(JTA) – Lawmakers from 15 EU member countries, as well as the European Parliament’s president, protested the hosting at that institution of relatives of Palestinians who are in jail for murdering Israelis in terrorist attacks.
In a rare rebuke Thursday, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani admonished the chair of the Delegation for relations with Palestine, Neoklis Sylikiotis, for inviting relatives of Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Sa’adat to an event in Brussels about Palestinian prisoners.
“Such meetings must not become a platform for terrorism, nor should the agenda or guests put the reputation of this institution at risk,” Tajani said in a statement.
His criticism of followed an open letter addressed to him by 17 European Parliament lawmakers from Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and 11 other countries. The letter was about the scheduled hosting that day in Brussels of Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, and Sa’adat’s daughter, Sumoud, to a discussion Thursday about “the situation of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails after the hunger-strike,” as the organizers of that debate described it.
Barghouti was sentenced by an Israeli court in 2004 to multiple life sentences for planning dozens of deadly terrorist attacks. Some observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict believe that among Palestinians, Barghouti possesses credibility that other leaders lack, and may therefore be capable of implementing compromises that may facilitate a peace agreement with Israel. Sa’adat, who was arrested in 2006, was the secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist group and one of the planners of the murder Rehavam Ze’evi, an Israeli cabinet minister, in 2001.
“We are utterly appalled,” wrote the cosignatories, including Fulvio Martusciello, chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Israel, by the “offering of a public platform to relatives of convicted terrorists.”
“We call for the suspension of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Palestine meeting until its guest speakers’ agenda reflects the European values and norms on combating hate speech and terrorism,” wrote the 17 lawmakers, including Frederique Ries of Belgium and the Dutch lawmaker Bas Belder, who is the vice chair of the Delegation for relations with Israel at the European Parliament.
The letter includes signatures of lawmakers from all four Scandinavian countries that are represented at the European Parliament: Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Estonia.
Teodora Coptil, head of relations with the EU Institutions at the Europe Israel Public Affairs, a Brussels-based pro-Israel group that alerted lawmakers about the meeting, said in a statement that actions such as inviting relatives of terrorists “undermine the very core of European values and norms.”
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the founder of her association, thanked lawmakers who “raised their objections at this abhorrent move,” he wrote in a statement. “It is now up to the President to ensure that this doesn’t happen.”