Two Dutch members of the European Parliament on Monday condemned at the plenum in Strasbourg the numerous statements from the European External Action Service led by High Representative and Vice President Josep Borrell accusing Israel of violating international law.
The two MEPs, Michiel Hoogeveen and Bert-Jan Ruissen, both right-wing Dutch politicians, challenged in the same session the EU’s use of international law to condemn Israel for “illegal settlements” while not making such legal claims in any other cases in the world – including the EU members’ own occupied territories.
The Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal, and Denmark own colonies overseas, some of which would rather be independent.
At a time when many believe the illegality of the Judea and Samaria settlements is a settled issue over which the EU’s stand is firm and unchangeable, these two voices signal a clear dissatisfaction with Brussels’ anti-Israel policies.
MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen, Vice-Chair of the EU-Israel Relations in the European Parliament, introduced the subject by saying that the way the High Representative talks about Israeli settlement activity is incorrect and inaccurate. According to international law, this is a term that can only be used when the occupied territory belongs to another recognized state. In the case of Crimea, for instance, its legal status is clear: it belongs to Ukraine. But who did the “West Bank” belong to before 1967? Not to Jordan, not to the Ottoman Empire, not to Britain. It is peculiar that in the case of Northern Cyprus where its legal status is crystal clear, the high Representative does not speak of illegal settlement activity. Ruissen concluded that misusing the term for political purposes does not benefit anyone.
MEP Michiel Hoogeveen asked: “Why hasn’t the EU ever called any other people’s residential activities in other occupied territories, an international crime? We are aware that there are many territories the EU deems occupied around the world, even in Europe. People move in and out of them all the time. However, the EU only talks about illegal settlers in relation to Israeli Jews.”
He then called on the Commission to either use international law consistently or refrain from using legal language entirely.
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, head of Kohelet Policy Forum’s international law department, remarked: “It is not just Israelis who are appalled by the EU’s creation of supposedly “international” law rules that only apply to one country. EU parliamentarians are beginning to understand the term ‘illegal settlements’ has no general applicability; it is merely a diplomatic euphemism for “Jews living where we don’t want them to.”
Jenny Aharon, the Kohelet Policy Forum’s Brussel based advisor on the European Union issues commented: “It is the first time MEPs have confronted the European External Action Service about this issue. International law should be applied consistently and uniformly, including when it concerns Israel. The MEPs concerned understand the implications of such misuse of the law and I’m thankful they have stood up to expose it.”