Gaza: What Europe should be doing

You will recall no doubt the first position statement issued by the Czech Presidency after the onset of the ground invasion of Gaza by the Israeli army: the Prime Minister's spokesman, Mr Toplanek, said that they "understood" this "defensive" operation. The European Union not being, all the same, Bush's America, Prague was immediately called to order by the various capitals. The Czech Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Schwartzenberg, then explained laboriously that his government did not look on this war favourably... The same person said, however, a few days later, at the end of a meeting in Jerusalem with his Israeli counterpart: "It is not for us (Europeans) to make proposals for a cease-fire"! This kind of attitude is, as day follows day, more scandalous and more insufferable.

Europe must call things by their names! The bombardment of civilian populations leading to a thousand deaths (of which almost three hundred were children) in two weeks - haughtily ignoring the UN Security Council's call for a cease-fire - and the killing of forty-three refugees in a United Nations school and of thirty civilians 'sheltered' in a house by the Israeli soldiers themselves - how should such acts be characterised? What should we call actions which, according to the European Commissioner Louis Michel himself, have left more than 500,000 (!) people without access to drinking water? Or soldiers who, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, did not go to the aid of the wounded, and even prevented ambulances from doing so, or those who fired on UN convoys, killing one of the representatives charged with delivering humanitarian aid. Or those who have left, according to the World Bank, 10,000 (!) people menaced by the collapse of sewers, which would put them at risk of drowning in waste water, following the bombardments?

All of these things have a name: they are war crimes, ordered by a government. The European Union must not only name these crimes, but make its "privileged partners" understand that such crimes not only cannot have the least justification, they are also subject, in law, to the same international sanctions as they would be were they perpetrated in the Balkans or in Iraq... In the immediate future, it is inconceivable that an 'Association Agreement' with such a state should be maintained, let alone that relations with government leaders so unworthy of them should be "enhanced". Such a government must be ostracised by the international community.

Must firing on Sderot and Askelon stop? Yes, of course! I am convinced that this would be possible from the moment the blockade was lifted; the incursions, targeted assassinations and bombardments ended; a peace process worthy of the name restarted. Courageous voices inside Israel are calling for this policy, including in the towns hit by the firing. It is these people whom the European Union should be praising, and not those have annexed Jerusalem, multiplied their settlements, built the wall, transformed Gaza into an open air prison, torpedoed the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, treated the Arab countries' peace plan with contempt and ignored the demands of the "Quartet" (the United States, the EU, Russia and the UN) itself! One lesson of this terrible experience must be obvious to Europe: the impunity of, and readiness to oblige these people is at an end. If this is not the case, what meaning would remain in references to "European values"?

Francis Wurtz is President of the Group of the United European Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL ) This article first appeared in the French weekly l'Humanité Dimanche and was translated by Steve McGiffen. Read more translations from l'Humanité Dimanche and its daily sister paper l'Humanité on the website 'l'Humanité-in-English