By Stuart Littlewood – London
There’s an ugly plan afoot in the EU to reward Israel for its abominable and criminal conduct by enhancing the already handsome benefits enjoyed by the neighbourhood bully under the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
Most EU citizens have little idea how the EU works or how to hold it to account for blunders like dereliction of duty. That’s no surprise because it is cloaked in incomprehensible complexity and there is no way to hold it accountable. Those in control shamelessly do as they please, it seems.
Take this wretched EU-Israel Association Agreement. Its purpose is to promote (1) peace and security, (2) shared prosperity through, for example, the creation of a free trade zone, and (3) cross-cultural rapprochement. It governs not only EU-Israel relations but Israel’s relations with the EU’s other Mediterranean partners – including the Palestinian National Authority.
Fundamental to the Agreement are undertakings regarding ‘respect for human rights and democratic principles’ set out as a general condition in Article 2, which says:
"Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement."
This clause allows steps to be taken to enforce the contractual requirement regarding human rights and to dissuade partners from policies and practices that disrespect those rights. The Agreement also requires respect for self-determination of peoples and fundamental freedoms for all.
It sounds fine, but the EU-Israel Association Agreement actually achieves none of this. In 2002 the EU Parliament voted to suspend the Agreement on the grounds of Israel’s violations of human rights. The resolution called for an arms embargo against Israel and Palestine, and condemned the “military escalation pursued by the Sharon government" and the "oppression of the Palestinian civilian population by the Israeli army." The EU Commission ignored the will of Parliament, and consequently there has been no improvement in Israel’s behaviour.
Britain’s foreign secretary David Miliband last week dismissed a proposal by the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement, saying: "I think that’s a bit naïve since the agreement, the upgrade, was for the Palestinians as well as for the Israelis."
I have written to ask Mr Miliband to explain how Palestinians would benefit. They certainly did not do so under the existing arrangement.
The EU, in its treaties, declares a firm commitment to the Charter of the United Nations and international law. On December 30 a statement was issued about the Gaza carnage, saying:
"The European Union, conscious of the suffering and anguish of all civilian populations, puts forward the following proposals to resolve the crisis:
• Immediate and permanent ceasefire: there must be an unconditional halt to rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel and an end to Israeli military action.
• The cessation of fighting should allow lasting and normal opening of all border crossings, as provided for in the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. The European Union is ready
• Re-dispatch the EUBAM (Border Assistance Mission) to Rafah to enable its re-opening, in cooperation with Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. It is also willing to examine the possibility of extending its assistance to other crossing points, provided that the issues relating to security have found a satisfactory response."
The nub of the problem – the continuing illegal occupation – isn’t even mentioned. Nor does the statement actually address core provisions of the Charter, which says that all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.
Furthermore the International Court of Justice ruling on the Illegality of the Separation Wall warned all states of their obligation not to recognize, aid or assist the illegal situation resulting from Israel’s actions in occupied Palestinian territory and reminded all parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention that they are bound to ensure Israel’s compliance with this Convention. These obligations apply not only to EU member states that are signatories to the Geneva Conventions, but also to EU institutions charged with ensuring that EU-Israel contractual relations conform to Community and international law.
Honourable men would have enforced Article 2, observed all other codes and not let matters slide. They would have put the squeeze on Israel until the regime complied 100 percent with requirements. Israel relies heavily on exports to Europe so the EU could, at a stroke, end the evil occupation, murder and land theft, and resolve the problem in the Holy Land.
What game is EU Council of Ministers playing? And what part of Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement don’t they understand?
-Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.