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23rd Jul 2021

Interview

EU impunity for Israel creating 'horror' in Gaza

  • Hanan Ashrawi with former European Commission president Jacques Delors (c) and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 1993 (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Impunity from international sanctions is allowing Israel to create "horror" in Gaza, Hanan Ashrawi, a former top Palestinian official, has said.

"There's constant, constant shelling and bombing - by air, by sea, by land. You have tanks, warships, you have F-16s and so we have, so far, over 180 people killed, more than 50 of them children," she said.

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"Whole families have been eradicated and destroyed," the 74-year old former top official in the Palestine Liberation Organisation and education minister said.

There were also killings in her home town, Ashrawi noted.

"There are demonstrations all the time, protest marches, and the Israelis shoot live ammunition - they've killed people and wounded many others," she said.

"This is in Ramallah. But there are over 200 protests happening in the West Bank, at almost every checkpoint, as well as the serious confrontations in Palestinian areas inside Israel," she added.

Ashrawi spoke amid the worst conflagration in the Arab-Israeli conflict since 2014.

It began a week ago, when Israel tried to evict Palestinian families in a Jerusalem neighbourhood, riots broke out, and Hamas, the militant group which rules Gaza, fired rockets at Israeli towns.

Hamas, which the EU has backlisted as a terrorist entity, has killed 10 Israeli civilians, including two children.

And while Ashrawi underlined she did not want anybody to get hurt, she voiced anger over the extreme imbalance of force.

"They [Israelis] have the Iron Dome [an air-defence system], early-warning sirens, they have shelters ... the Palestinians are defenceless," she said.

"They need protection," she added.

"Somehow people dehumanise us, devalue our lives, or look only at Israel, totally out of context, thinking that Israel is under attack," Ashrawi said.

Even in peacetime, Israeli settlers were killing Palestinians without punishment, she noted.

"Israeli is the occupying power in a state of constant aggression against the Palestinians, acting with cruelty, with violence, in full impunity outside the law," she said.

"This has to stop," Ashrawi said.

The EU has condemned Hamas and urged Israel to show restraint, as it did in past flare-ups in fighting.

EU states also held talks on the crisis at the UN Security Council in New York on Sunday and will do so again via video-link on Tuesday.

But for Ashrawi, talk was cheap.

"They're hoping it [the conflict] will go away. It won't go away. It'll get worse," she said.

"It's going to happen again and again unless you deal with the root cause ... a cruel occupation that has no respect for basic moral standards," she added.

At the same time, the EU recently imposed sanctions on China, Russia, and other countries for human-rights abuses.

And it should also throw the book at Israel if it was serious about EU values, Ashrawi told EUobserver.

"The EU has habitually given Israel time and space to act with impunity and granted it exemption from the force of law, such as EU instruments used against Chinese officials," she told EUobserver.

"There's a long list of Israeli war criminals that should be investigated, clear precedents," she said.

When asked if EU human-rights sanctions could, in theory, name Israelis, an EU foreign service spokesman said: "The human-rights sanctions regime is applicable everywhere where human rights are being violated".

"The only precondition is the willingness of the EU member states to agree - unanimity is required," he added, however.

EU friends

And that was unlikely, given that Israel's EU-veto wielding friends have blocked all sanctions proposals in modern times.

The Gaza bombardment has also prompted antisemitic protests outside synagogues in Germany.

But for Ashrawi, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was partly to blame.

"He succeed in unleashing feelings of antisemitism because he claims to be doing these horrors in the name of Jews everywhere," she said.

The Palestinian diaspora should reach out to "people of conscience" at all levels in EU capitals and in the US to call for international action, she noted.

"We have reached a turning point in which Palestinians everywhere are rising up together and saying: 'Enough is enough, we can't be ignored any more'," she said.

"Palestinians in Jordan, in Lebanon, in Europe, and in the US are rising up to say: 'Palestinian people need to have their rights'," she said.

Agenda

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