Pro-Israel Europe Tries to Save Face in the Middle East
Europe has tarnished its image in the Middle East by declaring and showering Israel with unconditional support and right to self-defense. This isn’t surprising as over the years Germany and France stepped efforts to subdued Palestine solidarity activism. Palestinian activists in European countries are facing legal actions, with governments putting in place measures to criminalize their rights to boycott and critique the Israeli regime.
Europe has a bitter history of racism, imperialism, colonialism, war and genocide. Its pro-Israeli stance reflects the continent’s history. But the communities and people in Europe are taking a stand. They are defying their governments by holding peaceful protests and rallies; they are voicing their dissent and waving Palestine flags. They are decrying killing of civilians, women and children. And they are not scared.
Since October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and ensuing Israeli airstrikes and bombardment in Gaza, the UK and Germany has banned pro-Palestinian marches. The French President Emmanuel Macron showed solidarity with Israel and landed in Tel Aviv, but he pressed for the preservation of the civilian population.
Macron did not hold back in criticizing Israel for killing women, children and civilians in Gaza. In a BBC interview, he stressed ceasefire. “This is the only solution we have, this ceasefire, because it’s impossible to explain we want to fight against terrorism by killing innocent people. These babies, ladies and old people are being bombed and killed. There is no reason for that, and no legitimacy, so we do urge Israel to stop.”
Last week, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez condemned Israeli strikes in Gaza. “I have serious doubts Israel is complying with international humanitarian law. What we are seeing in Gaza is not acceptable.” Sanchez also said that Spain would be prepared to recognize an independent Palestinian state.
France and Spain are openly calling out Israel over its military operation. Political commentators believe legitimate criticism of Israel’s occupation and its brutal war on Gaza rapidly spills into and is overtaken by broader ethnic, religious and class grievances against the political establishment, increasingly targeting the existence of Israel. This degenerates into episodes of anti-Semitism.
Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza has hit at the core of European politics and society. It has exposed and accentuated the risk of a backsliding of its democracies.
Europe Wants to Save Gaza
Joseph Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said Europeans must be among the keepers of international and humanitarian law. He highlighted that the war in Gaza is the outcome of a collective political and moral failure, for which Israeli and Palestinian people are paying a high price.
“The substance of the Israeli-Palestinian question is a national problem – that of two peoples who have the right to exist on the same land. There is therefore a need to share this land. Thirty years ago, with the Oslo Accords, we had an agreement on how to share it. But it has not been implemented.”