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Eurodeputies Publicly Berate Israeli Ambassador

And the Iranian foreign minister smiles.

3:20 PM, Jun 3, 2010 • By JOHN ROSENTHAL
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On Tuesday, one day after Israeli commandos raided a supposedly “humanitarian” flotilla headed for the Gaza Strip, Israeli Ambassador to the EU Ran Curiel appeared before the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee in what would become a raucous session. Even before Curiel had the chance to speak, representatives of one parliamentary group after another took the floor to condemn Israel's action.

Eurodeputies Publicly Berate Israeli Ambassador

(The full video of the committee session can be viewed here. Note that the simultaneous translation is often approximative. Translations below are for the most part the author’s own.)

Spanish MEP María Muñiz De Urquiza of the Socialist group described the Israeli raid as an act of “piracy,” for instance, and called for an end to the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. French MEP Nicole Kiil-Nielsen of the Green group raised the tone further, describing Gaza as a “ghetto” and the flotilla as a “flotilla of peace.” Kiil-Nielsen added, “I hope that the death of these pacifists, these activists, will lead us to say this time: ‘That’s enough! It has to stop! …Let us put an end to the impunity of Israel!’” 

Only British MEP Charles Tannock of the much-maligned European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group clearly came to Israel’s defense. The ECR consists of the British Tories and several smaller, mostly Eastern European, parties, including the Law and Justice party of the late Polish president Lech Kaczynski. The group made headlines last year when its chair, Michal Kaminski, was the target of vague charges of anti-Semitism on account of his teenage association with a no-longer-existent Polish political party. (On the Kaminski controversy and the ECR, see my report here.)  

Speaking on behalf of the ECR, Tannock said that the group regretted the “sad loss of innocent life,” but he pointed out that the naval blockade was established “as a result of Hamas continuing to launch rocket attacks on Israeli civilians and to prevent the maritime smuggling of weapons provided by Iran.”

“Clearly the IDF forces only resorted to lethal force when their own soldiers felt that their lives were at risk,” Tannock added.

Matters came to a head when Ambassador Curiel showed video images of what he called the “attempted lynching” of the Israeli soldiers by passengers on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. The mere showing of the video prompted unrest in the chamber and objections from deputies. “Why should we believe that,” one deputy can be heard saying into an open microphone, “[There is] no way of authentification of these images.” After another deputy shouts “why would they want to lie?”, the same female voice can be heard saying “There are very many reasons why they should lie about it.” (The exchange can be heard starting at 18:09:18 in the official video of the session.)

After order was restored and the ambassador completed his remarks, French MEP Eva Joly of the Greens took up the charge, saying that there was “no guarantee that the images that were shown are in any way authentic” and demanding that an “independent international investigation” be conducted in order to establish “what really happened.” In the absence of the results of such an investigation, Joly called for the suspension of all EU agreements with Israel.

MEP Sabine Lösing of Germany’s “post-Communist” Left party denounced the video as a “propaganda film” and called its showing a “provocation.” Lösung went on to accuse Israel of “beating” and “mistreating” passengers who were still in Israeli custody. 

Not even all the input from the ECR was supportive. Tannock’s Tory colleague Sir Robert Atkins concluded that Israel was “incompetent” and called on the EU to “recognize” and conduct talks with Hamas.

Apart from Tannock, the only speaker to acknowledge the significance of the video images was Dutch MEP Barry Madlener of Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom. Alluding to the description of the passengers on the Mavi Marmara as “peace activists,” Madlener commented dryly, “you don’t achieve peace by hitting soldiers over the head with big sticks.”

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