Katharina von Schnurbein is receiving the “Human Rights Prize” from the European branch of B’nai B’rith, an international Jewish communal organization.Far from supporting human rights, however, B’nai B’rith expends much of its efforts attacking people who defend Palestinian rights against Israel’s abuses and war crimes, and promoting the Israeli government’s positions.
Von Schnurbein is the “European coordinator on combating anti-Semitism.”
Smearing human rights defenders
It’s no surprise that B’nai B’rith would honor von Schnurbein – though that likely has little to do with any genuine effort to fight bigotry.
The German official has used her EU perch in a tireless campaign to smear defenders of Palestinian human rights.
She has pushed for the wide adoption of an official definition of anti-Semitism supported by Israel lobby groups that falsely equates criticism of Israel and its discriminatory state ideology Zionism with anti-Jewish bigotry.
She has smeared the nonviolent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights by claiming without offering a shred of evidence “that anti-Semitic incidents rise after BDS activities on campuses.”
Those falsehoods were recycled by von Schnurbein’s boss, EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova, who has herself enthusiastically joined hands with Israel to ostracize and censor European citizens who advocate justice and equality for Palestinians.
Both Jourova and von Schnurbein attended B’nai B’rith’s “annual leadership forum” in Prague last year to discuss such topics as “anti-Semitism in Europe” and “Israel on the global stage.”
This March von Schnurbein joined in with an Israel lobby smear campaign against Ana Gomes, a prominent member of the European Parliament from Portugal.
Gomes has demanded an investigation of von Schnurbein’s role in the campaign to denounce her as anti-Semitic after Gomes publicly criticized Israel lobby groups for attempting to block her from hosting Palestinian human rights campaigner Omar Barghouti at the European Parliament.
Fighting anti-Semitism – which can be simply defined as bigotry against Jews as Jews – is a given for anyone involved in a principled anti-racist struggle such as the BDS movement for Palestinian rights.
But B’nai B’rith, like Israel and its other lobby groups, uses concern about anti-Semitism as a cover for supporting Israel’s most extreme positions.
For example, when the EU in 2015 announced that it would require accurate origin labels on goods exported from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights, B’nai B’rith condemned the measure as “discriminatory” and claimed that it “encourages and reinforces the Palestinian narrative at a dire time when anti-Semitic incitement is thriving.”
But viewing settlements as illegal and distinguishing them from “Israel” is not just a “Palestinian narrative.” It is international law and EU policy – albeit one the EU admits it cannot enforce.
Does von Schnurbein agree with B’nai B’rith’s not so subtle implication that the EU was encouraging anti-Semitism by requiring accurate labels for settlement goods?
But this is by no means the most extreme of B’nai B’rith’s positions and activities. “Israel advocacy” takes up a large part of the organization’s website.
There one can read about how B’nai B’rith has taken delegations on junkets to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Among the Israelis one delegation met with in 2013 was Moshe Feiglin, an extremist who the following year as deputy speaker of Israel’s parliament would call for Israel to “concentrate” and “exterminate” Palestinians in Gaza.
Another delegation took members of the European Parliament to visit “a plastics factory in the West Bank.”
B’nai B’rith denies that there is an Israeli military occupation in the West Bank in the first place.
Its leaders have repeatedly issued statements denouncing anyone who uses the word occupation to accurately describe the legal and brutal physical reality of Israel’s decades-long military rule over millions of Palestinians who are denied their most fundamental rights.
And when Israel was slaughtering 11 children per day in the occupied Gaza Strip during the summer of 2014, B’nai B’rith Europe sent a “solidarity mission” to support the soldiers who were doing the killing.
In short, B’nai B’rith is a pro-occupation, pro-apartheid, anti-Palestinian organization that forcefully rejects even the EU’s most minimal and ineffective efforts to oppose Israel’s settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Any EU official who purports to support human rights and combat hatred and anti-Semitism would consider it no honor to receive an award from B’nai B’rith.