How EU encourages Israel to destroy Palestinian homes

Palestinians protest on top of the rubble of a house demolished by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank village of al-Walaja on the pretext that it lacked a permit — something Israel rarely grants Palestinians, August 2017.

Wisam Hashlamoun APA images

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.”

The EU also claims to be “deeply concerned” about Israeli plans to demolish about a fifth of the housing and infrastructure in Susiya in the South Hebron Hills in coming weeks.

“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.

Déja vu

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.

Toothless discussions

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.

This encompasses hundreds of millions of dollars in “research” funding, including millions for Israeli arms makers and torturers.

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.

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Comments

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There is a naive (or disingenuous) line circulating in Europe, that this active collusion with Israel stems from collective guilt over the Holocaust. If there were any sense of regenerative shame in Europe regarding that horrific episode of genocide, the EU would not be sponsoring a settler colonial state carrying out reprehensible crimes against the Palestinian people. A Europe which genuinely repented the mass murder of Jews would stand up for others facing racism and ethnic cleansing at the hands of a latter-day military juggernaut.

But we're really talking about transnational elites with shared values and goals, among which democracy simply isn't a factor. Israel in its hasbara openly appeals to such attitudes in the European political class, a grouping in each country that regards its citizens with a mixture of fear and contempt. In a sense, and with variations, the European nations all have their own "Palestinian problem" whether defined as significant minority populations or restive sectors of the domestic work force. More and more, the Israeli model of internal security is becoming the European standard, and that's one more reason for the close cooperation between the two.

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I have to live in a world where deception, fraud and theft is the norm?

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.