Open Letter to the European Institutions

June 6, 2004

We, “European Jews for a Just Peace”,a network of 18 Jewish organizations in ten European countries, are actively opposed to the occupation of the Palestinian territories beyond the green line, to the policies of collective punishment, unlawful killing, torture, house demolition, land and water confiscation and to everything else that accompanies Israel’s illegal policy of occupation and settlement.

We therefore wish to address the European Institutions and express our concerns about their policies towards the Middle East, and in this context we also refer to those internal European issues we consider to be connected to the conflict.

1. EU Foreign Policy towards the State of Israel and the Middle East

In acknowledging its historical responsibilities towards both the Jewish and the Palestinian peoples, Europe must play an active role in paving the way to a just solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Such a solution can only be reached through negotiations leading to an agreement based on the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian state, and on the guarantee of safety and security for Israel and Palestine.

A European foreign policy leaving Israel free to disregard international law, endangers not only a just peace in the Middle East, but also the future of Israel as a democratic country, capable of living in peace and mutual respect with its neighbours. The occupation of the Palestinian territories and its consequences, are in constant violation of International Law and of the Fourth Geneva Convention and therefore also of Article 2 of the EU–Israel Association Agreement.

In particular, the “Separation Barrier”, turning the Occupied Palestinian Territories into a fragmented set of disjointed cantons, is a permanent obstacle to peace which can only fuel despair and thus runs the risk of encouraging an escalation of violence. An effective opposition by the European Union to the building of this barrier could be its support for the UN General Assembly in taking this issue to the International Court. This remains an important opportunity for the European Union to play an active role in supporting the Palestinian people’s non-violent opposition which calls for respect for International Law and human rights. Such support is vital for a peaceful solution of the conflict in the area.

As part of a coordinated international strategy, the EU must put pressure on Israel to extend equality of rights to all its citizens, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. This must include full and equal citizenship rights for its Palestinian citizens as well as the recognition of the right to conscientious objection to military service, i.e. of the refusal of Israeli citizens to serve in the forces of occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.

In view of the above, we reaffirm our call for the suspension of the EU–Israel Association Agreement, in line with the resolution passed by the European parliament, until such time as Israel meets its commitments under this agreement. We also urge the European Union to press for a mission of international peace and the interposition of a neutral force between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

2. Racism and Antisemitism

As European citizens and as Jews, we deplore the rise of racism and xenophobia in Europe. Our own history has made us vigilant about racism and we are aware that antisemitic activity has grown in recent years. The confusion between Jews and Israelis – supported by the false claims of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to be acting the name of all Jews – as well as uncritical support for the policies of the state of Israel are among the reasons for these dangerous phenomena and can even encourage them. At the same time, we are aware that anti-Arab racism and anti-islamism have become much more prominent since September 2001.

Each of these forms of racism has to be combated in its own right. We believe that tolerance of any form of racism facilitates the growth of other forms, and we urge the European institutions not to dissociate the struggle against antisemitism from the universal struggle for respect and equality of all citizens and residents of Europe.

Finally we wish to speak out strongly against the attempt to silence any critical discussion of Israeli government policy in the Middle East by falsely labeling it as antisemitic. Israel must be judged by the same criteria as any other state in all circumstances.

3. Democracy and Citizenship

Democracy, liberty, equality, social justice and peace for all must lie at the heart of the European Union and must be fully implemented within European societies as a whole.

We wish to see a secular Europe in which peoples of all religions and of none can live in liberty and mutual respect founded on common citizenship rights and granting refugees and asylum seekers the right to respect and humane treatment.

We believe these values should be constitutional within the European Union.