After latest Gaza massacre, the EU must impose sanctions on Israel!

Letter to Ministers of Foreign Affairs concerning Israel’s killing of civilians in Gaza

To the attention of:

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs – Mrs Federica Mogherini,

Ministers of Foreign Affairs of EU Member States,

A total of 30 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers during 10 days of protests at Gaza’s border with Israel according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday there were “no innocent people” in the Gaza Strip after Israeli soldiers shot and killed unarmed civilians. The victims were taking part in a series of protests around the annual Land Day commemorations, marking the 1976 killing of six Palestinians who were protesting Israel’s confiscation of thousands of acres of their land. This year’s event also marks 70 years since the beginning of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people and the displacement from their land during the establishment of the State of Israel,and was dubbed the Great March of Return – thereby placing the Palestinians’ UN-mandated Right of Return front and centre as the most important claim of the civil society-led movement

Even before the march began Israel announced that it would deploy more than 100 snipers, helicopters and drones with tear gas, and tanks to shoot the protesters. As a result 30 Palestinians, over the course of two Fridays, were killed and more than 1600 injured within the undefined Israeli-imposed “buffer zone” that further cuts into Gaza’s already illegally-blockaded territory.

Human Rights organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned Israel’s use of lethal and other excessive force and called for independent and effective investigations to be launched immediately. Israel has dismissed such calls out of hand.

As you are aware, the Gaza Strip remains under Israel’s over 50-year-long military rule and decade-old illegal blockade by air, sea and land, totally cut off from the world.

Since 2007 Israel has carried out three major military assaults (2008–09, 2012 and again in 2014) against Gaza, and countless raids in between, unleashing the force of the region’s most powerful army—and sole nuclear power—on one of the most densely populated refugee areas in the world. Palestinian refugees, including internally displaced persons, constitute more than two thirds of the Palestinian people. In Gaza, UNWRA-registered refugees make up more than 70% of the population.

The failure of the international community to take action to ensure that Israel complies with international law has allowed Israel to continue its countless attacks on Palestinian civilians, including the recent killings of Palestinians in Gaza, with complete impunity.

In addition to the just demands calling for independent and effective investigations into reports that Israeli soldiers have unlawfully used firearms against unarmed protesters, international sanctions must be imposed as Israel’s serious breaches of international law trigger legal obligations for the EU, Israel’s largest trade partner, and for the Union’s member states.

According to the EU External Action Service, restrictive measures can be applied by the EU “to bring about a change in policy or activity by the target country, part of a country, government, entities or individuals…They are a preventive, non-punitive, instrument which should allow the EU to respond swiftly to political challenges and developments.”

The EU has imposed restrictive measures, including the suspension of Association Agreements and trade restrictions, on a wide range of countries that violate international human rights and humanitarian law, including Russia and Sri Lanka. Governments, individually and collectively, are legally obliged to act and adopt measures that end serious violations of international law committed by a third state.1

The continued application of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, despite Israel’s clear violation of the Article 2 clause, sends a clear and unambiguous message to Israel that its massacres of Palestinians and colonisation of their land will be tolerated and will not result in any meaningful impact on its close relations with the EU. This creates a climate of impunity for Israel and complicity by the EU and its member states.

Moreover, Israel’s participation in EU Framework Programs often provides financial and other forms of support to Israeli military companies like Elbit and IAI – two main providers of drones that are accused of deep complicity in Israel’s war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Therefore we call upon you to condemn Israel’s massacres of Palestinian civilians during the upcoming Foreign Affairs Council meeting on April 16 and/or the following FAC meeting, and in particular to ensure the following items are written into the meeting Conclusions:

  • Statement on the illegality of Gaza’ blockade under international law, and a call for immediate measures to start to lift it;
  • Full condemnation of the use of military weapons against civilian demonstrators;
  • Commitment to protect the Palestinian people, explicitly in the light of Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement

In addition we call upon the EU and its member states to take concrete steps to end the blockade of Gaza by:

  • Applying restrictive measures on Israel, including by suspending the Association Agreement, as a way to pressure Israel to comply with international law and end EU support for Israeli violations of international law;
  • Excluding Israeli military companies from participating in EU framework programs such as Horizon 2020 and FP9;
  • Implementing the recommendation of the European Council on Foreign Relations to halt all financial transactions with Israeli banks that finance Israel’s occupation, including the illegal wall and illegal settlements;
  • Imposing a two-way military embargo on Israel, including cutting funding to all Israeli companies and universities involved in military research that enables the commission of Israel’s war crimes.

1. Draft Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts adopted by the International Law Commission and commended to governments in UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/56/83 of 12 December 2001; in particular Articles 41, 49 and 54)