PCHR condemns EU decision to strengthen ties with Israel
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns the decision of the European Union (EU) to offer strengthened trade and diplomatic relations to Israel at the EU-Israel Association Council meeting on Tuesday 24 July 2012.
The Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy, Mr Štefan Füle, issued a statement following the meeting, which indicated the European Commission’s desire to develop its cooperation with Israel in a number of areas. Commissioner Füle stated that the meeting had involved some discussion of developments in the area of human rights and democratic freedoms in Israel. However, the statement made no mention of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) or of Israel’s policies and actions in the region.
By expanding bilateral relations with Israel, the EU has ignored warnings from its own foreign ministers that Israeli policies and actions in the West Bank seriously undermine the possibility for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. PCHR condemns, in the strongest terms, the ongoing construction of settlements in the oPt. Israel’s settlement activities violate international law, as well as the private property rights and the collective and individual human rights of the Palestinian people.
For example, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring its civilian population into the territory it occupies and from creating any permanent change in an occupied territory not intended for the benefit of the occupied population. As such, the construction of settlements in the oPt constitutes a war crime under international humanitarian law.
Furthermore, the decision to grant Israel greater access to European markets, which represent 60% of Israel’s trade, has been made without due consideration of the human rights situation of the Palestinian people. Israel has been granted access to EU markets, without offering any explicit agreement to comply with its human rights obligations in the oPt. This has severely weakened the EU’s ability to encourage Israel to fulfil its responsibilities under international human rights law and international humanitarian law. PCHR believes that the EU squandered the opportunity to discuss important human rights issues, by acting in favour of economic considerations.
By concluding this agreement, the EU has shown a blatant disregard for repeated human rights violations by Israel in the oPt. This includes arbitrary arrest, the use of administrative detention, torture and ill-treatment, the use of force against civilians and civilian property, and extrajudicial killings. PCHR has also documented violations by Israel of a wide variety of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of movement, expression, assembly, and association. The Israeli judicial system offers little or no opportunity of redress to the victims of these human rights violations.
In addition, the agreement pays no regard to Israel’s unilateral absolute closure of the Gaza Strip, which is ongoing since 2007. The closure represents collective punishment of the civilian population, and is recognised by the International Committee of the Red Cross as a clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.
In light of the above, PCHR:
1. Strongly condemns the EU’s decision to strengthen trade and diplomatic relations with Israel;
2. Calls on the EU to reconsider its position in relation to Israel, in light of repeated grave violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law; and
3. Calls on Israel to fulfil its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law.