Open letter to Europan Commission President José Manuel Barroso
Occupied Palestine, July 7 2012
Dear Europan Commission President José Manuel Barroso,
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the broadest Palestinian civil society coalition comprising the largest Palestinian mass organizations, trade unions, networks and NGOs, is writing ahead of your visit to Israel to urge you to refrain from entering into new agreements or any kind of upgrade in relations between the European Union and Israel. To do so would be to give license to Israel’s serious breaches of international law which violate the rights of the Palestinian people, foremost our right to self-determination. Continued EU “business as usual” engagement with Israel also violates the EU’s own international obligations. It comes at the expense of Palestinian rights and the EU’s standing in the region.
Your visit comes at a time when it is increasingly recognized that Israel’s prolonged occupation constitutes, in fact, a regime of colonization and apartheid. The people of the region have become empowered and will no longer accept such a regime. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) declared in its latest report that it was “particularly appalled” by Israel’s policies and practices of apartheid and racial segregation, in particular but not exclusively in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. 
The recent 2011 Jerusalem EU Heads of Mission Report expressed concern about the drastically deteriorating situation in occupied East Jerusalem caused by Israel’s official policy to prevent Palestinian development and restrict the growth of the Palestinian population to no more than 30%. The EU Heads of Mission explicitly recommended that the EU take effective action in order ensure Israel’s respect of EU policy and stops its illegal settlement activity.
2. Legal framework:
The EU is failing to live up to its commitments that would condition relations with Israel on “human rights and democratic principles” as Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement stipulates it should be. The notion that “positive engagement” between the EU and Israel brings meaningful pressure on Israel to comply with international law and basic human rights standards is today completely discredited. The exceptionally close relationship between the EU and Israel instead encourages further Israeli violations of UN-sanctioned Palestinian rights.
In light of the serious nature of Israel’s violations, the EU and its member States have legal obligations beyond those under the Fourth Geneva Convention and human rights treaties. The EU and its member States have the duty not to recognize, aid or assist in the maintenance of the illegal situation created by Israel, and to cease all activities which amount to such recognition, aid or assistance. In addition, the EU and its member States are to cooperate in order to end Israel’s serious violations. These legal obligations are affirmed in the ICJ Advisory Opinion of 2004. Respect of these obligations is essential if the EU seeks
to promote the rule of law in international cooperation. Finally, it is lawful for the EU to adopt sanctions as a means to end Israel’s serious breaches. The EU may, therefore, suspend or terminate the Association Agreement with Israel. In practice, however, the EU has maintained an exceptionally close relationship with Israel. In this context, the EU has failed to respect its own international obligations and contributed to a situation where Israel enjoys impunity for its violations of international law and oppression of the Palestinian people.
In light of the above, Palestinian civil society, joined by many European trade unions, faith groups and political parties concerned with justice and peace, calls upon the EU to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement. We also call upon the EU to abstain from any upgrade or new cooperation agreement with Israel.
Until the EU and its member States are able and willing to undertake the measures required to fulfill their international obligations, we appeal to you to ensure, in your role as President of the European Commission, that Israeli participation in EU programs does not result in recognition, aid or assistance in the maintenance of the illegal situation it has created. In particular, we appeal to you to ensure that:
- The EU-Israel Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACCA) agreement is not ratified because it will, in its current form, be allowed to apply to illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory and to companies involved with illegal Israeli settlements. The ACCA agreement will, moreover, increase Israeli access to European pharmaceutical markets irrespective of its serious violations of international law.
- Israeli private and public bodies that violate international law in occupied Palestinian territory are excluded from participation in EU funded research programs. Companies such as the settlement-based company Ahava DSL, Elbit Systems and Israeli Aerospace Industries, and state institutions such as the Israeli Antiquities Authority, participate in the construction and maintenance of illegal settlements and the illegal Wall and cannot be entrusted to use EU resources in accordance with the EU’s own legal obligations. Such entities must be barred from further participation in Seventh Framework Program (FP7) projects, and future legislation on research funding should explicitly prohibit their participation.
The European Union and the overwhelming majority of its member states recognize Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem, as the capital of the State of Israel. When Israel hosted an OECD conference in Jerusalem, a senior minister stated the decision by countries to attend the conference was a show of support for Israel’s claims over the whole of the city, including occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem. We ask you not to meet President Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem, as this will provide a further show of support for these illegal claims.
The EU can only contribute to a just and lasting peace based on international law if EU complicity with Israel’s serious violations of international law is ended and EU condemnation of unlawful Israeli acts is translated into effective countermeasures. We urge you not to take any steps that would give assent to Israeli policies and practices of colonization and apartheid against the Palestinian people and to review existing relations so that they fall within the parameters of international law.
Deeply concerned and with sincere greetings,
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC)