BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian youths said Monday they would organize protests against European Union "complicity" in Israel's occupation unless Brussels suspended plans to upgrade relations with Israel.
The group, Palestinians for Dignity, called on the EU to freeze a new upgrade of relations with Israel, suspend an existing association agreement until Israel complies with international law, and investigate European companies benefiting from Israel’s occupation and settlement policies.
"Barring meaningful action on the above, the Palestinian youth movement will organize to protest the latest manifestation of EU complicity and to challenge its presence and operations in Palestine," the group said.
The statement came a week after the EU decided to upgrade its trade and diplomatic relations with Israel in more than 60 areas, effectively reversing a freeze imposed after Israel's war on Gaza.
"This latest move by the EU is nothing less than outrageous, particularly given the EU’s continuous verbal criticism of Israel’s belligerent settlement plans," the statement said.
"This duplicitous behavior epitomizes the reasons why the Palestinian people have no faith in the EU. While some in the Palestinian leadership might have common personal interests with the EU and Israel, the Palestinian people will not accept only hollow words of condemnation."
The statement added: "As Palestinian youth, we are tired of the EU’s hypocrisy and its contemptuous policies that use aid and development programs to mask political cowardice and complicity ... The EU’s policies have only served to prolong Israel’s occupation and our oppression," the group said.
Palestinians for Dignity was one of the groups which launched protests against President Mahmoud Abbas' plans to host the Israeli vice premier in Ramallah for talks in June.
Police cracked down on the demonstration, injuring protesters and drawing criticism from human rights groups and journalists. An EU mission in the West Bank which trains the police also expressed concern.
Last week senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi called on the EU to review its relations with Israel in light of its persistent violations of international law.
"Rather than rewarding Israel by giving it preferential treatment, the EU should use its economic influence to end Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine," she said.
"As the market for 60 percent of Israel’s exports, the EU has the ability to prevent Israel from destroying the chances for peace. All it needs is the political will."