Terrorist attacks unsurprising given Palestinian suffering - EU envoy

“What do you think a child who sees the houses of their parents, their brothers and sisters demolished?"

 Palestinians burn a representation of an Israeli flag during a protest over tensions in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Jerusalem Day, on May 29, 2022.  (photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS)
Palestinians burn a representation of an Israeli flag during a protest over tensions in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Jerusalem Day, on May 29, 2022.
(photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS)

Terrorist attacks against Israelis should not be surprising given the depth of Palestinian suffering from the 74 years of conflict with Israel, according to European Union Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff.

“When you are a Palestinian child living next to the separation wall, what do you think this child will grow up with,” he said Tuesday at an Alliance for Middle East Peace conference in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian experience

“What do you think a child who sees the houses of their parents, their brothers and sisters demolished because he or she was a suspected or real terrorist” will feel? he asked. “What kind of hatred will burn in this child? What do you think will happen?”

Burgsdorff cited the spate of terrorist attacks that have rocked the country since the start of the year.

“We saw, a few months ago and the last few weeks, terrible terror attacks perpetrated on Israeli territory,” he said. “Twenty Israeli innocents lost their lives. But don’t be surprised, because there is hatred burning in many of these young Palestinians.”

 The body of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in during a live fire exchange between Palestinians and IDF in Jenin, is brought to the offices of the news channel in Ramallah in the West Bank, May 11, 2022. (credit: ABBAS MOMANI/POOL VIA REUTERS) The body of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in during a live fire exchange between Palestinians and IDF in Jenin, is brought to the offices of the news channel in Ramallah in the West Bank, May 11, 2022. (credit: ABBAS MOMANI/POOL VIA REUTERS)

Burgsdorff gave a brief but impassioned speech about the overall toll the Israel-Palestinian conflict has taken on the lives of Palestinians and the particular danger that exists now, given the absence of any peace process.

He spoke to a gathering of diplomats and activists who gathered to explore the role civil society can have in ending the conflict.

Peace is non-negotiable

Burgsdorff said the actions of civil society and measures taken to improve the lives of Palestinians are important, but they are not enough to make the difference unless a resolution to the conflict is also in the offing.

“It is not sufficient to just talk about people-to-people contacts,” he said. “It is not sufficient to just underline the importance of civil society.”

“It does not matter whether you shrink the conflict,” he added. “It does not matter if you provide economic incentives, unless human beings also have dignity and justice.”

“We need to bring to the fore and to the worldwide attention the plight the people of Palestine have been under for the past 74 years,” Burgsdorff said, citing events dating back to the 1948 War of Independence.

We need to change the narrative.

European Union Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff

As an example, he said thousands of Palestinians had been killed since 2008, without distinguishing between innocent Palestinian civilians and those engaged in violent activity.

Burgsdorff did not specify whether they were Palestinian militants or civilians killed during the three Gaza wars nor if they were Palestinian terrorists executing attacks against Israelis or rioters who died in clashes with the IDF.

“Since 2008, thousands of Palestinians have been killed,” he said. “Only a handful of those perpetrators have been brought to justice, only a handful.”

"The truth needs to be told"

“The truth needs to be told,” he added. “Without truth, there is no accountability; without accountability, there is no justice; without justice, there is no peace.”

Burgsdorff warned against the radicalization of Palestinian society as despair, frustration and hatred grows with no end in sight.

“Work on the ground can only bear fruits if there is political engagement,” he said. “If political decision-makers understand that, unless they make this conflict a priority... we are not going to see an end to this conflict.”

“This is a call for action,” Burgsdorff said. He urged the Biden administration and the 27 member states of the EU to “act now and not wait any longer.”