Israel has vetoed the entry of Spanish MEP Manu Pineda (IU), who headed a parliamentary delegation that was going to make a working visit to Palestine starting Monday. The Israeli Foreign Ministry sent a letter Thursday to the European Union Delegation for Palestine justifying the veto against Pineda in his past contacts with members of the Islamic movement Hamas and the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Palestine (PFLP), both qualified as terrorists by both Israel and the EU, according to informs The Jerusalem Post.
An Israeli diplomatic spokeswoman declined to make a statement to questions from EL PAÍS. The letter was not officially received until this Sunday, at the beginning of the working week in the Middle East, a few hours before the start of the parliamentary mission’s trip. In addition to Pineda, who heads it, another five MEPs belonging to the Socialist, Green, Left and European Renewal groups, elected in Sweden, France, Ireland and Portugal, participate in the delegation. His programme, which included visits to East Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus, has been suspended as a result of the decision of the Israeli authorities. A visit to the Gaza Strip had already been ruled out by the Israeli Government.
The previous mission of the European Parliament in Palestine, prior to the travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic, took place in February 2020 and was precisely headed by Manu Pineda, 56 years old and affiliated with the Communist Party of Spain. Pineda is a declared pro-Palestinian activist, and has participated in international solidarity programs in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Within the framework of his parliamentary activity, on Wednesday he intervened in the plenary session of the European Parliament in a debate on the death of the Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during an Israeli military intervention in Jenin (West Bank) and on the violent incidents that occurred during the funeral of she. On the 9th he also intervened in the chamber in relation to the espionage of political leaders through the Israeli Pegasus system.
“Israel stops the work of the European Parliament to assess the situation of the population in Palestine and maintains opacity about the human rights violations it carries out,” Pineda said this Sunday in a statement released by an IU spokeswoman in the European Parliament. The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, who is on an official visit to Israel and Palestine, regretted “the decision to deny entry to Israel to the head of a delegation for relations with Palestine.” Metsola promised to transfer said complaint in the meetings that he plans to hold with the highest authorities of the Jewish State. “In order to maintain good relations (with the European Parliament) it is essential that MEPs be respected,” he warned.
Jerusalem Post quoted the letter sent by Israel to the EU delegation for Palestine, detailing: “According to the information received, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports that Mr. Pineda’s entry has not been approved.” The diplomatic spokeswoman consulted by EL PAÍS in Jerusalem also avoided explaining the reasons for the veto to the Spanish MEP. The Israeli newspaper, however, assured that the rejection is due to the fact that Pineda had met in the past with leaders of Hamas and the PFLP.
Israel bars the entry of foreign politicians, activists or visitors in general who have spoken out in favor of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the Jewish State, following the path of international actions taken at the end of the last century against the South African regime apartheid. In 2019, the Israeli government banned Democratic congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim lawmakers in US history, from visiting Palestine. A year earlier, Israel also denied entry to the Spanish activist Ana Sánchez Mera, who was coordinating a visit to Palestine by a delegation of municipal and regional officials from Podemos.
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The Israeli security forces control all access to the Palestinian territories, except the Rafah border crossing in Gaza with Egypt, which has very restricted access. Pineda, however, was able to travel through Israel to officially visit Palestine in 2020, when her pro-Palestinian activities were well known. Now Israel considers, without going into details, that the Spanish MEP promotes a boycott against the Jewish state and therefore has denied him entry.