EU’s Palestine envoy: Bloc lacks sympathy for victims of Israel’s bombing

Abdalrahim Alfarra, the top Palestinian diplomat to the European Union whose family remains in Gaza, says he is shocked by the Western response to the latest conflict.

A girl carrying her belongings walks in the area of Al-Ahli hospital where hundreds of Palestinians were killed in a blast that Israeli and Palestinian officials blamed on each other, and where Palestinians who fled their homes were sheltering amid the ongoing conflict with Israel, in Gaza City, October 18, 2023.
A girl carrying her belongings walks in the area of al-Ahli hospital where hundreds of Palestinians were killed in a blast on Tuesday [File: Mohammed Al-Masri/Reuters]

Brussels, Belgium – After hundreds of people were killed at a Gaza hospital this week, Abdalrahim Alfarra, the head of the Palestinian Mission to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg, had a dream.

“I had a dream that the president of the EU Council, the Parliament and the Commission would all be standing holding Palestinian flags on Wednesday morning, and holding a minute of silence in solidarity with the Palestinians massacred at the hospital, and over the past decades,” he told Al Jazeera.

“But I was very disturbed when I woke up, realising it was just a dream. And it will only remain a dream.”

After Hamas’s unprecedented deadly assault in Israel, top EU officials held vigils in Brussels to remember the Israeli victims of the attacks, as buildings across the bloc were lit up in the white and blue of Israel’s flag.

But Alfarra said there is little sympathy for the thousands of Palestinians who have died since, as Israel relentlessly bombards Gaza, the besieged Palestinian strip he hails from.

His daughter, mother, brothers and other relatives are in Gaza now, struggling to survive.

He holds the EU accountable for its “silence” over the “massacre” of Gazans.

The cause of Tuesday’s explosion at al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City is still being debated, with Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad trading blame for the horrific incident.

Palestine envoy
Abdalrahim Alfarra, the head of the Palestinian Mission to the EU, Belgium and Luxembourg [Courtesy of the Palestinian Mission to the EU]

Alfarra said of the EU’s position: “The silence has shocked me. It’s silence also in the US. It’s disturbing.”

“When the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza was bombed on Tuesday night, leaders of the EU had gathered for their virtual summit where they were discussing their stance on the Israel-Hamas war. I expected that the summit would suddenly stop with leaders condemning this atrocious war crime. But that summit did not even have a statement about the bombing. Not even a word,” he said.

The virtual EU summit on Tuesday, began with the 27-member bloc’s leaders holding a minute of silence for all the victims who lost their lives in Israel and Palestine, and for victims of recent attacks in France and Belgium.

When news of the hospital bombing broke, the meeting continued and officials reiterated “full solidarity with the people of Israel”, saying “Israel has the right to defend itself – always in line with humanitarian and international law”.

A few hours later, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the hospital attack.

EU Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and others expressed their solidarity with the victims of the hospital attack – a day later.

A view of debris in the area of Al-Ahli hospital
A view of debris in the area of al-Ahli Arab Hospital where hundreds of Palestinians were killed in a blast [Ahmed Zakot/Reuters]

While the mood at the Palestinian Mission in Brussels is ever-sombre, Alfarra spends his time trying to raise awareness among EU officials about the difficulties Palestinian civilians are experiencing.

“I’ve met everybody here. Every policymaker in the Council, the Commission and the External Action Service. I told them, ‘You’ve cried for Israel and stood up for the attacks against Israel. But now it’s time for you to stand up stop the war crimes in Gaza.'”

With the envoys of Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the mission of the League of Arab States in Europe, Alfarra has joined a coordinated push to talk to the EU with “one voice”, to ensure leaders in the West understand the immensely precarious predicament of the Palestinian people.

“We have seen a systematic shift in the EU position especially after talking to the EU Council President Charles Michel’s office. It was also us who protested the European Commission’s decision to cut aid to Palestine last week. We’re thankful they back-tracked that decision and increased humanitarian aid to Palestine by pledging 75 million euros [$79m],” he noted.

“But the EU can display its real power in supporting Gaza by pressuring Israel to allow this humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. They need to ensure all the border crossings open and not just Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt,” Alfarra said.

INTERACTIVE - What is the Rafah crossing map-GAZA_ISRAEL_Oct 16_2023

Alfarra said he was also concerned by the ripple effects of the war on communities in the West, and accused Israel of waging an information war.

On October 14, Wadea Al-Fayoume, a six-year-old boy, was killed by a man – the family’s landlord – because he was Muslim and a Palestinian-American, according to US police officials.

“We need to talk about how the Israeli propaganda machine on Palestine led to the murder of the young Palestinian boy in the US,” he said.

“My biggest fear right now is how countries in the West are falling for the Israeli propaganda machine and staying silent on the war crimes in Gaza. They are also remaining silent on Gaza because they depend on Israel for information about the region. This is dangerous.”

“The more the international silence, the more the likelihood of the complete erasure of the civilian population in Gaza. So leaders need to condemn the attacks on Palestinian people and stop this war.”

Source: Al Jazeera