European ex-prime ministers condemn Trump plan as apartheid

Why do European leaders find the courage to condemn Israeli apartheid and other abuses only when they are no longer in office? (Mosab Shawer APA images)

Ali Abunimah

The Electronic Intifada  /   February 27, 2020

Why do European leaders find the courage to condemn Israeli apartheid and other abuses only when they are no longer in office?

Fifty former leaders from across Europe have condemned President Donald Trump’s recently released “peace plan” as akin to apartheid.

In a letter published by The Guardian on Thursday, they say the so-called Deal of the Century violates numerous UN resolutions and “the most fundamental principles of international law.”

“The map featured in the plan proposes Palestinian enclaves under permanent Israeli military control, which evoke chilling associations with South Africa’s bantustans,” the leaders add.

Bantustans were a series of impoverished reservations where South Africa’s white supremacist government tried to force millions of Black people to live.

The racist rulers hoped that the world would accept these reservations as “independent states,” and take the pressure off the apartheid regime to grant full, equal rights to Black people.

The signatories include former prime ministers of Norway, Ireland, Sweden, Poland, Italy, France and Croatia, as well as Jacques Santer, the former president of the European Commission – the European Union’s executive.

Dozens of former cabinet ministers back the statement, which declares that the Trump plan “is not a roadmap to a viable two-state solution, nor to any other legitimate solution to the conflict.”

Instead, it “envisages a formalization of the current reality in the occupied Palestinian territory, in which two peoples are living side by side without equal rights. Such an outcome has characteristics similar to apartheid – a term we don’t use lightly.”

The ex-leaders nonetheless welcome the European Union’s “continued commitment to a two-state solution.”

Endorsing this moribund approach hardly shows imagination – although the earlier reference that another “legitimate solution to the conflict” may exist suggests a belated openness among some to a single, democratic state.

After all, if the diagnosis is apartheid, then the known solution is not ethnic partition into separate states but equal rights, restitution and decolonization in a unified state that defends the rights of all its citizens.

The former leaders also say they support the EU’s recent declaration that further Israeli annexation of Palestinian land “could not pass unchallenged.”

But as I have noted, the EU has had decades to act against Israel’s crimes. Instead, it continues to reward and incentivize further Israeli violations.

We are long past the time when coy hints that action will come at some undefined future point are of any use.

Given the massive complicity of the EU and its member states in Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, only actions to end this complicity should be taken seriously.

These senior European figures must demand that their governments take such action, and they should support the civil society movements in their countries calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions until Israel ends its occupation, apartheid and settler-colonialism.

Still, the statement by the former leaders contains some strong words – especially coming from typically timid European politicians.

However, it begs the question of why these leaders are only able to muster their courage to speak out when they are no longer in power.

Where was their clear-eyed thinking about apartheid when they could have done something, instead of collectively spending decades in governments aiding and abetting Israel’s crimes?

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The
Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.