Waarom behandelt Europese Unie de Israëlische ‘bezetting’ anders dan andere bezettingen?

western-sahara-campSinds 1975 trachten 165.000 vluchtelingen te overleven in vluchtelingenkampen zoals dit in de woestijn, voornamelijk rondtrekkende Sahawi. Vele anderen vluchtten naar de woestijn in Algerije. Op 31 oktober 1975 vielen de legers van Marokko en Mauritanië het gebied van de Westelijke Sahara binnen, kort nadat de voormalige koloniale bezetter Spanje het gebied had verlaten. De leefomstandigheden in de kampen zijn verschrikkelijk. Er is nagenoeg geen water, overdag rijzen de temperaturen tot 50 à 60 graden en ’s nachts daalt die weer tot onder het vriespunt.

Veel Israëli’s hebben reeds lang het gevoel dat de Europese Unie bevooroordeeld optreedt tegen hen. Twee juristen – een voormalige Israëlische ambassadeur en een Amerikaanse Joodse professor in volkenrecht – denken dat ze de perfecte zaak hebben gevonden om die bewering te bewijzen: een nieuwe visserij akkoord, ondertekend tussen de Europeanen en Marokko, die van toepassing op de internationaal erkende grenzen van Marokko, waaronder dus ook het grondgebied van de Westelijke Sahara, dat Marokko is binnengevallen in 1975 en sindsdien bezet houdt

En ze dagen thans EU-chef buitenlands beleid Catherine Ashton uit, om te leggen waarom deze overeenkomst, die het door Marokko bezette gebied niet uitsluit, of die geen blijk geeft van het gebruik van een dubbele standaard inzake Israël. De EU dringt erop aan dat elke samenwerkingsakkoord wordt verboden met bedrijven die actief zijn in de nederzettingen op de ‘bezette’ Westelijke Jordaanoever, schreven de geleerden in een brief die zij vorige maand naar het kantoor van Ashton in Brussel toezonden.”

“Dus waarom gelden niet dezelfde beperkingen in het geval van Marokko? Deze flagrante inconsistentie toont ‘een officiële dubbele standaard uitgeoefend door de EU,” argumenteren professor Eugene Kontorovich van Northwestern University en de Israëlische ex-ambassadeur aan Canada Alan Baker.

cyprusVorige week heeft de EU gereageerd op de brief, zeggende wezen dat de Israëlische bezetting anders is, maar we vertellen u niet hoe en waarom. De EU stelt dat de aanwezigheid van Israël op de Westelijke Jordaanoever en Oost-Jeruzalem uniek is, juridisch gezien.

Anderzijds weigert ze consequent uit te leggen waarin die precies verschilt zeg maar bv. de Turkse bezetting van Noord-Cyprus (kaartje rechts), of dat de Marokkaanse bezetting van de Westelijke Sahara, terwijl Rabat beweert de eigenaar te zijn van het grondgebied, erkent geen enkel ander land die eis.

In hun brief aan Ashton, poneren de rechtsgeleerden dat de partnerschapsovereenkomst tussen de EU en Marokko inzake visserij, die eerder deze maand door het Europees Parlement werd goedgekeurd, schijnt ‘in directe tegenspraak te zijn met de richtlijnen die de Europese Unie heeft afgekonigd met betrekking tot zijn omgang met Israël.”

“In feite, heeft de EU dit akkoord met Marokko onderhandelt zelfs terwijl zij ongekende financiële richtlijnen en regels van oorsprong oplegt aan Israël die precies het tegenovergestelde zeggen,” schreven Kontorovich en Baker, verwijzend naar de veelbesproken richtlijnen die vanaf 1 januari ingaan en elke Europese financiering verbieden die gaan over de Israëlische entiteiten voorbij de Groene Lijn of mensen met enige banden voorbij de Groene Lijn. Felle tegenstand van Jeruzalem tegen deze richtlijnen bemoeilijkten de deelname van Israël aan Horizon 2020, een zeer lucratief wetenschappelijk samenwerkingsprogramma, Horizon partnerschap dat op de valreep werd gered.

De tekst loopt hierna verder in het Engels.

‘Whatever they have identified in their ‘analysis,’ they’re obviously not very proud of it. Had it been substantial, they wouldn’t hesitate to give more detail’ The EU’s response, authored on Ashton’s behalf by the managing director of the union’s external action service’s Middle East and Southern Neighborhood department, Hugues Mingarelli, read: “With regards to the allegation of using double standards for Israel and Morocco, our analysis is that the two cases are different and cannot be compared.” No further explanation was given.

“The terseness of Ashton’s statement reflects the general moral superiority of EU officials toward Israel that I’ve encountered in my attempts to discuss these issues with them,” he added. “The attitude is that they are the judges, we are the suspect. How dare we accuse or judge them? As one senior EU official said when I brought these matters up with him, ‘We’re here to talk about you [Israel], not us.’ That is why they do not need to give their reasons: They do not have to explain themselves. We do.”

