EU members question bloc’s moral authority as it condemns Russia’s Ukraine invasion but excuses Israel for carrying out bombings of residential buildings in Gaza
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has put herself forward as the face of the European Union (EU), offering her full-throttled support for Israel. However, bloc members condemned her lack of mandate to speak on foreign policy matters.
“President von der Leyen’s approach has been entirely one-sided and she has entirely failed to show leadership and lead a coherent response to the crisis,” Grace O’Sullivan, an Irish Green Party member of the European Parliament, told Middle East Eye. “It was clear from the beginning that the president’s cabinet of commissioners was not communicating on the issue and was instead making unilateral statements,” she added, referring to Oliver Varhelyi, the European commissioner for neighborhood and enlargement. Sullivan even called for Varhelyi’s immediate resignation.
Moreover, some 800 EU staff wrote von der Leyen a letter as a show of protest against her unjustifiable bias towards Israel and a failure to even mention the need for Palestinian statehood, which is official EU policy. The correspondence emphasized the Commission’s double standards, citing how it considered the blockade of Ukraine by Russia as an act of terror, while Israel’s blockade of Gaza is completely ignored.
“We are saddened by the patent show of double standards which considers the blockade [water and fuel] operated by Russia on the Ukrainian people as an act of terror whilst the identical act by Israel against the Gazan people is completely ignored,” the letter read. And so they urged von der Leyen “to call, together with the leaders of the whole Union, for a ceasefire and the protection of civilian life. This is at the core of the EU’s existence.”
The EU continues to neglect the central issue at stake, that “Israel is the occupying power and Palestinians are an occupied people,” said Danish politician in the European parliament Margrete Auken. “Israel is committing a genocide in Gaza. Where are the protests from our political leadership? Why don’t we have the same standard we have towards Russia with Israel?” She added that if democracy and human rights should be promoted in the Global South and they can see how “biased a big majority of Western countries are and how passive they are, it is very damaging.”
Further punishing Palestinians as the union sides with Israel, Varhelyi said “There can be no business as usual” because of Hamas’ catastrophic attack on October 7 on southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the deaths of around 1,400 Israelis. He said that the strike was a “turning point” and that the USD 730 million (EUR 691 million) in humanitarian aid for Palestinians would be suspended until further notice. (Related: EU leaders announce plans to support UN call for HUMANITARIAN PAUSE in Israel-Hamas war to allow distribution of aid to civilians in Gaza.)
The scale of terror and brutality against #Israel and its people is a turning point.
There can be no business as usual.
As the biggest donor of the Palestinians, the European Commission is putting its full development portfolio under review, worth a total of EUR 691m
— Oliver Varhelyi (@OliverVarhelyi) October 9, 2023
“The scale of terror and brutality against Israel and its people is a turning point,” he said in a post on social media and added a follow-up response on the same thread:
- All payments are immediately suspended.
- All projects are put under review.
- All new budget proposals, incl. for 2023 postponed until further notice.
- Comprehensive assessment of the whole portfolio.
EU leaders’ varying stances show division over Israel-Hamas war
Several member states, including Ireland, Spain and the Netherlands, publicly chided the decision citing that the need for humanitarian aid was even more necessary given that Israel had announced a new “complete siege” of Gaza, cutting off water, power and food to the Palestinian enclave, already under a 16-year siege.
“Our understanding is that there is no legal basis for a unilateral decision of this kind by an individual commissioner and we do not expect a suspension of aid,” Ireland added European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic contradicted Varhelyi and announced that “EU humanitarian aid to Palestinians in need will continue as long as needed.” Varhelyi’s social media posts declaring the multi-million dollar humanitarian assistance were updated by X users, claiming that: “By late Monday, the Commission stated there will be no suspension of payments.”
As of press time, IDF has killed at least 5,087 Palestinians since the conflict started, including more than 2,000 children, according to the latest tally provided by the Palestinian health ministry. Around 70 percent of those killed are children, women and elderly people.
Sources for this article include: