Saturday

4th Feb 2023

Opinion

Was the EU's response to Shireen Abu Aklek's funeral enough?

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The assassination of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was widely condemned, especially by the European Union.

The image of the EU Representative in Palestine trying to mediate for Israeli Occupation Forces to allow the funeral to take place entered almost every Palestinian home.

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As did the brutal attacks against those carrying the coffin at the French Hospital; against the vehicle transporting it; against the mourners that were leaving the Catholic church of Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem's Old City; against the gathering where the family was receiving condolences and the thousands that were prevented from joining the procession due to Israel's movement restrictions.

Despite the efforts of European diplomats on the ground and the strong statements coming out from Brussels and other European capitals, Israel did exactly what it wanted.

The aggressions were mainly motivated by the fact that the mourners had raised Palestinian flags to bid farewell to a Palestinian hero brutally murdered.

Palestinian flag ban

This week the Israeli parliament went one step ahead, voting on a resolution to ban the Palestinian flag. Only 16 votes were cast against, mainly from Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The European Union could do much more than leaving its representative to Palestine alone in trying to remind Israel, the occupying power, of its obligations under international law.

This begins by messaging — a simple analysis of the EU delegations to Israel and Palestine shows that both have radically different approaches: while those in Palestine focus on human rights and respect for international law, those in Israel seem to consider Israel's colonial-settlement occupation of Palestine, and its apartheid regime, a secondary issue to economic matters.

In other words, the EU delegation in Tel Aviv sends a message to Israelis that grave and systematic human rights violations are not a priority and that nobody will be held accountable.

This is similar to what the speaker of the European parliament Roberta Metsola told the Israeli parliament last month.

We were astonished to see her avoid referring to the Israeli occupation and daily crimes and violations.

She even ignored that over 20-percent of Israel's population are Palestinian citizens and centred her address to Israeli Jews, who were pleased to see someone, despite of the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports on Israel's apartheid policies, decided to claim that Europe and Israel share "common values".

Of course, justice for Shireen Abu Akleh was not part of the statement from someone who should be truly concerned about Israel's systematic violation of basic principles of their agreements with the EU, including Article 2 of the Association Agreement that conditions its implementation to respecting human rights.

What we see is that the emphasis on accountability from Brussels takes place only against the Palestinian people.

The anti-Palestinian obsession of commissioner Oliver Varhelyi has succeeded in preventing Palestinian hospitals from receiving European funds. This is not very different to what the Trump Administration did.

Palestinian textbooks issue

The worst part of it is that his attacks against the Palestinian government, particularly with regards to Palestinian textbooks, are largely based on right-wing Israeli think tanks and even settlers rather than what impartial reports have shown.

In 2022 the voice of Israeli settlers seems to be more considered by some in Brussels than what Amnesty International says about Israeli apartheid policies. Regretfully, this does not stop there.

Some of the favourite ministers in the current government by their European counterparts, including Yair Lapid and Omer Barlev, have contributed to the misinformation campaign around the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh and supported the fascist march that took place in Occupied East Jerusalem.

In Barlev's case, a Labor Party member, he himself approved a demonstration last Sunday that involved turning parts of Occupied East Jerusalem into a violent riot with thousands of radical Zionists shouting "Death to the Arabs".

Only one day after this took place, the German minister of interior Nancy Faeser was seen smiling meeting Barlev, committing to more cooperation.

Did she ask about his role in the attacks against Shireen Abu Aklek's funeral? About how Christians were prevented from reaching the Holy Sepulchre at Easter? About the attacks against Al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan? I think we all know the answer.

It is difficult to explain to our people how the EU made immediate use of all diplomatic tools at its avail in the case of Ukraine after five days of conflict but has avoided to do the same in Palestine during the past 74 years.

Europe cannot continue to avoid to assume its responsibilities in Palestine.

This avoidance undermines the whole concept of a multilateral rules-based world order. With the case of Shireen Abu Akleh the EU had an opportunity to revert this path.

Regretfully, it has exhibited a lack of political will to take any kind of action — and Israel knows that well.

Author bio

Sami Abu Shehadeh is a Israeli-Arab MP from the Joint List in the Israeli Knesset.

Disclaimer

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

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