Europe is not serious about stopping the genocide in Gaza

Hossam Shaker

Has Europe really stopped supporting the genocide, ethnic cleansing and starvation war taking place in Gaza? It is clear that changes have occurred in European positions recently, compared to previous months.

European officials have begun to express increasing “concern” about the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip and have recently mentioned the word “international law” in their statements regarding the brutal Israeli war after they had previously ignored it. Then, the European Union (EU) called for a ceasefire for the first time at the European Council summit on 21 March, finally after the Israeli army killed 32,000 Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.

European positions have budged, but very slowly and with great caution and the result is that they have not yet left the trenches of supporting the ongoing genocide, with scattered exceptions issued by Belgium, Ireland, Spain, Malta and Norway.

It seems clear that the criticism directed at the Israeli side from most European platforms is still cautious, with great care being taken to choose expressions carefully. Most importantly, Europe ignores the fact that its influence gives it the ability to stop war and genocide immediately if it has the political will through a package of sanctions, for example, but it simply does not want to.

Instead, European politicians are currently trying to give the impression that they disagree with the horrors committed by the Israeli government and its forces against 2.3 million people in the Gaza Strip, but without doing anything to deter them. Because the invasion of Rafah will bring back the most horrific scenes of World War II to the world of colours, Europe clearly opposes the invasion of this narrow area crowded with displaced persons, as do the allies in Washington as well. However, most European platforms do not declare opposition to the ongoing war, despite all the atrocities that have accompanied it. Indeed, the Israeli war leadership still enjoys generous military supplies from European countries, in addition to the continuation of mutual partnership and cooperation agreements without prejudice or even the threat of being suspended.

Instead of taking serious action to curb the horrific massacre, Europe’s political leadership is deluding its people and the world that it is really acting by talking a lot about providing humanitarian aid and showing concern about the worsening famine in the Gaza Strip, without this changing anything in reality, which is, in fact, worsening. There are also renewed declarations of support for the political vision of the two-state solution, readiness to discuss recognition of a Palestinian state and denounce the attacks of extremist settlers in the West Bank and perhaps impose sanctions on them. Regrettably, none of these relate to the essence of the ongoing war on Gaza, which includes genocide, even though the EU and most European capitals have avoided pronouncing this forbidden word when it comes to Israeli behaviour.

Even if Europe imposes sanctions on a few settlers who attack Palestinian citizens, it ignores what is being done by the Israeli army and its soldiers, who do not stop killing, terrorising and abusing Palestinians in the West Bank, in addition to their atrocities in Gaza. Europe grants immunity to the Israeli army, its officers and its soldiers from any sanctions or even any explicit criticism. The focus of criticism on the behaviour of the settlers is always accompanied by a clear insistence on exempting the army from blame and accountability for war crimes.

History will forever recall that Europe’s political establishment supported genocide against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip from day one in multiple forms through military support, political encouragement, propaganda and financial aid. Moreover, they have remained indifferent to the ongoing public objections against this shameful involvement. The war leadership with clear fascist tendencies would not have been able to wage this terrible massacre without this unwavering European cover, in addition to US and Western support in general.

Political Europe supported the atrocities through a rhetorical plot that included prior justification for everything that any army could commit against civilians. They did this despite knowing that the matter is related to an occupying army whose record is replete with war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere. In fact, the Benjamin Netanyahu government, which is the most extreme and racist Israeli government since its creation, had from the very first days declared its intentions to commit genocide, ethnic cleansing, starvation, war and total destruction. The evidence in this regard is well-documented in the case file South Africa submitted to the International Court of Justice. Yet the EU and most European capitals stuck to a unified narrative, providing excuses for all the atrocities that this army committed in the Gaza Strip, the majority of whose residents are refugee children and women.

European positions did not budge partially until after months of horrific massacres that reached a record level of Palestinian civilian casualties. Their partial change only came months after the brutal Israeli bombing campaign destroyed most homes, hospitals and civilian facilities with ammunition supplied by US and European industries and after starvation in Gaza reached a terrifying and visible peak before the entire world.

Still, European politicians behave as if they are incapable of acting. They continue to make feeble statements and diplomatic appeals to the Israeli side without telling their people and the world that they can take immediate, deterrent and effective steps to stop the genocide, ethnic cleansing and brutal starvation. Alas, they simply do not want to.

The easiest test of the seriousness of European positions is to compare their stand toward the Israeli occupier with the punitive steps taken after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The EU and other European countries have imposed strict, extensive and unprecedented sanctions on Russia since 24 February, 2022, in addition to the sanctions that were previously imposed after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The EU also imposed sanctions on Belarus and Iran due to their roles in supporting the Russian war effort.

On the other hand, the EU and other European countries did not take any clear punitive steps towards Israel, except for the imposition of sanctions against a few settlers. The strangest thing, however, is that Europe rushed to punish the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the Palestinian citizens served by the UN agency by hastily cutting off its funding as soon as uncorroborated Israeli allegations were received regarding some of its employees.

In contrast, Europe’s politicians still exempt the Israeli occupation army from even verbal censure. They choose carefully worded phrases when commenting on the terrible atrocities that the world sees, such as the mass killings at aid distribution points, so that these atrocities are not explicitly linked to the Israeli army.

One of the taboos of political discourse in the EU and the capitals of the continent is the use of specific vocabulary to describe what is happening. During half a year of horrors, expressions such as “genocide”, “ethnic cleansing”, “atrocities” and “war crimes” did not appear in European official comments, except in rare exceptions from non-conformist politicians in blog posts. The logical question that has been repeated for months in the words of demonstrators in European squares is: How many more victims would make you consider what is happening to be genocide?

Political Europe is now trying to disavow the image of the party supporting Israel’s war on the Palestinian people with all its atrocities. It is covering up its involvement in justifying this war and encouraging the genocide campaign that has been ongoing for months, including providing multiple forms of military, political, financial and propaganda support from several European countries. Ending the policy of supporting genocide, starvation, war and brutal war crimes has a clear title: ending the partnership and cooperation agreements, imposing strict sanctions, banning the supply of weapons and ammunition and launching a serious humanitarian operation to end the programmed starvation policy. The question remains: How many victims are needed in order to do something like this?

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.