The EU Delegation in Israel only has a problem with Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s Minister of National Security, and not with the existence and continuation of Israel as a colonial enterprise. The far-right minister was to represent the Israeli government during a diplomatic reception on 9 May marking Europe Day, but the event was cancelled over concerns that a diplomatic spat could arise between Israel and the EU over his presence. “It’s a shame that the EU, which pretends to represent democratic values and multiculturalism, behaves with undiplomatic gagging,” was Ben-Gvir’s reaction.
The EU’s protest pretence should have attracted more scrutiny. Undeniably, Ben-Gvir’s rhetoric of open incitement to violence against Palestinians may prove a diplomatic liability for the EU and its alleged concern for human rights. However, the far-right extremist is a product of the colonial violence that Israel has created and which the EU supports. Why take issue with one sliver of Israeli colonial violence, and not with the entire project?
Since his rise to prominence, Ben Gvir has called for crushing Palestinians one by one, calling upon Israel and its institutions to protect the interests of illegal Jewish settlers. He is also advocating for the death penalty to be imposed on Palestinians involved in legitimate – under international law — anti-colonial resistance activities.
Such comments do not sit well with EU diplomacy, which walks a fine line between nurturing its ties with Israel while regaling Palestinians with fragments of support. Therein lies the hypocrisy: singling out the more overt aspects of Israeli colonial violence while overlooking how far Israel has normalised its ongoing, daily atrocities against Palestinians.
Why is the periodic bombing of Gaza not enough for the EU to take a similar stance, for example? What about the Huwara pogroms which extended the boundaries of settler-violence against Palestinians? Why is settlement expansion not a reason to cancel trade deals with Israel, when commitment to human rights is purportedly one of the conditions under which such agreements exist? How can the EU be taken seriously for singling out Ben-Gvir, who has Israel’s entire colonial institutions at his disposal and supporting his violence? Was the creation of Israel through the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and their towns and villages not built upon extreme violence? Do the passing decades mellow ethnic cleansing into the oblivion of a newly-created colonial state and its ongoing expansion? For the EU, maybe, but not for the Palestinian people.
The message that the EU is sending to them is that there are many forms of violence against which it will not speak out and which, collectively, have harmed Palestinians interminably. Moreover, it is saying that it will not speak out against the colonial politics which allows Ben-Gvir to reap such support from within Israel’s illegal settler-population.
Furthermore, and this speaks volumes about EU hypocrisy, boycotting Ben-Gvir does not diminish the number of Palestinian victims falling prey to Israel’s colonial violence. The stance speaks nothing of EU democratic values; it merely reeks of hypocrisy and the abandonment of the Palestinian people to Israel’s violence. Since the EU is not averse to colonial atrocities in other forms, it should have embraced Ben-Gvir, demonstrating openly not just how unsupportive it actually is of Palestinian rights, but also that it really values Israel’s settler-colonial enterprise.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.