EU Parliament chief refuses to protest at illegal arrests by Israel

The president of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek has declined to protest at how Israel arrested one of his own colleagues in international waters.

Last weekend, Paul Murphy was one of 14 Irish people kidnapped by Israeli forces who boarded the MV Saoirse, as it sailed towards Gaza. Murphy, a member of the European Parliament (MEP), has still not been released but is expected to be flown from Tel Aviv to Dublin tomorrow.

Buzek took his time reacting to Murphy’s arrest, which took place last Friday. It wasn’t until several days later that Buzek urged Israel to “quickly” release his fellow MEP and the other detainees. Buzek does not appear to have posted any statement about the arrests on his website.

I called Buzek’s spokesman Robert Golanski this morning to ask if Buzek had gone beyond calling for the release and complained at the unlawful manner of Murphy’s arrest. “The main concern of the president is to make sure that EU citizens, including a colleague of his, be released as soon as possible,” Golanski replied.

When I repeated the question about whether or not Buzek protested at Israel’s illegal conduct in international waters, Golanski remained evasive. “It looks as if Mr Murphy is going to go home very soon,” he said. “The issue is closed.”

Buzek, a former prime minister in Poland, is sympathetic towards Zionism. During a meeting last month with Reuven Rivlin, the speaker of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, Buzek described Israel as an “indispensable partner for the EU.” Buzek has been more vocal in demanding the release of Gilad Shalit, the only Israeli soldier detained by Hamas until recently, than any of the thousands of political prisoners held by Israel.

Furthermore, Buzek’s refusal to protest at Israel’s illegal behavior in recent days is at variance with the official position of his institution.

In June 2010, the Parliament approved a resolution condemning Israel’s killing of nine activists taking part in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The resolution argued that the manner in which Israel attacked the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship, breached international law.

Fortunately, nobody was killed when Israel used heavy-handed tactics against the Saoirse and the Canadian boat the Tahrir last weekend. But considering it behaved in a manner that had been previously condemned by his assembly, Buzek had strong grounds to protest. His decision not to do so indicates that he either has a short memory or that he is not willing to upset Israel.

Update: Seven of the 14 Irish people detained by Israel were prevented from boarding a London-bound flight in Tel Aviv this morning.

It appears that the seven have been returned to prison. In brief phone calls, the detainees complained about their treatment. Fintan Lane, coordinator of the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign and one of the seven, said: “This is a deliberate and calculated attempt by the Israelis to break our spirit. It won’t succeed.”

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David Cronin

David Cronin's picture

David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada. His latest book is Corporate Europe: How Big Business Sets Policies on Food, Climate and War (Pluto, 2013). His earlier book is Europe’s Alliance With Israel: Aiding the Occupation (Pluto, 2011).