27th Feb 2024

US and EU civil servants call to end diplomatic support for Israel

  • In a call for peace, 100 leading politicians, artists and scholars also called to impose an EU embargo on weapons sales to Israel (Photo: UNRWA)
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More than 800 serving US and European civil servants have called for an end to their governments' diplomatic and military support for Israel, saying the US and EU risked contributing "to grave violations of international law, war crimes and even ethnic cleansing or genocide."

In an unprecedented joint statement, seen by EUobserver, the officials said Israel had shown "no boundaries" in its military operations in Gaza, "which has resulted in tens of thousands of preventable civilian deaths; and… the deliberate blocking of aid… putting thousands of civilians at risk of starvation and slow death."

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Western public, diplomatic and military support to Israel had been given without "real conditions or accountability" and when faced with humanitarian catastrophe, "our governments have failed to call for an immediate ceasefire and an end to blockages of necessary food/water/medicine in Gaza," the civil servants said.

The unusual transatlantic initiative comes only days after more than 1,500 EU staffers said their governments were in breach of EU treaties in their failure to stop Israel's devastation of Gaza.

Both statements signal growing anger, frustration and dissent within US and EU administrations over their governments' support for Israel's unrelenting offensive on Gaza and their failure to listen to internal advice and concerns because of "political and ideological considerations".

Warning against Western double standards, the letter insists that Israel must be held "accountable to international humanitarian and human rights standards applied elsewhere" and the US and the EU must "forcefully respond to attacks against civilians, as we are doing in our support to the Ukrainian people".

It adds: "This includes demanding immediate and full implementation of the recent order of the International Court of Justice".

States must use "all leverage available — including a halt to military support — to secure a lasting ceasefire and full humanitarian access in Gaza and a safe release of all hostages", it says.

Irish assent

Indicating that at least some EU governments are listening to critics, Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar added his voice to those asking for a suspension of the EU-Israel cooperation pact.

"EU-Israeli relations are founded on an agreement which has a human rights clause, and a lot of us believe that Israel may be in breach of it," Varadkar told reporters following an EU summit. "That's something we're talking about."

Varadkar also said the EU was also considering a possible joint recognition of a Palestinian state after the current conflict in Gaza.

Belgium summons Israeli ambassador

Meanwhile, Belgian foreign minister Hadja Lahbib said she had summoned the Israeli ambassador to express "strong condemnation" of the destruction of Belgian development aid agency Enabel's offices in Gaza.

"Attacks on civilian infrastructure breach the principles of international humanitarian law. All parties must adhere to it, Lahbib warned.

In a call for peace, 100 leading politicians, artists and scholars also asked Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo, as current EU presidency chair, to impose an EU embargo on weapons sales to Israel and insisted European governments had a legal obligation to "put an end to the serious known violation of the rules of international law."

Separately, The Elders group of independent global leaders set up by South African president Nelson Mandela called on all donors to resume UNRWA immediately in the face of an ever-worsening humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

Demanding more honesty from their leaders, signatories of the transatlantic letter said American and European politicians must "stop asserting to the public that there is a strategic and defensible rationale behind the Israeli operation and that supporting it is in our countries' interests." Their focus instead should be on developing a strategy for lasting peace that includes a secure Palestinian state and guarantees for Israel's security, so that an attack like 7 October and an offensive on Gaza never happen again.

Meanwhile on Friday, the US state department release the names of four Israeli citizens now subject to US sanctions for their roles in inciting violence against Palestinians in the West Bank since the invasion of Gaza. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately responded that the measures were "unnecessary".

Author bio

Shada Islam is an EUobserver columnist.


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EU commission silent on Israeli evidence into UNRWA

Asked if they had received any evidence from the Israelis, the European Commission skirted the question. Instead, they said it is up to Israel to communicate if and with whom they shared the evidence.


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Despite the high risk of dying from war, starvation or disease, Gazans are still not allowed to enter Egypt. Except those who bribe the authorities. And the EU mission EUBAM Rafah cannot be deployed due to security reasons.

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