European Parliament endorses Goldstone Gaza report 10Mar10 March 11, 2010

by Cnaan Liphshiz  -  Haaretz -  10 March 2010

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The European Parliament on Wednesday urged its 27-member states to monitor the Israeli and Palestinian probes into alleged war crimes committed during last year’s late-winter conflict in Gaza.

The resolution backed the findings of a UN-appointed expert panel chaired by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, which concluded that both sides committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the war that began in December 2008 and ended in January 2009.

The parliamentary move, which would give the EU an unprecedented role in evaluating the progress of Israel’s war crimes probe, was sharply criticized by Israel.

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“We find this resolution flawed and counterproductive,” said Yoel Mester, spokesman for Israeli mission to EU. “While other players are striving to support the peace process and to start the proximity talks between Israel and Palestinians, it is regrettable that the European Parliament chooses to concentrate on a highly controversial issue.”

In December, the EU accused Israel of trying to divide the bloc to stop it from passing a resolution calling for Jerusalem to be the shared capital of Israel and for a future Palestinian state. The measure was adopted despite Israel’s opposition.

The European Union also has criticized Israel over its suspected role in the slaying of a Hamas militant in Dubai and the killers’ alleged use of forged EU passports.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also recently asked to be allowed to visit the Gaza Strip, which remains under Hamas control.

The European Parliament measure, passed by 335-287, said Ashton should monitor actively the implementation of recommendations included in the Goldstone report.

In January, the UN General Assembly gave the two sides five more months to finalize their own investigations into war crimes allegations during the conflict, in which 13 Israelis and almost 1,400 Palestinians were killed.

On Monday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it would allow Ashton and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon into Gaza. Israel has routinely banned foreign officials from crossing into Gaza since Hamas’ violent takeover of the strip in 2007, maintaining that such visits bolster the Islamic militant group.

The European Parliament also said it was “concerned” about “pressure placed on NGOs involved in the document’s preparation.”

Jewish leaders said they were “deeply disappointed” and puzzled by the motion.

“Europe, which preaches to Israel and to the whole world about freedom of expression, is now calling to stifle criticism ensured by freedom of expression because it’s directed at the Goldstone report,” said Arie Zuckerman, a senior executive of the European Jewish Congress.

The European Parliament’s resolution was a softened version of an earlier draft which called for implementing the Goldstone report. The draft was scrapped after European Jewish Congress Moshe Kantor warned party leaders that the resolution would damage EU-Israel relations.

The final resolution said EU member states should “demand the implementation of the Goldstone report’s recommendations and accountability for all violations of international law.”

Kantor told Haaretz last week that if the European Parliament adopts the Goldstone report, it will be the “strongest endorsement the document has received so far.”

Zuckerman said the European Parliament “gave indirect endorsement to Hamas” by passing Wednesday’s resolution on the Goldstone report, and added it “damaged the peace process with the Palestinians.”

“The fact that over 45 percent of MEPs voted against the resolution is cause for some satisfaction,” Kantor said. “The resolution passed by only a narrow margin, and not the consensus that was expected.”

The European United Left-Nordic Green Left (EUL-NGL) – which has 25 MEPs – meanwhile, said it welcomed the European Parliament’s resolution.

MEP Kyriacos Triantaphyllides from the group said: “For the first time, a resolution voted in the European Parliament acknowledges Israeli’s violations of international humanitarian law.”

The party called “for the immediate adoption of its findings by EU Member States and the implementation of its recommendations,” demanding, “that no upgrading of EU – Israel Association Agreement is conceded given the violations committed by Israel.

British parliamentary delegation returns from Gaza:
EU must take action over siege



16:00 – 9/3/10

For immediate release


A British parliamentary delegation has returned from a three day fact finding mission to the Gaza Strip and called for the European Union to take concerted action to end the siege of the territory.

Members of the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group (BPAPPG) visited Gaza to assess the effects of the on-going blockade and limited reconstruction efforts, over one year on from Israel’s invasion which left 1,400 Palestinians dead.

