Global diplomats livid over EU president’s support of Israel’s repeated war crimes in Gaza
By Belle Carter // Oct 31, 2023

Staff members of European Union (EU) institutions and global diplomats were enraged by European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen's stance on the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, saying that the bloc's position is enabling more violence.

A letter with 842 signatures has been sent to von der Leyen, accusing the EC president of supporting Israel's war crimes in the enclave . The bloc president gave unqualified support for Israel's response to the Hamas attack during a trip to Israel, while opting not to make a call for the respect of international law as member states had done.

The correspondence opened by condemning the Hamas attack on Israel: "We equally strongly condemn the disproportionate reaction by the Israeli government against 2.3 million Palestinian civilians trapped in the Gaza Strip." But it went on to express disappointment that the values of the EU are no longer evident in the seeming indifference demonstrated over the past few days toward the ongoing massacre of civilians in the Gaza Strip. It was completely disregarding human rights and international humanitarian law, they said.

"We cannot remain silent observers, when the Institution you represent as president not only has been unable to halt the Palestinian tragedy unfolding for decades in full impunity, but by its recent unfortunate actions or positions seem to give a free hand to the acceleration and the legitimacy of a war crime in the Gaza Strip," they wrote. "If Israel does not stop immediately, the whole Gaza Strip and its inhabitants will be erased from the planet." It also warned that the EU is already "losing all credibility and the position as a fair, equitable and humanist broker." The bloc is also damaging its international relations as well as risking the safety of its staff.

The paper also emphasized the Commission's double standards, citing how it considered the blockade of Ukraine by Russia an act of terror, while Israel's blockade of Gaza is completely ignored. "We are saddened by the patent show of double standards which considers the blockade (water and fuel) operated by Russia on the Ukrainian people as an act of terror whilst the identical act by Israel against the Gazan people is completely ignored," the letter read. And so they urged von der Leyen "to call, together with the leaders of the whole Union, for a ceasefire and for the protection of civilian life. This is at the core of the EU's existence."

The letter was circulated internally among staff of EC and other institutions, with supporters invited to sign the letter on an online page before the appeal closed. It solicited messages of deep anger and disillusionment from the staff, including from longstanding EU diplomatic staff and specialists in foreign affairs. "As an EU diplomat I feel embarrassed by the stand taken by the institution in external communications since the start of the crisis," one wrote. "We observe the death of diplomacy unfolding in front of our eyes and we do not see any expression or action being taken rooted in the values on which the EU was built." Another commented that the EU had "destroyed all the good work done in the recent decades with the Palestinian authorities and people."

"As a European, I do not want any war crimes supported in my name," wrote another. "I was surprised President von der Leyen proclaimed the Commission’s support for the Israeli government, regardless of how it responded to the Hamas attacks, despite not having a mandate to do so by Member States."

An EC spokeswoman said that they are aware of the letter and that "the Commission is always ready to engage with staff members and with citizens, to listen to their views and explain its position."

Von der Leyen’s view depends on America's stance

Insiders also claim to disassociate with von der Leyen's decisions, with one source telling Al Jazeera that dissent is rising because her team "appears to have completely misread the situation." "They – her and her closest advisers – thought that this [Israel-Hamas war] would be a Ukraine moment, and so they need to condemn the terrorists and win the moral argument. But I think they've just been purely ignorant of the scale of oppression Palestinians have experienced, and the widespread understanding of the conflict as this being a violent reaction to occupation," the official told the news outlet.

The source further revealed that the EC president is "still morally struggling with how to take a stance," and that her position is likely to depend on diplomatic efforts "on the global scale and what U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says." (Related: State Department: At least 22 American citizens KILLED (so far) in Israel-Hamas conflict.)

"[Her] team is trying to write a narrative where they can still be seen as staunch allies of Israel, but also as a diplomatic force in the region, while trying to maintain some level of credibility vis a vis the war Ukraine," the official revealed. "But in this case, it looks like the Americans will be the adults in the room."

Meanwhile, another EU source, who requested anonymity, said that the letter signed by various EU institutions was unlikely to change EU policy. It actually even showed the "growing divide between many staff members who want to see international law applied across the globe."

Visit for updates on the escalating conflicts between Ukraine and Russia and Palestine and Israel.

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