EU delegation heckled as antisemites, hounded off Givat Hamatos

Activists from the Im Tirzu movement and Jerusalem deputy mayor Aryeh King confronted EU representatives who were touring the site of the planned neighborhood.

EU representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff tours Givat Hamatos in east Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
EU representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff tours Givat Hamatos in east Jerusalem
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Right-wing hecklers called a European Union delegation “antisemites” and “supporters of terror” as they hounded them off of the controversial Givat Hamatos hilltop Monday morning, literally shouting at them nonstop as they walked across fields stubbled with grass, mud and stone.
“Shame on you!” the activists yelled at the officials, led by EU Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff. The group, which represented 14 EU countries plus Norway, had come to protest Israel’s publication of a tender for 1,257 Jewish homes in an area of east Jerusalem that is strategic for both Israelis and Palestinians.
“You are supporting terror,” the activists shouted.
“You are antisemites. You are against Jewish building. Shut up and go home. According to the Bible this is Jewish land. This is the Jewish capital of Israel,” the activists shouted.
They took particular issue with the fact that the group was briefed by two Israeli NGOs, Ir Amim and Peace Now, calling their representatives “traitors!” and “hypocrites.”
The right-wing activists included a chapter of the NGO Im Tirtzu at Hebrew University.
The EU delegation tried to hold a press conference at two separate sites on Givat Hamatos before giving up and relocating to an area by the United Nations headquarters in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood.
But even as they walked to their cars, the activists surrounded them and jeered.
Israel holds that the project is necessary to shore up its hold on a united Jerusalem. But Palestinians, the EU and the international community contend that Jewish building in that area of Jerusalem would make it impossible for east Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.
The area is situated next to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. It is close to the east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods of Gilo and Har Homa. The international community contends that the three neighborhoods together sever Palestinian areas of east Jerusalem from nearby Bethlehem and therefore make the contiguity of a Palestinian state impossible.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh tweeted on Monday, “The new Israeli colonial-settlement projects in occupied Palestine include plans for units and roads that aim to encircle the Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem further; disconnecting the city from the remaining West Bank towards its complete isolation.”
The outgoing Trump administration holds that Israel can eventually retain most of Jerusalem, including Givat Hamatos, in any final status agreement with the Palestinians. But during his four years in office, US President Donald Trump did not recognize Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.
The Trump Administration has not publicly objected to Jewish building in east Jerusalem and has not commented on the Givat Hamatos project.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters in Jerusalem that Israel updated the Trump administration regarding the tender publication.
US President-elect Joe Biden holds that east Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. It’s presumed that he is opposed to the project, but he has not issued any statement.
In speaking with reporters, Burgsdorff accused Netanyahu of taking action now prior to Biden’s entry to the White House on January 20.
The timing of the tender’s publication and the fact that the latest date for the bid’s submission is January 18, “gives some observers the impression that the authorities wanted to create facts on the ground before the new president-elect takes up office,” Burgsdorff said.
“We are seriously concerned by the fact that if this housing project goes ahead the prospects for contiguity between Jerusalem and the other parts of the occupied West Bank might become very difficult,” Burgsdorff said.
It is important for the international community to take a unified stand against such construction, which is illegal under international law, Burgsdorff said.
“International law needs to be upheld,” he added.
When pressed as to what action the EU would take, Burgsdorff said that the first stage was “diplomatic outrage,” as expressed by Monday’s visit to Givat Hamatos within 24 hours of the tender’s publication.
“We have also engaged quite extensively with the Israeli authorities in the past few weeks on this very matter. Unfortunately, to no avail.”
With regard to the demonstrators, he said, “emotions run high.” He explained that “Israel is a democratic free society and of course people can protest and demonstrate their disagreement,” said Burgsdorff. He added that he would have preferred to engage with them to discuss their differences with regard to the project, but that had turned out not to be possible.
The Im Tirtzu group issued a statement after the Givat Hamatos visit, objecting to the EU’s attempt to dictate to Israel where it could and could not build in the country’s capital.
“We came to tell the EU that supports terror, that the state of Israel has not been a colony for a long time and is an independent state.”
Peace Now, which had held a small counterdemonstration in support of the EU at Givat Hamatos, put up a large sign that said, “Here is where the two-state solution will be buried.”
The group accused Netanyahu of harming Israel’s relationship with its two largest trading partners, the EU and the US, by pursuing “fringe settlement policies.”
This “government must return to its senses and put Israel’s national interests above that of the settlement agenda,” Peace Now said.