Deluded US support for Israeli settlements is a final wakeup call to the EU

Deluded US support for Israeli settlements is a final wakeup call to the EU
Comment: It's crucial that the international community acts now to stop Israel, with US support, inching closer towards perpetual apartheid, writes Muhammad Shehada.
5 min read
20 Nov, 2019
This is the latest in a string of pro-occupation policies taken by Trump's administration [AFP]
Last night, US State Secretary Mike Pompeo unabashedly announced yet another unprecedented assault on the peace process, by declaring the US no longer considers Israeli settlements to be in violation of international law. 

The unmatched seriousness of this insane political stunt cannot be overemphasised; it crushes any remaining hope for realising Palestinian statehood through diplomacy and peace, encourages Israel's extremist government to push for worse, flagrantly violates the global consensus, and entirely disregards the long-established international order.

The United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the International Red Cross have all ruled for the fundamental illegality of Israeli settlement activities, and their clear violation of article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Rome Statute of the ICC even considers Israel's settlement activity a severe war crime.

It goes without saying that such a dangerous precedent of flouting the global order to appease pro-Israel constituents will green light other countries engaged in forceful population transfers to accelerate their criminal actions; from India's ethnic cleaning in Kashmir to Myanmar's genocide of the Rohingya in the state of Rakhine.

As shocking as the Trump administration's attempt to legitimate Israeli settlements is, it definitely shouldn't imply that we've reached the end of the road.

Should the international community fail to act, Trump and Netanyahu will stop at nothing to crush the Palestinians once and for all

Instead, much can, and should still be done to aid the occupied Palestinian people, instead of allowing such an idle conclusion to stand in as an excuse for inaction.

Pompeo's announcement should be seen as a final wake up call to other powerful and influential actors in the international community such as the European Union and United Nations to finally get a grip and use the momentum of Trump's aggressive assault on the peace process to take equally powerful actions to advance a solution to the conflict. 

Should they fail to do so, Trump and Netanyahu will stop at nothing to crush the Palestinians once and for all.

Already celebrating, today Netanyahu used the Trump administration's announcement 
to approve a bill to annex the Jordan Valley.

[Click to enlarge]

So far, the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has issued a statement reiterating EU to Israel's settlements and rejecting the US decision. But this falls painfully short of what's needed, and could still be done to protect what's at stake here.

Mogherini underlines that Israeli settlement activity is "illegal under international law and erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace, as reaffirmed by UN Security Council Resolution 2334". But verbal support for the two-state solution essentially means nothing if not propped up by serious actions to advance such solution in the first place.

It'd be nothing short of a totaly betrayal of the Palestinian people if, after this egregious decision, European officials remain unmoved; reluctant and afraid of venturing beyond routinely vocal commitments to the peace process.

EU member states, for instance, could use the momentum created by the announcement to push for recognising the state of Palestine as a principled position at a crucial moment, in order to put both parties in the conflict on an equal footing in future negotiations.

The EU remains Israel's largest trading partner, which puts greater responsibility on it to take serious and genuine action

A more practical and much urgent step would be for the EU to immediately ban Israeli settlements products from entering its markets as the only logical measure to disincentivise Israel's relentless settlement expansion and encroachment on Palestinian lands.

This is not a moral fantasy; in fact, it's already the case in many European cities that have individually undertaken such necessary commitment. Most recently Oslo's council have banned purchase of Israeli settlement goods and services. Additionally, the EU's own top justice court in Luxemburg ruled last week that settlement products labeling is mandatory. Why not take the next step to ban them altogether?

The EU remains Israel's largest trading partner, which puts greater responsibility on it to take serious and genuine action against Israel's flagrant violations of international law, or else it would be a de facto enabler of the historic injustice and systematic brutalities visited upon the occupied Palestinians, as we inch closer towards perpetual apartheid.

Read more: Dangerous, immoral, but predictable: Palestinians react to US endorsement of Israeli settlements

This step is crucial, not only to show compliance with international law, but to also protect it from Trump's attempt to write it off.

Similarly, the United Nations has long kept a powerful card in the shadows that it should now bring to light before it's too late: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, continues to indefinitely delay the release of the UN database of companies operating in Israeli settlements.

Releasing this database at such a critical moment would curb the US and Israel's offensive campaign on the peace process and international order. It would create long overdue pressure on companies to halt business dealings in settlements; which means putting a cost on Israel's occupation and disregard for international law.

Keeping the list under wraps any longer would essentially render idle parties complicit in the erosion of chances for peace, and the obliteration of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and dignity.

Muhammad Shehada is a writer and civil society activist from the Gaza Strip and a student of Development Studies at Lund University, Sweden. He was the PR officer for the Gaza office of the Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights.

Follow him on Twitter: @muhammadshehad2

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab.