EU diplomats propose boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israeli colonialism

ActivismIsrael/Palestine
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bethlehemharhoma
The Israeli settlement of Har Homa overlooking Bethlehem. (Photo: IMEMC)

A report sent to the European Union on Monday by its member countries’ top diplomats in Jerusalem and Ramallah proposed state-level boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel’s illegal colonial infrastructure in the occupied West Bank. These recommendations, unprecedented among Western nations, herald a breakthrough for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Like most efforts opposing only the West Bank settlements, they appear somewhat myopic about the state policies of ethnic cleansing and apartheid that stand squarely behind settlers’ walls and guns, while also denying refugees their homes and Palestinian citizens of Israel equality under its laws. But high-level backing for even modest steps can afford many new opportunities. 

The Independent reports:

     The European Commission should consider passing legislation to prevent finance generated within its member states being used to support illegal Israeli settlements in occupied territory, the bloc’s top diplomats in Jerusalem and Ramallah have advised …

    The finance recommendation has been worded with deliberate vagueness to maintain a consensus among sharply differing views within the EU. But the clear implication is that some of the European Consuls General – ambassador-rank representatives to the Palestinians – want the Commission to consider for the first time whether it has an obligation to legislate on the grounds that the settlements contravene international law.

    Under one interpretation of the proposal, the Commission would use legislation to force companies in Europe to break their links with businesses involved in settlement construction and commercial activities. This follows some high-profile voluntary examples like that of Deutsche Bahn, which last year pulled out of electrification of the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem rail link because it cut through the West Bank.

The Guardian says that the document

    calls on the European commission to consider legislation “to prevent/discourage financial transactions in support of settlement activity”.

    Legislation should prohibit trade and business with settlements based on their illegality under international law, rather than a politically-driven boycott, said one EU diplomatic source.

And Ynetnews panics:

The recommendations include the preparation of a “blacklist” of settlers considered violent, in order to later mull the option of banning them from entering the European Union. The document also seeks to encourage more PLO activity and representation in east Jerusalem.

Moreover, the European report advises senior EU figures visiting east Jerusalem to refrain from being escorted by official Israeli representatives or security personnel.

A Western diplomat told Ynet that the Europeans are well aware of the implications of the latest recommendations.

Talk is cheap, of course. But careful organizing and determined action by Palestinians and solidarity activists could make the next steps quicker and more comprehensive. Whatever we think of the two-state “solution” these proposals aim to bolster, they offer us a valuable new arsenal in the struggle against Israeli apartheid.

And speaking of a two-state resolution to Israel’s 63-year occupation of Palestinian land, and ongoing displacement and subjugation of its indigenous people, it appears that these same diplomats, many of whom have spent their lives pursuing it, are nearing despair as its infeasibility becomes undeniable. In an article provocatively entitled “EU on verge of abandoning hope for a viable Palestinian state,” The Independent says:

    The Palestinian presence in the largest part of the occupied West Bank – has been, “continuously undermined” by Israel in ways that are “closing the window” on a two-state solution, according to an internal EU report seen by The Independent …

    With the number of Jewish settlers now at more than double the shrinking Palestinian population in the largely rural area, the report warns bluntly that, “if current trends are not stopped and reversed, the establishment of a viable Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders seem more remote than ever” …

    The 16-page document is the EU’s starkest critique yet of how a combination of house and farm building demolitions; a prohibitive planning regime; relentless settlement expansion; the military’s separation barrier; obstacles to free movement; and denial of access to vital natural resources, including land and water, is eroding Palestinian tenure of the large tract of the West Bank on which hopes of a contiguous Palestinian state depend …

    Area C is one of three zones allocated by the 1993 Oslo agreement. Area A includes major Palestinian cities, and is under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Area B is under shared Israeli-Palestinian control.

    Although Area C is the least populous, the report says “the window for a two-state solution is rapidly closing with the continued expansion of Israeli settlements and access restrictions for Palestinians in Area C [which] compromises crucial natural resources and land for the future demographic and economic growth of a viable Palestinian state”.

