Spain Stands for Palestine: Europe and the Arab World Continue Watching the Show

Last week, Spain’s PM Pedro Sanchez stated that he had ‘Serious doubt’ about Israel complying with international law amidst its campaign in Gaza. The PM, who has been the harshest critic of Israel since it started bombing Palestinian territories in its bid to destroy Hamas, is probably the only European leader in decades to take such a strong stance for Palestine. EU countries are still divided on who and what to support in this conflict. Arab countries have taken the high road—making only rhetorical statements for Palestine while the US and UK are busy arming and adorning Israel. In this chaos and betrayals, Spain deserves all the praise for standing up to Israel’s aggression when the major powers and international human rights organizations have forgotten that the lives of Palestinians are as important as Israelis.

Prime Minister Sanchez spoke the clear and possibly the only truth about the Israel-Hamas war that matters currently. “Violence will only lead to more violence,” he said on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing- a visit to lay the groundwork for its proposed peace talks between Israel and Palestine. He vouched for a permanent ceasefire amidst the ongoing ceasefire, angering Israel.

Sanchez also urged the international community to officially recognize the state of Palestine and is even interested in unilateral recognition of Palestine, which will be a significant move as the country will be the only major EU country to do so.

The current situation in Gaza was bound to happen when Hamas gunmen launched an unprecedented assault on Israel from the Gaza Strip on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and taking about 240 hostages. Hours after the attacks began, Israeli forces started their massive bombardment of Gaza to wipe out Palestinian resistance movement Hamas. Since then, approximately 1.5 out of 2.3 million people have been forced from their homes, and 16,200 Palestinians are dead, nearly half of them children.

Now that Israel has started its bombing again after its week-long truce of “humanitarian pause,” the numbers will definitely keep growing. Israel has even revoked the visa of the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

Where does Israel get its audacity?

The US is usually the answer. Israel’s disproportionate bombing of civilian territories or its refusal to permanent ceasefire amidst the merciless killing of the Palestinians-nothing has been able to take away the US support for the Jewish state. The Israel obsession has made Washington veto a UN Security Council resolution that called for a humanitarian pause to Israel’s attacks. If not enough, it has been threatening anyone who tries to save Palestinians from Israel’s assault with diplomatic messages, fleets, planes, and soldiers. Even Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have become mute spectators of the Palestinian death toll.

This is the same US that declared the Rohingya massacre in 2017 as genocide when the military campaign burned Rohingya villages in its quest to catch the ARSA fighters who attacked the Myanmar police posts- which is precisely what is happening in Gaza today. But now, the US, the flag bearer of R2P, with the responsibility to protect, will conveniently forget how to protect the Muslim Palestinians of Gaza. US short-term memory of human rights protection seems to be only working when it has to punish countries who defy its hegemony.

The unwavering support of the US for Israel is disappointing but yet not shocking as that is all the country has done for years. But the silence of the Arab world, which once fought wars against Israel to protect Palestinian identity, is more concerning when Israel is on a rampage, erasing anything and everything Palestinian in its path to Hamas.

If Washington can deploy dozens of naval vessels in the Mediterranean Sea and 2,000 special forces soldiers in Palestine, Arab countries can show such solidarity with Palestine as well when on the ground, Palestinians are literally being isolated and starved. Bahrain, Egypt, Qatar, and Jordan’s blunt response to Palestinian ethnocide is shameful, especially when Jordan and Egypt especially seem to be only concerned with whether their borders are safe from refugee flows or not. 

Arab countries’ conscience must ask themselves at this stage of violence why Spain is more of a champion for their Palestinian brothers and sisters than them.

The EU has walked the same path of ignorance of the Palestinian plight while parroting “Israel’s right to self-determination” contrary to Spain’s exemplary stand for Palestine. Spain even had to address the EU’s hypocrisy in its initial decision to bar development aid to Palestine after the Hamas attack.

The EU countries that opened their doors to Ukrainians fleeing to save their lives from Russian assault have today become blindsided by Palestinians being isolated, starved, killed, and wiped out. Russia definitely broke international laws when it breached Ukraine’s borders, but now EU countries are blindsided when war crimes are being committed in Gaza every day.

Spain’s support of Palestine while condemning the bombing of refugee camps, UN schools, and hospitals is worthy of appreciation, especially as Israeli propaganda of victimizing themselves is being served in the plate by most Western countries. It can be hoped the country will show the same support for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh who are eager to return to their homes. 

If only the major powers of the world showed the sincerity of Spain, persecuted victims, unfortunate like Palestinians and Rohingya might actually have a chance at living a humane life.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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