In advance of her trip to Israel, a coalition of European NGOs – including Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Cordaid, Diakonia, Defence for Children International, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, and International Federation for Human Rightsurged European Commission Vice President Catherine Ashton to visit Gaza. Janet Symes, Head of Middle East Region, Christian Aid, stated that “the EU cannot accept Israel’s ban on its senior representatives visiting Gaza to see how the millions of Euros from European taxpayers are spent on vital humanitarian projects there.”

Ashton, also the high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, echoed Symes in her New York Times op-ed (Lessons From a Gaza Trip, March 21, 2010) published after the visit: “I went to Gaza to see whether European assistance money has an effect on the ground.” Ashton’s op-ed made no reference to Hamas and its role in the conflict, and the European-funded delegitimization and demonization of Israel were ignored.