Rt Hon Lord David Steel, who led the delegation, condemned Israel’s blockade of Gaza as inhumane and misguided:

“The current policy of the Israeli Government is a mixture of gross inhumanity and sheer stupidity.  Inhumanity because the blockade is causing unemployment to rise to 85% with hundreds of thousands dependent on meagre food-aid, and stupidity because they are stoking up hatred of Israel among future generations of Palestinians which cannot be in the long-term interests of the security and peace of Israel.

“They are strengthening Hamas because as the Federation of Business told us they destroyed the private sector with their demolition of factories and placed the economy in the hands of Hamas and the Mafiosi who operate the hundreds of tunnels into Egypt through which, as we saw with our own eyes, most consumer goods now come. The EU (and we the taxpayers) have allocated funds for new housing whose plans we saw but which cannot be built because the Israeli government will not allow construction materials into Gaza.  The EU should insist that this cruel blockade be lifted and take appropriate action should this continue.”
Quotes from delegates:
Karen Buck MP (Lab)
“The lack of reconstruction in Gaza fourteen months after Operation Cast Lead is truly astounding. We have seen the homes, schools and hospitals that continue to lie in ruin, because Israel refuses to allow access for the concrete, steel and glass that are so desperately required to rebuild Gaza’s shattered infrastructure. Where reconstruction has taken place it is because of supplies brought in through the smuggling tunnels that we visited. Israel must allow the necessary materials in; it is in the interests of both the people of Gaza, and indeed the Israelis, that Palestinians are allowed to rebuild their homes and schools, without enriching those that control the smuggling rackets.”
Andrew Slaughter MP (Lab)
“What we have seen in Gaza is an on-going humanitarian crisis. 700,000 people are reliant upon UN food aid, whilst the smuggled goods in the shops are beyond the reach of many Palestinians who live on less than $1 per day. It is clear that Israel’s siege is not weakening Hamas, it is only attacking the people of Gaza who are struggling to survive in what has become the world’s largest prison camp.”
Stephen Williams MP (Lib Dem)
“The psychological impact of the siege and last year’s war is having a devastating effect upon the children of Gaza. Organisations such as the Gaza Community Mental Health Project are carrying out tremendous work, but the scale of the problem is simply overwhelming. The children of Gaza are traumatised; they have suffered war and from a three year-long blockade. The situation is intolerable.”
Graham Bambrough (CAABU Parliamentary Officer)
“It is important that the world does not forget about Gaza. It is 1,000 days since Israel raised its blockade on the territory, during which time we have seen countless incursions and a major military offensive that left 1,400 people dead. Delegations such as this help keep pressure on the Israeli government to end the siege and flagrant abuse of international law that it represents.”
Notes to editors:
The delegation’s visit was coordinated by the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), which acts as the Secretariat of the BPAPPG. The delegates were the Rt Hon Lord David Steel, Andy Slaughter MP, Karen Buck MP, Stephen Williams MP, Andrew Baldwin (Office of Colin Breed MP) and Graham Bambrough (Parliamentary Officer at CAABU). They entered Gaza via the Rafah border crossing on 5th March and left on 8th March.
The delegation was hosted by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
The programme included a visit to some of the 1,200 tunnels that are used to smuggle food, fuel and construction materials under the border with Egypt, and which have become the only source of supply for the people of the territory.
The delegation also visited the stalled UNRWA housing projects, which despite pledges of funding from many European countries has been suspended for three years due to a lack of construction materials.
Meetings were held with the Gaza Community Mental Health Project, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and the Palestinian Federation of Industries.
The delegates visited two United Nations schools, Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City, and numerous sites which were destroyed during Operation Cast Lead, such as the American International School in north Gaza.

The delegation visited a UN food distribution centre in Jabalya, one of eleven such centres that feed 700,000 people in the territory.
The delegates also held a number of political meetings, with both the de facto Hamas government of Gaza and Fatah representatives.

For more information contact Graham Bambrough at the Council for Arab British Understanding on 0207 832 1322 or bambroughg@caabu.org


Chris Doyle
Director

CAABU (Council for Arab-British Understanding)
1 Gough Square, London, EC4A 3DE
Tel: 020 7832 1321 Fax: 020 7832 1329
www.caabu.org
<http://www.caabu.org/>


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