Palestinian civil society organizations urgently call on European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, as well as European Union (EU) leaders to demand that Israel that it respect its obligations under international law, that it cease its deliberate targeted attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza, including with white phosphorus, that it end all forms of collective punishment, that it he lifts the illegal blockade on Gaza for 16 years and cancels the evacuation orders imposed on more than a million Palestinians. At a minimum, the EU must put pressure on Israel to facilitate the free passage of humanitarian consignments through Gaza to enable the immediate delivery of basic necessities essential to the survival of the population, including food, water and medicines. The EU’s double standards and support for Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people must end now.
On October 7, 2023, Israel launched a real military offensive on the Gaza Strip, aiming to erase the territory and reduce it to ruins. Under international humanitarian law, “the only legitimate aim that States must strive to achieve in time of war is to weaken the military forces of the enemy.” In pursuit of this objective, “the right of the parties to the conflict to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited.”
The absolute silence of EU leaders on Israel’s atrocities in Gaza and their blind support for Israel indicate that the EU is green-lighting, enabling and encouraging Israel’s military actions, which can already be equated with war crimes, crimes against humanity and incitement to commit genocide.
During an Israeli government meeting held on Saturday, October 7, 2023, May Golan, Israeli Minister for the Advancement of Women, announced the following: “All infrastructure in Gaza must be destroyed down to the foundations. and the electricity must be cut off immediately. The war is not against Hamas but against the State of Gaza.” Later in the evening, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “I say to the people of Gaza: get out of there now, because we will act everywhere and with all necessary force. »
These statements unequivocally reflect the intention – which has become reality – to bomb Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, by treating the entire territory as a single military objective, in violation of the sacrosanct principles of law. international humanitarian. Palestinian civilians, including a million children, are trapped in Gaza, without shelter, without food, without water, without electricity and with crippled infrastructure that risks collapsing at any moment.
And yet, despite the clear evidence of Israel’s intention to perpetrate serious international crimes against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, the response of the EU and the majority of its member states has been to see only one side, to the point of being complicit in Israel’s international crimes. The international community turned a blind eye to the 2,215 Palestinians, including at least 724 children and 458 women, killed by Israeli attacks in Gaza, and to the other 8,714 injured, including at least 2,450 children and 1,536 women. Entire Palestinian families have been decimated. Dozens of bodies are still under the rubble and Israel has transformed Gaza from a prison to an open-air morgue.
The President of the European Commission, Mrs von der Leyen, sharingimages of the Berlaymont building, which houses the headquarters of this institution, illuminated in the colors of the Israeli flag, while announcingthat it supported Israel’s right to defend itself, “today and in the days to come”, and that “the European Union stands with Israel”. As of this writing, President Von der Leyen has not issued a single statement calling on Israel to uphold its international legal obligations or denouncing the egregious international crimes committed by Israel in Gaza. The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, and several EU member states have displayed similar unilateral support.
On October 9, 2023, Yoav Gallant, Israeli Defense Minister, declared: “We are imposing a complete siege on (Gaza). No electricity, no food, no water, no fuel – everything is closed. We fight human animals and we act accordingly.” This declaration, which contains genocidal remarks dehumanizing the Palestinian people by calling them “human animals”, should alert the international community to Israel’s desire to commit acts of genocide and trigger a strong reaction from the EU under its duty of prevention under international law.
On October 19, 2022, in front of the European Parliament, Ms von der Leyen declared :
“Russia’s attacks on civilian infrastructure, particularly electricity, are war crimes. Targeted attacks on civilian infrastructure, with the obvious aim of depriving men, women and children of water, electricity and heating as winter approaches, are acts of pure terror. And we must qualify them as such.”
No similar statement has been made regarding Israel’s cutting off electricity, food, water, fuel and medicine to Gaza. This glaring disparity highlights the shameful double standards of European leaders, who seem to view the lives of Palestinians as second-class, thereby reinforcing the reality of apartheid.
On October 13, 2023, the same day that Israel asked more than a million civilians in northern Gaza to evacuate their homes to areas south of Wadi Gaza, Ursula von der Leyen and Roberta Metsola met with leaders Israelis. As thousands of Palestinians were forced from their homes in the largest forced displacement since the Nakba1948, European leaders were photographed shaking hands with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
We remember that earlier this year, Ursula von der Leyen celebrated Israel’s Independence Day using racist tropes, denying the Palestinian Nakba, the mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that laid the groundwork for the State of Israel. Once again, as a contemporary Nakba unfolds before our eyes, President Von der Leyen is not only ignoring it, she is facilitating it with her statements and her presence in the region.
For decades, our organizations have called on the EU to impose sanctions on Israel, in line with the EU’s comprehensive human rights sanctions regime, for its crimes against the Palestinians, including intentional killings, mass arbitrary arrests, administrative detentions without due process, appropriation of property, destruction, forcible transfer, transfer of settlers, collective punishment, persecution and apartheid, among others . All our calls went unheeded. However, less than 48 hours after the start of the Israeli attack in Gaza, European Commissioner Mr Varhelyi announcementunilaterally and arbitrarily that the European Commission intended to reduce its aid to Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This statement was later retracted by the Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Mr Josep Borrell. However, other EU member states have individually decided to reduce, review or suspend their aid, including Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Austria.
We call on the President of the European Commission, Ursula von Der Leyen, and the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, to denounce without reservation Israel’s indiscriminate military reprisals against Palestinian civilians and civilian objects in Gaza, and to intervene to protect the Palestinian people against Israel’s incitement to genocide.
European leaders must firmly press Israel, the occupying power, to respect its obligations under international law, including guaranteeing vital supplies of water, gas, fuel, electricity and basic goods to Palestinians in Gaza , and for it to cease all attacks against civilians and civilian installations. European leaders also have a duty to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and collective punishment of civilians, including by publicly and unconditionally supporting the ongoing investigation by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
For the violence to end, European leaders must address and eradicate the root causes of the current violence, namely the Israeli colonial enterprise and the seven-decade-long oppression of the Palestinian people. The Israeli army must fully, unconditionally and immediately withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territory, as required by numerous resolutions of the Security Council and the United Nations General Assembly. The EU must intervene to ensure that Israel dismantles its discriminatory apartheid regime, including by repealing all discriminatory laws and facilitating the right of return and self-determination of the Palestinian people.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
The Palestinian Institute for Public Diplomacy (PIPD)
Bisan Center for Research and Development
Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)
Health Work Committees (HWC)
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy – MIFTAH
Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man
Defense for Children International – Palestine
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights
Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling – WCLAC
The BDS Movement (Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions)
Translated by: AFPS