EU official urged to cancel appearance at anti-BDS conference

EU envoy in Tel Aviv Lars Faaborg-Andersen (via Facebook)

Palestinian and European campaign groups are calling on the European Union to cancel the participation of one of its senior diplomats in an Israeli conference which aims to end the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen, head of the EU delegation in Tel Aviv, is scheduled to take part in a panel on 28 March on “combating the boycott through state action,” alongside West Bank settler leader Dani Dayan.

The panel is part of the “Stop the Boycott” conference organized in Jerusalem by the Israeli publications Yediot Ahronot and Ynet.

It will be addressed by Israeli officials, including public security minister Gilad Erdan, who heads the government’s anti-BDS efforts, as well as by leaders of US-based Israel lobby groups including StandWithUs and the Anti-Defamation League.

It will also feature an appearance by Roseanne Barr, the US television personality and former comedian who now uses her public platform to incite hatred against Palestinians and Muslims.

Dani Dayan previously led the Yesha Council, the body that represents settlements in the occupied West Bank, all of which are illegal under international law.

Because of his high-profile leadership role in the settler movement, Brazil has refused Dayan’s appointment as Israel’s ambassador to the country.

“The EU’s ambassador to Israel sharing a conference platform with a key leader of the settler movement would make a mockery of the EU’s supposed opposition to the continued construction of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land,” Europe campaigns officer Riya Hassan said in a statement from her organization, the Palestinian BDS National Committee.

Anti-Palestinian and anti-democratic

In language clearly calculated to link the civil society movement to terrorism and play on Islamophobic fears in the wake of recent atrocities by Islamic State, the conference program claims that the BDS movement carries an “explosive payload of outrageous lies” that is “conquering a growing number of strongholds in Europe, the United States and elsewhere.”

This is no mere academic conference, but one aimed at strengthening Israel’s overt and covert efforts to crush the movement for Palestinian rights.

“The fight must be initiated by the State of Israel, must make use of combined forces and be carried out globally at all levels,” says the description of the panel in which the EU’s Lars Faaborg-Andersen will participate alongside Dayan and an Israeli military officer.

“It must include: quiet and overt diplomacy (mobilizing countries with which we have strategic relations), legislative initiatives against the BDS movement in the various countries, public relations efforts, mobilization of the Jewish world and coordinated action with all the agencies and organizations that work against the BDS movement,” the program adds.

Since it is known that Israel’s secret intelligence services are already involved in the fight against BDS, this is tantamount to incitement for Israel to use covert tactics against citizens of European countries who are doing nothing more than exercising their democratic rights.

Complicity

In a letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, the BNC and a coalition of European campaign groups urge the EU to cancel its envoy’s appearance at the conference and end EU complicity with Israel’s efforts to stifle support for Palestinian rights.

“Regardless of its position on BDS, an inclusive, nonviolent movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality, the EU should respect the voice of the absolute majority of Palestinian civil society as well as the voices of a fast growing cross-section of European civil society that stand behind this movement,” the letter states.

“We urge the EU to end its ‘Israel exception to free speech’ and to adopt the principled stand of a leading UN official regarding Palestinian rights who confirmed as early as 2011 that ‘Calling for or participating in a boycott is a form of expression that is peaceful, legitimate and internationally accepted,’” it adds.

“Different views”

Mogherini’s spokespersons did not reply to a request for comment from The Electronic Intifada, but Faaborg-Anderson’s office responded to the BNC on Twitter, asserting that there was no problem with the envoy’s participation in the anti-BDS panel with Dayan.

“Settlements are illegal,” Faaborg-Anderson’s office tweeted. “In Israel we quite often speak on panels of people with different views on an issue.”

According to this framing, it would appear that the EU views direct participation in Israeli settler-colonization of the occupied West Bank as merely a point of view, rather than a series of crimes under international law for which those responsible should be held accountable.

Ironically, several EU governments have not accorded the same respect to their own citizens advocating for Palestinian rights.

Despite the EU’s verbal opposition to settlements, the 28-nation bloc continues to finance Israeli military industries and activities located inside settlements.

Several EU governments have waged aggressive efforts to crack down on the BDS movement. The UK is seeking to intimidate democratically elected local councils and other public institutions from supporting BDS initiatives.

In France, an arbitrary interpretation of a court ruling is being used to repress BDS activities as “illegal.”

Earlier this month, an activist was even arrested for wearing a T-shirt supportive of BDS.

In a statement to The Electronic Intifada last week, by contrast, Sweden’s foreign ministry affirmed that country’s respect for the democratic rights of citizens by recognizing that BDS “is a civil society movement” and that “governments should not interfere in civil society organization views.”

In yet another act of complicity, EU governments this week abstained in a UN Human Rights Council vote to create a database of all companies that operate in Israeli settlements.

The resolution passed by 32 votes in favor with 15 abstentions. The US administration of President Barack Obama reportedly made intense efforts to block the initiative.

“What use are the EU’s regular condemnations of the ongoing expansion [of] Israel’s illegal settlements if they will not support measures aimed at stopping international businesses from supporting their expansion?” the BNC’s Riya Hassan said in response.

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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.