The Electronic Intifada / September 2, 2022
That the European Union adores Israel should come as no surprise to anyone.
But in case anyone had doubts, the bloc’s regional “peace process” envoy Sven Koopmans [Dutch background; NPK] decided to make that clear in an op-ed for Haaretz this week.
Almost every sentence oozes with praise and deference for the apartheid regime – Koopmans of course never uses the A-word.
“As Israel’s neighbor, historic friend and largest trading partner, enjoying excellent cooperation in technology, education and much more, we care,” Koopmans says. “Europeans understand Israel’s security concerns. The EU strongly supports Israel’s right to fight terrorism, within full respect of its international human rights obligations.”
That’s a license for Israel to freely kill Palestinians – since the EU has never held Israel to any international human rights obligations. Meanwhile, Koopmans never acknowledges the right of Palestinians to resist occupation and colonization.
“We have a positive agenda: we do not aim to criticize; we want to help,” he adds, as if talking to a stubborn teenager, and not the cold-hearted war-criminal leaders of a brutal settler-colonial regime.
There is the very slightest hint that something is troubling the EU’s love affair with Tel Aviv: “Yet the Israeli-Arab conflict and the occupation of Palestinian land still limit our potential,” Koopmans admits. “The EU wants to help lift that burden. So we have to face some concrete questions.”
The “burden” he wants to lift is not so much from the necks of Palestinians, but from Israel and the EU.
A mysterious “situation”
What follows is a version of the usual liberal Zionist nonsense that “peace” and ending the occupation is first and foremost best for Israel and its precious soul, and might even be good for Palestinians too.
Koopmans does acknowledge that Palestinians suffer, but he equates them with their oppressors and nowhere holds Israel accountable for inflicting this suffering.
“We see tensions throughout the Holy Land, terrorist attacks in Israeli cities, hopelessness and death in Gaza, killings in the West Bank, settler violence, and a Western world increasingly critical of a situation that keeps millions of Palestinians, with ever less land, under a seemingly endless occupation,” he says.
It’s apparently not Israel that keeps millions of Palestinians under occupation and without rights, but some mystical “situation.”
Koopmans appears to be skirting around how much of the world – the “Western world” being the latecomers – understands that Israel is a settler-colonial regime that perpetrates the crime against humanity of apartheid.
So what’s the solution that Koopmans comes up with? Is it to demand the implementation of the countless UN resolutions that hold Israel in violent contempt of international law? Is it to impose costs on Israel for refusing to do so?
Is it to defend and uphold the rights of all Palestinians, especially refugees whom Israel bars from returning home solely because they are not Jews? In fact, Koopmans doesn’t mention international law at all.
Instead he urges that “those who are of goodwill need to work together to envisage a comprehensive peace, including Israelis, Palestinians and, in fact, the entire region.”
What he comes up with is the jargon of a management consultant, or perhaps a self-help guru: “Indeed, let us reverse-engineer the solution. Rather than draw another road map, let’s together start drafting the destination – even when essential parts of it can only be identified by Israelis and Palestinians, and probably only once they themselves have almost arrived.”
What does come through is this: When it comes to Israel, international law doesn’t count. We can throw it all out the window and treat the perpetrator and the victim as equals and equal stakeholders. The lamb must “negotiate” with the wolf, and the mouse with the hawk.
This is of course not the approach that the EU has taken towards the Russian invasion of Ukraine – which officials in Brussels denounce at every opportunity. The EU has, along with its masters in Washington, imposed unprecedented sanctions aimed – so far unsuccessfully – at crushing Russia’s economy. And they are funneling fighters and billions of dollars of weapons to help Ukrainians fight back.
The double standard is very obvious even to those who work inside the halls of Brussels.
Last month, Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief – and Koopmans’ boss – admitted as much in an interview with El País.
“Unlike Ukraine, the EU has been much less assertive with the conflict in Gaza,” the Spanish newspaper put it to the top European diplomat.
“Resolving the situation of the people trapped in that open-air prison that is Gaza is not in the hands of the EU. It is a scandalous situation, a shame, but it is not in our hands to solve it,” Borrell responded, simultaneously acknowledging the horror the EU’s Israeli friends subject Palestinians to, while at the same time absolving Europe of responsibility.
As if a mere bystander, Borrell wrings his hands that “The international community should find a solution for the crowded people, without electricity, almost without drinking water.”
“We are often criticized for having double standards,” Borrell adds. “But international politics is largely the administration of double standards. We do not face all problems with the same criteria.”
If that’s not bad enough, here is the punchline from this joke of a diplomat: “There is no solution to the conflict in the Middle East without a very strong commitment on the part of the United States.”
Borrell is admitting that the EU can only follow orders from Washington and has no – or is not willing to assert – any freedom of action. If that’s the case, why should anyone take him or Koopmans’ invitation to talk about “peace” seriously?
As for Koopmans, in a tweet promoting his Haaretz article, he asserts that “The EU is a close friend of Israel, as well as of the Palestinians.”
The first half of that sentence is undoubtedly true. But Koopmans and his accomplices in Brussels are no friends of the Palestinian people.
The proper description for people who do that is enemies.
Ali Abuniamah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine (Haymarket Books)