Over two months of war: the EU must finally find one voice

The current humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is unacceptable and must be stopped.

Dec 22, 2023
Violettes Volt Logo mit den EU Sternen

Following two and a half months of war between Hamas and Israel, the Gaza strip stands largely destroyed. What has started with the horror of the Hamas-led terrorist attack on Israel, has evolved into an unspeakable humanitarian disaster for the Gazan civilian population. In desperate search for safety from relentless Israeli airstrikes and a gruelling ground offensive, 1.9 million out of the 2.2 million civilians have been forced to flee their homes. The healthcare system has collapsed and can no longer support the needs of the population. Shelters are overcrowded and unsanitary. Reports of starving families are wide-spread and heartbreaking. Thousands upon thousands of Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing fighting, leaving no one safe, let it be children, press members or medical staff. The situation in the whole region is starting to crumble: at the Lebanese border, repeated exchange of fire between Hezbollah and Israeli forces has led to displacement of tens of thousands Israeli and Lebanese civilians. Unrest, driven by militant settlers, has taken grip of the Westbank, leaving more than 250 Palestinians dead and Palestinian communities in fear. The Red Sea is under threat to become impassable through the unjustifiable attacks of the Houthi rebels on container ships. 

The humanitarian truce that started on 24th November was a ray of hope. However, it only lasted for a short week with grave consequences for the Palestinians civilians, the estimated Palestinian death toll of which is now over 20.000, and the estimated 129 hostages still held by Hamas, as well as their families.The aid that was delivered during the truce was grossly insufficient given the wide-spread destruction of vital civilian infrastructure. The current humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is unacceptable and must be stopped.

We call on all actors to change track. Hamas must release all hostages unconditionally. Barriers to the delivery of aid must be minimised, and humanitarian international law must be upheld at all times. In this regard, we welcome the passing of the UN resolution on December 22nd as a first step of the international community to safeguard and facilitate humanitarian aid. However, we would have wished for a stronger commitment to at least a temporary suspension of the hostilities, since the ongoing high intensity fighting is the biggest obstacle to the sufficient delivery of aid. Therefore, comprehensive and frequent humanitarian pauses, or an immediate and substantial ceasefire to allow additionally for political dialogue to start, are necessary, otherwise the outlook is bleak. 

We believe that the actions of the international community are instrumental to shape an environment, where even in violent conflict international law is respected and a peaceful solution is made likely. The EU, with the reactions characterised by indecision, internal divisions, and a lack of a coherent strategy, fails currently to foster such an environment. Time and time again, EU Member States are trapped in their own national narratives on the wider Israel-Palestine conflict as highlighted by the voting history in the UN assembly with the European votes being split. Paradoxically, exactly this diversity of narratives across Europe should offer a chance to contribute to a political vision that is reflective of the justified needs and wishes of both Israelis and Palestinians. 

The EU, built from the ruins of the second world war to ensure peace on a war-torn continent, must act in this sense. The EU must use all available diplomatic and political instruments available to support the legitimate interests of Israelis and Palestinians alike. As such, the EU must provide any and all political support to the ICC investigation into alleged violations of international law committed in Israel, Gaza, and the Westbank.The EU must continue to support the goal of sustainably removing Hamas, working with high intensity to disable the flow of financial and material resources to the terror organisation and its allies. The EU should also support and mirror the proposed plans of the US to sanction Israeli settlers responsible for violent attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank. Moreover, the EU must support all actions that enhance the chance of two peacefully coexisting Israeli and Palestinian states. We welcome therefore the decision of the EU commission of providing direct 118 million euros of financial aid to the Palestinian Authority for paying salaries and pensions of civil servants as well as social allowances for families in need.  Finally, the EU must oppose the repulsive statements of Israeli government major representatives blatantly disenfranchising Palestinians of the right to self-determination. 

In a world of spiralling instability, where violent conflicts threaten the lives of millions of innocent civilians across the world, the EU has the moral and political responsibility to show its commitment to a rule-based world. A life in dignity must not only be a distant dream but an inviolable human right.