Europe has an important role to play in combatting Israel’s illegal annexation of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, speakers at a webinar held yesterday said. Hosted by the European-Palestinian Relations Forum (EuroPal Forum), the webinar heard from Independent Member of the House of Lords Baroness Tonge, Member of the European Parliament Jakop Dalunde, United Kingdom Member of Parliament Mickey Bradey, and the General Director of the League of Parliamentarians for Al-Quds Dr. Makram Balawi. In her address, Baroness Tonge said her questions to the UK government regarding Israel’s planned annexation have repeatedly been rebuffed by officials. the UK government is making “representations to the Israeli government”, she is told again and again. A response which she believes is indicative of the UK’s “non-committal” position regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. Though one could argue that Israel had abandoned the two-state solution years ago, Jakop Dalunde MEP explained in his address, its plans to annex the West Bank has eradicated the pretense that it is working towards a two-state model. Europe, he added, is “not living up to its words in putting pressure on Israel”, with the different resolutions pushed through the European Parliament targeting Israel for accountability often not being actioned practically. “The way that they [Israel] are acting is removing all of the arguments that political actors in Europe used to be able to have in defending their support of Israel, and in defending their lack of interest in promoting peace,” he added. In spite of this, there is still a big gap between criticism of Israel and doing something more actionable, he explained. It is this that worries Palestinians, General Director of the League of Parliamentarians for Al-Quds Dr. Makram Balawi, explained. The international community needs to signal that there will be a heavy price for illegal annexation, he continued As a result, the UK will not impose sanctions on Israel should the occupation state go ahead with annexation plans, as it believes that “persuasion and discourse is a better way of doing things”. Israel’s new government was expected to present its strategy last month for implementing the so-called “Middle East peace plan” drawn up by the Trump administration. The plan gives Israel a free hand to annex large parts of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, which the Jewish state occupied in 1967. Palestinians believe Israel’s plan will see the occupation state illegally seize 30 per cent of the West Bank. They have said they are no longer bound by treaties agreed with Israel if annexation goes ahead. The plan was “postponed” after US officials and Israelis could not agree on how and when the annexation efforts could begin. EuroPal Forum’s event comes within a series of parliamentary seminars/webinars organised by Europal Forum to develop relations with politicians, parliamentarians and opinion leaders in Europe and with all popular forces and solidarity organisations with the aim of strengthening the Palestinian narrative of the conflict among European societies.
On the 72nd year since the Palestinian Nakba, EuroPal Forum hosted a webinar via ZOOM titled “Nakba72: The Continuation of Colonisation – Impending Annexation and the Future of Peace in the Middle East”. The webinar, which heard from Professor Ilan Pappe, Dr Yousef Jabareen MK, Dr Salman Abu Sitta and Dr Hatem Bazian, concentrated on the displacement of Palestinians in 1948 as an inevitable consequence of Zionism and the continuity of this process as seen through today’s impending annexation of 30 per cent of the West Bank. The webinar was opened by EuroPal Forum’s Public Relations Officer Robert Andrews. In his introductory remarks, Robert noted that the webinar is part of a broad range of initiatives that EuroPal Forum is engaged in, to encourage a more comprehensive understanding of key developments in Palestine. For the organisation, Nakba Day presented a salient opportunity to discuss both the nature of the Nakba and the continuity of Palestinian dispossession as it is seen today with the impending annexation of Palestinian land. The first speaker of the webinar, Professor Ilan Pappe, a historian and professor at the University of Exeter, focused on the relationship between Zionism and Palestinian dispossession, and the dynamics of Palestine’s “new Nakba”. Pappe started by noting that the Zionist movement arrived in Palestine in the late nineteenth century with a clear colonial ideology of acquiring as much of Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians as possible. With this in mind, the Zionist movement, as described by Pappe: “Never ceased to contemplate the transfer and expulsions of the Palestinians and waited for the right historical moment for implementing this vision.” This opportunity came