Report on PRC International Conference On Europe and Palestine

Report on PRC International Conference On Europe and Palestine

The Palestinian Return Centre and the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Westminster University, 13 March 2014, University of Westminster.


 

 

SUMMARY

 

This conference was organised with the latest political developments in mind. With the current Kerry plan, visit by the British Prime Minster, David Cameron and the geopolitical shifts in the region it was timely to hold a conference dedicated to reviewing European policy in Palestine.

Europe is the historical backdrop for the creation of the state of Israel and subsequent Palestinian nakba (’catastrophe’). However with the United States now playing the dominant role on the question of Palestine, Europe’s position, influence and room for manoeuvre has attracted less attention. It is also a decade since the formation of the Quartet in which Europe has been a less than effective partner. Europe has also become very vocal regarding settlements even going as far as to provide guidelines on divesting settlement goods. Are these shifts signs that a stronger EU was remerging when it came to Palestine?

 

The conference presented a wide-ranging appraisal of Europe’s involvement in Palestine and its possible future roles. It also looked into the historical context of Europe’s connection with Palestine, its current position on key issue and how the EU could emerge as a more significant player in any future resolution to the conflict.

 

DETAILS

Opening Session 9:45 AM- 10:15 AM Chair (Nasim Ahmed)         

 

Mr. Mohamed Hamed, Chair of PRC Board of Trustees

The EU needs to make up for UNWRA funding shortfalls and take up the role of peace broker.

 

Dr DibyeshAnand [identity politics, Tibet, Hindu nationalism]

Head of Politics & International Relations, Westminster University

 

Both are still colonial victims, or, ‘post-colonial’ as termed today. Spoke on Tibet at Hebrew University but interrogated by Israelis anyway. His Centre for the Study of Democracy focuses on stateless communities : Tibet, Kashmir, Kurdistan, Palestine.

Session One 10:15-11:30 AM Chair ( DrAbdelwahab El-Affendi)    

 

Martin Linton, MP, chair

Professor Rosemary Hollis - Britain and the Palestine Question: Evolution of Conceptual Framing

 

Proposition: The British position has evolved from (a) seeking a bi-national state, to (b)a two-state setup.   How the British ‘frames’ the Palestinian issue over time illustrates the parameters framing the possibilities for the Palestinians. Britain’s post-WWII policy was still for a bi-national state. Britain’s interest was to control Palestine as a strategic hold on the wider region, between the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf. The Balfour Declaration was not to be applied East of the Jordan. Rights were not a consideration for the British Imperialism and, while the Jews were considered allies, the Arabs were not considered at all.

 

Balfour Declaration covered either " Jews" or "non-Jews"; no mention of "Palestinians".  An annex to Balfour stated that it would not be applied east of the Jordan, therefore establishing a Jewish homelandAND an Arab state.  For the British elite of the day, racism was still a science; there was no consideration of rights. Balfour had supported a bill to keep out Jewish refugees from Russian pogroms.

 

1936 revolt was a reaction to the British disallowing democratic local government.  Christian holy sites were be permanently under British control.  British position from the late 1930s was that both Arabs and Jews shared the government. The Peel Commission advised that the Arab part should be attached to Transjordan; this proposal was rejected by both Jews and Arabs.  A British White Paper on Palestine in 1939 advocated an independent Palestine State.

 

Britain had lost the debate. Until 1980 Venice Declaration (that Palestinians have a right to self-determination and the PLO should be involved in conflict resolution), Palestine was viewed as a refugee problem, with the solution to be met by separate treaties between Israel and Jordan (West Bank) and Egypt (Gaza).The British were comfortable with Jordanian authority over the West Bank. Since the 1990s, Madrid, then Oslo, W. Bush promotes a two-state solution and a non-confrontational approach to Israel. Westminster needs to re-assess this.

 

Bishop Riah: The Role of Christians in the Restoration of Jews to Palestine and How Christian Europe is Failing to Protect Palestinian Christians.

 

Christian Europe has failed Palestinian Christians. Population down from 500,000 in 1967 to 9,000 today. TheGreek Orthodox Church is mainly Arab, only Greek in the highest levels.

 

Most Christian churches founded in Middle East, having been around 700 years before Islam, though now regarded as Western.The Anglican Church has devalued Jerusalem in its modern world structure. “Blessed are the peace makers, not the peace soldiers.” 350,000 Palestinian Christians in Chile.

Session Two 12:15 PM-1:15 PM –– Dr.Abdelwahab El-Affendi Chair

 

Professor Michelle Pace -:

Proposition: Operation Cast Lead caused 11m Euros in damage to EU-funded property & infrastructure; Israel claims it should not be required to compensate because the original funding was donated to the Palestinians.The EU is essentially paying for the Israeli’s occupation, when it’s Tel Aviv which should be coughing up the shekels.

