EU spreads more lies about BDS

Woman speaks into microphone and gestures

EU anti-Semitism coordinator Katharina von Schnurbein has a history of spreading smears and lies about Palestinian rights campaigners.

Andreas Gebert Reuters

A prominent European Union official is once again spreading lies about the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.

Katharina von Schnurbein, the bloc’s anti-Semitism coordinator, on Wednesday welcomed and shared suggestions from pro-Israel groups supposedly meant to “make Europe a more inclusive place for Jewish students.”

But the proposals from the European Union of Jewish Students and its German member JSUD, actually call for official condemnation of the BDS movement based on libels and fabrications.

The document asserts that “BDS is an anti-Semitic movement targeting Jewish life in Europe.”

It claims that “BDS leaders and supporters repeatedly seek to hold Jews collectively accountable for the actions of an Israeli government.”

The movement calls for no such thing.

“It is hardly shocking that Katharina von Schnurbein, an unelected EU bureaucrat who acts more like an advocate of Israel’s apartheid regime and a defender of its war crimes, is trading in anti-Palestinian racist fabrications and propaganda,” Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the BDS movement, told The Electronic Intifada.

“But with this latest outrageous lie against the nonviolent Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, she has stooped even lower than before.”

Barghouti emphasized that the movement “stands categorically against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, as its anti-racist statement of principles explicitly states and as its 15-year record of progressive and intersectional human rights advocacy proves beyond doubt.”

“BDS consistently targets complicity, not identity,” Barghouti said.

“It believes that there is nothing Jewish about Israel’s ethnic cleansing, siege, military occupation and murderous apartheid policies against Palestinians, and that Israel does not speak for or represent all Jewish communities.”

Cozy with Israel lobby

By contrast, von Schnurbein appears to equate being Jewish with supporting Israel.

She does not share or welcome the proposals and ideas of Jewish organizations and prominent Jewish and Israeli figures who support Palestinian rights or criticize official efforts to equate Palestinian rights advocacy with anti-Semitism.

And her office recently rejected the application from European Jews for a Just Peace – a coalition of 12 groups in 10 countries – to join the EU’s working group on anti-Semitism.

The organization charges that the criteria for membership in the working group were suddenly rewritten in the midst of the application process deliberately to exclude organizations that do not toe the EU’s official pro-Israel line.

The EU administration “obviously refused us because it only wants the Jewish organizations that support Israeli policy in the working group,” European Jews for a Just Peace has said.

Yet von Schnurbein maintains a very cozy relationship with the Israel lobby and with Jewish communal organizations that are hostile to Palestinians.

Watershed legal victory

Israel and its apologists have for years tried to portray the BDS movement as anti-Jewish, in an effort to incite goverment authorities to crack down on the movement as a purveyor of “hate speech.”

But that equation was rejected in a unanimous ruling by the European Court of Human Rights last month.

The landmark decision found that the criminal convictions of activists in France who called for a boycott of Israeli goods violated the guarantee of freedom of expression in the European Convention on Human Rights.

The European judges rejected the French courts’ reasoning that calling for a boycott of Israeli goods was tantamount to inciting hatred and discrimination.

Record of hate

The European Union of Jewish Students and JSUD, the groups behind the proposals welcomed by von Schnurbein, have a history of hostility towards Palestinians.

EUJS defines itself as a “Zionist organization,” while JSUD campaigns for German authorities to impose an outright ban on BDS to shield Israel from criticisms by human rights campaigners.

EUJS has called Israel’s massacres of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip “alleged abuses” and has claimed that “peace” will come when “the rulers of Gaza choose humanity over hate, when they stop firing on our children while hiding behind their own.”

This dehumanizing propaganda – a staple of Israeli hasbara – aims to absolve Israel of the killing of Palestinian children with the racist lie that Palestinian parents are willing to sacrifice their own children just to make Israel look bad.

Smears and lies

Nor is it the first time von Schnurbein has spread smears and fabrications about defenders of Palestinian human rights.

Last year, for instance, she accused BDS campaigners of protesting the American singer Matisyahu just because he is Jewish. This was a lie.

Matisyahu was protested by activists because he had raised money for Israel’s military and supported Israel’s attack on a flotilla sailing toward Gaza that killed 10 activists – not because of his religion or ethnicity.

In the light of the watershed decision by the European Court of Human Rights “and given von Schnurbein’s consistently anti-democratic, repressive attempts to silence EU citizens advocating for Palestinian rights, her position has become untenable,” Omar Barghouti said.

“We call on the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to immediately fire her, appointing someone who carries out this important mandate with integrity, transparency and without abuse of power.”

Von Schnurbein has not responded to a request for comment.

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Germany's justifiable guilt about its Nazi past and horrible gross mistreatment of Jews, has resulted in a justifiable great need to distance itself from it by constantly demonstrating it's 100% anti-Nazism. But, it extends far beyond reasonable measures, to a complete denial of Israeli war crimes, slaughter and genocide against Palestinians. Obviously wrong, shameful and inexcusable. Insisting that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism to silence and ban legitimate condemnation of the brutal Israeli apartheid regime, is as absurd as insisting anti-Nazism is anti-German.

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Ali, as a strong supporter of BDS I would ask you not to conflate Katharina von Schnurbein's actions with those of the EU. There are many in the EU who wholeheartedly support BDS.

Instead, we must concentrated on getting the message out to the public that Zionism is racism and that any attempt to disguise the true aims and meaning of Zionism is an attempt to try and make it acceptable. Not whithstanding the evangelicals, there are many ordinary Christians who have been led to believe that there is something acceptable about Zionism. This notion has to be challenged with the facts about its origins and the subsequent actions of Zionist who are carring out its goals in Palestine.

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Von Schnurbein speaks on behalf of the EU and makes its official policy on anti-Semitism. In general the EU’s policies are extremely pro-Israel, as our reporting has amply documented, and extremely so when it comes to the policies made by von Schnurbein’s office. When we are referring to the EU we are referring to it as an official body. Hence there is no conflation whatsoever.

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While it would be churlish to question the sincerity of pledges by EU and most especially German officials to stamp out antisemitism, suppressing non-violent boycott activity on behalf of victimized Palestinians may not be the most urgent item on the agenda. The New York Times- no friend of the BDS campaign- has just published an extensive report on the rampant infiltration of Germany's armed forces by dedicated, numerous and organized Nazi cadres.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/0...

I would humbly suggest that the German government turn its attention to the growing presence of these forces both in the military and in civilian policing. I mean, if you're serious about combating antisemitism, why not go after actual, heavily armed, professionally trained, sieg-heiling anti-Semites?

And yes, Omar Barghouti's call for the dismissal of Katharina von Schnurbein from her dubious post- created to defame and punish human rights advocacy- is entirely justified. The day when the European Commission decides to address racism in its political culture can't come too soon.

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It should be noted that Katherina von Schnurbein grew up in a strict "Evangelical" family.

Her father was president of a Pentacostal-sect, "FGBMFI " (sorry, only info is in German) which believe in a strict interpretation of the Bible + all the other crazy "rapture" stuff that USA-evangelicals are known for.
As one German author note here (in German)
https://twitter.com/ew_autorin...

"Just fathom this: an evangelical fundamentalist-Christian woman, who believes that Israel will be the final biblical battlefield to invoke God's reign over the earth, she is the person they chose to determine how the EU deals with anti-semitism and criticism of Israel".

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Your last paragraph has echoes of our own Labour Party where we had the farce of the Zionist JLM being put in charge of routing out 'anti-Semites' and then the consequential witch hunt, which still contiues under Starmer - a Zionist. You couldn't make it up!

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Why should the EU have an anti-Semitism co-ordinator rather than an anti-racist one? The choice of person is bizarre, but so is the post itself. Anti-Semitism is a lesser problem across the EU than Islamophobia. That is not to say, (in keeping with Tom Hall's comment) that vigilance and action regarding anti-Semitism aren't vital. But vigilance about all forms of racism is vital. Jews are flourishing in the EU, as in the US. There, they are the most prosperous ethnic minority. BAME groups in the US face far more discrimination and serious consequences. When did you last hear of an American Jew being killed on the street by a cop? BAME groups in the EU also face greater prejudice. The BDS movement is a focus for hope. There is one caveat. Finkelstein is right that "neutrality" over the status of Israel is a problem. If we invoke international law in defence of the Palestinians, as we must, then it follows we must acknowledge that Israel is a functioning State with rights under that law. This doesn't imply any excusing of Israel's colonisation of Palestinian land or its despicable abuse of Palestinians. We can't uphold a double standard. That's what the Israelis, like all unjust regimes do. If we rely on international law, we must be consistent. That aside, the persistent lie that the BDS movement is anti-Semitic, the slander that it blames all Jews for the actions of the Israeli State, are typical distortions designed to deflect any criticism of the Israelis; a strategy becoming ever more tedious and threadbare. The leadership of the EU is not in step with its people over this matter. What evidence is there of widespread support for Israeli's illegal settlements, its imprisonment of Palestinians in Gaza, its minute surveillance of Palestinians in the West Bank? Most EU citizens favour democracy. The EU should support a democratic Palestine and BDS as a principle means to achieve it. If there are other means, let the EU announce them. Some chance, eh?

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"Why should the EU have an anti-Semitism co-ordinator rather than an anti-racist one?" Excellent point and it highlights how successful Zionists have been in hyping the narrative in favour of the racist State of Israel.

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Ali Abunimah

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.