The EU delegation in Israel declined to formally comment on the matter for this article. Privately, local EU sources told The Times of Israel that, according to the United Nations, Western Sahara is a “disputed non-self-governing territory under de-facto Moroccan administration. This differs from the legal situation applying to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” Every situation is different from every other situation, Kontorovich allowed. “The question is whether there are legally relevant differences.”

According to his analysis of international law as it applies to belligerent occupations, Kontorovich said, Israel’s claim to the West Bank is actually stronger than that of many other countries ruling over conquered territory, mostly for historical reasons. Furthermore, he said, the case of Western Sahara is actually quite similar to that of the West Bank, because in both cases no sovereign state existed in the disputed territory before it was occupied.

Mingarelli’s response constitutes the first EU admission to the effect that it treats Israel differently, Kontorovich asserted. “However,” he added, “they are entirely silent about the ‘differences’ revealed by their ‘analysis.’ Of course, our position is that the EU does indeed treat Israel like a different case — but not based on any recognized or legitimate criteria. Thus far they have more confirmed this than denied it.”

Kontorovich, currently a visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said the EU’s legal positions, on which it bases its West Bank funding guidelines and other Middle East policies, are rooted in an interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, which render Israel’s settlement activity “illegal under international law” and a war crime. Article 49, paragraph 6, of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Violations of the convention are considered war crimes under international law. Israel is a party to the convention and therefore bound by it.

“The EU’s basic argument is that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is an occupation under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and it draws many consequences from this interpretation of international law. But under the Geneva Conventions, there are no multiple flavors of occupation,” Kontorovich argued. “So how is the occupation of the West Bank different from any other occupation?”

The legal scholar said his research has revealed that no other country has ever been accused, on an international level, of violating Geneva Convention 49:6. “The UN has condemned Morocco [for occupying Western Sahara], but never said the country commits a war crime” by moving some of its population there. According to Kontorovich and Baker — who in addition to serving as a diplomat used to be a legal adviser to Israel’s Foreign Ministry — Rabat, after the 1975 invasion, pursued “an aggressive settlement policy, as a result of which settlers may now be the majority in the territory.” The exact legal status of Western Sahara is the subject of much scholarly debate; some consider Morocco merely a “de-facto administrative power,” while others see it as a full-fledged occupier. The EU does not consider Western Sahara to be occupied, and Israel has no formal policy on the matter.

Another situation that is often compared to the West Bank is that of Northern Cyprus, which the EU does see as being occupied by Turkey. And yet, Kontorovich said, the body supports Turkish “settlers” of that territory. “The EU knowingly and purposefully gives direct grants, funding, etc. to Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus,” according to a paper Kontorovich co-authored in October. “The EU’s official policy is that Turkey must end its occupation, and the Turkish invasion was condemned by every international institution from the Security Council on down. Nonetheless, the EU maintains an entire program to direct funds to Turks in Northern Cyprus.”

It would be one thing for the EU to say that Israelis shouldn’t build settlements in the West Bank, for whatever reason, but the moment the union claims its position is anchored in international law, the body needs to answer questions about how Israel’s occupation differs from that of other countries, Kontorovich said. The EU’s position to bar any tax dollars from benefiting Israeli institutions based beyond the Green Line aims “to ensure the respect of EU positions and commitments in conformity with international law,” according to the settlement funding guidelines.

Claims of a European double standard are common currency in Israel’s political establishment, especially on the right. “The EU should also ask itself whether Israel is receiving equal and fair treatment like all other states,” Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said in November, in the presence of the EU’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, at a Knesset session dedicated to European-Israeli relations. There is a “lack of equality given to the conflict here compared with other conflicts in the world,” Elkin lamented. The EU “allows itself to invest in Cyprus, a region of conflict, but asks us not to invest any money in Judea and Samaria.”

But last month, Faaborg-Andersen told The Times of Israel that while criticism of a double standard has never come up in his discussions with Israeli officials, if it did he would reject it by pointing to the uniqueness of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Northern Cyprus, for instance, cannot be compared to the West Bank since it is a “totally different situation,” he said.

“There is no legal parallel to the situation of the occupied territories and any other situation, be it Northern Cyprus or Western Sahara,” he went on. “The only parallel that exists, according to the lawyers in Brussels, is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” he added, referring to a region at the heart of a territorial feud between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The EU recently concluded an agreement with Armenia, which occupies Nagorno-Karabakh, and made sure to specify that the disputed enclave was excluded, he noted.

door Raphael Ahren De auteur is diplomatiek correspondent voor The Times of Israel.


Met dank aan Tiki S. voor de hint.

Bronnen:

  1. The Times of Israel: ♦ Why is this occupation different from all other occupations? – The EU insists that Turks in Cyprus and Moroccans in Western Sahara ‘cannot be compared’ to Israelis in the West Bank. Two legal scholars are fighting a losing battle to find out why; door Raphael Ahren [lezen]