EJJP lobbies member state Permanent Representatives: the EU must do all it can to de-escalate the fighting in Gaza.

July 13, 2014

To Permanent Representatives. c.c. Political Advisors

Dear Permanent Representative,

We are writing about the fighting between Israel and Hamas, which has now escalated into long range rockets being fired by Hamas and major Israeli air attacks on Gaza, aiming at military and civilian objects alike. We are also very concerned about the cycle of vicious attacks on individuals which could escalate into large-scale inter-communal violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

We were gratified by the European Union and Security Council’s equal condemnation of the recent appalling kidnappings and murders of three Israeli boys and the particularly horrific revenge murder of a Palestinian boy, which have now been followed by the killing of two more Palestinians and injuring of a third when hit by a truck in what appears to be a deliberate hit and run by a settler. There have been violent clashes in East Jerusalem and Northern Israel. We ask you, however, to consider the sequence of events and the question of responsibility.

This cycle of attacks did not start with the kidnappings of the three Israeli boys, but rather with the fatal shooting of two Palestinian teenagers by Israeli soldiers in mid May after a demonstration on Nakba Day outside Ofer Prison in the West Bank. CCTV footage shows conclusively that the boys were not carrying weapons, were nowhere near the IDF lines outside the prison and were not even walking toward the prison. That was of course only the last in a long history of lethal IDF violence towards unarmed demonstrators, as reported by Amnesty International in “Trigger Happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank.” No murders can be justified, but it should be acknowledged that all Palestinians cannot be expected to behave like Gandhi or Martin Luther King all the time in the face of such continual provocation.

The IDF operation in the West Bank after the kidnappings was a cynical lie. J.J. Goldberg reported in the Jewish Daily Forward (10 July): “That evening (1 day after the kidnapping), searchers found the kidnappers’ abandoned, torched Hyundai with eight bullet holes and the boys’ DNA. There was no doubt… Netanyahu placed a gag order on the deaths… The government maintained the fiction that it hoped to find them alive as a pretext to dismantle Hamas’ West Bank operations.” On 3 July, Human Rights Watch reported: “Israel’s military operations … have amounted to collective punishment. The(y) … included unlawful use of force, arbitrary arrests, and illegal home demolitions. … Israeli forces have shot and killed at least five Palestinians and arrested and detained at least 150 more without charge.”

The resumption of Hamas rocket fire from Gaza has to be seen in this context. The Israeli air attacks, while obviously intended stop rocket fire, are equally obviously intended to weaken or destroy Hamas and mete out collective punishment. It is clear that Israeli policy is responsible for the fighting and the horrific numbers of Palestinian casualties, now standing at 110+ killed and 790+ wounded, as it was for Operation Cast Lead and Operation Pillar of Defence. They are part and parcel of Israel’s violent repression of Palestinian resistance to the long illegal occupation and settlement of Palestinian land.

We urge the EU to use all its influence to persuade the parties to quickly de-escalate the growing attacks and then to reach a ceasefire, and to control their own extremists in order to prevent further inter-communal violence. In the long run, the only way to prevent future bouts of violence will be to end the occupation. While right-wing Israeli governments are in power, that can only be accomplished by the EU, member states and other countries applying determined economic and diplomatic pressure on Israel to create costs for continuing the occupation.

Yours sincerely,

Dror Feiler, Chair, EJJP; Spokesperson, Ship to Gaza; Judar for Israelisk-Palestinsk Fred (Stockholm)

Arthur Goodman, Parliamentary and Diplomatic Officer, Jews for Justice for Palestinians (London)