EU anti-Semitism chief has no mandate to parrot Israel’s lies

Katharina von Schnurbein has made false allegations against the Palestine solidarity movement (Frank Hoermann - Sven Simon)

David Cronin

The Electronic Intifada  /  June 2, 2020

Katharina von Schnurbein, the European Union’s coordinator against anti-Semitism, has risen to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 lockdown.

Unable to schmooze with pro-Israel lobbyists face-to-face, she has instead been keeping in touch with them online.

Von Schnurbein appears to have been entertaining Israel’s advocates ever since she was appointed to her current post in December 2015. But does she – supposedly a public servant – have a mandate to do so?

After a long battle, I have finally gotten hold of the job description drawn up for von Schnurbein by the EU’s administration.

That document – outlining her core tasks and responsibilities – does not refer to Israel even once.

The omission is curious as there are strong reasons to suspect that von Schnurbein’s post was created with the sole – or at least the primary – objective of pleasing Israel and its supporters.

The very idea of the EU appointing a coordinator against anti-Semitism was proposed at an event hosted by Israel’s foreign ministry earlier in 2015.

Warped thinking

Von Schnurbein’s job description – published below – commits her to “liaise closely with the Jewish community” and to alert EU policy makers of that community’s concerns.

The phrase “Jewish community” is not a synonym for Israel.

Indeed, treating “Jewish community” as a synonym for Israel would be anti-Semitic. It would hold Jews in Europe responsible for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.

And if the Brussels bureaucracy is actually using the terms “Jewish community” and “Israel” interchangeably, then it is guilty of the same warped thinking which pervades the US elite.

Both Joe Biden and Donald Trump have suggested that Jews in the US are indistinguishable from Israel.

Jewish communities are not monolithic on either side of the Atlantic.

Jews in Europe hold a variety of different views about Israel yet von Schnurbein and her colleagues have sought to distort that reality. Jews critical of Israel and its state ideology Zionism have been excluded from the EU’s deliberations on anti-Semitism.

Von Schnurbein works in the justice department of the European Commission – the EU’s executive. Its work is supposedly guided by a charter of rights.

That charter upholds the right to hold and express opinions and ideas “without interference by public authority.”

Far from respecting that right, von Schnurbein has tried to police opinions critical of Israel.

Outrageous lie

She has made false and malicious allegations against Palestine solidarity activists, especially those urging boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Last year, she spoke at the Brussels launch of an Israeli government “study” on the BDS movement.

During her comments, she accused BDS campaigners of criticizing the singer Matisyahu because he is Jewish. That was an outrageous lie.

The truth is that Matisyahu has been condemned by activists because he has raised funds for Israel’s military and applauded an attack on a flotilla sailing toward Gaza – not because of his religion or ethnicity.

And in 2018, von Schnurbein disregarded the political neutrality required of EU civil servants, to regurgitate Israel lobby talking points smearing an elected member of the European Parliament as anti-Semitic.

The lawmaker had hosted an event with a Palestinian speaker in spite of objections from Israel lobby groups.

The EU’s staff regulations forbid its officials from following instructions issued by external governments.

By parroting lies concocted by Israel and its support network, von Schnurbein is breaking those rules.

How does she get away with it? The most plausible explanation is that she enjoys support from the EU hierarchy.

For most of the past five years, von Schnurbein has been answerable to Vera Jourova, the Czech member of the European Commission. Jourova has smeared the Palestine solidarity movement, using extremely similar, if not identical, terms to von Schnurbein.

I have been trying to obtain von Schnurbein’s job description since 2018. When I made my initial freedom of information request, the European Commission refused to release the document.

Eventually, however, it agreed to do so – after I took the matter to the EU’s ombudsman, nominally a citizen’s watchdog.

I had argued that the job description should be made available in order to assess if von Schnurbein had been formally tasked with pursuing a pro-Israel agenda.

The response from the European Commission to that argument displays a contempt for democracy.

Ursula von der Leyen, the Commission’s president, replied that it was the job of the EU hierarchy to scrutinize von Schnurbein’s work. The general public, von der Leyen implied, did not need to worry about such matters.

Tellingly, the European Commission did not try to deny that von Schnurbein is acting in Israel’s perceived interests.

Could the evidence be so strong that nobody can refute it?


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