European Union diplomats are once again wringing their hands about Israel’s large-scale expulsions of Palestinians and the demolitions of their homes and schools in the occupied West Bank.
But their professed concern is totally undermined by the EU’s policy of lavishing incentives on Israel to continue these crimes.
On Friday, the EU mission in Jerusalem issued a statement to “deplore the continuing threat of demolitions and seizures of Palestinian structures” in the communities of Ein al-Hilweh, Umm Jamal and Jabal al-Baba, which would leave 400 people homeless.
The EU notes that last month “four other herding communities covering 170 people in the Northern Jordan Valley lost their case at the Israeli high court and two European donor-funded schools in Wadi al-Seeq and al-Muntar are presently under threat of destruction and seizure.”
“As winter arrives, an imminent demolition will leave up to 100 people, half of them children, without shelter,” the EU states.
All these actions, the EU affirms “threaten the two-state solution” and violate Israel’s “obligations as an occupying power under international humanitarian law.”
Earlier this month, the UN also warned about the imminent demolitions, noting that they are an element of systematic Israeli policies to bring about the “forcible transfer” of Palestinians from Area C – roughly 60 percent of the West Bank fully controlled by Israel that Israeli politicians want to annex.
We’ve been here before: in August, occupation forces destroyed the European-funded school in Jubbet al-Dib the day before children were about to start classes, and as usual, the EU did nothing to hold Israel accountable for that or a spate of other demolitions and confiscations.
Also in August, the EU issued a statement gently urging Israel to “reconsider” its planned eviction of the Shamasneh family from their home in occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
Weeks later, Israel evicted the family anyway.
So far in 2017, according to the UN, Israel has demolished almost 400 structures in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, displacing more than 600 Palestinians.
Most of this destruction is on the pretext that Palestinians are building without permits that occupation authorities almost never grant.
Although the numbers are down compared to 2016 – a record year of Israeli destruction – Israel’s actions are part of a calculated colonization effort that is devastating to the lives of each and every targeted family.
On Monday, I called up the EU office in Jerusalem to ask them if anything would be different this time around. Given that Israel has treated earlier EU statements with contempt, what would the EU be doing to deter Israel from these planned demolitions?
Would the EU consider sanctions? The diplomatic answer the EU’s spokesperson in Jerusalem gave me can be summed up in one word: no.
I got the usual line, that in addition to public statements, the EU brings up its concerns in private discussions with Israeli officials.
In fact, there’s evidence that senior EU officials have been told not to raise concerns about human rights abuses in high-level discussions with Israeli counterparts.
But even if the EU is raising these matters privately, it is absurd to expect Israel would pay any heed when the consistent message from Brussels to Tel Aviv is: do whatever you like and we will continue to give you unconditional support.
Bowing to Israel
The material support for Israel’s occupation, apartheid and settler-colonialism is backed up with a political commitment that includes EU refusal to condemn Israeli politicians when they advocate ethnic cleansing and even genocide against Palestinians, and EU assistance to smear and silence European citizens who advocate for Palestinian rights.
Earlier this month the EU and France bowed meekly to Israel’s decision to bar French elected officials from visiting the occupied West Bank. They had planned to go there to show solidarity with Palestinians living under the very military occupation the EU allegedly opposes.
Meanwhile, there is the ongoing parade of European officials heading to Israel to reward it with more “cooperation”:European policy then cannot be described as mere inaction or indifference towards Israel’s crimes. It is in reality a policy to encourage Israel to steal more Palestinian land and destroy more homes and lives.