The Electronic Intifada / March 3, 2021
The late anthropologist David Graeber developed the theory of “bullshit jobs.” Such a post, he wrote, was “utterly meaningless, contributed nothing to the world” and “should not really exist.”
Although Graeber had a corporate lawyer in mind, his description applies neatly to some work in the field of international relations.
Every so often, the European Union bestows a diplomat or politician with the title of “special representative for the Middle East peace process.”
The title is built on a lie.
The truth is that there is no peace process in the Middle East because Israel’s political establishment is dedicated to Zionism. That anachronistic ideology underpins the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land and the denial of Palestinian rights.
Advancing a real peace process – one with justice and equality at its core – would mean demanding that Israel ditches Zionism.
Susanna Terstal, the EU’s current “special representative” for that “peace process,” takes the opposite approach. By repeatedly stressing that the EU is committed to Israel’s “security,” she is offering a reassurance that Zionism will not be confronted.
As Terstal says exactly the kind of thing that Zionists want to hear, it is little wonder that they seek her company.
Through a freedom of information request, I learned that she accepted invitations to at least three events organized by the European Leadership Network, a hardline pro-Israel group, during 2020.
Whipping up hatred
The European Leadership Network works closely with the Israeli military – the same army which occupies the West Bank and Gaza.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Leadership Network has kept on arranging propaganda tours in tandem with that army.
The French branch of the European Leadership Network, meanwhile, actively tries to whip up hatred against Muslims, using almost identical rhetoric to the extreme right.
Does Terstal believe enough in her work to defend her apparently warm rapport with the pro-Israel lobby?
She would not answer questions that I put to her directly. Instead, she referred them to Peter Stano, the EU’s foreign policy spokesperson.
Stano replied that the “participation of EU officials in events to which they are invited is not a secret.” EU envoys, he suggested, are required to “interact with a wide variety of partners and stakeholders.”
He added that it was “totally wrong and even absurd to make an assumption about an affiliation or ‘close relationship’ to an organization” based on how Terstal had spoken at their events.
Becoming less transparent?
The available evidence contradicts Stano’s claims.
Neither Terstal nor the European Leadership Network appear to have published anything on the internet about her participation in the three events last year.
That indicates that both she and the lobby group have become less transparent than they previously were. In March 2019, the European Leadership Network circulated photographs of Terstal giving a “keynote speech” at a meal it had arranged.
One of the events at which Terstal spoke last year was an online seminar focused on the normalization deals that Donald Trump brokered between Israel and a few other countries.
The invitation to the seminar – see below – explicitly stated that its participants were not allowed to reveal the names of its speakers and that the event “will not be recorded.”
In other words, the contents of the event and Terstal’s involvement were kept secret.
While Terstal may not spend all her time hanging out with pro-Israel advocates, she has made a point of sending friendly signals toward them.
During 2019, she took part in the Herzliya conference, a talkfest for Israel’s military and political establishment. Terstal underscored then that the relationship between the EU and Israel is “flourishing,” despite perceptions to the contrary.
At another event in Israel that year, Terstal painted a hugely deceptive picture. Echoing Israel’s talking points, she voiced her disquiet about “rocket attacks” from Gaza and the “repercussions for the Gazan people.”
Here was an EU representative distorting reality to please a partisan audience. Two days before she made those remarks – in November 2019 – Israel had assassinated an Islamic Jihad leader and his wife
It was an act of aggression, in which civilian infrastructure was targeted, violating international law.
Yet Terstal and her colleagues in the Brussels bureaucracy did not condemn Israel’s belligerence. Their condemnations were reserved for Palestinians firing crude projectiles from Gaza – a territory subjected to a merciless blockade imposed with logistical backup from Europe.
Writing in The Jerusalem Post during 2019, Terstal contended that the EU “does not ‘take sides’ ” between Israel and the Palestinians.
Yet in the same article she explicitly sided with the Zionist project by supporting Israel’s “right to exist.”
A major purpose behind advocating a “two-state solution,” she suggested, was to ensure Israel “remains a secure and democratic state with a Jewish majority.”
Israel is a state with a Jewish majority precisely because Zionist forces expelled approximately 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in the 1940s. No state has the right to base its very existence on the dispossession of a people.
And it is the very antithesis of modern democratic principles to insist that a state may engineer itself so that one religious or ethnic group remains dominant over all others.
Perhaps it would be unfair to argue that Susanna Terstal has achieved zilch as the EU’s “special representative for the Middle East peace process.”
She and her colleagues seem to be worldbeaters in reciting the term “two-state solution” ad infinitum. Her devotion to a hollow mantra will one day warrant a footnote in a history book.
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