Monday

4th Dec 2023

Analysis

MEPs and NGOs decry EU 'double standard' after Hamas attack

  • Gaza City under bombardment. During the last 15 years of the conflict, 95.4 percent of total deaths have been Palestinians, according to the OCHA (Photo: Screengrab/Al-Jazeera)
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EU leaders were quick to react to the weekend's unexpected attack by Hamas from Gaza on Saturday (7 October) — with Israeli flags waved in Brussels as European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen affirmed that "the European Union stands with Israel", and that the brutality of the Hamas incursion left them "breathless".

Many national leaders, plus European mayors enacted a similar response. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and other iconic European buildings were lit up with the colours of the Israeli flag to show their condemnation of the Palestinian attack.

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Nonetheless, little has been said at the official level about the 75 years of Israeli occupation and 18 of permanent blockade of the Gaza Strip which led up to the weekend's massacre and military escalation.

Nor was there mention about the scale to which Israel is hitting back when Palestinians in the Gaza Strip — unlike the majority of Israeli citizens, who hold more than one nationality — have nowhere to go.

That's something that a series of MEPs and NGOs operating across Europe wanted to highlight.

Left MEPs

"Palestine suffers from decades of brutal occupation by the Israeli regime, which practices a policy of ethnic cleansing and apartheid against the native people. [...] That is why I want to emphasise the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to defend themselves against this occupation that has been perpetrated for decades."

This is how Manu Pineda, Spanish MEP from The Left and president of the delegation for relations with Palestine, opened his public letter to von der Leyen, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell and European Parliament president Roberta Metsola, on Monday (9 October).

Palestinian-Spanish MEP Sira Rego, from the same political group, also posted on her social media about the events, remarking that "Palestine has the right to resist after decades of occupation, apartheid and exile".

Indeed, although the current offensive has taken the lives of around 900 Israeli citizens and 680 Palestinians so far, Palestinian deaths during the last 15 years — without counting the current death toll —represent 95.4 percent of both sides' total casualties, according to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA.)

Meanwhile, the Migration Policy Institute states that almost six million Palestinians have had to flee and are now refugees in the Middle East alone.

However, not a word of this has been highlighted, even by the progressive groups in the European Parliament, except from The Left.

The Greens/EFA said they condemned "the violent terrorist attacks by Hamas in the strongest terms, and call for an immediate stop to this violence", and the centre-left Socalists & Democrats that they were "horrified by the terrorist attacks Hamas has committed against innocent Israelis".

EU's double standard?

MEP Rego told EUobserver that the reaction of EU leaders and groups is "disappointing but not surprising". "We see the double standards when the victims are Arabs or Africans," she said, referring to the different narrative that is employed when talking about resistance armed struggles in other conflicts, such as Ukraine.

Condemnation of that double standard is also being made by organisations, platforms, and civil society, across Europe.

"We, who were very quick to take sanctions in the case of the invasion of Ukraine, what have we been waiting for, during 75 years, to take sanctions against the Israeli occupier?" Olivia Zemor, president of the French organisation Euro-Palestine, told EUobserver.

Sylva van Rosse, board member of The Great Middle East Platform, based in Amsterdam, also highlighted this selective morality in a letter to the city's mayor, after it was decided that Amsterdam and other Dutch cities would be waving Israeli flags in solidarity with Israel alone.

"Why is no flag being raised in support of the 2.2 million civilians trapped in the Gaza Strip since 2007? Or as a show of support for the dozens of Palestinian children killed by Jewish settlers in the West Bank alone in 2023? Or as a show of support for the Palestinian citizens of Jerusalem who are losing their homes and their nationality? Or as a show of support for the Bedouins who are being expelled from their land for the umpteenth time?" she wrote.

City demonstrations

Although van Rosse stressed EUobserver that the platform where she works does not react to news or incidents, she claims that "as individuals, we do speak up for justice". With herself having family living in Palestine, she felt unrepresented by her leaders: "can you also represent me and them in your sympathy, please?", she asked.

In fact, a significant section of the European public stands in solidarity with Palestine, with large protests having been held in the last few days in European cities such as Stockholm, Frankfurt, Athens, Belfast and Barcelona, and others being organised soon in Paris, and elsewhere.

Those events seem to back up Irish Left MEP Mick Wallace's response to von der Leyen: "The vast majority of the people of Europe do not support the brutal apartheid state of Israel".

That will all come to the fore later on Tuesday (10 October) at a debate in the European parliament, where a clearer vision of the EU's position following the U-turns on aid to the Palestinians in the past 24 hours may become apparent.

Euro-Palestine spokesperson Zemor encourages EU leaders to look at the broader context.

"The Palestinians, with no solution to their stranglehold and confinement, have managed to break their chains all by themselves. If the Israelis want to live in security, they must stop the occupation and colonisation".

Author bio

Bianca Carrera is a freelance writer and analyst specialising in the Middle Eastern and North Africa, environmental matters, and migration at Sciences Po Paris. She has written for The New Arab, Al Jazeera, Oxfam Intermón, elDiario.es, and others.

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