The EU’s current goal is to get Israel to be a quasi-European state (like Norway & Sweden); see EU-Israel Action Plan. The EU’s main interest is a financial relationship with Israel, not in any solution to the Palestinians’ dilemma. Israel reminds the EU that for the latter to sever relations would harm their balance-of-payments.  Article 2 of Association Agreement includes a principle of democracy, with which Israel has never complied.  EU claims it does much "behind the scenes."

Hamas cannot be excluded from negotiations. Goal: to remove Hamas from the EU’s list of terrorist groups.

60% of Israel’s trade is with the EU (but Phyllis Starkey notes that Israel is only the EU’s 26th largest trading partner).

July 2012 the freezing of trade over Operation Cast Lead was suspended.

EU’s Horizon 2020 project allows Israeli eligibility in competing for funding.

EU believes that it’s quasi-NGO effort would find the Palestinian situation worse-off if it really pressured Israel.

Every foreign visit starts with Israel and then the Palestinians.

EU endorsed Goldstone Report but then did nothing about it.

Dr DimitrisBouris

Key propositions: How the EU can ‘build’ states :

Promise of EU membership, the Accession Process.

Pre-1973, no mention of the Palestinians whatsoever, only ‘Arabs.’

From 1972, calling for ceasefire and negotiations based on UN Resolutions 242 and 338. 1977 : Palestinians acknowledged.

1980 : Support of ‘self-determination’ right.

1993 : Oslo Accords, that Palestinians could trial their self-government, with the EU providing half the funding.

1999:  Berlin Declaration

“The USA leads, the EU pays, and the UN feeds.”

2002 : Seville Declaration, bluntly noting 1967 borders as part of the ‘roadmap.’

2009 : EU conclusion : two-state solution, changes to 1967 borders not recognised.

Czech Republic the only country not allowing the Palestine upgrade in status 2012.

The Fayyad Plan, 2009-, mainly supporting a modernised Palestinian police force, good governance, etc. No state building in areas B or C (81% total), just in Area A.

Session Three 2:00 PM-3:00 PM Maria Holt Chair

Dr Federica Bicchi(LSE) - The EU Policy Towards 1967 Borders: From Jerusalem to the Guidelines

Where does the EU locate the border? Officially, 1967 + tweaks. EU want ‘secure & recognised’ borders, while the USA wants ‘secure & defendable’ borders. EU : East Jerusalem is not part of the state of Israel and the capital of future Palestinian state. All foreign governments’ embassy buildings (to Israel) are in Tel Aviv and some maintain a presence (for Palestine) in East Jerusalem & Ramallah?

1986, the EU agreed that the Palestinians should have a trade agreement with Europe. All goods have to go via Israel.

1995-1997 : Trade agreements signed separately with Israel and the PA. But the pact with Israel neglected to specify borders and so the settlements get included in exports. Latest EU agreement is smarter, excluding settlement goods, andGermany is re-doing its direct agreements in this regard.

 

 

Dr Phyllis Starkey

Commented on the EU report ‘Trading Away Peace’ Report, 2012, 22 NGOs from 11 EU countries + Norway.

It makes the following judgements:

Regards Israel as occupying power in East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza.

Settlements illegal and an obstacle to peace.

Action :

EU trade with settlements E230m, 15 times the trade with Palestine.

Numerous other public and private flows of finance to settlements.

Focus on settlements would re-instate the Green Line and make Israel differentiate the new settler communities from Israel itself.

In this, the EU can act on its own.

Why now?

The two-state solution is disappearing.

Palestinian economic activity is declining

EU statements have had little effect.

Private sector in Gaza is stone dead and in the West Bank it’s limping.

More recommendations:

Trade :

Correct consumer labelling of all settlement products.

Advise businesses against trade with or investment in settlements.

Ban imports of settlement goods

Note : the word ‘boycott’ is not used in the EU.

Agreements :

Exclude settlement goods from preferential market access, from and financial transactions with settlements, financial programmes, and from EU members’ public procurement.

 

Exclude ‘charities’ and all trade with settlements. UK advised labelling of settlement produce, 2009. Foreign Affairs Council asked EC to produce EU-wide labelling guidelines (2012), which caught Israel unaware.

 

Most Palestinian institutions have gone back to Ramallah, allowing EU & NGOs to maintain their presence in East Jerusalem. They need to get out more. Business and Human Rights Plans need to be drawn up by ALL EU countries. So far only UK and Netherlands.

 

Session Four 3:15 PM- 4:30 PM

Sabbah Al Mukhta, Chair

 

Andrea Dessi - Reviewing the Effectiveness of the Quartet and the EU’s Role Therein

For the EU the Quartet was a means to an end, converting economic support to political progress by influencing Washington…or at least to limit the political damage to the Palestinians.

