Palestinians condemn EU for new conditions tying humanitarian aid to joint projects with “Jews and Arabs”

Partners in war crimes: Handshake between EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (source)

European External Action Service - EEAS

Groups representing a broad swath of Palestinian civil society have condemned a new European Union funding program designed to promote a “two-state solution” at the expense of Palestinian rights and conditioning humanitarian aid to Palestinians on joint programs involving “Jews and Arabs.”

By using this language, the EU also appears to be adopting lock, stock and barrel Zionist and even anti-Semitic notions that conflict in the region is between “Jews and Arabs” rather than a situation where Palestinians are occupied and deprived of their rights by Israel.

In a letter to the EU representative in the occupied territories Mr. John Gatt Rutter, the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network, the Civic National Commission in Jerusalem, and Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) wrote that they were:

deeply dismayed by the recent call for proposals to the EU Partnership for Peace program. We protest in the strongest terms against the unethical manner in which the call for this EU program conditions that eligible projects of humanitarian and development aid “must involve Jews and Arabs,” and suggests that aid to the most vulnerable Palestinian communities should be instrumentalized for a “peace” defined as maintaining “the viability of the Two State solution.”

Stressing that Palestinians “as civilians under military occupation and victims of systematic Israeli violations of their human rights, have an unconditional right to protection and assistance,” the letter adds:

The particular attempt of the EU to condition aid to the most vulnerable Palestinian populations with the participation of Jewish Israel actors, i.e., members of the group of oppressors, contributes to the politicization of aid and is especially problematic and unacceptable in this context.

The letter ends by calling on the EU “to avoid further politicization of humanitarian aid and immediately remove the unethical condition of participation of ‘Jews and Arabs’ from the eligibility criteria of the Partnership for Peace program.”

EU program adopts Zionist notions

The Guidelines of the EU Partnership for Peace program state:

A central objective of the EU in the Middle East is the achievement of lasting peace by means of a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security and mutual recognition. This includes a fair solution to the complex issue of Jerusalem, notably through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states, and an agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees. It also includes a solution in the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli- Lebanese tracks.

Nowhere does this language mention Palestinian rights or international law, and the use of the term “realistic solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees” will be seen by most Palestinians as a thinly-veiled demand that the Palestinian right of return be scrapped in deference to Israel’s racist insistence on maintaining a Jewish majority to ward off a Palestinian “demographic threat.”

The EU betrays its entirely Israel-centric perspective when it defines Palestinian refugees as the “problem” instead of Israel’s racist refusal to comply with international law and respect the rights of these refugees.

EU blackmail and bribery

The EU program claims that its goal is to support:

local practical and strategic needs in terms of socio-economic development and quality of life of the most conflict affected communities, likely to strengthen their resilience so as to help maintaining the conditions for the viability of the Two State solution.

It is difficult to imagine a more overt form of blackmail and bribery to attempt to use humanitarian aid to impose the EU’s political agenda on Palestinians whether they like it or not.

The Guidelines make it a requirement that:

Actions under this priority must involve Jews and Arabs either in a formal partnership or at the level of joint work.

The adoption of such language is particularly disturbing and can be understood as anti-Semitic. It adopts the anti-Semitic/Zionist notion that conflict exists between Jews as Jews and “Arabs” in a generic sense.

Moreover it obscures the reality that Palestinians are occupied and deprived of their rights by Israel, which purports to be a “Jewish state” and which abuses Jewish religious symbols and instrumentalizes European persecution of Jews in the past to justify the dispossession of Palestinians.

Attempt to counter Palestinians’ anti-normalization efforts

The EU program must be seen as an effort to counter increasingly successful Palestinian efforts to halt programs aimed at normalization. In its guidelines for applying the international cultural boycott of Israel, PACBI provides one way of assessing normalization:

Cultural events and projects involving Palestinians and/or Arabs and Israelis that promote “balance” between the “two sides” in presenting their respective narratives, as if on par, or are otherwise based on the false premise that the colonizers and the colonized, the oppressors and the oppressed, are equally responsible for the “conflict,” are intentionally deceptive, intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible. Such events and projects, often seeking to encourage dialogue or “reconciliation between the two sides” without addressing the requirements of justice, promote the normalization of oppression and injustice.

All such events and projects that bring Palestinians and/or Arabs and Israelis together, unless framed within the explicit context of opposition to occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, are strong candidates for boycott.

These guidelines do not mention “Jews” and do not even preclude joint activities between Palestinian and Israelis provided they are in a clear context of opposition to Israeli occupation and other crimes. This is because the Palestinian campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions is founded on nonracist and universal principles.

The EU guidelines, which do not mention Palestinian rights at all, but which insist on anti-Semitically defining “Jews” as the enemies of the “Arabs,” look like an effort to use EU cash to undermine Palestinian rights and the principled struggle to achieve them.

Letter from Palestinian civil society groups to EU