I recently emailed MEP Ashley Fox regarding the vote on the EU-Israel Protocol on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA). The vote takes place on October 23rd 2012 and if implemented would essentially mean better trade conditions between the EU and Israel. I asked Ashley Fox to show support for Palestinian human rights by voting against this agreement.
Below is his response:
Thank you for your e-mail. Please allow me to be absolutely clear on what is happening.
The European Union is discussing a protocol to an already existing agreement between the EU and Israel. I believe that refusing consent to this Protocol would cause economic damage to both the EU and Israel at this time of international financial crisis. It would also affect the EU's ability to project positive political influence within Israel for promoting lasting peace in the region. I support EU trade agreements with both the Palestinian and Israeli Authorities and will continue to do so.
I believe than an eventual progression from the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords towards a two state solution will lead to final and comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on implementation of the Road Map with land for peace swaps. This would create a peaceful and sovereign Palestinian State, with Israel enjoying secure and recognised borders. Each country should enjoy normal relations and capacity for trade with its neighbours.
I support the PA led by President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad as the legitimate government of the Palestinians. Any sovereign future Palestinian state would have to be able to reign in terrorist groups such as Hamas, which has to date refused to uphold the Oslo Peace Accords.
The Association Agreement with Israel (signed in 1995 and in force from 2000) does not include either the occupied territories, or goods originating in these territories. Indeed, goods originating from the Israeli occupied territories are not entitled to preferential tariff treatment under Community law.
I believe that Palestine should be governed by the Palestinian people. I have sought assurances from the European Commission that any free trade agreement with Israel includes safeguards to prevent the economic exploitation of the West Bank and Gaza territories.
I believe that to effectively isolate Israel will only exacerbate the problems in the region. Trade allows the flow of goods and with them ideas. It allows us to influence Israel in ways that would not be possible if we stopped trading with them. Indeed, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso visited Palestine in July this year to show that support.
Israel has behaved appallingly in many ways, but not without provocation. The only way to change this behaviour is through trade and 'soft' influence. Forcing Israel into an isolated corner has not worked in the past and will not work in the future. I will continue to support free trade agreements, with proper safeguards, with both Palestine and Israel.
Unsatisfied with his response which showed either a lack of compassion or a large amount of ignorance, I replied:
Dear Mr Fox
Thank you for replying to my email regarding the ACAA agreement. However, I feel I must reply in response to some of the points you have made as they are inaccurate.
1.) “refusing consent to this Protocol would cause economic damage to both the EU and Israel”.
Although refusing consent may cause some minor adverse effects to the economy of the EU, any negative consequences to the Israeli economy can only be a positive outcome, as this would highlight two important points: Firstly, that we are unwilling to improve trade conditions with an apartheid regime that consistently breaks international law through the abuse of human rights and the occupation of Palestinian land. Secondly, as trade with Europe and probably the world will be hampered, Israel's economy, and therefore it's people, will suffer as a consequence, possibly causing them pause for thought regrading their harmful policies.
2.) “the EU's ability to project positive political influence within Israel”.
Israel currently enjoys brilliant trade relations with countries such as ourselves and the US. This has only helped to enable Israel to implement and maintain its system of oppression. If we improve Israel's trade prospects what kind of message would that really send? Can't you see that by doing this we will be condoning their despicable policies and actions?
3.) “Any sovereign future Palestinian state would have to be able to reign in terrorist groups such as Hamas, which has to date refused to uphold the Oslo Peace Accords.”
Hamas have committed some abhorrent crimes, I would not question this. But so have Israel and on a much larger scale. Israel is a terrorist state; anyone who has an interest in this issue and is without bias, knows this. Assassinations, indiscriminate killings and sometimes the intended killing of civilians, torture, the demolition of civilian structures ( houses in particular), detention without trial (including children), these are all done systematically and on a regular basis by the state of Israel. Therefore, do you not agree that if Hamas has to be reigned in, so does Israel?
As far as upholding the Oslo Peace Accords, why are you not also referring to Israel's continued illegal settlement building, as well as the crimes just mentioned above?
4.) “The Association Agreement with Israel does not include either the occupied territories , or goods originating in these territories.”
This may be true but many illegal Israeli settlement goods are sold throughout Britain, many through the big supermarket chains. Like I said, we already have good trade relations with Israel, and so far we have not used this as a lever to affect change. Why is this? You state that “to isolate Israel will only exacerbate the problems in the region”, but how much worse can it get for the Palestinians? Didn't boycotts and sanctions help to bring apartheid in South Africa to an end?
5.) “Israel has behaved appallingly in many ways, but not without provocation.”
I think you would do better to turn this sentence around – Palestinians have behaved appallingly in many ways, but not without provocation. Israel is a prosperous country, many of the population have access to good healthcare, education and jobs. This is not true of Palestine, where the majority of the population live in poverty with very little hope for a better future. Even the most basic and essential supplies sent to them by the international community are often stopped from reaching them by the Israel. It is this lack of hope and desperation that sometimes leads Palestinians to commit horrific acts of violence.
Thank you for taking the time to read this email. I would very much appreciate a reply to the points I have set out. I look forward to your response.
I now await his response, fully aware that he will go ahead and vote yes to this agreement anyway. It will be interesting to see how he justifies voting yes when answering the questions I put to him.