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Palestinians condemn EU's von der Leyen for 'racist trope'

Palestinians condemn EU's von der Leyen for 'racist trope'

Palestinians have described remarks about Israel by the head of the European Commission as "inappropriate, false and discriminatory".
It follows a congratulatory video message by Ursula von der Leyen on Israel's Independence Day on Wednesday.

In it she praised Israel, including for having "made the desert bloom".

It has sparked an unusual diplomatic spat between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the European Union (EU), its main donor.

A spokesperson for the commission told the BBC: "The EU is unpleasantly surprised by the inappropriate statement of the Palestinian foreign ministry accusing the president of the European Commission of racism."

"We are requesting clarification from the Palestinian authorities regarding this unacceptable reaction to her video."

The response of the Palestinian foreign ministry is a rare strong rebuke to a top figure in Brussels, with which it typically has good relations.

The PA singled out Ms von der Leyen's suggestion that Israel had cultivated barren land, calling it an "anti-Palestinian racist trope".

The phrase "making the desert bloom" is commonly used by Israel and its backers to describe what they view as the country's success in developing the land since the founding of the modern state in 1948.

However, Palestinians argue that it erases their history and suggests that the land was previously uninhabited or untended.

The PA is calling for an apology from the European Commission president.

"Seventy-five years ago, a dream was realised with Israel's Independence Day," Ms von der Leyen said in her message. "After the greatest tragedy in human history, the Jewish people could finally build a home in the promised land."

"Today, we celebrate 75 years of vibrant democracy in the heart of the Middle East, 75 years of dynamism, ingenuity and groundbreaking innovations. You have literally made the desert bloom, as I could see during my visit to the Negev last year."

Her video shared on the @EUinIsrael Twitter account has had more than 2.9m views.

The PA statement describes the message, addressed to Israel's President Isaac Herzog, as "propagandist discourse" and part of an "ongoing dispossession" of Palestinians.

The PA claims it "dehumanizes and erases the Palestinian people and falsifies their rich history and civilization".

In addition, it says that the European statement "whitewashes" Israel's occupation of lands Palestinians claim for their hoped-for future state and denies what they call "the Nakba" (Arabic for "catastrophe") of 1948.

Some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced to leave their homes in the war that followed the Israel's creation.

Palestinians mark Nakba Day on 15 May according to the Gregorian calendar, while the timing of Israel's Independence Day follows the Hebrew calendar.

Some Palestinians on social media have also criticised or mocked the European leader, including for her comments about shared values with Israel.

The European Commission is part of the executive of the European Union.

The spokesman for the commission stressed the EU's diplomatic ties with the PA, pointing out that Ms von der Leyen met PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh when she visited the region in June 2022.

They said a meeting to co-ordinate the delivery of international aid to the Palestinians was due to take place in Brussels next week.

"The EU is actively looking for solutions for the difficult situation of the Palestinian people," they added.
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