European ex-prime ministers condemn Trump plan as apartheid

A soldier restrains a man who is in handcuffs

Why do European leaders find the courage to condemn Israeli apartheid and other abuses only when they are no longer in office?

Mosab Shawer APA images

Fifty former leaders from across Europe have condemned President Donald Trump’s recently released “peace plan” as akin to apartheid.

In a letter published by The Guardian on Thursday, they say the so-called Deal of the Century violates numerous UN resolutions and “the most fundamental principles of international law.”

“The map featured in the plan proposes Palestinian enclaves under permanent Israeli military control, which evoke chilling associations with South Africa’s bantustans,” the leaders add.

Bantustans were a series of impoverished reservations where South Africa’s white supremacist government tried to force millions of Black people to live.

The racist rulers hoped that the world would accept these reservations as “independent states,” and take the pressure off the apartheid regime to grant full, equal rights to Black people.

The signatories include former prime ministers of Norway, Ireland, Sweden, Poland, Italy, France and Croatia, as well as Jacques Santer, the former president of the European Commission – the European Union’s executive.

Dozens of former cabinet ministers back the statement, which declares that the Trump plan “is not a roadmap to a viable two-state solution, nor to any other legitimate solution to the conflict.”

Instead, it “envisages a formalization of the current reality in the occupied Palestinian territory, in which two peoples are living side by side without equal rights. Such an outcome has characteristics similar to apartheid – a term we don’t use lightly.”

The ex-leaders nonetheless welcome the European Union’s “continued commitment to a two-state solution.”

Endorsing this moribund approach hardly shows imagination – although the earlier reference that another “legitimate solution to the conflict” may exist suggests a belated openness among some to a single, democratic state.

After all, if the diagnosis is apartheid, then the known solution is not ethnic partition into separate states but equal rights, restitution and decolonization in a unified state that defends the rights of all its citizens.

The former leaders also say they support the EU’s recent declaration that further Israeli annexation of Palestinian land “could not pass unchallenged.”

But as I have noted, the EU has had decades to act against Israel’s crimes. Instead, it continues to reward and incentivize further Israeli violations.

We are long past the time when coy hints that action will come at some undefined future point are of any use.

Given the massive complicity of the EU and its member states in Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, only actions to end this complicity should be taken seriously.

These senior European figures must demand that their governments take such action, and they should support the civil society movements in their countries calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions until Israel ends its occupation, apartheid and settler-colonialism.

Still, the statement by the former leaders contains some strong words – especially coming from typically timid European politicians.

However, it begs the question of why these leaders are only able to muster their courage to speak out when they are no longer in power.

Where was their clear-eyed thinking about apartheid when they could have done something, instead of collectively spending decades in governments aiding and abetting Israel’s crimes?

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In July 1982, speaking in relation to the war in Lebanon, rabbi Elazar Valdman said: "We will certainly establish order in the Middle East. And if we do not take this responsibility ..we are sinners...For who can establish order in the world? All of those western leaders of weak character?" This, in spite of the fact that Israel exists only thanks to billions of dollars provided over decades by the most powerful western leaders. Israel is a non-viable society without US money and weaponry. Yet Valdman was lost in the fantasy of Zionist omnipotence. The racism of Israel flourishes only because of the pusillanimity of the world's leaders, north, south, east and west. Behind this lies oil. If the Middle East produced nothing but bananas, the US would never have propped up Israel. At the heart of the racism, the oppression, the injustice, the appalling suffering, the psychopathic Zionist violence, lies narrow US interest. Hence the prevailing double standards. The US can't live up to its professed belief in democracy when it puts interest before principle. The principle of democracy is that you can't guarantee power. The US can't accept that. Hence its manufacture of opinion and its employment of violence against regimes which it perceives to threaten its hegemony. No principles are at work in Israel. Principles are universal. Israel's ideology is parochial: Zionists rule. This is what Rafael Eitan, Israeli Chief of Staff had to say in 1983: "When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry round like drugged roaches in a bottle." Racism, and an absolute denial of any serious intent to apply a two-State solution. Western leaders have failed to face this down. Now we have candidates for Labour leader declaring themselves Zionists, ie racists. The grassroots have to show the leaders the way. They are paltering careerists. We stand for principle. Democracy and equality. Globally.

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As President, Jimmy Carter enunciated the pernicious "Carter Doctrine", which stated that the United States was entitled- indeed, obligated- to intervene militarily in the Persian Gulf should its "national security" be threatened at any time by events in the region. He also maintained a steady flow of free weapons to Israel, enabling that country to invade its neighbors and crush Palestinian resistance. Following his electoral defenestration, he developed a more nuanced position on these issues, at which point it didn't matter very much what he said, because he now had no power.

Good intentions from ex-officials are basically worthless, especially when contrasted with their actions at a time when they could have made a difference on behalf of humanity. Mercy after the fact is mere vanity, come too late from to soothe anyone's discomfort but their own. So it is with this raft of ex- leaders in Europe. Where were they when Sabra and Shatila were ravaged, Southern Lebanon destroyed, Beirut crumbled under Israeli bombs? What did they do when they had the power to intervene? When Gaza was pummeled, when the settlements went up, when Arafat was poisoned and the wall was driven through the West Bank, what action did they take? Nothing more than the equivalent of a letter to the Times.

Now they want to be heeded. Let them speak with the dead.

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It is indeed, as usual with those in power, too little, too late:

King David and King Solomon lead merry merry lives
With many many lady friends and many many wives
But when old age came on them, with many many qualms
King Solomon wrote the proverbs and King David wrote the psalms.

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Israel has been a legal (redundant) apartheid state since the passage of its Basic Laws in 1948. This kind of statement by EX-European leaders has too problems with it. First, they are only saying that the 'plan' of Trump is "akin" to apartheid, and not only IS apartheid, but that the entire system of legal rights for people within Israel has been apartheid now for almost 72 years. Israeli historian Uri Davis's analysis of the Basic Laws in "Apartheid Israel" has made this crystal clear. Second, WHAT DID THESE 'FORMER' EUROPEAN LEADERS ACTUALLY do ABOUT IT WHEN THEY WERE IN OFFICE, besides issue milktoast statements with no bite. Europe, of course the United States, are complicit in the crimes against the Palestinian people.

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