Ten years ago I was appointed Middle East Correspondent for Swedish National Television. Personally and on daily basis I experienced, and reported on, violence and terror attacks in Israel and the Palestinian areas. Regrettably, not much has changed since then. The core issues of the conflict have not been solved. And to be honest: in many aspects things have gone seriously worse.
The recent wave of terror against innocent Israeli civilians is fueling an already dangerous situation in the relations between Israelis and Palestinians. The terrorist attacks are intended to spread fear and horror among the civilian population, and sadly, it has already succeeded. People in Jerusalem and other Israeli cities today live in a constant distress and worry of further attacks.
The acts of violence so far seem to have one common denominator. The Palestinian attackers consider themselves taking part in ”protection” of the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The fact that the Palestinian population accept the pledge ”to attack to protect”, is in one way understandable – the Palestinian society is completely infiltrated by anti-Semitism, anti-Israeli propaganda and hate. Children’s programs on Television, school education, preaching’s in mosques, and media reporting are all delivering the same distorted message: The al-Aqsa Mosque has to be protected from the ”Jewish threat”.
Politically responsible for the Palestinian propaganda and todays serious developments is the Palestinian leadership and notably; president Mahmoud Abbas. The president’s direct support for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians is as obvious as unacceptable. And let’s face it; the image of Mahmud Abbas as a reliable partner for peace, a representative of democracy and non-violence, is incorrect and false.
For peace to become a reality president Abbas needs to put an end to Palestinian violence – and the personal propaganda visits to the families of Palestinian terrorists. Furthermore the President needs, once and for all, to take action against corruption. The system with salaries, paid from the PA budget, to jailed Palestinian terrorists, has to be abolished. Money transfers to NGOs campaigning for hatred against Israel have to stop.
When it comes to bilateral aid and humanitarian assistance to the PA, my home country Sweden, will contribute with approximately 150 million Euro over the coming five years. Together with support and donations from other member countries and the EU funding, we are talking about huge amounts of money. Huge amounts that risk ending up in wrong pockets.
I believe the EU should stop sneaking around this issue by continuing to make large wire transfers to PA bank accounts. We need to be firm. Much of this aid is counterproductive – just as counterproductive as the labelling of products from settlements.
Instead we need to support and facilitate activities and projects that foster respect for human rights and democratic values in the Palestinian society. At the same time: whereas we are engaged in state-building measures with funds and expertise, we should link all the EU funds to a clear condition of an actual Palestinian renouncement to hate and all kind of violence.
As political representatives, as decision makers, we have a responsibility – not only to European tax payers, but also to people who are in need of our humanitarian support. For the sake of the most vulnerable, the most affected Palestinians, we are obliged to make sure that development aid from the EU is channeled in a accurate manner – to Palestinian organizations and stakeholders that promote and stands for peace, democracy and human rights. That is the single most effective way, and the most candid way, to assist the Palestinian people.
With these introductory remarks, I will again welcome you to this important seminar.