BRUSSELS: The European Union faces growing hostility across the Muslim world and beyond over accusations of pro-Israel bias and double standards over the war in Gaza, the European Union’s foreign policy chief warned.
Josep Borrell said he feared such acrimony could undermine diplomatic support for Ukraine in the Global South and the EU’s ability to insist on human rights provisions in international agreements.
He said the European Union should show “more compassion” for the loss of Palestinian civilian lives in the war waged by Israel against Hamas.
His comments came in interviews with Reuters During a five-day Middle East trip that took him to the ruins of the Hamas-destroyed Kibbutz Be’eri, the West Bank, a regional security conference in Bahrain and royal audiences in Qatar and Jordan.
During the trip, which ended Monday evening, Borrell heard complaints from Arab leaders and Palestinian civil society activists that the 27-nation European Union does not apply the same standards to Israel’s war in Gaza that it applies to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“All of them were already criticizing the EU’s position as one-sided,” Borrell said.
Waving his mobile phone, he said he had already received messages from some ministers indicating that they would not support Ukraine the next time there was a vote at the United Nations.
He added: “If things continue for a few weeks like this, the hostility against the Europeans (will grow).”
In response to the criticism, Borrell stressed that human lives have the same value everywhere, and that the European Union unanimously urged an immediate humanitarian halt to the delivery of aid to the Palestinians in Gaza and quadrupled its humanitarian aid to the Strip.
But Arab leaders want an immediate halt to the Israeli bombing that has killed at least 13,300 Palestinians, including at least 5,600 children, according to the Gaza government.
They criticized the European Union and the United States for not condemning Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza, in contrast to the West’s response to the invasion of Ukraine.
It says it attacks civilian areas where Hamas operates, and tries to avoid casualties among innocent people.
Europe is struggling
As High Representative for Foreign Policy, Borrell is tasked with formulating common positions among EU members.
The European Union, a Middle Eastern neighbor and home to a large Jewish and Muslim population, has a major stake in the latest crisis. Although it is not on the same level as the United States, it has some diplomatic weight in the region, not least as the largest aid donor to the Palestinians.
But the bloc is striving to take a unified position that goes beyond condemning the Hamas attack. Its efforts have been largely limited to supporting Israel’s right to defend itself within the framework of international law and calling for a halt to the fighting.
Cruelwhile, member states, such as Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Hungary, affirmed their strong support for Israel while others such as Ireland, Belgium and Spain criticized Israel’s military action.
France called for a humanitarian truce that would pave the way for a ceasefire.
Borrell, a veteran Spanish socialist politician, declared last month that some of Israel’s actions were contrary to international law – alarming some EU member states.
He avoided such direct public criticism during his journey. He also sought to show his understanding of the pain felt by Israelis, recalling his own experience on a kibbutz in the 1960s.
But he said that the European Union must also make more efforts to show that it also cares about the lives of Palestinians, and this may come through stronger calls for the delivery of aid to Gaza and renewed push for the establishment of a Palestinian state within the framework of the so-called “two-state solution.”