Next week, the European Parliament will vote on whether to approve a technical upgrade in trade relations between the EU and Israel.
According to a recent blog post by Labour MEP Mary Honeyball, she and her colleagues will vote against the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) – which would make Israeli pharmaceutical products more affordable for Europeans – on the grounds that it is not “coherent with our human rights policies” because of the alleged “abuse of human rights in the occupied territories”.
If we accept the premise (which I do not), then Ms Honeyball’s justification would seem to be entirely valid. But are she and her fellow Labour MEPs being honest about their motives for opposing the ACAA?
For the sake of argument, let us assume – contrary to the findings of the Levy Report – that the Arab-populated “West Bank” is indeed under illegal military occupation by Israel in the same way that, say, the Arab-populated territories of the Western Sahara are occupied by Morocco. The reason for this comparison will become apparent.
In February of this year, the European Parliament voted on a similar free trade deal between the EU and Morocco. Despite objections over the inclusion of agricultural and fishery products from the occupied Western Sahara in the agreement, together with the concerns expressed by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development about the “problem with human rights [in the Western Sahara], which are systematically infringed,” the vote passed by a wide margin of 369 in favour to 225 against.
“The EU must respect the principles of international law, and not accept the agricultural agreement with Morocco,” said Mitro Repo MEP from the Socialists & Democrats (S&D), of which Labour MEPs are members.
“We Swedish Social Democrats cannot support a trade agreement that contravenes international law,” said the S&D MEPs of the Swedish Social Democratic Party in a joint statement.
“I had no alternative but to refuse to be complicit in an agreement that, in its current form, violates international law and the most basic rights of the people of Western Sahara to make use of their own resources,” said Ana Gomes MEP, also of the S&D.
Yet of those Labour MEPs who voted on the EU-Morocco deal – including the conscientious Ms Honeyball – all voted in favour.
Why the hypocrisy? And what does it tell us about the attitudes of the European Parliamentary Labour Party?
In searching for an answer to the latter question, the EU Working Definition of Anti-Semitism is most illuminating: “Examples of the ways in which antisemitism [sic] manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel … could include … applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior [sic] not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
By withholding assent from the ACAA with Israel because of its purportedly illegal occupation of the “West Bank”, whilst giving their approval to a similar free trade deal with Morocco in spite of its illegal occupation of the Western Sahara, Labour MEPs are exercising double standards. Moreover, these double standards are definitively anti-Semitic.
Clearly, Labour MEPs care as little for the plight of Palestinian Arabs of the “West Bank” as they do for the Sahrawi Arabs of the Western Sahara; the former are just another stick with which to bash the Jewish state. They are lying when they say otherwise.
This article was originally published on The Commentator.