 

The Quartet was not an institution, merely informal, and not grounded in international law. UN representation in the Quartet was not from the Security Council, but from the non-binding office of the Secretary General.

Feels that the Quartet’s limited success was undone when Hamas won in Gaza and Israel then refused to deal with them.

 

If Quartet is disbanded, the EU might gain some influence, but nothing will replace the USA’s dominance in the ‘peace process.’

Not lapdogs entirely. (see : Daniel Levy in Foreign Policy)… The Quartet endorsed Obama’s speech in May 2011, but Washington had changed the proposal when presented to the group in July and both Russia and the UN refused to sign it.

 

Yousuf AٍS

Palestinian resistance in the eyes of Western Academia – soon to be published in a compendium, spring 2014.

Two schools on Hamas : a ‘violent militia group’ and as a pragmatic political organisation.

Violent theory

 

Matthew Levitt (Washington DC)

Eli Berman – a global jihadist group, not nationally-focused.

Haim Malka – uses religious approach in justifying welfare projects.

GawdatBahgat – Control of Iran

 

Criticisms of above :

Hamas shows independency.

Hamas has an evolving political awareness.

Hamas is popular both within and outside of Palestine.

Levitt & Berman rely on Israeli documents for their arguments.

Over-egged emphasis on political Islamist thought on assessment of Hamas, when they differ from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Much analysis of Hamas is polemic.

 

Pragmatic theory :

Andrea Nuse – Hamas as clear-sighted in international politics.

Jeroen Gunning – Hamas is necessary for any peace.

Beverley Milton-Edwards – understanding of Hamas’ use of violence.

ShaulMisahl – Hamas is reformist rather than revolutionary

Henry Sigman – West accepts Taliban but not Hamas

Sara Roy – Hamas’ popularity; research from personal familiarity with the party.

Even Matthew Levitt classified Hamas as ‘resistance’ rather than ‘terrorism’ minded.

Zuhur – Hamas not interested in global jihad.

See - Middle East Report, No. 129, ‘Light at the End of their Tunnels?’

Thinks that the EU should steer a political course, rather than a humanitarian path.

Does Hamas have an active press office? Not much of one!

 

Dr AdeebZiadeh - An Assessment of EU’s Underlying Logic of its Policy in Palestine

EU attitude to Palestine is secondary to its approach to Israel.

 

He’s preacher, not a researcher who just stated the obvious. Moreover, he attributes the European support for Israel to be based on culture and religion, ignoring the colonial legacy. He thinks the Israelis will foster a revival of anti-Jewish sentiment in Europe. Nope, it’s the Muslim community that’ll be at risk, as they already are.

 

Session Five 5:00 PM- 6:30 PM

Professor Norman Finkelstein - Keynote Speech chair Baroness Jenny Tonge

 

Finkelstein is certain that Obama and Kerry want a political ‘legacy’ for their careers and so the ‘Kerry Plan’-is basically what the Israelis want- will be accepted by the PA officials with immediate effect.  According to this doom theory, which NF was lamenting, the Zionists will get :

 

        All of East Jerusalem.

        No right of return.

        Retention of their settlement blocks.

 

The wall will increase the non-Jewish population in Israel by 50,000 but it will elsewhere shed Israel of 100,000 of the non-Chosen.

The Palestinians will get European and North American investment in a few hundred thousand jobs, for which they will be grateful. How the cash-strapped West can continue to fund this was not addressed.

 

CONCLUSIONS      

 

The conference was a very successful collaboration between PRC and Westminster University. The topic of discussion was timely and relevant to the political developments on the question of Palestine. Everyone that provided feedback spoke very highly of the quality of the conference one saying it was the best conference they took part in. Key conclusions of the conference were the following:

 

Historically the question of Palestine went through a process of evolution in the minds of British policy makers. Britain envisaged one state for two people and slowly over the course of decades its position shifted to two state for two people. Christian Europe is failing to protect Palestinian Christians and their population has dwindled over the decades as a result of Israeli aggression. EU’s primary concern is its economic ties with Israel and wants to make Israel a quasi European state. Israel’s occupation and continued destruction of EU funded projects is not central to EU’s thinking in Palestine. The EU is unwilling to exert pressure if it will feels its trade with Israel will be compromised. The EU’s position has been one of the US leads the EU pays and the UN feeds. EU state building programme contravenes theories of state building through its determination to build institutions before security and occupation has ended. The EU takes 1967 as the basis of any resolution with very minor tweeks. The EU perception of borders is different to the US, EU formulation is secure and recognised while the US is secure and defensible. EU has trade with Israel and the PA     

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Short Link : https://prc.org.uk/en/post/3270