• arms export,
  • arms trade,
  • palestine

After five months of brutal Israeli genocide, EU leaders met at the European Council Summit and managed to unite around a call for… a humanitarian pause leading to a sustainable ceasefire.

Europe’s role in Israel’s war on Gaza goes beyond complicity. The EU has consistently and actively supported Israel at every opportunity since the 7th of October. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen set the tone with a visit to Israel in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, pledging support on behalf of the EU. In the months since, EU leaders have issued a series of milquetoast statements in the language of ‘humanitarian crisis’ and remain incapable of calling unequivocally for a ceasefire.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on the 26th of January that there is a plausible risk that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza and mandated that it take measures to avoid this. This ruling is binding, but the ICJ itself will not enforce it – this requires action from both Israel and the international community.

Israel’s response has been simultaneously predictable and yet nonetheless shocking in its viciousness. The starvation of the people of Rafah has been enforced not only by the denial of access for aid trucks but by a series of horrific ‘flour massacres’ on people attempting to access food aid. The use of starvation as a weapon of war and attacks on hospitals, aid workers, and civilians must be called out for what they are – war crimes.

The European Parliament has twice voted for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Palestine, but this is no longer enough. The people of Palestine need action. Left MEPs have been resounding in their call for the EU and member states to do more to avoid complicity in genocide.

The European Commission and several member states were quick to halt funding to UNRWA, who have been providing an especially vital service since the beginning of the war, following now debunked Israeli allegations. While the Commission has now announced it will resume funding, some member states are still yet to follow suit, and right-wing groups are lobbying the Parliament at every turn to return to the freezing of UNRWA funds. We need to remain vigilant and defend this lifeline for the people of Gaza.

Meanwhile, Europe’s arms trade with Israel has continued despite the ICJ ruling – indeed Germany’s arms exports to Israel increased tenfold in 2023 compared to 2022 following an increase in sales in November. This is far more than mere complicity; this is European weapons being used to commit genocide against the Palestinian people. Some countries such as the Netherlands, Spain, Canada, and the Wallonia region in Belgium have announced a cessation of the transfer of weapons to Israel, and member states such as France and Germany must follow suit before even more innocent lives are taken by European arms.

For the EU as a whole, though, its greatest leverage over Israel is its diplomatic weight, a weight so far it has been all too reluctant to leverage. Suspending diplomatic and trade relations, such as the EU-Israel Association Agreement, could be a necessary and robust step towards ending the bloodshed in Palestine and avoiding complicity in genocide. The Association Agreement states that ‘relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights.

The EU leaders’ Summit again reached a disappointing conclusion. The events transpiring in Palestine are unlike anything the world has seen in the 21st Century and require unprecedented commitment and action globally to prevent an even worse catastrophe. Across Europe, streets are being filled with people in their hundreds of thousands protesting a genocide being paid for with their taxes and committed with their governments’ collusion. In the European Parliament, Left MEPs are keeping the pressure on the EU and national governments to act urgently to stop this genocide. We won’t abandon the people of Palestine.

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