19th Jun 2021


We Palestinians are looking to the EU to uphold our rights

  • Israeli-Arabs are about 1.8 million people, equivalent to over 20 percent of Israel's population. But despite being such a significant part of the country's population we still seem not to be part of the EU calculations (Photo: Amir Farshad Ebrahimi)

On Tuesday (18 May) the European Union foreign ministers will be having an emergency session on the situation of Israel and Palestine.

At the same time the Palestinian people is having a strike all over historic Palestine, from the Palestinian citizens of Israel to the occupied Palestinian territory.

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I don't remember when the last time we had something like this.

But what I certainly know is that the Palestinian people, all Palestinians, are mobilised demanding their rights as well as international protection. This is the beginning of a new scenario that many were not prepared for, one where the European Union and its member states have a major role to play.

Up until now the European Union has taken a principled position based on the two-state solution.

We all know the countless statements about the illegality of Israel's colonial-settlement enterprise in the occupied Palestinian territory, home demolitions, evictions and other policies conducted by the occupying power.

Such positions set the right framework to deal with the Israeli occupation, yet some argue little has been done to implement this vision on the ground. Some may argue though that Europe's position allows it to play a role in the peace process as it sets the principles for a solution, including the non-recognition of any changes made by the Israeli occupation through the ongoing annexation process.

But today's strike was not initiated in the state of Palestine but among Israel's Palestinian citizens.

We are about 1.8 million people, equivalent to over 20 percent of Israel's population. We are the survivors and descendants that remained in the country after the Nakba of 1948.

But being such a significant part of the country's population we still seem not to be part of the EU calculations.

Let's put it simply: the Israeli government doesn't represent the interests of the Palestinian citizens of the state and so it could barely express, for example, the reasons why over the past few weeks Israeli right-wing extremists and security forces have attacked Palestinian citizens as we took over the streets to peacefully demonstrate in support of our people in Jerusalem and Gaza.

As a result of the current situation we asked the United Nations for international protection.

The UN Human Rights commissioner Dr Michelle Bachelet issued a clear statement calling upon Israel to deal with all its citizens with equality, including with regards to protection regardless of national, ethnic or religious origin.

If the EU had presented a public position, it would have contributed to our protection.

We believe it is the right moment for the EU and its member states to assess whether the current framework of relations ensures respect for human rights and international law.

For example the EU-Israel Action Plan says its "based on shared values of democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms", and the EU-Israel Association Agreement says that "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".

Could anyone argue that such principles are respected when it comes to the Israeli occupation of Palestine or the situation of the Palestinian citizens of Israel?

In Israel there are at least 65 laws that only discriminate against the Palestinian citizens. One of the most prominent of those racist laws is the "Jewish-nation state law" that provides the institutional basis to ensure Jewish supremacy over Palestinian citizens.

Crime of apartheid

We look up to the EU and know that those are not values they could certainly share.

The fact that Palestinian human rights organisations, Israel's Btselem and Human Rights Watch have agreed that Israel commits the crime of apartheid on both sides of the 'Green Line' should also be addressed.

We believe the EU should bring the issue of Palestinian citizens of Israel as a priority for their bilateral relations with country.

It is important to accept the principle that all Palestinians have to have their rights fulfilled, and this does not go just by ending the occupation that began in 1967 but also by the state of Israel becoming the state of all its citizens regardless of national, ethnic or religious identity, thus achieving equality for all its citizens.

As European foreign ministers will be meeting to talk about Israel and Palestine, Palestinians from both sides of the Green Line will be demonstrating for their rights.

Bombs falling over Gaza and checkpoints around Jerusalem won't stop us. We are all saying enough: Enough occupation, enough racism, enough apartheid.

And we are looking towards the European Union, Israel's main trade partner, to take the moral, legal and political steps that are required to fulfil the rights of everyone, securing the chances for a just and lasting peace.

Author bio

Sami Abou Shehadeh is a Palestinian historian, member of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) for the Joint List. and member of Tajamu/Balad.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.


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