The Electronic Intifada / May 19, 2021
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, is now posing as Mr. Ceasefire.
Ending the violence in Palestine is his priority, he has claimed.
I am old enough to remember Thursday of last week. Then, Borrell implicitly gave his backing to Israel’s attack on Gaza.
Borrell had what he called a “long and honest” conversation with Gabi Ashkenazi, the Israeli foreign minister, that day. During the call, Borrell stressed that the EU supported Israel’s “security” and condemned Hamas.
Israel’s “response” to Hamas’ rockets should “avoid civilian casualties,” he tweeted.
Whatever he said to Ashkenazi, Borrell’s tweet was extremely dishonest.
He framed the unfolding events as Hamas launching rockets and Israel retaliating.
The truth was that Israeli police had fired on Palestinians in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque on Monday last week and in the days before.
That was an act of aggression to which Hamas responded. Israel used Hamas’ response as a pretext for launching its latest assault on Gaza.
So when Borrell was reaffirming his support for Israel’s “security,” he was spreading the lie that Israel was simply defending itself.
Besides, who was Borrell trying to impress with his call for the avoidance of civilian casualties?
Gabi Ashkenazi, Borrell’s partner in that “long and honest” chat, has hands that are indelibly stained with civilian blood.
Ashkenazi was the head of Israel’s military during Operation Cast Lead, the attack on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.
Most of the 1,400 Palestinians killed in that offensive were non-combatants. More than 300 of them were children.
Borrell’s call for a ceasefire has been endorsed by all EU governments, bar Hungary. By refusing to join the chorus, Hungary – led by the right-wing demagogue Viktor Orban – has carved out a niche as Israel’s top European ally.
That does not make the other EU states reasonable or humane.
If the EU was a reasonable or humane club, it would ensure that Israel pays a price for its slaughter and suffocation of Palestinians.
The EU has plenty of options available.
The EU could halt the trade in weapons with Israel.
The EU could kick Israel out of its scientific research activities.
The EU could withdraw the trade preferences it has granted to Israel.
The EU could end the smear campaign run by some of its prominent officials against the Palestine solidarity movement.
Because it will not take any of these measures, the EU is – quite literally – allowing Israel get away with murder.
Josep Borrell himself has a habit of pandering to Israel’s army of lobbyists.
From a freedom of information request, I obtained a letter which Borrell’s office sent to Daniel Schwammental, the American Jewish Committee’s representative in Brussels, following that accusation.
Rather than taking umbrage, Borrell’s office sought to assure Schwammenthal that EU diplomats shared his views.
In the letter – see below – Borrell’s office praised Donald Trump, then the US president, albeit without naming him. The US, according to the letter, had played a “constructive role” by brokering a normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Such deals were a deliberate ploy to divert attention away from the Palestinian struggle for justice and equality. They were not driven by a desire for “peace” but by far baser motives such as convincing Arab states to buy arms that Israel has tested on Palestinians.
By endorsing those deals, the EU was trying to find new clients for Israel’s weapons industry. Perhaps that is what the American Jewish Committee meant with its plea to move away from “archaic thinking.”
Daniel Schwammenthal previously worked as an editor with The Wall Street Journal. He should be denounced by journalist unions for endorsing violence against his former profession.
When Israel destroyed a tower hosting a number of media organizations in Gaza last weekend, Schwammenthal applauded. He described a building where reporters and camera operators were based as a “legitimate military target.”
Through those contemptible remarks, Schwammenthal proved he is a dangerous extremist. That probably guarantees Borrell and his entourage will pander to him even more.
David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada; his books include Balfour’s Shadow: A Century of British Support for Zionism and Israel and Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation