Monday

25th Mar 2019

Despite heavy lobbying, EU parliament endorses Goldstone report

Despite an intensive lobbying effort on the part of European Jewish groups, the European Parliament has endorsed the Goldstone report, the UN's official investigation into the bombardment of the Gaza Strip in January 2009, a report that accuses Israel of war crimes and calls for the prosecution of Israeli officials in the Hague.

In a 335-to-287 vote splitting the house between left and right, MEPs backed a joint resolution from the centre left, far left, Greens and Liberals calling on the EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and the bloc's member states to "publicly demand the implementation of [the report's] recommendations and accountability for all violations of international law, including alleged war crimes."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • UN building in Gaza on fire after an Israeli bombardment (Photo: Oxfam)

In April, 2009, a team of UN investigators headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, a former member of the South African Constitutional Court and chief prosecutor with the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, was established to look into violations of international human rights law during the Gaza conflict in which Israeli forces killed over 1,400 Palestinians and Hamas killed 13 Israelis.

While the report found that both sides had committed war crimes, Tel Aviv has since attempted to rubbish the document, an effort that has met with success in the US Congress, which last November passed a resolution calling the report "irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy."

EU parliamentary deputies in recent days have been inundated by lobbying emails from the European Jewish Congress over the vote. A spokesperson for the group told this website that it had been "definitely a really major effort by the EJC, but it's only a work in progress and there's still a lot of work to do."

Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, which represents 42 Jewish organisations on the continent, warned in one letter: "It appears inconceivable that while the United Nations itself hasn't yet officially adopted this report, the European Parliament, in this motion for a resolution, calls for and demands its implementation."

He said that if the European Parliament backed the document, it would give it its most important international endorsement yet.

Mr Kantor travelled to Israel last week to meet with foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman to strategise over the vote.

On Tuesday afternoon, the level of lobbying had reached such an extent that Irish socialist MEP Proinsias de Rossa, the chair of the chamber's Palestinian Legislative Council liaison delegation, sent around his own email encouraging deputies not to buckle under the pressure.

"You are being bombarded with mails at present seeking to undermine your support for the the Goldstone Report in the vote tomorrow," he said.

"Tomorrow's vote is a test of the credibility of this parliament's commitment to human rights irrespective of political considerations," he continued. "The joint resolution is a fair and balanced position negotiated by all the main political groups. I appeal to you to support it."

All the major groups in the house had originally agreed to a compromise resolution on the subject in a meeting last Thursday, but by Monday, the centre-right grouping, the European People's Party, which traditionally has been the most sympathetic to the Israeli perspective in the conflict, pulled out of the agreement, blocking the joint text.

In the end, even the EPP draft still endorsed the Goldstone report, but did not go so far as to criticise Israel's blockade of supplies to the Gaza Strip or make mention of reported intimidation of NGOs in the wake of the conflict.

The resolution backed by the centre and left of the house however "expresses its concern about pressure placed on NGOs involved in the preparation of the Goldstone report and in follow-up investigations, and calls on authorities on all sides to refrain from any measures restricting the activities of these organisations."

Close call

As recently as yesterday, the EJC thought it had won the lobbying battle. A report that appeared on Wednesday morning in Israeli daily Haaretz described how all the party grouping leaders had backtracked from their demands that the Goldstone recommendations be implemented as a result of lobbying by European Jewish leaders and that the EPP counter-resolution was most likely to be endorsed instead.

David Lundy, a spokesperson for the United Left grouping in the parliament, which has long championed the Palestinian cause, said he was surprised to see the parliament withstand the lobbying pressure.

"I think it was the Gaza bombing that did it, especially after the fact-finding missions [from the parliament]. After all that I think people found it just impossible not to denounce what had happened."

The EJC's Mr Kantor said following the vote that his organisation was disappointed in the result and that it threatened EU participation in the Middle East peace process.

"Blaming the conflict and placing the onus for it on Israel, as the report does, will push the Palestinians further away from the negotiating table and make them more recalcitrant, believing they can use international bodies to fight Israel's case rather than reaching a negotiated solution," he said.

However, with over 45 percent of deputies voting against the resolution, he said he was pleased at his organisation's efforts. "We can see our lobbying efforts bore fruit due to the fact that the resolution passed by only a narrow margin, and not the consensus that was expected," Mr Kantor said. "This shows that we are on the right track."

The Israeli mission to the EU called the result counterproductive towards reconciliation in the Middle East: "While the other players are striving to find ways to support the peace process, and as 'proximity talks' are about to start between Israel and the Palestinians, the European Parliament chooses to concentrate on a highly controversial issue, one that has already been deliberated in other fora."

Name row on new EU sanctions exposes deeper rift

EU officials have voiced scepticism on proposed new human rights sanctions, amid a "nasty" debate to what extent Russia ought to be named and shamed in the title of the new measures.

Hopeless Gaza Strip ripe for Islamic State, says UN head

Fears are mounting that more extreme militants, possibly linked to the Islamic State, will gain a foothold in the Gaza Strip as trapped youth lose all sense of hope in a conflict that is on the verge of boiling over.

Investigation

Leaked document sheds light on Turkey's 'controlled coup'

More than two years after the failed putsch, evidence is trickling out to support what the EU initially suspected - that Erdogan knew what was going to happen and let it go ahead as a pretext to create one-man rule.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us