The Electronic Intifada / March 21, 2021
How does muzzling someone who tells uncomfortable truths about the present constitute learning from the past?
That is a question which Johannes Bӧrmann ought to ask himself. He works on Holocaust education for the European Union.
His commitment to learning is questionable.
Bӧrmann has lately applauded the push to have David Miller, a sociology professor at the University of Bristol, fired over his work on the Israel lobby.
The witch hunt against David Miller has been orchestrated by the Israeli government and its lobbying network.
Under pressure, the university’s authorities have now opened an investigation into the baseless allegation that he has been whipping up hatred against Jews.
By commending the witch hunt, Bӧrmann has not only violated the rules on impartiality applying to EU officials. He has sought to punish academics who speak out against Israel’s crimes and highlight how Zionism, the state’s ideology, is fundamentally racist.
Emojis and pride
Bӧrmann’s real agenda can be discerned from a comment he made on Twitter in November last year. The tweet marked the 25th anniversary of when the EU and Israel signed the main agreement underpinning their political and economic cooperation.
Using quite a few emojis, Bӧrmann declared himself “proud to help bring Europe and Israel closer every day.”
The tweet and his general behaviour indicate that Bӧrmann views himself as a pro-Israel advocate within the EU bureaucracy.
Bӧrmann’s work on Holocaust education falls under a program called Europe for Citizens.
That program’s stated objectives include “drawing the lessons for today” from Europe’s previous experiences with “anti-Semitism, anti-gypsyism, xenophobia, homophobia and other forms of intolerance.”
One clear lesson that should be drawn is that it is abhorrent for any state to dispossess and dehumanize a people based on their religion or ethnicity.
The apartheid system affecting Palestinians both inside Israel and those living under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza is an affront to the core tenets of international law drawn up following the Holocaust.
By striving to bring Europe “closer” to an apartheid state like Israel, Bӧrmann is not “drawing the lessons” which we should learn from history. He is doing the exact opposite.
The problem is, of course, bigger than Bӧrmann. He is part of an institution, the European Commission, willing to allow him to promote closer ties with Israel, even if that isn’t his actual job.
For more than a decade, the EU bureaucracy has facilitated Israel’s weaponization of the trauma caused by the Holocaust.
Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, is actively involved in a major EU-funded research project on the Nazis
The same Yad Vashem runs joint activities with Israel’s military. In 2010 – the year that the EU’s project began – Yad Vashem hosted a tribute to Holocaust victims, featuring Gabi Ashkenazi, then Israel’s military chief.
One year earlier, Ashkenazi oversaw a brutal attack on Gaza, in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed, more than 300 of them children.
The attack has caused endless nightmares for those who lived through it yet boosted Ashkenazi’s political ambition.
Yad Vashem is essential to Israel’s propaganda efforts.
That was illustrated in 2003, when it held a ceremony to “honour” a Torah scroll, which is supposed to accompany Israeli soldiers when they visit the sites of concentration camps run by the Nazis. The subliminal message was that an army which subjugates the Palestinians was acting on behalf of Jews murdered in the Holocaust.
And if Yad Vashem’s mission was truly to ensure that the lessons of the past are learned, it clearly failed in educating Israel’s politicians.
Last October, an Israeli government minister nominated Effie Eitam, a military general and notorious racist directly linked to war crimes against Palestinians as Yad Vashem’s next chair – though that appointment appears to have stalled.
“We will have to kill them all,” Eitam has said of Palestinians.
Yad Vashem’s largest private donors in recent years have been Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. Sheldon, a casino billionaire who died in January, was also the top contributor to Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
By doing so, the world’s only superpower disregarded the Fourth Geneva Convention, a cornerstone of international law drafted in response to the Holocaust.
Before taking up his post on Holocaust research, Johannes Bӧrmann was the deputy to Katharina von Schnurbein, the EU’s coordinator against anti-Semitism.
Von Schnurbein has spread vicious lies about Palestine solidarity campaigners. Her lies do not appear to perturb Bӧrmann.
When his stint as von Schurbein’s deputy finished last year, Bӧrmann described her as his “role model.”
He has subsequently declared immense pride in how he helped prepare the EU’s handbook on applying a dubious definition of anti-Semitism.
Approved by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – a grouping of governments – that definition conflates opposition to Israeli racism with bigotry against Jews.
The lie was that Palestine solidarity activists had tried to have the American singer Matisyahu dropped from a Spanish festival for being Jewish. The truth – as recognized by a Spanish court – was that Matisyahu had been criticized for supporting crimes committed by Israel’s military, not because of his religion or ethnicity.
Bӧrmann is emulating his role model.
Just as von Schnurbein smeared the Palestine solidarity movement, he has endorsed Israel’s claim that David Miller is an anti-Semitic professor. That, too, is a vicious lie.
David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada; his books include Balfour’s Shadow: A Century of British Support for Zionism and Israel and Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation