In response to the latest outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas, European leaders have issued the familiar calls for peace and made the usual four-hour pilgrimages to the region. Yet little has come out of this European engagement, with the Continent remaining “a payer, not a player” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
If anything, the war between Hamas and the Jewish state can in part be blamed on the massive and unaccountable aid Europeans have poured into the Palestinian territories. The European Union and its 28 member states continue to channel millions of euros, pounds and kroner annually to both Hamas-controlled Gaza and the West Bank, without responsible supervision, transparency or oversight.
In Gaza, instead of building schools and developing a functioning economy, Hamas diverted resources into the two main local “industries”: acquiring thousands of missiles and building a huge underground infrastructure designed to terrorize Israeli civilians. The miles of concrete-lined strategic tunneling under houses, schools and hospitals are estimated to have cost €1 billion, which wouldn’t have been available without European aid.
Many of these policy blunders are closely linked to political nongovernmental organizations that Brussels funds and turns to for “expert” advice. Israeli “human-rights” groups, such as Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and B’Tselem, are close EU partners. In public statements to international bodies and in their press releases, these groups frequently condemn Israeli policies but ignore the war crimes of Hamas.
Similarly, Europe has been a central source of funds to United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or Unrwa, which for six decades has helped to perpetuate the conflict by treating generations of Palestinians as “refugees.” Unrwa facilities, like the rest of Gaza, are closely integrated into the Hamas war structure. On two occasions during the current conflict, deadly missiles have been found in Unrwa schools. Unrwa reported turning them over to “local authorities,” which according to Israeli officials means Hamas.
Before European statements can be taken seriously in this conflict, Brussels must become a more responsible player by keeping closer watch over whom and what it funds.