The European Union keeps on saying it was opposed to antisemitism. At the same time, it funds organizations that promote the apartheid lie against Israel. “There is no excuse”, Professor Gerald M. Steinberg, the author of this opinion piece, says. He is the President and founder of the Institute for NGO Research in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, February 7th, 2022 (The Berlin Spectator) — One of the most potent means of vilifying Israel is through the use (and abuse) of the “racism” and “apartheid” labels. In 1975, the Soviet and Arab blocs in the United Nations sponsored a notorious resolution branding Zionism as racism, and the campaigns have continued in waves since then.
After the demise of the USSR, the campaign was revived by powerful political organizations and U.N. allies claiming to promote human rights. In 2001, they used the NGO Forum of the U.N.’s infamous Durban Conference against Racism to adopt an action plan based on false accusations of war crimes, boycotts, and promote the “complete isolation of Israel as an apartheid state.”
Powerful global NGOs, led by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch played a central role. And European governments – particularly the European Union – were major funders of Durban, and still support many of the organizations that continue to promote this propagandistic and one-sided agenda.
In the twenty years since Durban, the anti-Israel NGO network has expanded the attacks, including in frameworks such as the U.N. Human Rights Council, the International Criminal Court and the European Parliament. On this battlefield, the use of the “apartheid” libel is the primary vehicle for delegitimization,
Cynically copied from and exploiting the South African struggle is not directed against specific Israeli policies. The rhetoric and the campaigns explicitly target the existence of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Influence in the E.U.
The latest such attack was launched by Amnesty International, which repeated the false accusations that exploit the suffering of the real victims of apartheid in South Africa. In their new publication, the word “apartheid” is repeated 400 times in the 280-page text, recycled from last year’s version by Human Rights Watch (HRW). Both borrowed heavily from the Palestinian and Israel NGO network, especially B’tselem and the terror-linked Al Haq organization, that are funded by and cooperate closely with officials of the E.U. and European governments.
In the E.U. and individual countries, political lobbying groups such as HRW, Amnesty and its Paris-based counterpart, FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), still have some credibility and influence, in contrast to the situation in the United States. This difference was illustrated when the American Ambassador to Israel and many members of Congress condemned the antisemitic report.
Funders and Enablers
In contrast, the only E.U. statement came from Peter Stano, the Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (EEAS). Stano simply repeated the usual EU slogans, about monitoring “closely developments on the ground” and “respect for international humanitarian law and international human rights law”, while Foreign Relations Commissioner Josep Borrell has remained silent.
In fact, the E.U. and the individual countries in Western Europe are in practice the major funders and enablers of the apartheid libel against Israel, and Germany is one of the largest supporters, through numerous agencies. Many of the anti-Israel NGOs cited in the Amnesty report get millions of Euro under the misleading labels of support for peace and Palestinian rights. Tens of millions of Euro are provided out of taxpayer funds in Europe for these campaigns in which the apartheid libel is constantly repeated.
Antithesis of Compromises
One of the major objectives in this campaign is to weaken Israel through legal warfare, as the BDS movement is doing, external pressure and delegitimization, as stated at the 2001 Durban conference, in order to force unilateral concessions.
The creation of an artificial power balance is believed, without any evidence, to be the foundation for peace. In reality, Palestinians view the demonization of Israel as support for rejectionist agendas and “return” myths of 1948, which fuel the conflict and are the antithesis of compromises necessary for progress towards peace based on a two-state solution.
However, as illustrated in the Amnesty apartheid campaign, the line between legitimate criticism of Israeli policies and the repeated use of antisemitic themes and images, such as “apartheid” and “Jewish domination”, is readily crossed in these attacks. These false allegations are often cited in terror attacks targeting Jews and Jewish institutions, including in European cities.
In addition, by immorally exploiting the suffering of the real victims of apartheid and racism, the campaign transforms a political dispute into a racial conflict.
The comparison was categorically rejected and denounced by South-African Judge Richard Goldstone who led a U.N. mission to investigate human rights violations by both sides in the Israel-Gaza war in 2009, in the New York Times. Goldstone, appointed by Nelson Mandela to the South African Constitutional Court, wrote in The New York Times (2011) that, ”In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute…”. He added that “while ‘apartheid’ can have broader meaning, its use is meant to evoke the situation in pre-1994 South Africa. It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.”
Beyond the inaccuracy and unreasonableness in these allegations, the apartheid allegations amount to a form of antisemitism. The working definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), endorsed by the E.U., Germany and many others, refers explicitly to “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.” If Europe is serious about opposing antisemitism, there is no excuse for supporting any of the organizations that promote the apartheid lie.
Prologue and Justification
In the words of Irwin Cotler, professor of international law, and former attorney-general of Canada: “Let there be no mistake about it: To indict Israel as an apartheid state is prologue and justification for the dismantling of the Jewish State, for the criminalization of its supporters, and for the consequential silencing of their speech.”