with the end of the British mandate when the Zionist movement started to contemplate and realise the acceleration of these designs and the systematic removal of Palestinians from Palestine. According to Pappe, the incompletion of this process in 1948 and the continued existence of Israel as a settler colonial project, informs all of the Israeli actions (including the impending annexation of the West Bank) against the Palestinians, until today. Following Pappe’s segment, member of the Knesset, Dr Yousef Jabareen, also focused on the dynamics of the “new Nakba” and the impending annexation of the West Bank. Jabareen noted that while we discuss the impending annexation of the West Bank, on the ground the annexation process is already being realised by several Israeli laws. Jabareen cites applying Israeli law to academic institutions in the West Bank as one in a number of laws passed that illustrates de facto annexation on the ground. Knesset Member Dr Yousef Jabareen in Jerusalem Jabareen went on to note that the question now amongst Israeli decision-makers is whether there is actually a need to declare annexation or whether it can be fully achieved through this “incremental annexation”. Jabareen noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping to gain political points through the formal declaration of annexation and exploit the current international and local status quo. For Jabareen, Netanyahu is encouraged by the strength of the new Israeli government, the international community’s pre-occupation with COVID-19, the possibility of annexation deflecting attention from the criminal charges being brought against him and the favourable US administration. Following Jabareen’s talk, Dr Salman Abu Sitta, chairman of the General Assembly of the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad and founder of the Palestine Land Society (PLS), addressed the crowd under the topic of Zionism’s multiple attacks against Palestinians and the likely outcome of 150 years of Zionist colonial history. Abu Sitta started by noting that the Zionist project and the Nakba is the most unique colonial project in the world, as it is a stand-alone case study of colonialism in the twentieth century. According to Abu Sitta, the Nakba constituted a systematic campaign in which: “560 villages were depopulated through an organised military campaign in which nine brigades have participated with 120,000 soldiers operating in 31 military operations.” Abu Sitta expresses that the Nakba is not simply a series of war crimes, but was also accompanied and helped by a range of deceptions not used in other colonial projects. He cites the idea that Palestine was “a land without a people” as particularly striking as it has completely falsified reality, with extensive survey research conducted by the British and French noting that Palestine was vastly populated before the creation of the state of Israel. To conclude, Abu Sitta highlighted that given the systematic dispossession of the Palestinians, the rejection of the Palestinian right of return is both an immoral and illegal position. Abu Sitta confirms that research is clear that 87 per cent of Jewish Israelis live in only 12 per cent of Israel’s area. If refugees return, therefore, there will be very minor displacement, which is a: “Small price to pay for 72 years of death and destruction of Palestinians.” The final speaker, lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr Hatem Bazian, looked at the future of the international community’s position on Palestine given the status quo and current developments. Bazian started by describing that the dispossession of the Palestinians is not only a Zionist project, but must be viewed as a Zionist, European and an American project simultaneously. Bazian argues that there is an: “Ongoing irredentism that is at the core of right-wing political imagination relative to what is called the loss of the East.” This notion, according to Bazian, informs right-wing thinking across Europe and is centred on the idea that the “East” has been lost to the Muslim world. In this context, the reconstitution of support for Zionism is an “ideological and theological intersection to this possibility of reclaiming the East,” and explains US support for Zionism as well as the “double-speak” that is seen from the Europeans with regard to Palestine. In this light, in relation to the annexation process, Bazian notes that a unique configuration has emerged in the US in which the heightened dominance of the evangelical Christian right has precipitated an increase in calls for the reconstitution of Jews to Palestine. This configuration is also reflected in the broader European shift to the right-wing and the opposition towards Palestinian human rights in Europe. Netanyahu, in this context, is seeking a “final stage” affirmation in the continued dispossession of the Palestinians.
On 17 April 2020, Palestinian Prisoners Day, EuroPal Forum hosted a webinar via the ZOOM communications platform titled ‘5000 Prisoners: Israeli Racism and Medical Negligence Amidst the COVID-19 Outbreak’. The webinar, which heard from Motasem Dalloul, Akram Satari, and Charlotte Kates, sought to bridge the lack of coverage on the issue of Palestinian prisoners through facilitating a forum to better understand the current status quo for Palestinians in Israeli jails amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. In this light, the webinar was opened by EuroPal Forum’s Public Relations Officer, Robert Andrews, who noted that the webinar consists of just one action in EuroPal Forum’s broad campaign to highlight the dynamics of the prisoners’ issue. Andrews noted that EuroPal Forum have pursued a number of initiatives to this end, including a letter campaign that has seen the NGO write to a number of public officials, foreign ministers, and parliamentarians with the expressed aim of raising awareness about the plight of Palestinian prisoners. The first speaker of the webinar was Gazan-based journalist and political commentator Motasem Dalloul, who concentrated his segment on looking at both the history of the denial of health care to Palestinian prisoners and the gravity of the threat to Palestinian prisoners in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. Dalloul started his segment by noting that the abuse of Palestinian prisoners is not a novel phenomenon and is not limited to factors of a specific nature. Rather, he noted that Palestinian prisoners have been subjected to continuous widespread and systematic abuse that can be traced to the start of Israel’s illegal occupation beginning in 1967. This abuse can be clearly seen, according to Motasem, through both the means and methods through which Palestinians are arrested and taken into Israeli custody, as well as the complete denial of health care once within the prison system. Since the start of March, according to Motasem, Israel’s systematic arrest campaign has seen the detention of 357 Palestinians (including 48 children and 4 women), while since the start of 2020 Israel has arrested close to 1,300 Palestinians (including 210 children and 31 women). Among those arrested were individuals who were participating in initiatives – such as delivering food parcels, sterilisation and deep-cleaning – designed to stem the spread of coronavirus within their communities. Following Dalloul’s presentation, another Gazan-based journalist and former child prisoner, Akram Satari, presented a first-hand account of the system inside Israeli jails, including why it is imperative that the international community acts now to safeguard Palestinian prisoners amidst the growing threat of COVID-19. Satari started his presentation by recounting his own personal experience as a 16-year old subjected to chronic abuse and medical negligence at the behest of Israel. After suffering a stroke and paralysis while detained as a child prisoner within the Israeli prison system, Satari recounted the subhuman treatment he was subject to within the prison system. Here, he narrated his experience living in makeshift tents and camps surrounded by barbed wire with a complete lack of medical assistance given to those suffering with chronic illnesses or conditions. He notes that, in his case, he did not see a doctor for 2 months and was refused medical treatment and physical therapy and was merely told that ‘drinking water’ would remedy his condition. Before the end of his segment, Satari alluded to an important point of contention: the prospect for a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel. Under this umbrella, Satari noted that after the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict (Operation Protective Edge) there have been calls for Israel to release 54 prisoners who were re-arrested after being released in the Shalit deal in 2011. Amidst COVID-19, this demand for the release of 54 prisoners has been reduced by the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar. In this light, Satari said that Hamas have signalled their intention to release information about the Israeli soldiers held captive and to initiate a humanitarian swap-deal designed at securing the release of a number of elderly and young Palestinian prisoners. The final speaker of the webinar, Charlotte Kates, the international coordinator of Palestinian prisoner rights group Samidoun. Kates’ presentation focused on the different initiatives available to raise awareness about the situation facing Palestinian prisoners. She began her segment by noting that with the global pandemic of COVID-19 the prisoner issue has become more critical on a health level than ever before despite being critical on a political, social, and human level prior to the outbreak. In this context, it is important, as Charlotte notes, for international activists to focus on the case of Palestinian prisoners because the ‘potentially devastating impact of the spread of this virus among the prisoners is really quite clear’. These prisoners, 5000 in number, are ‘mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, teachers, students, community organisers, women’s leaders, workers’ union leaders, freedom fighters, people who are engaged in all aspects of struggle and all aspects of society locked away in Israeli jails and threatened with death by the spread of COVID-19’. In commenting on the steps that can be taken across Europe and the wider international community, Kates stressed that the issue of Palestinian prisoners must be increasingly integrated into the wider BDS movement and struggle; in essence, campaigning must adapt so as to take issue with, for example, European Union funding of Israeli research and development projects and with the European-Israel Association Agreement. These campaigns are vital, according to Kates in ‘fighting back against the interconnectedness of the European Union, the United States, and Israel’. She concluded by calling for greater organised efforts and contact with elected representatives while simultaneously disrupting the existing connectedness between Israel and European states.
London-based EuroPal Forum on Sunday called on European governments and parliaments to pressure the Israeli occupation authorities to take the necessary measures to protect Palestinian detainees in their jails against the coronavirus disease. The forum in a press statement expressed its concern over recent Israeli measures against Palestinian detainees, including removing cleaning products from the prison canteens. The forum also noted that Israeli prison guards regularly raid the prison cells without wearing protective gloves and masks, which poses a threat to the lives of Palestinian prisoners especially with the outbreak of coronavirus among Israeli jailers and interrogators. The forum's statement underlined that about 5000 Palestinians, including 43 women, 180 minors, 430 administrative detainees and 700 prisoners with health problems, are being held in Israeli jails in poor conditions. EuroPal called for immediate intervention to ensure the safety of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails before it is too late.
Palestinians seen at the anniversary march of the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" protests at Israel-Gaza border on March 30, 2019 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor] On 3 December 2019, 11 European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, broke away from existing European consensus and voted against a resolution at the United Nations, renewing the mandate of the United Nation’s Division of Palestinian Rights. The agency, which operates within the UN Secretariat, is primarily concerned with both the monitoring and evaluation of developments on the ground and with organising international meetings and conferences pertaining to salient issue areas concerning Palestine. The agency also organises the annual observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, on 29 November, and helps to develop and maintain the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL). The decision made by the European countries to vote against the renewal of the agency’s mandate comes against the backdrop of increasing attacks from European countries towards the ‘sui generis status’ afforded to the Palestinian issue at the United Nations. These attacks – underscored by the major EU policy reversal vis-à-vis the United Nations Human Rights Council vote against Item 7 in March of this year – have been accelerated in recent months, due to increased efforts by Israel’s Foreign Ministry to lobby influential European powerbrokers, such as Germany and the Czech Republic. Commenting on the policy reversal of European states, Yinam Cohen, the Director of the UN Political Affairs Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, notes the significance of the Foreign Ministry’s efforts in pushing for this change. He highlights that the Foreign Ministry’s reach “to the highest authorities” in countries across the world, played a key role in precipitating the shift in EU position, regarding Israel at the UN. While Cohen praises the efforts of EU countries in this regard, individuals at the forefront of the discourse on the Palestine issue have sought to challenge the rationale behind the growing EU policy reversal. One individual engaged in this process is British-Palestinian journalist and chairman of EuroPal Forum, Zaher Birawi. Birawi, who has written directly to the foreign ministries of European countries that have shifted their position, is seeking to obtain answers as to why Europe has decided to adopt this position, at what is a crucial time for the Palestinian issue. Birawi affirms that “it is no surprise that Germany and the Czech Republic have been instrumental in this policy reversal, which is an obvious success for Israel’s Foreign Ministry insofar as it represents the tangible realisation of their efforts in Europe.” He continues by pointing out that the policy reversal witnessed throughout 2019 “sounds the alarm bells for those working for the Palestinian cause, and indicates the absence of Palestinian diplomacy and agency in influencing European countries and the narrative across the continent.” Birawi advises that to bridge this gap “there must be considerable efforts in diplomacy at both the official and public level, and more must be invested in empowering public diplomacy and NGOs that can fill the vacuum left by the absence of state diplomacy.” This process has to be supplemented by the “unification of Palestinian actors – both those at the political and societal level – in a conscious effort to stop the negative escalation of anti-Palestine voting in the UN.”
LONDON A campaign to raise awareness about racism towards Palestinians in Israeli public life is trying to reach out to parliamentarians across Europe. “Hundreds of European parliamentarians had been contacted as part of the campaign’s goal to end the silence on Israeli racism and discrimination towards Palestinians,” said Zaher Birawi, chairman of the EuroPal Forum, a pro-Palestine group. The media campaign ‘Israeli Racism in Quotes’, which was launched two weeks ago, is marking the 71st anniversary of the “Nakba” (Catastrophe) and focuses on using imagery to raise awareness about the extent of the discrimination towards Palestinians in Israeli public life. A key part of this initiative, which since its launch has consisted of the daily release of imagery and the sending of letters to human rights organizations and politicians, is the direct targeting of politicians across Europe with the intention of fostering awareness about the discriminatory rhetoric that is rife in Israeli politics and among the country’s spiritual leaders, a statement from EuroPal said. “These politicians have been contacted with the expressed request to use their agency to take action against the leaders of the occupying state who have issued these statements contrary to the values enshrined in international law, norms and conventions,” Birawi told Anadolu Agency. The forum has contacted hundreds of parliamentarians across Europe, including in Italy, Switzerland, Sweden and the U.K. “to make some headway towards dispelling the myth that Israel is a democracy”. “In this light, EuroPal quoted over 65 anti-Palestinian policies, such as the Nation-State Law, that provided ample evidence of a discriminatory policy program geared towards the structural and constitutional subordination of Palestinian rights,” according to a statement from the forum. Birawi added that the EuroPal Forum’s ‘Israeli Racism in Quotes’ campaign will continue for at least a month and will be followed by a series of seminars across European parliaments that will look at the roots of Israel’s racism towards the Palestinians and how such racism plays out in practice. He said politicians in the Western world should stop their double standards vis-à-vis the Palestine question and raise their voice against these derogatory statements as they do against instances of racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia. At present, EuroPal is releasing one visual per day on its Instagram, Facebook and Twitter platforms.
EuroPal Forum warned of an Israeli government program aiming to fund activities and campaigns against BDS. The chairperson of the London-based forum, Zaher Birawi, declared that Israel aims to limit the influence of the BDS across the West. The occupation considers BDS a real threat that may discredit Israel internationally. For the first time, the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs officially announced financial grants to anti-BDS movement activists and organisations worldwide. This will be to fund various events and to promote campaigns and initiatives through social media. The ministry declared allocating 5.7 million shekels, which is equal to US$1.6 million, for the project and that the funds would be distributed following the requests submitted by pro-Israel activists around the world. The ministry plans to announce the initiative in several countries, including the US, France, Italy, Spain, Britain, Germany, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina. “It is no surprise that the occupying state supports the organisations and groups serving its false story of the conflict in the world. This is well-known, for since this ministry has been established, the Israeli lobby has devoted considerable sums of money to this purpose,” said Birawi. “However, the most striking thing is the ministry’s official announcement of the grants acquired through submitting official requests to organise events, activities and campaigns having political nature in countries that are supposed to prevent such campaigns from taking place on their territory and consider them as interfering in their internal affairs.” Birawi pointed out that the Israeli government aims to distort the BDS and all pro-Palestine individuals, human rights advocates and defenders of the values of freedom and justice. Birawi warned against such step, calling on governments in Europe to take a clear and straightforward position against what he considered to be an overt interference in the internal affairs of another country.
EuroPal Forum is co-hosted a workshop entitled “Palestine and Anti-Semitism’ in London yesterday. Held at the P21 Gallery, the event was part of a series that focuses on boosting the skills and competencies of professionals when it comes to their advocacy for Palestine. “Palestine and Anti-Semitism” is the first in the series which is entitled “Professionals for Palestine”, which seeks to ensure a strong understanding of the global anti-Semitism campaign and a robust vocabulary that communicates the issue of Palestine in the most digestible and effective manner. Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and Steve Tiller from the Jewish Voice for Labour addressed participants and discussed the definition of anti-Semitism. The event comes at a time when pro-Palestine activism is being conflated with anti-Semitism threatening to derail progress made by advocacy groups and leading to talks about Palestine to become a taboo. In its report on the event, the EuroPal Forum said it “seeks to empower professionals so that they are able to speak and communicate ideas on the Palestine issue without fear and intimidation. In the present climate, such empowerment is vital so that the next generation of leaders in the United Kingdom and beyond do not feel apathetic when it comes to Palestine, but instead are confident enough to articulate their grievances and feelings in an effective manner devoid of accusations being levelled against them.”
A neo-conservative pro-Israel lobby group attempted to justify Israel’s use of lethal force during the 2018 “Great March of Return” which led to the death of 189 people including 35 children, paramedics and journalists. In an event organised by the Friends of Israel Initiative (FoII) at the UK parliament last week, the right-wing group labelled Palestinian protestors “combatants” and endorsed Israel’s use of maximum force against unarmed protestors. Entitled: “The situation in Gaza: Hamas, the UNHRC, and what’s at Stake for the UK”, the event saw speakers making a number of claims to justify Israel’s actions, which have been denounced by the UN as possible war crimes. Participants said that the two speakers at the event offered a false and misleading narrative by portraying unarmed Palestinians as legitimate targets – a view that is completely at odds with UN reports – to justify the use of lethal force by Israeli occupation forces. UN investigators concluded that Israeli soldiers intentionally fired on civilians and may have committed war crimes in their lethal response to Palestinian demonstrations in Gaza. The independent Commission of Inquiry, set up last year by the UN’s Human Rights Council, found that Israeli forces killed 189 people and shot more than 6,100 others with live ammunition. The report said that 35 of those killed were children, three were clearly identifiable paramedics and two were clearly marked journalists. By the end of 2018, 1,022 of these people had to undergo amputations (including 20 children). A separate report published by the World Health Organisation on 31 March found that since the start of the demonstrations in Gaza in 2018, a total of 277 people had been killed (52 children) and 31,214 injured. Some 6,846 people suffered from gunshot wounds, of which 6,196 (91 per cent) presented wounds in their limbs. However, speakers at the pro-Israeli event dismissed these findings. One of the speakers, Colonel Richard Kemp, a retired British Army officer is reported to have made the claim that the actions of the Israeli army had in fact saved the lives of innocent civilians on the Gaza fence. He said Hamas was responsible for the deaths alleging that it is the only group in history that has used a strategy intended to have their own population killed. Kemp, who is a key member of the FoII, recently congratulated Donald Trump, describing the US President’s decision to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights as “brave”. With a long career in the British military, his credentials are regularly used to justify Israel’s brutal actions. In his response to the UN report which concluded that Israel committed war crimes, Kemp wrote an article for FoII accusing the UN Commission of “acting as an instrument of Hamas terrorism”. In his speech at the Parliament, Kemp explained Israel’s killing of Palestinians saying that in order to prevent the breach of the border fence and the massacre of Israelis by thousands of armed Hamas affiliates and operatives, Israeli soldiers had to use lethal force. He praised Israel, claiming that it had taken considerable steps to avoid killing Palestinians and insisted that “the only solution will be found when the wall will be built with Gaza”. Natasha Hausdorff of UK Lawyers for Israel claimed that the UN report was flawed because of what she said was the report’s failure to accurately frame the protest as a conflict between Hamas and Israel. She insisted that the Palestinians in the Great March of Return were not civilian as is claimed by the UN report but members of a group seeking to destroy Israel. In her condemnation of the UN, Hausdorff added: “The report is the most recent example of the UNHRC’s institutionalised discrimination against Israel and allows Hamas to cause Palestinian casualties in the process of trying to kill Israelis.” The event has attracted strong criticism. FoII was accused of spreading misinformation and of trying to manipulate the reality of the Great March of Return, a movement described in the UN report as a “large-scale civilian protest”. Denouncing the FoII, Zaher Birawi, chairman of EuroPal Forum – who compiled a report on the event – said: We regard the present misrepresentation of the Great March of Return protests as an instance of military combat undertaken by Palestinian combatants as an attempt to justify the IDF’s brutal and strategic use of violence.” Expressing concerns over what it called “the pervasive crisis of Israeli accountability”, the pro-Palestinian advocacy group mentioned that Israel had refused to cooperate with the UN investigations, rejected all conclusions of the independent UN enquiry, and has stated that the actions of the Israeli army were taken in self-defence.
On 23 November 2019, EuroPal Forum and Middle East Monitor co-hosted a conference at the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury in London on the relations between Europe and Palestine. A first of its kind, the conference brought together individuals at the forefront of discourse on Palestine in
As the European Court of Justice (ECJ) rules that European Union countries must identify products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, MEMO and EuroPal Forum are hosting a conference to discuss the EU’s position on major issues related to the occupat