The European Union canceled part of its Europe Day event planned for Tuesday because National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir intended to represent the government and speak at the party.
Following a meeting of member state ambassadors in Israel, the EU embassy released a statement saying that “regrettably, this year we have decided to cancel the diplomatic reception, as we do not want to offer a platform to someone whose views contradict the values the European Union stands for.”
“Regrettably, this year we have decided to cancel the diplomatic reception, as we do not want to offer a platform to someone whose views contradict the values the European Union stands for.”EU Embassy
“However, the Europe Day cultural event for the Israeli public will be maintained to celebrate with our friends and partners in Israel the strong and constructive bilateral relationship,” the embassy stated.
Ben-Gvir said it is "unfortunate that the EU, which claims to represent the values of democracy and multiculturalism, is undiplomatically engaging in censorship. It is an honor and a privilege for me to represent the government of Israel, courageous IDF soldiers and the people of Israel in every forum. Friends know how to criticize and real friends are able to hear it."
Ben-Gvir volunteered to be the cabinet minister who attends the event, and was not deterred from doing so by repeated complaints from the EU delegation to the Foreign Ministry.
European ambassadors have refused to meet with Ben-Gvir or members of his party because of their far-right stances.
The EU Embassy said on Saturday that they “do not endorse the political views of Minister Ben-Gvir or those of his party. In fact, many of his previous statements and views contradict the values the European Union stands for.”
How did Itamar Ben-Gvir respond?
Ben-Gvir’s office responded: “The minister believes that even if EU representatives ‘do not endorse [his] political views,’ as they said in their statement, they understand very well that Israel is a democracy, and in a democracy one can hear different views.”
The Europe Day debacle comes the week after Foreign Minister Eli Cohen visited Brussels and announced “a new page” in Israel-EU relations, including a high-level meeting in Jerusalem meant to strengthen ties.
Ben-Gvir is an acolyte of the ideology of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who believed in paying Arabs to leave Israel, among other things, and served one term in the Knesset before being banned for running due to incitement to racism.
Ben-Gvir was a member of the Kahane-inspired Kach movement, which was designated as a terrorist group by Israel, the US, the EU and others. In recent years, he claimed his views are more moderate than Kahane’s – for example, he would only want to deport Arabs who hate Israel – but he is still the most prominent symbol of the Israeli far Right.
Israel has boycotted antisemitic European politicians over the years, such as former Austrian vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, whose Austrian Freedom Party was founded by ex-Nazis, or the Sweden Democrats party, which has Nazi and white nationalist roots.
Former deputy foreign minister Idan Roll said "shared values are the basis of our ties with the US and the EU, and contrary to what this failing government thinks, it cannot force its display of racism and extreme conservatism on the world. Every incident like this is fuel for the boycott movements and those who wish us ill. This is an anti-Zionist government."
Former consul-general to New York Asaf Zamir, who resigned in protest earlier this year, tweeted: "Worst government in history."