EU washes its hands of Gaza

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, left, has remained silent about Israel’s electricity cuts to Gaza. (European External Action Service)

After 10 years of Israeli blockade, conditions for two million Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip are by all accounts worse than ever.

Israel’s blockade, according to the human rights group B’Tselem, has consigned Gaza’s residents “to living in abject poverty under practically inhuman conditions unparalleled in the modern world.”

Yet the European Union, which markets itself as a champion of freedom, democracy and human rights, has washed its hands of the people there.

After four successive days of reductions, Israel has now cut the electricity it supplies to the Gaza Strip by 60 percent.

This comes on top of chronic shortages that meant most households only had about four hours of electricity a day.

As numerous international bodies have warned, the territory is in the midst of an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

In mid-May, the International Committee of the Red Cross said that Gaza was on the brink of “systemic collapse” as operating rooms, water and sanitation systems cease functioning.

Already, Gaza City’s main hospital has slashed surgeries by one-third, and as a result of the blockade, exacerbated by the electricity crisis, the territory is swimming in sewage.

Palestinian Authority’s cruelty

Israel hides behind the Palestinian Authority, which asked Israel to reduce the electricity supply, as part of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’ effort to undermine Hamas, which rules the interior of Gaza.

Fuel supplies for Gaza’s sole power plant ran out in April, turning a severe chronic shortage of electricity into a looming catastrophe. Authorities in Gaza have now managed to secure a few days supply of fuel from Egypt – despite PA efforts to stop Egypt providing this brief reprieve.

The PA’s cruel campaign against the people of Gaza also includes cutting off medicine supplies to the territory. As a result, more than 300 cystic fibrosis patients are in mortal danger and 90 percent of cancer patients do not receive full treatment, among other imminent threats to life and health, according to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.

EU enablers

But as numerous human rights groups have pointed out, Israel cannot escape its responsibility.

Israel remains the occupying power in Gaza. It alone has the power to immediately end the suffering and it has a legal obligation to do so under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Israel however acts with impunity because it is supported and enabled by world powers, especially the European Union, its biggest trading partner.

For days, The Electronic Intifada has been asking the European Union External Action Service – effectively its foreign ministry – to comment on the situation in Gaza and to explain what, if anything, it is doing to pressure Israel to reverse the electricity cuts.

On Tuesday, Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, confirmed that she had received The Electronic Intifada’s inquiry and promised “to see what the latest is” and “come back to you ASAP.”

But another two days and a Thursday afternoon deadline have passed, and there is total silence from the EU despite repeated follow up inquiries to Kocijancic and her colleagues.

Silence is consent

The EU grants Israel all kinds of trade concessions and funding under their so-called Association Agreement.

That agreement specifies that relations between the EU and Israel “shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles,” a stipulation deemed “an essential element” of the agreement.

Dozens of European Parliament members have urged Mogherini to suspend the agreement – in light of Israel’s repeated and flagrant violations of Palestinian rights.

But instead, the EU seems only set on further rewarding Israel.

A reliable indicator of this is the EU’s representative office in Tel Aviv, which produces a steady stream of tweets on its official account celebrating the EU’s “partnership” with Israel – including “research” programs that fund Israel’s military industry.

Even this week as conditions in Gaza deteriorated, the EU has been touting its military cooperation with Israel over so called “shared challenges.”

Meanwhile, the EU External Action Service has not tweeted anything at all about Gaza since 2015.

The latest crisis in Gaza has been unfolding since April and has prompted warnings that it could lead to another war.

The EU’s silence cannot therefore be an oversight.

It should be read as a positive endorsement of Israel’s tightening blockade of Gaza and the suffering Israel is knowingly inflicting on a population exhausted and traumatized by a decade of isolation and successive Israeli military assaults.

The European Union is indeed deepening its vaunted partnership with Israel. It is a partnership in crime.