from catching fish, in grounds defined by international agreement as Palestinian, by the Israeli navy. The Israeli Army’s repeated shelling of the Gaza Strip has killed children as young as five years old.
In addition, one Israeli bank, the Bank Hapoalim, has now stopped the transfer of money to the Palestinian territories. If others follow suit, there will be no way of transferring funds to organizations and even family members from abroad because all funds must go through Israeli correspondent banks.

These are measures enacted against a population many of whom are already forced to live as recipients of charity from abroad because of the Israeli occupation. A people is being starved and humiliated. They are losing their property and being put in ghettos erected by the State of Israel, with its wall and settlements. Despite these being illegal, punitive measures such as those now proposed against the Palestinians have not even been considered against Israel. Indeed, any call whatsoever for divestment, boycott - or even for compliance with the EU’s own trade association agreement rules - are dismissed as unconstructive. We must ask then, how is this decision to cut aid a constructive one?

The European Union – among others - cannot demand democratic elections and then proceed to punish people because they do not like the result. Hamas has taken no anti-Israeli action since their election victory. Indeed, Hamas has taken no action against Israel for over a year.

This policy risks catastrophe, first and foremost for the Palestinians. It is bound to lead to more violence for Israelis as well. A people – not a government - frustrated and humiliated as the Palestinians are being will react with anger. Is it possible that the European Union is not aware of this?

Both as Jews and as European citizens to whom the EU is ultimately responsible, we urge in the strongest possible terms that this decision is reconsidered to prevent further violence. This policy cannot but bring more tragedy to both peoples living in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Yours sincerely,
Dror Feiler, Chairman, and Dan Judelson, secretary
for the EJJP Executive Committee for more information about European Jews for Just Peace.

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At 6:58 AM, Blogger Renegade Eye said...

Doesn't this open up Palestine to get Iranian aid.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger Charlie Pottins said...

Yes, the Israeli group Gush Shalom warned that the US-led policy was pushing Palestinians into the arms of Ahmadinejad's Iran.
It will also strengthen extreme elements particularly to win the young with the argument "Look, no one cares about us, we can only count on fellow Muslims".
One can only assume, as Gush Shalom said, that the US and Israeli governments are being stupid, or the alternative we have to consider is that they don't care about "hearts and minds", but are intent on war anyway, and feel confident they can get away with it. Now Europe is helping them in this. Gush Shalom has appealed to the EU to show some independence from Washington.

At 11:37 AM, Blogger DesertPeace said...

Excellent Post Charlie.... thanks!


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