PNN / Bethlehem
A special seminar held by European Parliament on Wednesday called on individual EU member states to recognise the state of Palestine and to impose trade embargos on any products produced by Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories.
The seminar, titled ‘The Israeli Settlements in Palestine and the EU,’ was organised by Anan Gomes, an MEP from Portugual.
In her opening remarks, Gomes dismayed at the detriment that illegal settlement building has to the peace process in Palestine.
‘The real threat to the existence of Israel is coming by Israeli policy itself, by its illegal occupation and its illegal settlements,’ she said.
Speaking exclusively with PNN, Head of the Palestinian Communities Union in Europe Mazen Al-Ramahi said that the special seminar was held in cooperation with General Union of Palestinian Communities in Europe and the European Parliament, and was the first of its kind.
‘This conference was held at the European Parliament in order to shed light on the settlement issue and its dangers on the Palestinian issue and the two-state solution,’ she said.
One of the issues at the conference, and later reiterated by Al-Ramahi while speaking with PNN, was the issues of products produced by settler groups being allowed into the European market.
Al-Ramahi condemned the sale of settler-made goods as a breach of international law and called on EU member states to reject and condemn such products.
Al-Ramahi stressed that the Federation of Palestinian Communities in Europe is working multilaterally to expose the practices of the occupation and its violations of international and European laws.
She stressed that the seminar was welcomed by many members of the European Parliament.
Al-Ramahi considered the seminar an important first step on the road to preventing the products of Israeli settlements from entering Europe.
The need for EU member states to tighten procedures for companies dealing with settlement products, as well divestment and sanctions as a tool to hold Israel accountable and deter violations of international law which prohibits dealing with settlements on the Palestinian territories, were considered paramount.
A group of Jewish organizations in Europe announced on Thursday that the convening of the conference and the hosting of Palestinian representatives from the boycott movement, calling for the imposition of sanctions by the BDS and at the invitation of Palestinian organizations such as the Federation of Communities and European Parliamentarian, was an attack on the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
European Jewish organizations said that the European Union of Palestinian Communities in Europe, in cooperation with members of the European Parliament, hosted a conference of the International Boycott Movement for Israel, which would be considered a serious attack on the dignity of the European Parliament and Jewish communities in Europe and around the world.
Daniel Schwamental, director of the office of the American Jewish Committee at the Transatlantic Institute AJC, said that Anna Gomes was giving extreme BDS organizations a platform in the European Parliament.
‘It is puzzling that Mrs. Gomez will vote for the European Parliament in favour of the peace process and within a year she will call on one of the strongest opponents of the existence of the State of Israel,”’ Schwamenal said, referring to Omar Barghouthi, one of the founders of the international boycott of Israel.
‘The criticism of this policy or of any other Israeli government policy is of course a project, but Barghouthi, who was invited to an official invitation and was hosted with a warm welcome and not interested in dialogue, wants to destroy the Jewish state.’
The European Jewish organizations said that Ms. Gomez cannot remain impartial, saying that it is a form of anti-Semitism to stand ‘against those who want to destroy Israel’ and then sharing the podium in the European Parliament with ‘parrots’ like ‘Barghouti.’
‘Ms. Gomes, who considers herself a friend of the Palestinian people, has done great damage to the Palestinian cause and the peace process by giving space to the extremist activist who publicly rejects the two-state solution. We hope the responsible voices of the European S & D group will speak against this shameful event,’ Schwamenal said.