If there had been genuine determination in the Arab world to bring justice to the Palestinian people, it would have been done years ago. However, many states and their leaders have proven to be both incompetent and powerless when it comes to occupied Palestine.
I have often said that the injustices suffered by Palestinians, especially those living in the Gaza Strip, should be treated more as a European problem than as a problem that can be solved in the Middle East alone. To prove my point, just look at the eleven members of the European Union who have expressed their outrage and rallied with France against Britain on how the UK handles the distribution of post fishing licenses. -Brexit. Germany, Spain and Italy, as well as Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden, all joined with France in condemning the behavior of the Britain.
The global fishing industries have always invoked patriotic symbolism, perhaps nowhere more than in the Mediterranean which is also fished by four of the “indignant” countries: France, Greece, Italy and Spain. Unfortunately, their solidarity and support for French fishermen does not extend to their Palestinian counterparts in the Mediterranean.
Although the 1993 Oslo Accords granted Palestinian fishermen in Gaza the right to fish up to 20 nautical miles offshore, the Israeli military is doing everything possible to prevent them from doing so and thus destroying their livelihood. . Palestinian ships are bombed, shelled and set on fire, and their owners and crews are targeted by Israeli snipers and arrested. Their ships are also seized by the Israeli navy. NOTE reported such an incident just a few days ago.
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All this unprecedented violence occurs in the same Mediterranean Sea fished by French, Greek, Italian and Spanish fishermen whose elected officials, regardless of their governments, keep strict silence for the simple reason that Israel is the culprit. There is little to no outrage on the part of members of the European Union towards Israel on almost all issues. The apartheid state relies heavily on the silence of the international community over its treatment of Palestinians, including the almost daily sea assaults on fishermen. More than 4,500 Palestinians and around 50,000 family members depend on fishing for their livelihood. They live and work under extreme pressure and stress due to the Israeli blockade. Earlier this year, the arbitrary closure of the Palestinian fishing zone off the coast of Gaza was condemned by human rights groups amid accusations of “collective punishment”, which is illegal in under international law.
Those in the fishing industry working in the countries around the Mediterranean – the four mentioned above plus Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya , Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Slovenia, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey – all worried about weather conditions, low catches and fluctuating markets. Imagine the outcry if they also faced the challenge of Israeli troops firing live ammunition, or seeing their boats bombed and confiscated. This is the daily reality of Palestinians.
Additionally, Israel unilaterally reduced fishing limits from 20 nautical miles to just six nautical miles when Hamas was democratically elected in 2006 to lead the Palestinian Authority. Even more collective punishment. Following the 2008/9 Israeli military offensive against civilians in Gaza, the fishing zone was further reduced to just three nautical miles. The Israeli Navy targets Palestinian fishing boats even when they are well within this incredibly narrow area. This has been documented in reports from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR).
Palestinian fishermen were once among the wealthiest people in their community, but today 95% depend on food aid to survive. The Zionist state has blocked their access to 85% of available fishing grounds, including the best waters for sardines and mackerel.
All of this is happening in the Mediterranean Sea and is expected to create waves throughout the European Union and the European fishing industry. If EU Agriculture and Fisheries ministers can rally with France in the face of British postures and gestures in the North Sea, why can’t they muster some support for the fishing industry by Gaza difficulty?
French fishermen accuse Britain of asking for too many documents, preventing them from obtaining licenses, but at least they don’t have to deal with the Royal Navy shooting at them and destroying their boats. The French government, meanwhile, has introduced a ban on British fishing boats from landing their catches in French ports from Tuesday, unless Britain issues more than 240 French boats with licenses. The French arrested a British trawler in Le Havre and another was fined for not cooperating with the authorities a few days ago.
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An irate government spokesman in Westminster called the French actions “unwarranted” and apparently inconsistent with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (ACT) or broader international law. The French Minister for Europe, ClÃ©ment Beaune, justified the need to “speak the language of force” because “it is the only one [language] the British government understands. Neither the French nor the British seek to apply international law in occupied Palestine, where Israel treats it with open contempt.
It should be emphasized that the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) is an instrument of EU foreign relations that links neighboring countries to the east and south of the bloc. Palestine, including the Gaza Strip, is associated with the ENP, so Virginijus SinkeviÄius has no excuse. The European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries should focus his attention on the events unfolding in the Mediterranean off the coast of occupied Palestine.
Muhammad Majid Bakr, 23, made a life and death decision when he cast his net for a living, and he was killed by Israel for doing so. Even in the hypocritical diplomacy that governs Europe’s relations with Israel, this can never be acceptable.
The opinions expressed in this article are the property of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.