EU ambassador to Israel must upgrade their verbal acrobatics

For more than 1,000 year, antisemitism has been part of European culture. That, in particular, should have been mentioned because the EU has been so greatly negligent in fighting it.

‘FOR MORE than 1,000 years, antisemitism has been part of European culture.’ (photo credit: REUTERS)
‘FOR MORE than 1,000 years, antisemitism has been part of European culture.’
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Substantial skills in verbal acrobatics are required from the European Union ambassador to Israel. He has to justify unjustifiable behavior of the organization he represents. One aspect of that is to know how to express facts selectively when publishing articles.
The current ambassador is the Italian diplomat Emanuele Giaufret. In April 2019, Giaufret wrote an article in The Jerusalem Post titled “A brief history of EU-Israel Relations.” In the piece, he analyzed the depths of the historic, political, economic social and cultural connections between Israel and the EU. He mentioned that these are often overlooked in the discourse. Giaufret added, “Our common future is also sometimes disregarded even as Israel and the EU continue moving toward each other.”
In his description of the depth of historic connections, a very specific background issue was missing: for more than 1,000 year, antisemitism has been part of European culture. That, in particular, should have been mentioned because the EU has been so greatly negligent in fighting it. Almost 20 years since the current huge increase in antisemitism began, no uniform statistical data on antisemitic incidents in member countries are available.
Concerning political connections between Israel and the EU, Giaufret did not mention that member countries have frequently voted against Israel in the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. No similar votes exist against any other country in anywhere near such numbers. According to the definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), that makes these votes antisemitic acts. The many European countries on that organization’s board supported the establishment of this definition.
Another political connection between the EU and Israel not mentioned is the former’s labeling of goods from the disputed territories on the West Bank. This is another antisemitic act according to the IHRA definition, as the EU doesn’t label goods from a variety of occupied territories around the world.
Occasionally, Giaufret receives a tough reply from an Israeli activist. When two recent terrorist attacks in Jerusalem left 13 Israelis wounded, the EU ambassador tweeted that his “thoughts are with the families of the victims,” and added, “violence is never justified.”
Maurice Hirsch of Palestinian Media Watch responded, “If violence is never justified, why does the EU help the PA fund it?” He added that the EU gives aid to the Palestinian Authority, turning a blind eye to the PA’s “pay for slay” policy. The PA has admitted that in 2019, it spent NIS 570 million (more than $165 million) on rewards to terrorist prisoners.
Against the background of Europe’s extreme hypocrisy toward Israel and its de facto legitimization of the murder-rewarding PA, Giaufret occasionally slips up by meddling in Israeli internal affairs.
IT BECAME known that Giaufret had spoken to Knesset members, saying the 2018 Nation-State Law reeked of racism and could harm the country’s international standing. He apparently also said it distanced Israel from the accepted norms of democratic countries. Yet several EU members have distanced themselves already for years far from the accepted norms of democratic countries. France and Sweden, for instance, have certain “no go” Muslim ghettos where they do not uphold national laws.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then also foreign minister, instructed the ministry to summon Giaufret for a dressing down. The EU mission in Israel wisely did not comment on what the ambassador had done, stating that it doesn’t publicly refer to private conversations.
When he initially arrived in Israel, Giaufret said he would take seriously the Israeli feeling that Brussels is hostile toward the Jewish state. He promised to combat the organization’s poor reputation by engaging with all sectors of Israeli society, including settlers. He also said then that the EU and Israel might have disagreements concerning the way to deal with the nuclear program in Iran, stating, “We think that the agreement [with Iran] brings added value... but it is a bit normal to have a disagreement between friends.”
Yet when looking at Giaufret’s overall performance in Israel, it seems he has learned from the many blunders of his undiplomatic predecessor, Danish diplomat Lars Faaborg-Andersen. One example will illustrate the latter’s unfounded arrogance. In his departure speech, Faaborg-Andersen said, “Antisemitism in Europe is a phenomenon we are combating, even more than Israel is.”
Recently, Giaufret got a new boss. Former socialist Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell was appointed high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy. His party rules Spain in a coalition with Europe’s most extreme Israel-hating party, Podemos. In 2018, its leader, Pablo Iglesias Turrión – now Spain’s second deputy prime minister – called Israel an illegal country.
Borrell said in an interview, “Iran wants to wipe out Israel. Nothing new about that. You have to live with it.” To understand how barbarian this is, one should imagine a Western politician in the late 1930s saying, “The Germans mistreat and heavily discriminate against the Jews. We have to live with it.”
At that time, German policy was not yet aiming for genocide of the Jews. Borrell’s statement is thus far worse in view of Iran’s intention to destroy Israel.
With such a new boss, an extreme anti-Israel inciter, Ambassador Giaufret will have to greatly upgrade his verbal acrobatics.
The writer is the emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He received the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism Lifetime Achievement Award, the Simon Wiesenthal Center International Leadership Award and the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research International Lion of Judah Award.