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Europe’s Disappointing Response to Israeli Annexation of the West Bank

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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A Palestinian man during a protest marking the 72nd anniversary of Nakba and against Israeli plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, in the village of Sawiya near Nablus, May 15, 2020.
A Palestinian man during a protest marking the 72nd anniversary of Nakba and against Israeli plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, in the village of Sawiya near Nablus, May 15, 2020. Credit: Majdi Mohammed,AP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The all-clear has sounded for those who were worried: Israel can annex the West Bank as much as it wants – Europe will not stand in its way. Anyone who thought they could strike fear into our hearts over Europe’s reaction to annexation forgot what Europe is, how paralyzed it is, how coerced, fearful, divided and helpless it is in the face of Israel.

Former Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon, who tweeted after the meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Friday: “Whoever thinks that annexation will pass quietly for us…” can be told: It will indeed pass very quietly. Don’t count on Europe. There’s no one and nothing to count on. Europe, as always, will formulate statements, hold consultations, summon ambassadors – and stand on the sidelines.

How 'God-gate' rocked the settlers’ faith in their evangelical alliesCredit: Haaretz

Classical Europe is neutral Europe, which doesn’t intervene against any injustice Israel commits. We have no expectations from the United States, certainly not under the presidency of Donald Trump, nor under his predecessors for that matter. “Non-Classical” Eastern Europe admiringly supports every violent thing Israel does. The only hope is the northwestern tip of the map, the one Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tends to point to and say: “That’s the only place we have a problem.” That’s the only place where there was hope, we once thought. That’s a disappointment now as well.

The outcome of Friday’s deliberations of foreign ministers is Classical Europe at its worst. “Mapping of joint projects;” “turning a new page” vis a vis the new Israeli government; sanctions are “a complex issue;” and it “doesn’t mean we’ll do it tomorrow.” No surprise there. Fifty-three years of occupation that persists under your silence, your funding, your arms, and the spokesman for EU external affairs tells reporters who ask about sanctions not to put the cart before the horse. There’s time. Fifty-three years of occupation whose legitimacy is recognized by no international institution in the world, and the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell says that there’s no comparison to Russia’s occupation of Crimea. There, the territory belongs to a sovereign state. Israel’s outgoing propaganda minister, Gilad Erdan, could not have put it better. Europe is with the Israeli right. When it came the occupation of Crimea, Europe in fact knew how to respond with action and immediately. But Russia scares Europe much less than Israel does.

When it comes to Israel there are other rules, and a different international law, and different conduct. Fear of the United States on the one hand and guilt over the Holocaust on the other, together with the unbelievable efficiency and extortion efforts of the Zionist propaganda machine, stronger than any obligation to international law, than the obligation that Europe has to the fate of the Palestinians, and stronger than European public opinion, which is much more critical of Israel than any government.

A Palestinian man argues with an Israeli border policewoman during a protest marking the 72nd anniversary of Nakba and against Israeli plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, in the village of Credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/ REUTERS

The European Union’s Erasmus+ education funding and its Horizon 2020 research programs are in danger. That’s Europe’s response to annexation. Stopping joint research projects will prevent occupation. Don’t make Israel and its settlers laugh. Instead of imposing real sanctions – from a sweeping ban on settlers entering Europe and through economic sanctions – they threaten Erasmus+. Europe’s insistence on a two-state solution – when some of its leaders already know and sometimes admit in closed conversations is already a lost cause – plays into the hands of Israeli apartheid, which also knows how to mumble the term two states, if only there were a partner, and then builds tens of thousands more houses in the West Bank.

One can of course argue that it isn’t Europe’s role to bring about world justice or clean up after Israel. But after all, the European Union has higher pretenses than just a common market. Europe, which was silent and closed its eyes in the past, is doing it again. Perhaps it will soon summon presumptive foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi and he will promise them that Israel will work to enact the two-state solution. Four and a half million people will continue to suffocate without rights and without a future, and Brussels will go on patting itself on the back and feeling good about itself – after all, it threatened to cancel Erasmus+.

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