The EU’s Public Policy on Jerusalem Differs from Reality

Viewers watching the televised emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on Friday may be forgiven for thinking the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) representative to the UN was trying to bore the Israeli ambassador into submission with his speech.

The meeting had been called in response to US President Donald Trump’s outrageous decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The PA’s man in New York, Riyad Mansour, spoke against the US decision by reading out prepared remarks, which sounded more like an academic essay than a speech appropriate to such a historical moment.

In it, he listed decades worth of UN resolutions and declarations stating that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state with the Israeli capital in West Jerusalem – the long-promised two-state solution.

Mansour’s list was only so many words on paper. And it is totally disingenuous for PA representatives to now say that Trump’s decision undermines the US role as an “honest broker” between the “two sides” – the US government has always sided with Israel.

This alignment has been particularly strong since the 1967 war when Israel attacked its neighbours and swallowed up the remaining 22 percent of Palestinian land, leading to a new wave of refugees and the fifty-year military occupation (of the West Bank – including East Jerusalem – Gaza, and Syria’s Golan Heights) which endures till this day.

Since that war, the US has sent billions in military aid to Israel.

What popular support there is in the US for Israel is the result of two major factors: religious fundamentalism in the form of radical Christian Zionism, and masses of Israel lobby cash from fanatically Zionist donors, such as the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who funded Trump’s election campaign.

Donald Trump declares Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Palestine statehood is no more. A MintPress News editorial cartoon by Carlos Latuff.

A MintPress News editorial cartoon by Carlos Latuff.

It is a combination of imperialist and religious reasons. Israeli colonialism in the occupied land of Palestine is viewed by Western leaders very much as a “villa in the jungle”, surrounded by the “wild beasts” of the Arab world – as racist Israeli leaders (from both Labour and Likud) often put it.

As such the disquiet currently being expressed against Trump by those European leaders who are lamenting damage to the non-existent peace process is entirely hypocritical. And in fact, the new Trump policy in Jerusalem is only a more open form of the same malign policy the European Union has been carrying out in practice for many years.

Despite repeated expressions of “concern” by the EU over Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, the EU in practice encourages the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.

It supports and even bankrolls Israel to the tune of millions of Euros with programmes like Horizon 2020, which funds Israeli high-tech research, giving EU tax-payers’ money over to the apartheid regime and the arms firms who “battle test” their weapons on Palestinian civilians.

And as my colleague at The Electronic Intifada David Cronin pointed out recently”

 Israel’s science ministry is one of the main bodies coordinating that state’s involvement in Horizon 2020. The science ministry is not based inside present-day Israel. Rather, its main offices are in occupied East Jerusalem”.

So the EU in practice already recognizes Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, but does so more quietly than Trump. It is a sort of silent recognition. These kinds of expressions of dismay towards Trump seem – to me – more concerned about the fact that he is openly and proudly recognizing Israel, and drawing public attention to their blatantly unfair, dishonest, and ultimately unpopular policies.

In fact, the EU is so ‘concerned’ by Israel that it was set to reward Netanyahu with yet more high-level meetings on Sunday with French Prime Minister Emanuel Macron and later with EU foreign ministers.

The EU’s long-term toothless expressions of concern over continuing Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from eastern Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank are in fact diplomatic cover that acts as the other side of the coin to the US’ more overt support for Israel – something which far pre-dates Trump (Democrat politicians, after all, have also expressed support for Trump’s annexation of Jerusalem – so much for “The Resistance”).

It’s a sort of good-cop/bad-cop routine. But it’s all a game intended to distract attention from the real and practical support Western leaders lavish on Israel. As long as the EU and its constituent states refuse to take concrete action against Israel’s aggression, apartheid and ethnic cleansing, Israel will continue its crimes against the Palestinian people.

At a very minimum, such action would mean an end to arms sales to Israel and an end to free EU cash to Israeli arms firms.

Top photo | A woman holds a banner as she protests during a visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Dec. 11, 2017. Netanyahu urged the European Union on Monday to back a new U.S. peace initiative in the Middle East, after President Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital met with widespread condemnation and triggered clashes in the Palestinian territories. (AP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East. He has been visiting Palestine since 2004 and is originally from south Wales. He writes for the award-winning Palestinian news site The Electronic Intifada where he is an associate editor and also a weekly column for the Middle East Monitor, where this article first appeared.

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