Statement by GUE/NGL MEPs Neoklis Sylikiotis (Cyprus) – chair of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Palestine (D-PAL) – Eleonora Forenza (Italy) and Josu Juaristi (Basque country) at the conclusion of a four-day mission to Palestine:
We express our sincere solidarity with the Palestinian people and their decades-long struggle for freedom, justice and equality. We support the Palestinian right to self-determination and oppose Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.
This year, Palestinians marked the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. We witnessed first-hand the impact of the Israel’s occupation in the lives of the Palestinian people who are subjected to daily humiliations and assault on their dignity and freedoms at the hands of Israeli soldiers. While in Hebron, we were forced to take cover in a Palestinian shop as the Israeli army moved with lethal force against Palestinian residents using tear gas, stun grenades and live fire. Hebron is a microcosm of how the Israeli occupation manifests in practice, with a minority of settlers holding hostage a majority of Palestinians.
During our mission, we met our counterparts – members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) – and heard promising developments in intra-Palestinian reconciliation. We took the opportunity to call for the release of the 13 PLC members currently in Israeli jails as well as the thousands of other Palestinian political prisoners. We heard directly from the families of prisoners about disturbing accounts of Israeli torture and abuse inside prisons. The economic exploitation of Palestinian prisoners who – in effect – are forced to finance their own imprisonment symbolises the many absurdities of Israel’s occupation.
Israel’s continued settlement expansion has meant for Palestinian communities the loss of their homes and denial of access to their lands and livelihoods. We saw how the Israeli army is threatening to expel and wipe-out the Palestinian communities in Khan al-Ahmar where not even the EU-funded school has been spared from destruction by Israeli bulldozers. Theirs is just one example of the fate of dozens such communities. We paid tribute in person to the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that since 1949 has supported displaced Palestinians and Palestinian refugees. Forced displacement and settlement construction are war crimes under international law and those responsible in the Israeli political and military elite must be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
We oppose Israel’s Apartheid wall in the West Bank and the illegal siege of Gaza. The Wall and the siege have separated Palestinian communities from each other and have separated them from East Jerusalem. The wall brings division, segregation and is illegal, as declared by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The wall must fall! Gaza’s siege must end!
Israel’s wall also separates Palestinians in the Occupied Territory with the 1.2 million Palestinians who are second-class citizens of Israel. Israel’s discriminatory laws prohibit marriage between these two classes of Palestinians. We heard from members of the Joint List of Arab parties in Israel about Israeli discriminatory laws – over 40 of them – that directly target Palestinians in Israel. Israel cannot be a democracy for as long as it has laws that discriminate against a large part of its own citizen population on the basis of ethnicity.
We expressed our solidarity to the Mufti of Jerusalem and stated our support for the right of Palestinians to exercise religious freedom in the city. This includes opposition to Israeli measures to restrict Palestinian access to the al-Aqsa mosque and Christian holy sites such as checkpoints and surveillance cameras.
We continue committed to the two-state solution. As Palestinians mark the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation, it is time for the EU to move from words to action. The EU must suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement due to Israel’s persistent violations of international law. The two-state solution will only be achieved when Israel starts feeling the consequences for their illegal actions.