[Israel/Palestine] Considerations prior to the EP Plenary vote on Wednesday, 13 March 2024

Dear Member of the European Parliament,

We, EuroMed Rights, are reaching out to you to express our concerns and provide our recommendations in relation to the upcoming Plenary vote on Wednesday, 13 March 2024 on the Guidelines for the 2025 Budget – Section III (A9-0068/2024 – 159).

It’s with great concern that we have learned about two disturbing amendments introduced for plenary vote next Wednesday, which are connected to the ongoing Israeli war against Palestinians in Gaza. We refer here to amendments 36 and amendments 39.

Amendment 36 calls for the suspension of EU funds to UNRWA, following until now unproven allegations that a few UNRWA staff members took part in the attacks of October 7th. This amendment comes just a few days after the EU announced it had resumed funding with the UN organization following internal analysis. Amidst the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, UNRWA represents the only source of relief to the majority of its population, the larger part refugees. Over 80% of Gazans have been internally displaced since the beginning of the war, with over 570.000 Palestinians under severe risk of starvation. Defunding UNRWA would represent not only a worsening of this humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but would also affect Palestinian refugees in other UNRWA fields in the region. It is important to highlight that countries that had decided to defund UNRWA, such as Canada and Sweden, recently reverted their decisions and have stepped up with contributions to the organizations.

On January 26, coinciding with Israel’s delivery of the alleged incriminating evidence to UNRWA, the International Court of Justice ruled that there is a plausible claim that the crime of genocide may be perpetrated in Gaza by the Israeli government by, between other means, “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”. The deliberate starvation of Gaza constitutes one these inflicted conditions, and by removing the only source of relief to Gazans, western countries risk being complicit to the accusation of genocide, as stated by UN Special rapporteur to Palestine, Francesca Albanese.

The other concerning amendment is Amendment 39 which would call for all recipients of EU funds to the MENA region to sign a document recognizing Israel’s right to exist and condemning antisemitism, and suspending funds to civil society that refuse to sign such a declaration, act against the spirit of such a declaration after signing it, or directly or indirectly contribute to the financing of beneficiaries that act against the spirit of such a declaration.

This amendment represents an escalation in the weaponization of antisemitism accusations by the Israeli government to suppress legitimate criticism at international level. It fails to define antisemitism in constructive ways, giving the opportunity for it being instrumentalized by representing any form of dissent against the Israeli government as an antisemitic act.

It is necessary to also acknowledge that several independent civil society organizations in the MENA region could not officially recognise the state of Israel – even if they were politically aligned to do so – due to

legal limitations in their home countries. Demanding MENA organizations to officially recognize Israel in exchange for funding puts organizations tin an untenable situation, where they must choose between losing vital support or suffering legal repercussions at home.

This kind of one-sided conditionality fails to grasp the complexities of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which extends far beyond ethnic and religious considerations and is rooted in decades of colonization and oppression. Nor does it seem to consider the growing polarization and the rise of Islamophobia alongside anti-Semitism. Furthermore, it sets a dangerous precedent for restricting freedom of thought and expression.

Many recipients of EU funds in the region are strong advocates of human rights and international law, serving the most vulnerable members of their populations. Any action that jeopardizes their ability to carry out their essential work only serves to undermine the values that the EU claims to uphold.

Considering these circumstances, EuroMed Rights urges you to:

  • Reject the text of Amendment 36 on the Plenary vote on 13 March 2024;
  •  Reject the text of Amendment 39 on the Plenary vote of 13 March 2024;
  •  Urge the Parliament to, in contrary of the spirit of Amendment 36 and 39, increase financial, logistical and political support to both UNRWA and Palestinian/MENA civil society, recognizing the invaluable role they play in aiding the most vulnerable members of Palestinian society and defending the rights of oppressed communities against the interest of authoritarian regimes.

We remain at your disposal to complement the above-listed points.

Yours sincerely,

EuroMed Rights
Peace of Art
Legal Agenda
LDH – (Ligue des Droits de l’Homme) – France
Arab NGO Network for Development
PAX for Peace
Women now for development Lebanon
Lebanese Centre for Human Rights
Cairo Institute for Human Rights
The Socio-economic Justice initative- MAAN
Egyptian Human Rights Forum ( EHRF)
Collectif des familles de Disparus en Algérie