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Commentary :: Human Rights
The moral short-sightedness of the Dutch prime-minister Balkenende and the EU regarding Israel
04 Apr 2005
Although it is of main importance the Dutch prime-minister Balkenende has referred to the universal values in respect of the holocaust, it is striking that he is lacking in moral indignation with respect to the Palestinian victims of the Israeli occupation.
The moral short-sightedness of the Dutch prime-minister Balkenende and the EU

'''The world War II and the holocaust have teached us of the existence of universal values we must never give up. Values are no unquestionable standards, but a message which we have to fullfil''

Those impressive words were spoken by the Dutch prime minister Balkenende in front of more than 30 governmental-leaders and the UN Secretary-General on the occasion of the holocaust-memorial in the Yad-Vashem museum in Israel dd 16-3, which was the most important reason for his three days visit to Israel and the Palestinian areas.
Also it is to be appreciated that during his speech he referred to the Dutch attitude of treason and indifference regarding their Jewish countrymen during World War II, which formed besides the admirable acts of resistance also an important role in Dutch history and was hirtherto never admitted by the Dutch authorities.

However it goes without saying, that prime-minister Balkenende in his remarks about ''universal values'' justly referred at the holocaust, being the violation in extremis of human rights, it is striking, that mr Balkenende as well during his recent visit to Israel as his governmental period, always deliberately has bagatellised the Israeli political-military conduct in the Palestinian areas.
Also during the Dutch presidency of the EU from june untill december 2004 neither he or the Dutch minister Bot of Foreign Affairs have ever developed any serious inititiative in order to impose political pressure on Israel to maintain the international human rights standards.

Concerning this I want to express clearly, that of course there is no comparison whatsoever between the holocaust, committed by the nazi's and the political-military conduct of the Israeli government, which is maintaining a nearly 38 years occupation of the Palestinian territories with all social-humanitarian consequences involved.
However I think it is of great importance to emphasize the fact, that human rights, as being formulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are universal and indivisable regardless race, descent or religoious conviction and as such have to be defended without any distinction.

Relationship Europe-Israel

Powerpolitics and the European guilt-complex

Although the views of the younger generation regarding Israel are far more critical, among many individual Europeans and certain European governments still there is a considerable inclination to measure the Israeli political conduct with different standards as the political acts of other countries, not only for reasons of power-strategy, but also out of deep-rooted feelings of guilt regarding the holocaust.
This attitude of guilt is the denial of the fact, that Israel is a State, which is not only acting out of strategic and political interests, but is also being subjected to the same international humanitarian standards as any other State and should therefore being judged according to those principles.

Just like it makes no sense to bagatellise the extra-judicial executions, called the ''december murders'', in the former Dutch colony Surinam [Dutch-Guyana] dd 8-12 1982 as well as the by the Surinam army committed mass-slaughter in the eighties of a great number of civilians in East-Surinam, with a reference to the Dutch guilt-feeling about the colonial and slavery past, the Israeli political-military conduct regarding the Palestinian civilian-population can be bagatellised in reference to the existing Dutch-European feelings of guilt.

B Religious aspects:

In their often blind support of Israel some christian communities, as well in Europe as the USA, emphasize on the ''unbreakable bond with the nation of Israel''.
Although I respect any religious conviction and am not intended to start a discussion regarding this, it is evident, that the fundaments of christianity are based on universal humanity, which excludes an inhuman and degrading treatment of any human being, regardless his descent.

C Universal values and International Law:

A major part of the universal values prime-minister Balkenende is referring to is being based on the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, but also on the articles of the 4th Geneva Convention, which concern the protection of the civilian population in times of war and occupation.
However, concerning this I've arrived at a delicate point, which is being named nolens volens by the European governmental leaders, but has been seldom acknowlegded as the major cause of the present Israeli-Palestinian conflict, namely the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, the West Bank, the Gaza-strip and East-Jerusalem.

1 Israeli occupation and settlements-policy:

At the 21th of november 1967, UN-Security Council Resolution 242 was unanimously accepted, by which Israel was being summoned to withdraw its troops out of the in the june-war conquered areas, among else the Palestinian territories.
However it's commonly known, that Israel has never implemented Resolution 242 despite numerous UN-summons to fulfill its international obligations, with as a result a more than 38years occupation of the Palestinian areas.
Yet apart from this, the occupation also led to the Israeli settlements-policy, which has started at the end of the sixties and is illegal according International Law, which prohibits the transfer of the population of the occupying country to the occupied territories [article 49, the 4th Geneva Convention]
Despite this article of International Law, which has resulted in two UN-Security Council-resolutions dd 1979, which summoned Israel to as well the dismantling of already built settlements as the further stop of the buiding of new settlements, this settlements-buiding has been continued through the years, culminating in the present building of new settlements in the West-Bank.
Yet apart from the evident illegality of those settlements, the humanitarian implications regarding the Palestinian civilian populations were very grave, since this building led to massive Palestinian land and house-diswonings with as a consequence, that more than 100.000 Palestinian were made homeless.
Yet apart from this apparent inhumanity, those disownings also are contrary with International Law [article 53, 4th Geneva Convention], which forbids expropriations of land, houses and other possessions of ''protected people'' [people who are living under an occupation].

