BRUSSELS (Reuters): The European Union faces growing animosity across the Muslim world and beyond due to accusations of pro-Israel bias and double standards over the war in Gaza, the bloc’s foreign policy chief has warned.
Josep Borrell said he feared such acrimony could undermine diplomatic support for Ukraine in the Global South and the EU’s ability to insist on human rights clauses in international agreements.
He said the EU had to show “more empathy” for the loss of Palestinian civilian lives in Israel’s war against Hamas, launched in response to the deadly Oct. 7 cross-border assault by the Palestinian militant group.
His comments came in interviews with Reuters during a five-day Middle East trip that took him to the rubble of Kibbutz Be’eri devastated by Hamas, the West Bank, a regional security conference in Bahrain and royal audiences in Qatar and Jordan.
On the trip, which ended on Monday evening, Borrell heard Arab leaders and Palestinian civil society activists complain that the 27-nation EU was not applying the same standards to Israel’s war in Gaza that it applies to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“All of them were really criticising the posture of the European Union as one-sided,” Borrell said.
Waving his mobile phone, he said he had already received messages from some ministers signalling they would not support Ukraine next time there was a vote at the United Nations.
“If things continue a couple of weeks like this, the animosity against Europeans (will grow),” he added.
In response to the criticism, Borrell stressed human lives had the same value everywhere and that the EU had unanimously urged immediate humanitarian pauses to get aid to Palestinians in Gaza and quadrupled its humanitarian aid for the enclave.
But Arab leaders want an immediate end to Israel’s bombardment, which has killed at least 13,300 Palestinians, including at least 5,600 children, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run government.
They have lambasted both the EU and the United States for not condemning Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza, in contrast to the West’s response to the invasion of Ukraine.
Israel has stressed that it is responding to the deadliest attack in its history, in which about 1,200 people were killed and 240 taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies.
It says it is attacking civilian areas as that is where Hamas operates and it is trying to avoid innocent casualties.