EU envoy shrugs off Israeli threats to human rights defenders

Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the EU envoy in Tel Aviv, reassured Israelis during a live Facebook chat on Monday that the 28-member-bloc is opposed to BDS.

In March, statements by Israel’s intelligence minister calling for “targeted civil elimination” of Palestinian human rights defenders made headlines around the world.

What was particularly alarming was Yisrael Katz’s use of the terminology the Israeli military employs as a euphemism for extrajudicial executions.

The statements, made at an anti-BDS conference in Jerusalem, caused such concern that Amnesty International expressed its fears for the “safety and liberty of Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti, and other boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists, following calls alluding to threats, including of physical harm and deprivation of basic rights, made by Israeli ministers.”

Barghouti is a co-founder of the BDS movement.

Amnesty noted that the threats by Katz and other Israeli officials came against the background of an “escalation of acts of intimidation by the government and attacks and threats by settlers and other non-state actors [that] have created an increasingly dangerous environment” for human rights defenders in Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Dismissing threats

Among those who participated in the anti-BDS conference was the EU’s top envoy to Israel, Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen.

Previously, though he refused to condemn the threats outright, Faaborg-Andersen at least acknowledged them, insisting that his presence “should by no means be seen as endorsement of statements – including the threats … made by others at that conference.”

Now, however, Faaborg-Andersen is minimizing even further the dangers faced by human rights defenders, even as Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reported just days ago that a human rights worker was attacked and beaten by settlers as Israeli occupation forces looked on.

In answer to a question from Israeli activist Ofer Neiman during a Facebook live chat on Monday, Faaborg-Andersen again defended his role in the anti-BDS conference.

“I participated in that conference in order to explain the EU’s position on BDS which the EU does not support,” the ambassador wrote. “I also explained the EU’s positions on settlements which in the EU’s view are illegal, and on the correct indication of origin on goods exported from Israeli settlements to the EU.”

“This does not mean that I associated myself with the remarks of Israeli ministers at that conference but nor did I hear anyone threatening anyone’s life,” Faaborg-Andersen added.

The Electronic Intifada asked the EU Delegation to Israel if this comment meant that the ambassador was disputing the concerns expressed by Amnesty International about the growing dangers to human rights defenders.

A spokesperson for the EU office confirmed the ambassador’s statement on Facebook, adding, “That is all the ambassador has to say on this matter.”

Faaborg-Andersen’s apparent dismissal of the dangers facing human rights defenders is all the more notable since it comes after Israel began to implement its threats against Barghouti, imposing an effective travel ban on him.

Human Rights Watch, by contrast, wasted no time in condemning the step. “Israel’s refusal to renew Barghouti’s travel document appears to be an effort to punish him for exercising his right to engage in peaceful, political activism, using its arsenal of bureaucratic control over Palestinian lives,” the group’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson told The Electronic Intifada.

No pressure, no peace

Faaborg-Andersen also used the Facebook chat as an opportunity to reaffirm the EU’s commitment “to see Israel thrive and prosper as a Jewish and democratic state,” a definition that necessarily negates the rights of millions of Palestinians who would have to be barred from returning home and exercising other fundamental civil, political and human rights solely on the blatantly discriminatory grounds that they are not Jews.

The ambassador also spent much of the time fending off criticisms from Israelis who were under the misapprehension that the EU is anything other than solidly committed to rewarding Israel with closer and deeper ties no matter what it does to Palestinians.

“The European Union and Israel have enjoyed five decades of close cooperation and growing interdependence,” Faaborg-Andersen reassured Facebook users. “The EU is Israel’s leading partner in trade and in research and our partnership has been cemented by important agreements.”

These partnerships include EU funding for Israeli weapons research and for Israeli settlements.

Israelis passionately committed to occupation, settler-colonization and segregation can therefore rest easy: as long as Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen and like-minded officials are responsible for policy, the clear message is that Israel will never face any significant or effective pressure from the EU to end its human rights abuses or recognize Palestinian rights.

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THE EU AND THE USA NEEDS TO CHANGE ITS COURSE ON ISRAEL; WE DO NOT SUPPORT THE APARTHEID PARIAH STATE OF ISRAEL AND NOR DO THE MAJORITY OF AMERICAN JEWS, TIME TO WAKE UP;
ISRAEL HAS NO MORE LAND OF ITS OWN IT CONTINUES TO STEAL PALESTINIAN LAND; IF TRUMP ENDORSES ISRAEL YOU KNOW THAT IT IS WRONG!
Netanyahu, Hertzog, Michael Oren, IDF all war criminals with a date at the ICC for extra judicial executions, ethnic cleansing and genocide; when that happens a true new beginning can happen. The USA must cut ALL aid to Israel so that we no longer become accessories to these war crimes. The separation comes in the form of a EUROPEAN UN Peace Keeping Force to return Palestinian land to Palestinians and rein in all Israeli efforts to settle and steal more land. Back it up with the same sanctions on Israel as the USA and the world imposed on Iran. BOYCOTT, DIVEST AND SANCTION them into obedience to international law.

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This excellent report by Ali Abunimah shows those of us who follow
what is really going how thin is the thread of statements on our side.
What we lack is power.

BDS provides part of that but in most cases we are unable to put
declarations into effect.

Recently am reading again Michael Adams' and Christopher Mayhew's
book PUBLISH IT NOT.... Mayhew writes (pp. 49-50) "...No
attempt has been made to conceal or 'launder' the vast sums contributed
by Jewish supporters of Israel to American political leaders such as
Senator Hubert HumphreySenator Edmund Muskie and Senator McGovern....
Referring to Abraham Feinberg, the JEWISH POST AND OPINION
of 21 May 1971 said: "His gifts to Mr. Humphrey ranged ranged from $250,000 to 1 Million."

My Father was an organizer for Hubert (always called by first name only
in our family) and I met him on many occasions. On many of these
occasions there was a rather large Jewish man obliquely referred to
as Hubert's manager, Marvin Rosenberg. To reach Marvin you did not
contact Hubert's official office.

You called CAMEO CURTAINS in NY and asked for Marvin.

I did this once because I thought it was so much fun.Marvin was
extremely friendly with Jim Loeb's kid.

My guess is that the million dollars would go to Marvin Rosenberg at
Cameo Curtains.

There is no gainsaying Hubert's achievements (eg for civil rights)
in the Senate. He was evidently one of the many "liberal/progressives"
to receive million dollar contributions. The result was a champion of
pro-Israeli concerns in the Senate. Hubert was bought goods.

BDS not only has extreme problems as mentioned above via
attacks on its activists. BDS does not have the resources which
y pro-Israel supporters do. They "pay" for it with their
support of Israel in Congress. As a youngster I was, of course,
unaware of this side of a quid pro quo deal.

Israel/Zionists have traditionally been able to purchase
their support . ---Peter Loeb, Boston,MA

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.