2 Peace-process and terrorism:

Striking is, that in their approachment of the Middle East-conflict, the EU as well individual European government-leaders emphasize mainly two aspects, namely the stimulating of the peace-process and the condemnation of Palestinian terrorism.
However, concerning all peace-proposals untill the realisation of peace-accords from the Oslo-accords till the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement it is evident, that there was no execution whatsoever of the UN-resolutions, which implied the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and the dismantling of the settlements.
The consequences were the continuing of the occupation and the settlements-policy, with all humanitarian impplications regarding the Palestinian civilian-population.

Another aspect, which has been emphasized by the EU is the condemnation of the Palestinian terrorism.
Although it is evident, that those actions [in casu Palestinian military attacks on Israeli civilians and civiliasn targets, mostly in the form of suicide-attacks] are serious human-rights violations according to International Law, the EU is ignoring the fact, that however condemnable, those actions are mainly springing from the nearly 38years Israeli occupation, to which are inherent oppression, humiliations and a great number of violations of human rights and war-crimes, like in the case of any other occupation in the world.

Also it is striking, that the Palestinian military attacks against the Israeli occupation-army, which are legitimate according to International Law, are being considered as ''terroristic attacks'' by the right-wing christian political circles to which the Dutch prime-minister Balkenende belongs.
For example in the political memo of the CDA [the right wing christian democratical party of prime-minister Balkenende] Commission International Affairs about the Middle East dd 2003 called ''A righteous approach'', Palestinian military attacks against the Israeli army are being called ''terroristic attacks on Israeli soldiers''

3 The bagatellising of Israeli violations of human rights and war crimes:

Further the bagatellising of Israeli human rights violations and war-crimes is very striking, not only in circles of right-wing European political parties, but also by the EU as a whole.
In the past years repeatedly there was a strong EU-condemnation of Palestinian terroristic attacks on Israeli civilians as well of the Israeli liquidation-policy regarding Palestinian leaders and activists.
However, there were few condemnations of the almost daily committed Israeli war-crimes and human rights violations in the Palestinian occupied territories like arbitary shooting at civilians and the mass-housedemolitions, especially in Gaza with as a result thousands of homeless people, especially in Gaza.
In this respect the EU referred after the death of Arafat dd 14-11 untill the end of december of a period of ''relative calm'', despite of the fact that as a result of a great number of massive Israeli military attacks in Palestinian refugee-camps as well in the West-Bank as in the Gaza-strip, in the same period more than 58 people were killed and 146 were injured.

D EU-measures

Conspicuous is the great discrepancy between the verbal EU-condemnations of the recently stopped Israeli liquidations [in connection with the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement], the house-demolitions, the more incidental condemnations of the daily Israeli military conduct in the occupied territories and the real political EU-measures against Israel.
An obvious possibility for political pressure of the EU on Israel is lain in the Assocation-accord between the EU and Israel, which implies advantageous commercial conditions for Israel.
One of the contents and conditions for the execution of the Accord is namely the mutual obligation to maintain the international humanitarian rights-rules.

However, despite the by the EU admitted great number Israeli violations of human rights, the settlements-policy and the as well by the EU condemned Israeli-wallconstruction through the occupied Palestinian territories, the EU onbviously is lacks the political willingness to make a moral statement to suspend or revoke the Association-Accord.
The only occasion the EU was willing to consider this possibility seriously was
in 2002, when the EU voted about the possible suspension or revoking of the Association-accord because of the many Israeli human-rights violations and war-crimes during the first great Israeli military offensive.
However, the Association-Accord was being maintained, which was especially the responsibility of Great-Britain, the Netherlands and Germany, which voted against the proposal.
It must be said in this respect, that Balkenende wasn't a prime-minister yet, because than prime-minister Kok [being the social-democratical prime-minister] was the head of the government.

E The Netherlands as Chairman of the EU:

Also it is very important to notice here, that from the beginning of the Dutch chairmanship of the EU dd june 2004 untill the end in december 2004, apart from a sporadic number of condemnations of the many Israeli human-rights-violations, there was hardly a development of relevant initiatives, which would form a contribution to a real peace in the Middle-East, based on the implementation of the UN-resolutions regarding the conflict.
Yet apart from the political-realistic chance on succes, those initiatives also would give a strong signal to Israel being the occupying power, that the maintainance of the human rights rules is an obligation for all parties, which are involved in the Middle-East conflict.

F Wir haben ess nicht gewusst

Of course it is of the main importance, that prime-minister Balkenende has referred to the universal values in respect to the horrors of the holocaust.
However it is disappointing, that he has turned his face from the Palestinian civilian-victims of the Israeli violations of human rights and war-crimes, since they have an equal right on humanitarian sympathy, compassion and the acknowledgement of their sufferings.
A striking example was his recently uttered concern from the activities of the Hamas, which wasn't accompanied by a clear and explicit criticism of the Israeli political-military conduct.
This attitude is also reflected in the meaningless Dutch EU-chairmanship, which testified of the statement ''no deeds, but words''

It would have been wise, when prime-minister Balkenende during his speech also had memorated the notorious statement, done by of the political responsible nazi-leading exponents after World War II ''Wir haben ess nicht gewusst'' in a failed attempt to deny their apparent responsibility.

When future Dutch and European generations are holding prime-minister Balkenende and his European coleagues responsible because of their lack of a strong humanitarian and political behaviour concerning the Palestinian civilian-victims of the Isareli occupation neither prime-minister Balkenende, nor his European colleagues will be able to say ''Wir haben ess nicht gewusst''

Astrid Essed
The Netherlands

This work is in the public domain
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