Israeli troops and tanks are stationed along the border with the Gaza Strip on February 2, 2024, as battles continue between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. Credit - JACK GUEZ—AFP/Getty Images
More than 800 civil servants from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union released a statement on Friday criticizing their governments' support of Israel in its war in Gaza, warning that such policies could be contributing to war crimes and violations of international law.
As Israel’s military continues its deadly offensive in Gaza, the officials emphasized that western governments risk being complicit in “one of the worst human catastrophes of this century” by failing to hold Israel to the same international humanitarian aid and human rights standards they apply to other countries. The officials say they privately expressed concerns about Israel’s military operations to leaders of their governments and institutions but have been ignored.
“Our governments’ current policies weaken their moral standing and undermine their ability to stand up for freedom, justice and human rights globally,” the statement says. “There is a plausible risk that our governments’ policies are contributing to grave violations of international humanitarian law, war crimes and even ethnic cleansing or genocide.”
The statement marks the first display of coordinated transatlantic dissent since Israel’s war against Hamas began nearly four months ago, when the Israeli military launched an air and ground operation in Gaza after Hamas fighters killed 1,300 people in southern Israel and took more than 240 hostage. More than 27,000 people in Gaza have been killed and nearly 2 million have been displaced since the war began, according to the health ministry in Gaza and the United Nations.
The signatories called on their governments to “stop asserting to the public that there is a strategic and defensible rationale behind the Israeli operation and that supporting it is in our countries’ interests.” They also urged western governments to halt military support and secure a ceasefire that will increase aid for Palestinians and ensure the release of Israeli hostages captured by Hamas.
The statement says that it was coordinated by civil servants in European Union institutions, the Netherlands, and the U.S. and was endorsed by civil servants in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The names of the civil servants are not listed, but the effort reveals that the current pro-Israel policies have generated dissent among some who work in government.
The statement comes a week after the International Court of Justice (ICJ)—the highest court of the United Nations—ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza caused by its military campaign. Israel has denied accusations of genocide in Gaza.
The signatories to the new letter demanded that Israel comply with the ICJ order. “Our governments have provided the Israeli military operation with public, diplomatic and military support,” the statement reads. The officials said they are concerned “that this support has been given without real conditions or accountability" as western governments "have failed to call for an immediate ceasefire and an end to blockages of necessary food/water/medicine in Gaza" in light of the war's death toll.
Write to Nik Popli at email@example.com.