Sunday, February 16, 2014

European boycott?

The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, is visiting Israel and addressed the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, last Wednesday. One of the things he said was important, that the European Union will never boycott Israel and will never apply sanctions to Israel, whether a peace agreement is signed with the Palestinians or not. He added that there is no support within the European Parliament for such a move against Israel, although individual countries might want to carry out their own boycotts. This is indeed good news, since some politicians, including US Secty of State Kerry, have threatened that if an agreement is not signed Israel will be boycotted by the EU. But, Kerry made no parallel threat to the Palestinians.

However, Schulz went too far in his speech when adding the usual criticisms of Israel, he made three accusations, 1. that Israelis use 4 times more water than Palestinians, which is supposedly not fair; 2. that the blockade of Gaza was wrong and Israel must end it; and 3. that since the international agreement with Iran, Iran's threats against Israel have ceased. He was wrong on all three counts. The Bayit Yehudi faction shouted out that he was lying when he spoke about the water consumption, and some of them walked out on him. It turns out that it is pure Palestinian propaganda, widely believed in Europe, but not based on fact. When the facts were checked it seems that Israelis use only 1.2 times what the Palestinians use. Schulz later apologised and admitted he did not check the facts before putting it in his speech.

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein catigated Schulz for using the general term "blockade" against Gaza, since Israel does have a sea blockade of Gaza, to check for weapons and war material, but on land there is no blockade and all forms of material are allowed to enter Gaza, including food, medications, oil and building supplies. Although there was a temporary halt on building materials when it was discovered that the Hamas government of Gaza was using large quantities for building large tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border in order to attack Israel. Usually it is quoted that ca. 800 trucks per day supply Gaza. Much of the material is paid for by the UNRWA agency from funds donated by the EU and the USA, something Schulz could have easily checked.

PM Netanyahu corrected Schulz regarding the Iranians, and quoted from recent Iranian speeches, one of which by Supreme Leader Khamanei a few days ago called Israel a cancer in the Middle East that must be removed. He also quoted several bellicose statements by Pres. Rouhani and Iranian military leaders. Contrary to the impression that European politicians are trying to give that Iran has moderated its statements since the signing of the interim Geneva agreement, if anything the statements emanating from Iran are more bellicose than they were before the agreement was signed. Schulz could have checked recent news reports to discover this.

What is truly worrying is that if the President of the European Parliament repeats Palestinian propaganda and is so wrong on such important issues, what are we to expect from lesser people. As PM Netanyahu stated, many Europeans jump to criticize Israel without checking the facts first and repeat unjustified Palestinian propaganda without ever questioning its source. Also, they never criticize Palestinian human rights violations and lack of financial transparency that leads to massive corruption and the theft of millions of dollars that they themselves donate to the PA.

The Israeli left as exemplified by Labor leader Isaac Herzog criticized the right, such as Bayit Yehudi, for not accepting valid criticism. But Schulz's statements were not valid criticism, they were regurgitated snippets of anti-Israel propaganda, that should not go unchallenged.


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