Israel-Palestine war: UN rapporteur slams EU ‘double standard’ on Palestine, Ukraine
In recent days, following the surprise attack on Israel by Palestinian fighters, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “Israel has the right to defend itself – today and in the days to come. The European Union stands with Israel.”
Since those comments were made by von der Leyen, Israel has imposed a total blockade on the Gaza Strip, cutting off fuel, water, energy, and food supplies. Gaza’s sole power plant shut down on Wednesday after running out of fuel.
Von der Leyen’s past comments on similar actions taken by Russia have re-emerged.
In October 2022, Von der Leyen said Russian “attacks against civilian infrastructure, especially electricity, are war crimes”.
“Cutting off men, women, children of water, electricity, and heating with winter coming - these are acts of pure terror,” she said at the time.
Those comments have now been contrasted with the EU's unwavering stance in favour of Israel during its onslaught against Palestinians.
'I do not understand the lack of commensurate empathy with the Palestinian people'
- Francesca Albanese, United Nations rapporteur
Israel has since carried out a punishing bombing campaign on Gaza, home to over two million people, causing widespread destruction and flattening entire neighbourhoods.
Francesca Albanese, the United Nations special rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, urged the European Commission president on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, to make the “same declaration” it did against Russia towards the Israeli campaign in Gaza.
“If not, people could think that European institutions do not value the protection of Palestinian children, women and men as much as that of Ukranians,” said Albanese.
Speaking to Middle East Eye, Albanese said it was important to make such a statement because it meant “giving full meaning to the universality of human rights and equality of all human beings, to enable Israelis and Palestinians to live in dignity and freedom”.
“Political action is lacking and double standards tarnish the values and the rule of law principle upon which our international order is premised,” added Albanese.
MEE contacted the European Commission chief spokesperson and asked whether Von der Leyen would condemn Israeli actions as it did Russian actions against ordinary Ukrainians, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
“I understand the empathy and the full solidarity with the Israeli people at this tragic time,” said Albanese.
“I do not understand the lack of commensurate empathy with the Palestinian people, as well as the lack of accountability for Israel’s protracted occupation and crimes perpetrated for over 56 years,” she added.
Fears of a second Nakba
Flanked by Israel and Egypt on the Mediterranean coast, the Gaza Strip is an area of about 365 square kilometres and is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Nearly half of its population is under the age of 18.
More than 60 percent of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees, following the expulsion of families from other parts of Palestine in 1948 when Israel was created.
In 2005, Israel purportedly pulled out of Gaza and relocated around 8,000 Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers living in 21 settlements around Gaza to the occupied West Bank.
But in 2007, following the Hamas movement's election victory in Gaza, Israel responded by imposing an air, land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip.
According to international law, the blockade amounts to an occupation of the Strip.
Following Hamas's surprise attack over the weekend, at least 1,300 Israelis were killed and as many as 100 Israelis and foreigners were abducted and taken to the Gaza Strip by Palestinian fighters, the worst losses the state has suffered in half a century.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel's response would "change the Middle East".
Israeli forces have responded by raining down a barrage of air strikes on the Gaza Strip this week, killing at least 1,400 people, most of them women and children.
There are growing fears among Palestinians in Gaza that change could come in the form of a repeat of the Nakba or the catastrophe in Arabic, the mass Palestinian displacement of 1948, if thousands flee the besieged enclave and cross into Egypt.