Does von der Leyen plan to crush protests against genocide?

Ursula von der Leyen is an unconvincing “bastion against the extremes.” (Via Twitter)

Ursula von der Leyen is parading as a “bastion against the extremes” while seeking re-appointment as head of the European Commission.

Her transformation has been rapid and – on at least one crucial matter – utterly unconvincing.

Far from being a bastion against extremes, von der Leyen took the European Union’s support for Israel to a new extreme during October last year by backing the genocide it was carrying out in Gaza.

Her stance caused much anger among the public and even within the EU institutions. In a highly unusual step, civil servants have been staging protests outside von der Leyen’s Brussels office, as well as writing letters criticizing her.

Rather than listen to its own staff, the European Commission is threatening to crush dissent.

Balazs Ujvari, one of its spokespeople, insisted recently that while free speech was respected, EU staff had to demonstrate loyalty towards their institution’s policies.

I contacted Ujvari, asking if Brussels officials are expected to demonstrate loyalty toward Ursula von der Leyen and the assurance she gave to Israel on 13 October. Von der Leyen stood beside Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, that day and told him he could “count on” the EU’s backing in the war against Gaza.

Ujvari declined to answer my question directly.

Instead, he said that the right to freedom of expression is “not an absolute prerogative” as officials “must comply with their duties and obligations” under EU staff rules. Officials are required to seek prior authorization for publishing material relating to the EU’s work.

Any breach of these “statutory obligations” will be assessed by the European Commission, Ujvari stated.

“No soul”

The thinly veiled warnings from Ujvari have been denounced by officials who have taken part in the protests against the EU’s stance on Gaza.

One official – speaking on condition of anonymity – described the EU hierarchy as “genocide enablers to the bone.”

Another said, “I’m honestly still in shock about this.” The official told me that Ujvari’s comments were “another sign of how the [EU] institutions insist on having no soul.”

It is important to note that the European Commission has no apparent difficulty with officials who advocate in favor of the genocide.

Katharina von Schnurbein, nominally the EU’s coordinator against anti-Semitism, used social media in recent days to promote an event supporting the genocidal war against Gaza.

By doing so, von Schnurbein abused her own position.

She works in the European Commission’s justice department, rather than the EU’s diplomatic service. And her formal job description does not mention Israel even once.

Yet it is a safe bet that von Schnurbein will face no consequences for endorsing violence against Palestinians.

Like von der Leyen, she holds German citizenship.

In telling Netanyahu that he could count on the EU’s support, von de Leyen single-handedly made the position of the Brussels bureaucracy on Israel virtually identical to the position long taken by the German government.

Von der Leyen’s expected reappointment will reassert Germany’s dominance over Europe.

Defending Palestinians is effectively verboten in Germany. With von der Leyen at the helm, it is not being tolerated in the Brussels bureaucracy either.


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