24th Mar 2018

EU: Israeli occupation is 'root' cause of violence

  • Dispute over holy sites in Jerusalem were "proximate" cause of new wave of violence (Photo: Mohammad Usaid Abbasi)

EU states, in an internal report drafted last year, have said the outbreak of Palestinian knife and car-ramming attacks against Israelis in Jerusalem is due, in large part, to Israel’s occupation.

They said the attacks began after right-wing Israeli politicians and religious groups began to question the status quo on Arab rights at the Temple Mount complex in the Old City.

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  • Israel has kept Palestinian territories under occupation since 1967 (Photo: Israel Defense Forces)

But they added that living conditions for Palestinians and the loss of hope in a two-state solution formed the psychological “root” of the violence.

The report, drafted and endorsed in December 2015 by all the EU countries that have embassies in Jerusalem and Ramallah, said the Temple Mount developments were the “proximate cause” for the upsurge in violence that began after summer last year.

But it said the “heart of the matter” was “the Israeli occupation since 1967 and a long-standing policy of political, economic and social marginalisation of Palestinians in Jerusalem”.

It said that the “new reality” came “against a backdrop of deep frustration amongst Palestinians over the effects of the occupation, and a lack of hope that a negotiated solution can bring it to an end”.

The 39-page paper, seen by EUobserver, is part of regular reporting by EU diplomats in the region.

It is not meant to be published, but is designed to act as a reference document for meetings of EU foreign ministers in Brussels and for proposals put forward by the EU foreign service.

The report noted that the attacks were “spontaneous in nature” and mostly involved “young Palestinian men and women … acting without the apparent direction of political factions or militant groups”.

Inside Palestinian communities, the occupation has prompted higher levels of “drug abuse, division and displacement of families, domestic violence, loss of cultural identity, and high levels of stress and depression,” the EU report said.

At the time the report was filed, in early December, Palestinian attackers had killed eight Israelis and Israeli forces and civilians had killed 24 Palestinians.

By the start of June this year, those figures had climbed to 35 Israeli and more than 200 Palestinian deaths.

’Unlawful killings’

The EU diplomats warned that the resulting Israeli crackdown - which included widespread use of lethal force and house demolitions that amounted to “collective punishment” - made matters worse.

“Some Palestinian perpetrators of individual attacks have apparently been shot and killed in situations where they no longer posed a threat”, the report said.

It said that images circulated on social media fuelled the tension.

In one incident captured on video, Israeli police “appeared” to shoot a Palestinian suspect walking away from a crime scene after Israeli bystanders had called on them to open fire.

It added that “both sides” were guilty of “inflammatory rhetoric” and said EU states should “firmly condemn” any killing of civilians.

But it also called on the EU to voice “deep concern” on “excessive use of force” by Israeli police, which were “possibly amounting in certain cases to unlawful killings”.

Aside from the violence, which came to be called the Knife Intifada, meaning “knife uprising”, the EU paper chronicled: Israel’s ongoing settlement expansion; restrictions on Palestinian access to housing, education, healthcare, and jobs; and Israel’s manipulation of archeological projects in order to denigrate Palestinian people’s historical links to Jerusalem.

It said that none of the trends were new and that all of them had “worsened” over the course of last year.

It said that 84 percent of Palestinian children in the city lived below the poverty line.

It noted that up to 22,631 Palestinian children were not enrolled in school, while 36 percent of those who did go to school dropped out before completing basic education.

It said Israeli restrictions cost the Palestinian economy in the region $200 million (€179.6 million) a year in lost income and that 37 percent of young Palestinians are out of work.

Known violent settlers

The EU embassies said EU states should “ensure full and effective implementation” of a new EU code that required Israeli settler exports to be labelled in European shops.

It urged the EU to develop “further guidelines” that differentiate between Israel and its illegal settlements.

It said that while the EU is against a “boycott” of Israel, member states should “raise awareness” of the “risks” for EU firms that operate in settlement areas.

It also said that “known violent settlers and those calling for acts of violence” should be put under EU visa bans.

EU ambassadors had already proposed similar measures in a leaked report drafted at the end of 2014.

But the EU foreign relations chief, Federica Mogherini, at the time said: “There’s currently no question of sanctioning anybody. The question is rather how to motivate people to … restart peace talks”.

’Shameful, delusional’

The Israeli government has condemned the EU retail labelling code as “shameful” and “hypocritical”.

When the Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallstroem, in January echoed the 2015 EU report by calling for investigations into Israeli killings of Palestinian suspects, Israel called her “delusional” and accused her of inciting violence.

For its part, France is trying to restart the peace process by holding an Arab-Israeli summit in Paris by the end of the year.

But Israel has refused to take part.

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