    It says the EU needs “at a political” level to persuade Israel to redesignate Area C, but in the meantime it should “support Palestinian presence in, and development of the area”. The report says the destruction of homes, public buildings and workplaces result in “forced transfer of the native population” and that construction is effectively prohibited in 70 per cent of the land – and then in zones largely allocated to settlements of the Israeli military.

While predictably mincing words, the diplomats’ statements coincide with King Abdullah of Jordan, Israel’s last ally in the region, dropping the a-bomb to The Washington Post:

    If we haven’t crossed that line, we’ll cross the line sooner or later where the two-state solution is no longer possible, at which point the only solution is the one-state solution. And then, are we talking about apartheid or democracy?

The French parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee also accused Israel of using water as “a weapon serving the new apartheid” two weeks ago. And all of this comes shortly after Israel’s public condemnation by every bloc of the United Nations Security Council – with the predictable exception of the United States – in December.

As the one-state reality seeps into the world’s consciousness, we can expect increasing numbers of Israel’s current allies to slowly inch – or, perhaps, quickly run – away from it. These developments offer a moment of opportunity, for Palestinians and all supporters of human equality. What can we do but try to make use of it?

About Joe Catron

Joe Catron is a US activist in Gaza, Palestine, where he works with Palestinian groups and international solidarity networks, particularly in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and prisoners' movements. He co-edited The Prisoners' Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, an anthology of accounts by detainees freed in the 2011 prisoner exchange, blogs at joecatron.wordpress.com and tweets at @jncatron.

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5 Responses

  1. American
    January 19, 2012, 1:42 pm

    Looks like a baby BDS statement. A baby step…boycotting the settlements instead of Israel itself.
    I don’t doubt the EU would like to be stronger on Israel but so far they have haven’t been willing to use their teeth.
    Still it’s better to have statement like this from the EU, along with all the other statements and warnings to Israel previously to build on, when and if Israel pushes their last button also and the statements become calls for sanctions on Israel itself.
    I don’t think they are ignoring the Palestine plight in this, after all that is the main issue with Israel.
    They are, like I said taking baby steps. But will probably be a day late and dollar short as always.

  2. FreddyV
    January 19, 2012, 1:56 pm

    I don’t see why people say the 2SS is no longer viable.

    ’67’ borders. Kick the settlers out. Address the right to return issue. Done.

    I see a 1SS as far less viable with the ingrained racism and mutual distrust. You’ll end up with rich Jews buying land from vulnerable Palestinians.

    It’ll be like going back to the early 20th Century.

    In asking for a One State Solution, you’re asking for a bunch of megalomaniacs with a serious God complex to treat other people equally. That isn’t going to happen and given the ingrained indoctrination they’ve had and total belief that God gave them that land, I think it’s safe to say that as long as my bumhole points downwards, that isn’t going to change.

    The reality will be that Gaza will be Palestine.

  3. pabelmont
    January 19, 2012, 4:29 pm

    FreddyV says it all when he says: “I don’t see why people say the 2SS is no longer viable. ’67′ borders. Kick the settlers out. Address the right to return issue. Done.”

    UNSC-465 (1980) demanded that the (then) settlers be removed and the (then) settlements be dismantled.

    The EU should lead the way to [1] make the same demand agin, today, w.r.t. to today’s much worse situation and [2] to impose such sanctions as seem proper to achieve this.

    But we must also call for removal of the wall, lifting the siege of Gaza, renmoval of internal check-points. And as FreddyV says, address the question of “return”. To this list one must add, equitable sharing of water.

  4. Peacefan
    January 20, 2012, 12:47 am

    What’s incredible is that there is not mention of this in French speaking medias. At the exception of the assembly report on water, nothing, neither in left nor right press.

  5. Justice Please
    January 22, 2012, 7:19 pm

    I appreciate the effort by those diplomats. Unfortunately, mainstream politicians and media figures in the key EU countries (Germany, France, UK) are just as uncapable of treating Israel as they would have treated South Africa as are their counterparts in the US.

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