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Israel, Palestine and the European Union

Jerusalem Post Graphic

Last week UCL student and blogger, Lewis Barber, wrote an article for the Jerusalem Post which was titled:

“Why I will be voting to leave the European Union…”

In summary, this was because, claimed Lewis:

  • The EU no longer represented his values as a human being
  • The decision by the highest EU court to strike down the status of Hamas as a terrorist organisation
  • The European Parliament has pushed through symbolic recognitions of a Palestine
  • The EU has shown itself in 2014 to be failing European Jewry
  • The European Parliament and unelected elites have turned a blind eye towards the drastic rise of extremism across the continent
  • The EU has failed to address its undemocratic nature
  • The EU not only abandons Jews in Europe but now it is abandoning the Jewish safe haven and homeland

I responded to Lewis’s article in the readers’ comments section of the Jerusalem Post, which I re-publish here in full:

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I can understand and empathise with the strong feelings that led to the writing of this blog by Lewis Barber, and I cannot argue with those feelings. However, I believe that Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union would make matters worse, not better.

The European Union, and its Parliament, is a democracy, and not made up of “unelected elites” as Lewis claimed. It’s true that far right, Eurosceptic and often racist parties have gained more seats in the European Parliament, and this is of great concern. But despite this, pro-EU parties still retain by far the most seats in the European Parliament – and those parties strongly support the fundamental founding principles of the European Union.

One of those founding principles is a commitment to human rights, and in particular, The European Convention on Human Rights. This was drafted by British lawyers in direct response to the abject horrors of the Nazi regime.

This is not a time, as some UK politicians are proposing, for Britain to abandon its commitment to international human rights legislation, or to withdraw its membership from the world’s biggest economic and political community of nations, the European Union.

Yes, the European Union needs to be doing much more to combat all forms of racism that are rapidly rising across its continent. But how would Britain on the outside of the EU help to achieve that? As non-members, we would have far less influence and no say at all in the management and policies of the EU.

Also, it’s not correct as Lewis wrote that the EU is “turning a blind eye towards the drastic rise of extremism across the continent” or allowing anti-Semitism “to flourish”.

At the recent annual Israel-European Commission seminar in Jerusalem on combating racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, Head of the EU Delegation said:

“Racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism are incompatible with the values of respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, equality and non-discrimination upon which the EU is founded. The European Union is committed to combating these phenomena by making use of all powers available under the European Treaties, in particular through legislation, financial support for projects and dialogue.”

Following the recent ruling of the EU General Court to remove the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organisation, the European Union issued a statement to reiterate that this was a legal ruling of a court, and not a political decision by the EU governments. The EU is considering whether to appeal against the ruling, and reaffirmed its commitment to the “Quartet Principles” which are that:

• A Palestinian state must recognize the state of Israel without prejudging what various grievances or claims are appropriate,

• Abide by previous diplomatic agreements, and

• Renounce violence as a means of achieving goals

Lewis Barber’s blog claimed that the European Parliament has pushed through “symbolic recognitions of a Palestine.” However, this too needs to be reported in context.

The European Parliament last week passed a motion that it supported, “in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced”.

The European Parliament also reiterated, “its strong support for the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the right of self-determination and full respect of international law”.

To support the European Union’s diplomatic efforts in the Middle East peace process, the Parliament also decided to launch a “Parliamentarians for Peace” initiative to bring together MEPs from the European Parliament, and MPs from both the Israeli and Palestinian parliaments.

The democratically elected Members of the European Parliament also condemned “in the strongest terms all acts of terrorism or violence”.

The European Union and its Parliament is a democracy at work. Democracy, as we know, is often clumsy, slow and rarely comes up with perfect answers. But the ballot is better than the bullet, and democracy relies on working together.

Britain’s future is in being in the European Union, not apart from it. We should not be reducing the strength or numbers of the EU, but instead using the democratic apparatus within the European Union to help combat racism and promote peace and prosperity, both on our own continent, and elsewhere on the planet when and where possible. We can’t do that as non-members. Our future is in leading the EU, not in leaving it.

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To know more about my reasons for wanting the UK to stay in the EU, please read my own blog, “The value of being citizens of Europe”.

 

 

 

Other articles by Jon Danzig:



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