Why the EU should honor, not shun, genocidal racist Itamar Ben-Gvir

Ali Abunimah

The Electronic Intifada  /  May 4, 2023

What do you do when the greatest object of your love and affection is a horrible embarrassment?

That’s the dilemma the European Union finds itself in ahead of its annual Europe Day celebration of “peace and unity” on the continent that has been ravaged by war and genocide for much of its recorded history.

Just as its other missions around the world will be doing, the EU’s embassy in Tel Aviv will be hosting festivities. But apparently not everyone is welcome to the party.

According to Israeli media, the EU is upset that the Israeli government has selected Itamar Ben-Gvir to attend the Europe Day celebrations as its representative.

Israel’s state broadcaster Kan reports that the EU has pressured Israel to send someone else, but so far the government is not complying.

An EU source told the broadcaster, “We do not support Minister Ben-Gvir or his party’s political opinions. In fact, many of his statements and prejudices negate the values that the European Union represents.”

Ben-Gvir, Israel’s national security minister, is a disciple of genocidal anti-Palestinian rabbi Meir Kahane.

In recent days, Ben-Gvir also reminded the world that he has for decades idolized Baruch Goldstein, the American Jewish settler who murdered dozens of Palestinians at Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque in 1994.

On the eve of Israel’s so-called independence day, Ben-Gvir spoke at a Jewish religious school founded by Kahane, while standing in front of a banner extolling the mass murderer Goldstein.

“The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance,” the banner read. It also referred to Kahane and Goldstein, among others, as “holy ones” and asserted that “God will avenge their blood,” Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported.

Shared values

The EU’s discomfort is therefore understandable, given that it tries to present itself as a champion of human rights and democracy, “values” it preposterously purports to share with Israel.

But the Brussels bureaucrats can relax.

In fact, the European Union and Itamar Ben-Gvir share precisely the same values – even if they may quibble over some details or about how to express them. Those values, however, have nothing to do with democracy and human rights.

Just like Kahane and Ben-Gvir, the European Union supports Israel’s conception of itself as a “Jewish state” and fully endorses the Zionist ethnic cleansing and colonization of Palestinian land – as the EU’s top civil servant Ursula von der Leyen made clear in a video last week that generated outrage among Palestinians.

Congratulating Israel on its “independence day,” von der Leyen whitewashed and erased the horrific violence of Israel’s creation – the deliberate ethnic cleansing of 800,000 Palestinians by Zionist militias and the Israeli army, and the destruction of hundreds of villages, towns and cities.

She even echoed the racist myth that Palestine had been an empty land, where the Zionist colonizers – who in fact destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of Palestinian orchards – had “made the desert bloom.”

Israel of course could not and cannot exist as a “Jewish state” in a land where the overwhelming Indigenous majority has been Muslim and Christian except by purposeful ethnic cleansing and demographic gerrymandering via the imposition of apartheid and other explicitly racist policies and laws.

Not content with rewriting and falsifying the history of Palestine, Brussels is also determined to falsify the present: The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell recently went as far as to proclaim that those who talk about apartheid in Israel are anti-Semites.

So according to Borrell, mainstream organizations including Human Rights WatchAmnesty International and Israel’s B’Tselem – which is funded by the EU – are guilty of anti-Jewish bigotry.

All of them have issued reports documenting how Israel perpetrates the crime against humanity of apartheid against the entire Palestinian people.

How is Borrell’s position different from what a Ben-Gvir or a Kahane or any of their disciples might say?

Love in Brussels

Indeed Borrell continues to go out of his way to lavish European love and support on Israel, as he did when he met its foreign minister Eli Cohen at the EU headquarters on Tuesday.

Apparently Borrell’s warmth surprised the Israeli foreign minister, who for some inexplicable reason had been expecting a frostier reception in Brussels.

It should be noted that the meeting took place as the EU marked World Press Freedom Day, and just days before the first anniversary of Israel’s cold-blooded execution of Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh – a murder for which there has been zero accountability.

It also occurred on the same day that Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan, a high-profile political detainee who had been in and out of Israeli prisons for years without charge or trial, died in Israeli custody after refusing food for 86 days.

Those prisons are now overseen by Ben-Gvir who has implemented even crueler and harsher measures against thousands of Palestinian political prisoners for no apparent purpose other than to cause them pain and suffering.

Borrell’s statement following his meeting with Israeli foreign minister Cohen made no mention of these or any other Israeli crimes and instead gushed that “cooperation between the EU and Israel is very strong and the EU is keen on deepening this relationship further.”

Dancing on graves

As part of its Europe Day festivities, the EU embassy in Tel Aviv will be hosting a party Tuesday at the so-called Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv – the site of the ethnically cleansed Palestinian village of Jarisha.

This kind of obscenity has become its own Europe Day tradition.

In 2019, the EU embassy hosted a dance party on top of the ruins of al-Manshiyya, a once thriving neighborhood of the coastal Palestinian city of Jaffa that was mercilessly ethnically cleansed and destroyed by Zionist militias in 1948.

There could be no greater expression of the EU’s and Israel’s “shared values” than dancing together – literally and figuratively – on Palestinian graves.

And Ben-Gvir is by all accounts an avid dancer.

He even attended a notorious wedding where settlers danced joyfully as they celebrated and reenacted the murder of Ali Dawabsha, a Palestinian toddler who was killed in his home in a firebombing attack by Jewish settlers in 2015.

As for the EU, what it is really hosting on Europe Day is not a celebration of “peace and unity” but a shameless festival of white supremacy, hypocrisy and colonialism.

Ben-Gvir is therefore the perfect fit and should be welcomed as a guest of honor.

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine (Haymarket Books)