Lobby Watch 27 September 2013
The memo telling Israel’s diplomats and their allies to “accentuate the positive” has been mislaid in Brussels, judging by an event held earlier this month. During the event, a few members of the European Parliament (MEPs) teamed up with some of Israel’s most reactionary politicians.
David Rotem, a representative of the Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home) party, was guest of “honor” at a conference in the Parliament’s headquarters. He was a curious choice for a discussion about those controversial EU guidelines on ending aid to firms and institutions active in the settlements Israel has built in the occupied West Bank in defiance of international law.
Far from being a slick spin-doctor, Rotem is overtly racist in his pronouncements. While two MEPs have landed themselves in hot water this year for applying the term “bongo bongo” to Africans, Rotem is able to make vile statements about Palestinians without fear of censure.
“Every Jewish community needs at least one Arab,” he has said. “Otherwise, who will repair my fridge when it breaks down on the Sabbath?”
Making apartheid more extreme
Perhaps the only commendable thing about Rotem is that he is more honest than many of his peers about the fact that Israel practices a form of apartheid. “Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, not a state of all its citizens,” he has said.
Since joining Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in 2007, Rotem has sponsored a number of bills designed to make Israeli apartheid more extreme. Among them were a bill requiring that citizens of Israel take an oath of allegiance to a “Jewish and democratic state.”
He has also tried to exclude parties comprised of Palestinians living in present-day Israel from the Knesset and to ban public funding of organizations deemed not to respect Israeli “values” (the latter move was originally known as the “Nakba law” as it targeted those who regarded the involuntary displacement of 750,000 Palestinians during Israel’s founding as a catastrophe).
Rotem has been a staunch defender, too, of Israeli government efforts to uproot Palestinian Bedouins from their villages in the Negev (Naqab). And he has argued that communities in the Galilee and the Negev should be allowed to bar residents on grounds of race and religion.
It’s important to note that Rotem is not a marginal figure in Israeli politics. On the contrary, he chairs the Knesset’s committee on constitution, law and justice. He has used that position to hurl insults at political opponents. Two years ago, he told a member of that committee: “Get out of here, you are not even an animal.”
Himself living in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, Rotem has put forward a bill to copper-fasten the state’s “obligation” to invest in expanding settlements.
He was not the only settler invited to the European Parliament this month. Gershon Mesika, head of the Shomron Regional Council for Israeli settlers in the West Bank, also addressed its conference.
While all Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, Mesika has also registered his contempt for Israeli government decisions limiting the settlements’ growth. In 2009, he ripped up papers from Ehud Barak, then Israel’s defense minister, ordering a freeze on construction in some settlements.
Sign of desperation?
The European Friends of Israel (EFI), a cross-party alliance of MEPs, was involved in the recent conference. Its embrace of hardcore racists like Rotem jars with the cuddlier image that it has been trying to project of Israel so far this year.
The EFI kicked off 2013 by celebrating Israel as a caring and open-minded place, with events dedicated to Israel’s humanitarian aid program and the protests against Benjamin Netanyahu’s economic policies.
Is rolling out a red carpet to Rotem a sign of desperation? I’m not sure if it is. The EU’s new guidelines aren’t simply opposed by Israeli settlers.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is also demanding that the guidelines be withdrawn. You don’t need to have a doctorate in international relations to know that the EU is often servile towards America.
Kerry, of course, is more guarded and diplomatic in his choice of words than Rotem. But they are both striving to bolster a system that privileges one group of people and dehumanizes another.
- European Parliament
- Tel Aviv
- gay rights
- David Rotem
- European Union
- Israeli settlements
- West Bank
- Gershon Mesika
- Shomron Regional Council
- Ehud Barak
- European Friends of Israel
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- humanitarian aid
- John Kerry
THE US "SENATOR FROM AIPAC", JOHN KERRY
Permalink Peter Loeb replied on
In dis days as a powerful US Senator (Massachusetts), I used to refer to John
Kerry as "the Senator from AIPAC". Perhaps that was not the most penetrating
analysis but as US Secretary of State, it doesnt really seem far-fetched.
He and the White House in response to the US Congress bear chief responsibility
for the forwarding of Israeli foreign policy and PR against Syria, the abdication
of responsibility for the Egyptian coup, the misguided supposed "peaceful"
Israeli policies toward Palestine (a joke).
Israel and the EU
Permalink Speedy replied on
It is lamentable that most of our leaders today think with their hearts and not with their minds. Their emotional quotients are high and later will their epic blunders become apparent. It does not take a rocket scientist to realise that their ill-considered decisions today will haunt them tomorrow. The truth will prevail and the veneer will shatter!. Nature will not allow falsehood to prevail over justice and truth, no matter what paint is used to cover the flaws!