Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas has condemned the EU’s response to events in the Middle East as unbalanced – and a risk to the EU’s credibility in the region.
Dr. Lucas, who is a member of the EU’s delegation to the occupied Palestinian territories – and was an official election observer in Gaza last year – said a Finnish presidency statement on behalf of the EU Council on recent events in Gaza gave undue emphasis to the kidnapping[*] of one Israeli soldier but was far less critical of Israel’s ‘completely disproportionate’ response.
She said: “Contrary to international law and humanitarian principles, the Israeli government has systematically attacked civilian electricity and water supplies – and kidnapped and arrested fully 64 Palestinian elected representatives.
“If that had happened anywhere else in the world we would expect immediate condemnation by the international community.
“Of course we all condemn the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier, and call for his swift and safe release – but we should be consistent and not forget that Israel is holding 9,600 Palestinian political prisoners, over half of whom are being held without trial and nearly 400 of whom are children under 18.”
Dr. Lucas called on the EU to restore full financial assistance to Palestine and re-open dialogue with the Hamas leadership, which has demonstrated its credibility and ability to evolve by agreeing to sign the so-called ‘Prisoners’ Agreement’ calling for a government of national coalition and taking a step towards the recognition of Israel.
Speaking in a parliamentary debate on events in Israel and Gaza over recent days, she added: “The EU simply cannot justify the continued withholding of vital funding, which is denying payment to doctors, teachers and other public servants, crippling the Palestinian authority and exacerbating the already desperate humanitarian crisis.
“Current EU policy is completely counter-productive: it hurts the poorest and most vulnerable, drives many into the arms of extremists, and undermines the very political and judicial reforms which we have been demanding for years.
“To build peace and address the unfolding humanitarian crisis we must condemn all human rights violations – whether Palestinian or Israeli – and re-open effective dialogue with all parties. It is simply unacceptable to collectively punish the Palestinian people for their choices at the ballots in a free and fair election.”
[*]Editor’s Note: The dictionary definition of the word “kidnap” necessitates that the abduction of a person is illegal. As the Israeli soldier was part of an occupying force, captured during a military raid against a military target, in international law he is considered to be a “prisoner of war”, not a kidnap victim. The rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war are spelled out in the third Geneva Convention of 1949, article 13 of which requires that POWs “must at all times be treated humanely”.
Caroline Lucas is South-East England’s Green MEP.She made her comments in an intervention during a Parliamentary debate on EU policy in Israel / Palestine. For a copy see www.carolinelucasmep.org.uk