Thursday

28th Jan 2021

Eminent women appeal for EU help on Palestine

  • Palestinian Bedouin girl at home in the South Hebron Hills, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank (Photo: Rosie Gabrielle)

Israel's West Bank annexation "was conceived almost entirely by men" and would crush the "dignity and rights" of Palestinian women still further, a group of 40 prominent women have said.

The move "would unravel half a century of efforts for peace in the region" and posed "an existential threat to Palestinians, to Israelis, to regional stability, and to an already fragile global order," Wednesday's (1 July) open letter said.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Palestinian Bedouin women in South Hebron Hills (Photo: Rosie Gabrielle)

Annexation "will fragment Palestinian land and effectively consecrate Palestinian enclaves under permanent Israeli military control," it said.

The appeal came out on the 20th anniversary of a UN resolution on the importance of involving women in conflict-resolution.

"Their [Palestinian and Israeli women's] strong appeals [for peace], while separate and distinct, have in common a sense of shared humanity, and a common rejection of subjugation and discrimination, oppression and violence," Wednesday's letter noted.

But it also came out on the day Israel had pledged to start its annexation process.

Five Nobel peace prize laureates, including Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi and Northern Irish activist Mairead Maguire, signed the text.

Five former European leaders, including Tarja Halonen and Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, from Finland and Iceland, signed.

Nathalie Loiseau, a senior French MEP, two former EU commissioners (Austria's Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Sweden's Margot Wallström), as well as UN officials and other activists added their names.

"We're gratified that international women leaders took up the call ... to reach out and take a stand on the issue of annexation and Israel's impunity and the need for peace with justice," Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian diplomat, told EUobserver the same day.

Palestinian women in Israeli-occupied lands had staggering unemployment rates and struggled to look after large families in poverty, according to EU reports.

The situation was acute in Gaza, a recent study by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA), also said.

Women "prepare less and cheaper food, borrow money, sell assets ... many cook with collected firewood, wake in the night to do housework while power is on, and forego medical costs," it said.

"They try ... to maintain their dignity and that of their children and their family," the study noted.

"Women [here] are constantly achieving marvellous things, especially under duress," Tamara Alrifai, an UNWRA spokeswoman in Gaza, also told this website.

But, at the same time, they endured increasing domestic violence, linked to jobless men and linked, directly, to the trauma caused by never-ending conflict.

"During the 2014 hostilities [between Israel and Gaza] there was a reported 22-percent rise in domestic violence experienced by married women, and a 30-percent increase for non-married women," the UNWRA study said.

Palestinian girls and young women performed well in education, the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and UNWRA noted, in a mark of their unused potential.

And even if old Arab mores also held them back, they played a prominent role in PA diplomacy, with women Palestinian ambassadors in Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, and Sweden, among other top posts.

Hanan Ashrawi (l) at an International Monetary Fund event (Photo: imf.org)

Annexation plan

Meanwhile, Israeli leaders, who had earlier agreed to start annexing one third of the West Bank from 1 July, appeared in no rush to move ahead on Wednesday, amid divisions in the ruling coalition on how to proceed.

The US, Israel's superpower patron, was in no rush either.

The annexation idea was not necessarily "the answer" to the conflict, but more of "a starting point for negotiations" and an attempt "to start a conversation" on a peace deal, Ronald Gidwitz, the US ambassador to the EU, told EUobserver in Brussels last week.

For his part, EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell echoed the women's call in an op-ed in Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

"It is painful to see the prospect of the two-state solution, the only realistic and sustainable way to end this conflict, at risk," he said.

But when asked if EU institutions were drawing up potential sanctions to deter annexation, Borrell's office told EUobserver on Wednesday that they were focusing on diplomatic outreach instead.

France was more hawkish.

"An annexation decision could not be left without consequences and we are examining different options at a national level and also in coordination with our main European partners," French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the French parliament on Wednesday.

Israeli settler in Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank (Photo: Rosie Gabrielle)

EU options

Le Drian also indicated what the options were in a recent speech in the French senate.

Annexation would jeopardise a 20-year old EU association agreement on Israeli trade and diplomatic perks, he said on 24 June.

It could see Israel expelled from EU projects in Europe's 2021-2027 budget and stronger controls on imports from Israeli-occupied territories, he said.

It could even prompt recognition of Palestinian statehood "at an appropriate time," he added.

"The UK will not recognise any changes to the 1967 lines [existing Israeli borders], except those agreed between both parties," British prime minister Boris Johnson also said, in an op-ed in Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth on Wednesday.

But for its part, Hamas, the Palestinian militant group in power in Gaza, sent its own message on Tuesday, by firing rockets into the sea in a "warning" against the Israeli land-grab, auguring badly for stability and for those Palestinian women for whom escalation would bring more misery.

Luxembourg takes EU lead on Palestine recognition

Luxembourg has stepped up efforts to coordinate an EU reaction to the risk Israel will annex Palestinian territories - but European recognition of Palestine remains a dim prospect.

Opinion

Israel's annexation? - the EU's options

Regrettably, it is no longer a matter of if, but when Israel will begin to annex big parts of Palestine, including the Jordan Valley and all its 131 settlements.

Opinion

Why so few women in EU missions?

Angela Merkel is only the seventh woman to chair the Council of the European Union's meetings. And in 2020 there is no woman leading any of the current 11 European civilian missions (let alone the six military operations).

Opinion

Why is EU rewarding Israel for annexation?

This is a critical moment. The UAE-Israel agreement, welcomed by the European Union, represents a severe blow to the Arab Peace Initiative, writes the diplomatic affairs' adviser for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

Opinion

The UNRWA has run out of money

The UN Agency for Palestine refugees has run out of money. For millions of Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, Covid-19 is two pandemics in one: a health crisis and a pandemic of abject poverty.

News in Brief

  1. Putin holds out olive branch to Europe
  2. US snatched Russian anti-air system from Libya warlord
  3. UK to extradite alleged trafficker to EU despite Brexit
  4. EU puts trust in Boeing 737s after post-crash ban
  5. EU animal-export trade under harsh spotlight
  6. City of London wants to set rules for EU
  7. MEPs want 2030 targets to reduce consumption footprint
  8. Coronavirus cases worldwide pass 100m

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. Poland imposes anti-abortion law amid EU concern
  2. The EU's vaccine strategy - the key points
  3. EU-AstraZeneca row flares up after vaccines shortfall
  4. First Covid, now McKinsey - how austerity hit EU healthcare
  5. Frontex suspends operations in Hungary
  6. Cyprus: a heavy caseload for new EU prosecutors office
  7. MEPs: Portugal 'risks undermining' trust in EU prosecutor
  8. EU to control vaccine exports in row over delays

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us