The European Union’s opposition to Israel’s West Bank settlements is well known. Preventing Jews from having homes on the biblical hills of Judea and Samaria is apparently a top foreign-policy priority for Brussels. Of course in attempting to justify their fixation with this matter the Eurocrats generally appeal to international law, making mention of its stipulations in the gravest tones. But now it turns out that the EU has been flouting international law and backing illegal West Bank settlements after all. In fact, it’s been funding and building them directly. Only these West Bank settlements aren’t for Jews, they’re for Palestinians. So apparently the rules don’t apply.
A report by the Israeli NGO Regavim has revealed that in recent years the EU has funneled millions of euros into constructing more than 400 housing units in 17 illegal settlements. Somewhat bizarrely these outposts fly the EU federal flag and are staffed by EU personnel boldly dressed in EU uniform. But unlike Israel’s West Bank settlements which have a disputed legal status, there can be no doubt that these EU settlements are in clear and open breach of international law.
The settlements in question have been built by the EU in Area C of the West Bank. Under the Oslo II agreement signed in 1995, clause 2 of article 27 gives Israel full and exclusive authority over all planning and construction within Area C of the West Bank. This is an agreement that not only the Palestinian Authority signed up to, but one that the European Union is a signatory of as well. As such, that treaty has the status of binding international law which the EU is obliged to uphold. Worse still, these illegal settlements are guarded by aggressive EU workers who have been caught threatening Israeli soldiers and onlookers with rocks.
So what does the EU have to say in its defense? Well according to Jake Wallis Simons who broke this story for the Daily Mail, Brussels spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic simply denied that any of the above is taking place. And when presented with the photographic evidence of the EU flag fluttering over the illegal hilltop outposts she refused to make any further comment. Welcome to the Orwellian world of Brussels federalism.
Unfortunately for Maja Koncijancic, her EU comrades on the ground are not so tight lipped. When Simons questioned a spokesperson for the EU in the West Bank and Gaza, this time the spokesperson not only accepted that the construction was taking place but openly justified it on political grounds as part of an effort to secure the territory for a Palestinian state. A similar response came from Oxfam—a very worthy UK charity which like several others now seems to have gone rogue on the Israeli-Palestinian issue—which has also been involved with the EU’s illegal settlement project. An Oxfam spokesperson justified the illegal construction on “humanitarian” grounds. But it turns out that by humanitarian he actually just meant that in Oxfam’s opinion not enough construction permits were being issued to Palestinians in Area C. But if that counts as reason enough to break the law in Oxfam’s eyes, then every time there’s a construction freeze on Israeli settlements, the good people of Oxfam should be helping Israeli settlers build more housing units, all on “humanitarian” grounds.
It is of course baffling that at a time when Europe is so totally cash strapped and when a war rages in its own backyard (Ukraine), Brussels is funneling millions into illegal West Bank settlements. And all the while EU officials and European governments use accusations of settlement building to lambaste Israel. But what this really exposes is that all of the EU’s highminded talk about international law is just an excuse and a means of dressing up contempt for the Jewish state in acceptable language. Its own illegal settlement project demonstrates that the EU cares nothing for international law in the West Bank.
For some time now there has been something very disconcerting about the European Union’s activities in the West Bank. Back in 2013 when a French diplomat was filmed attacking an Israeli soldier, one couldn’t help but think that with so few Jews left in their own countries, those Europeans with the urge are now having to make the arduous journey to the West Bank to get into scuffles with Jews. Indeed, Tuvia Tenenbom’s exposure of how Germany in particular is funding a vast apparatus of anti-Israel NGO activity in the West Bank makes one wonder why it seems to be so impossible for these people to just leave the Jews alone.
Europe has been accused of hypocrisy before regarding its obsession with the settlement issue. Allegations that the EU has failed to muster the same fierce opposition to Moroccan settlements in occupied Western Sahara have simply been shrugged off by Brussels. But now that it turns out the EU has its own illegal settlement project in the West Bank, the hypocrisy allegation should really be made to stick.