Collusion in the name of democracy: The EU and Palestine

Collusion in the name of democracy: The EU and Palestine
Comment: The EU's main focus is supporting the authoritarian rule of Mahmoud Abbas, writes Ramona Wadi.
6 min read
28 Jan, 2019
The EU refused to recognise Hamas's electoral victory in 2006 [Getty]
Last December, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the Palestinian Legislative Council and indicated that elections would be held within six months. 

The decision was rejected by Palestinian factions, notably Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Hamas deemed the decision "an invalid political decision because it is issued by an illegal body". PFLP regarded Abbas' actions as "tantamount to preventing any national dialogue to achieve Palestinian reconciliation".

The EU also issued a statement on the matter which is riddled with contradictions that preserve the defunct premise of the two-state paradigm. On the PLC's dissolution it noted that this "brings to an end the mandate of the only elected governing body of the Palestinian Authority, a development the EU missions regard with concern".

It also called for all Palestinian factions to "engage in good faith in the reconciliation process". However, this fails to even qualify as mere lip service. Its main focus is supporting the authoritarian rule of Mahmoud Abbas, as evidenced by yet another international insistence - this time from the EU - that "the Palestinian Authority must fully resume its governmental functions in Gaza."

Unsurprisingly, the EU also called upon the PA to "work towards genuine and democratic elections for all Palestinians".

The PA acts in ways that seek international approval while intentionally ignoring Palestinian demands and needs

The only reason the EU can get away with such sweeping statements is due to the fact that the PA is part of the external impositions inflicted upon Palestinians as a result of the Oslo Accords.

International consensus - which is a convenient agreement and not necessarily democratic - has decided on the erosion of Palestinian rights disguised by the precepts of western democracy.

Yet the EU refused to recognise Hamas's electoral victory in 2006, imposing three conditions in return for recognition: Rejection of resistance, recognition of Israel's right to exist and an acceptance of the Oslo Accords.

In other words, the EU wanted Hamas to dissociate itself from its foundations, and become a political entity deriving its legitimacy from foreign interference rather than from the Palestinian people. This is, in effect, how the international community has designated democracy for a people asserting their independence, while remaining involved in their anti-colonial struggle.

The EU's comments come at a time when Hamas is increasingly marginalised from Palestine's political process at an international level.

Meanwhile the PA is continuing its deceptive representation of Palestinians within the international community, when the only entity it truly represents, is itself.

Following its chairmanship of the G77, which was described by the PA as a "historic moment", Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki 
announced a bid for full UN Palestinian membership, despite facing the US veto.

As in all of its previous decisions, the PA acts in ways that seek international approval while intentionally ignoring Palestinian demands and needs. All the symbolic victories which the PA lauded as tangible achievements have not halted Israel's colonial expansion, and Palestinians are no closer to gaining their rights.

The PA persists in this exploitative system because its foundations lie in externalising Palestine, just as the international community intended long before Israel established its presence in the aftermath of the 1948 Nakba.

Moreover, it perpetuates the myth that Palestinians need international legitimacy for their anti-colonial struggle, from the same institutions that helped to establish colonial Israel in the first place.

Collusion in the name of democracy has established an intricate network, and the EU's purported peacebuilding narrative means it requires extra scrutiny.

The PA is part of the external impositions inflicted upon Palestinians as a result of the Oslo Accords

The EU's reasons for holding the PA as the entity that can usher in a democratic process in Palestine have nothing to do with Palestinian rights. In line with the rest of the international community, the EU views Palestine as a humanitarian issue first and foremost. This serves several purposes:

Primarily, it allows Israel's colonisation to escape scrutiny while putting it on a par with other democratic states. By arguing humanitarian concerns, the EU is able to insist upon the two-state compromise as the only purported solution, which in turn gives the PA a political role, as long as it contributes to enabling and collaborating with Israel and the international community against Palestinians.

Read more: 'Jerusalem is not for sale' because it has already been sold

For the international community, the PA is a convenient entity to deal with. By continuously depicting Palestine as an international concern, Abbas has laid the ground for the international community to establish its infiltration through the PA. This is seen in the various reports of PA security services violently repressing criticism, and protests against Abbas' political collaboration with Israel.

This convenience opens up other strands of political violence, notably the fact that a bloc of countries embracing democratic values is undemocratically supporting the actions of an entity which was not democratically elected.

Furthermore it is projecting democratic values upon the PA, and calling upon its bureaucracy to uphold democracy, while pointedly refuting any form of diplomatic engagement with Hamas, which was democratically elected but failed to win EU approval.

The EU is projecting democratic values upon the PA

Hamas, for example, has pointed out that if the PA only holds parliamentary elections, it will be violating Palestinian reconciliation agreements.

Such agreements, however, will not fit the EU's two-state framework, which seeks to maintain the status-quo by prioritising Israel's security concerns and the Palestinian entities that acquiesce to such terms.

Instead of holding the PA accountable for increasing hardships upon the Palestinian population, the EU - like the UN - is urging a narrative where the only party deemed responsible for Palestinian governance and its process is the PA.  

In doing so, it is not only ignoring the fact that in 2006, Palestinians chose Hamas, but also the fact that in the forthcoming elections, the Palestinian people are within their rights to choose a representation other than that offered by the PA and Fatah.

The EU's actions towards Palestine and Palestinian are undemocratic.

It is upholding a system in which the PA benefits from political decisions at the expense of the Palestinian population.

It is worth questioning, therefore, what the aims of democracy are, if the system - as the EU applies it - serves a colonial process that needs to be eliminated, in order to create the context for Palestinian rights.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law. 

Follow her on Twitter: @walzerscent

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.