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Ursula Von der Leyen Praises Israel on 75th Anniversary of the Nakba

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has sparked controversy and criticism for her remarks on Israel’s 75th anniversary, in which she praised the country as a “vibrant democracy” and said it had “literally made the desert bloom.” The statement has not only shocked the world but also led many to respond harshly. The criticism was so strong that the EU was forced to request clarification from the Palestinian Authority (PA) about its “unacceptable reaction” to her video.

It is a rare stance from the PA, which usually has friendly ties with the EU. The PA considered von der Leyen’s comments a “racist, anti-Palestinian trope.” The expression “making the desert bloom” is Israel’s way of boasting about development projects in the region since 1948. However, Palestinians argue that it obscures their history and implies that the land was previously vacant and forsaken.

Ursula Von der Leyen Ignores Plight of Palestinians to Make Israel Happy

Palestinian supporters slammed Ursula von der Leyen for making “false” and “discriminatory” remarks in her speech celebrating more than 50 years of occupation. The EU chief turned a blind eye to the historical and legal rights of the Palestinian people and praised Israel, which troubled many. It suggested that the speaker had no problem with the illegal settlements and displacement of Palestinians, who were indigenous to the land.

Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah also questioned why von der Leyen was so full of admiration for Israel. The EU leader completely ignored Israel’s history and its global status as an apartheid state. She wished the country a “happy birthday,” which sounded like she was proud of Israel’s legacy of colonization, murder, and theft.

Israeli officials have responded positively to von der Leyen’s remarks on Israel’s 75th anniversary. The Prime Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett, tweeted that he was “moved” by her words and looked forward to working with her to strengthen the ties between Israel and the EU. Additionally, the Israeli President, Isaac Herzog, expressed his appreciation for von der Leyen’s “warm greetings” and stated that Israel shared “the EU’s values of democracy, freedom, and human dignity.”

Why EU Leader’s Comments Are Problematic?

The video of Ursula von der Leyen went viral as Israel celebrated its 75th anniversary of independence according to the Hebrew calendar. However, this date also coincides with the Nakba (catastrophe) for Palestinians, who commemorate the displacement and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of their people following the creation of Israel in 1948.

Von der Leyen’s blatant disregard for the deep-rooted history of Palestine, a land that has been home to diverse communities for over 4,000 years, including Jews, Christians, and Muslims, is truly heart-wrenching. The people of this land have always had a distinct Palestinian identity, and their struggle for self-determination has been ongoing for decades. Despite over 95% of the land being inhabited by Muslim and Christian Palestinians, the Zionists launched a campaign of settler colonialism in the early 20th century, resulting in a significant increase in European Jewish settlers. The indigenous Palestinian communities were left to face communal strife as they realized that the goal of Zionism was to create an ethno-nationalist state that would preserve Jewish supremacy.

Zionist settlers initiated a program of ethnic cleansing, which peaked in 1948, leading to the Nakba, a tragedy that saw 750,000 Palestinian Muslims and Christians forcibly removed from their homes and lands by Jewish paramilitary groups. In the face of this brutal reality, von der Leyen’s audacious celebration of Israel’s friendship with Europe, without any mention of the Palestinians who have suffered so much, is unacceptable. Her words perpetuate the erasure of the Palestinian people and their struggle for justice and freedom.

It is devastating that she chose to ignore the suffering of the Palestinians and instead celebrate Israel’s birthday. This choice indicates misplaced values and priorities, and a disregard for human rights.

Where Does the EU Stand on Palestine Cause?

Despite the EU’s role as a major donor and partner for the Palestinians, it has also maintained close political and economic relations with Israel, which has drawn backlash. The EU has repeatedly called for a peaceful resolution of the conflict based on a two-state solution along the 1967 borders. However, it has been criticized for its lack of action in pressuring Israel to end its occupation and settlement expansion, which has been a major impediment to achieving a lasting peace.

It is important to note that not all EU representatives share the same views as Ursula von der Leyen. Some have criticized her statements and actions. Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council, Hugh Lovatt, expressed how painful it was for him to see the EU leader turn her back on the oppressed. EU Parliament member Clare Daly called von der Leyen a “manager” rather than a leader, pointing out that she was not democratically elected and did not necessarily represent the views of all Europeans.

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