The European Union launched a video campaign to brand itself more positively last week (posted on the EU Israeli Embassy Facebook page) – and what could be a better choice, than to use a pundit who advocates Palestinian genocide?
Electronic Intifada reported this yesterday, linking to the video, but just after this article was completed today (9 AM EST), the video was taken down. A screen caption is available on Electronic Intifada. [Update: Ali Abunimah reports that the EU has removed the video.]
The video, presenting the many ties between EU and Israel, including tourism, export and import, and cooperation on technology and weapons industries, is presented by Avishai Ivri.
Ivri is a known right-wing nationalist pundit. Last year he appeared in an Israeli Walla News debate, speaking first about Elor Azarya who killed an incapacitated wounded Palestinian by a shot to the head at close range:
“Badge of honor for him taking down the terrorist”, he says, “too bad he missed the camera!” (referring to the fact that the event was filmed by a Palestinian cameraman). He explains:
Let’s be honest, the Azarya story, it’s not that he slammed a bullet to the head of a terrorist – everyone does that. The story is that he was caught… he was filmed. I think that the indictment of ‘manslaughter’ should be changed to ‘fuck-up’ [fadiha in Hebrew].
The hostess laughs, the whole debate is really up-beat, and no-one seems to mind this language. A bit later, in discussing terror, Ivri says to his somewhat more ‘leftist’ opponents:
“You’re always asking [us] ‘what’s your solution? What’s your solution? Hello?? We don’t shout ‘Death to the Arabs’ because it rhymes!” [The centrists laugh, genuinely amused) – “We shout it because it’s our solution! We fucking write it with spray on the wall! How secret do you think we keep our solution?”
In Electronic Intifada’s coverage of the the EU campaign story yesterday, many of Ivri’s tweets over the years are noted. For example, in Israel’s 2012 Gaza onslaught, Ivri wrote:
“Here’s a strategy that hasn’t been tried out yet: 1,000 Arabs killed for each one of our people killed,” he tweeted. “I think they owe us 5,000 from last week.”
A week earlier he had a more effective solution:
“Fuck it, wipe out Gaza”, he wrote.
Ivri’s EU video launched last week addresses the fears about Europe that many Israelis are assumed to have. It opens with him saying:
“The EU – you think it’s anti-Israeli, right? Let me surprise you.”
Ivri notes that EU is a huge market, and runs through the trade cooperation advantages. He mentions that 1/3 of the Israeli export reaches EU (worth about $13 billion annually). “They love the Israeli export – and we love theirs!” he says. He notes that Israel imports goods for $21 billion. He then notes the touristic value for ‘us and them.’
“You thought EU doesn’t agree with us on anything?” he asks, then describes the ‘open skies’ agreement: “We gave them free access to our airports, and they gave us free access to theirs – they have 500 of them!”
He notes that every year 2 million tourists come to Israel and leave $2 billion in Israel. He says Europeans love the Israeli agricultural export; 80 percent of Israel’s fresh agricultural export goes to Europe, worth about 1 million Euros a year, including of course the cherry tomatoes and tahini. Then Ivri moves on to technology – high-tech – drones (which are of course battle-tested against Palestinians), moving on to irrigation, cyber-security etc.
Having cited all these advantages, Ivri concludes,
“It also doesn’t hurt for us to be identified by technological innovation, rather than by other things… So the next time you hear about the EU, remember – they are the best neighbors we’ve got!”
The EU has decided to use Ivri as its presenter. Sure, he has an upbeat style, he can talk. But what message is the EU sending Palestinians? What is it saying to Israelis by using this person? What is it saying to the world?
Could it be the EU was unaware of Ivri’s genocidal advocacies? They must have gone through a process of finding a suitable candidate to represent them, this is no small task. And after all, Ivri is not exactly secret about his views – as he says, he “fucking writes it with spray on the wall!”
So, did the EU officials not see the writing on Ivri’s wall of genocide? Or worse – did they think that a person with his views would be a popular appeal to the Israeli public?
It may be that the EU wasn’t paying attention. After all, that seems to be a rather typical feature of EU’s Ambassador in Tel-Aviv, Lars Faaborg-Andersen. In March last year, he participated in an anti-BDS conference in Jerusalem, at which Israel’s intelligence minister called for “targeted civil elimination” of Palestinian human rights defenders – making use of terminology which the Israeli military employs as a euphemism for extrajudicial executions. BDS leader Omar Barghouti was particularly addressed as a target for expulsion, and Amnesty International expressed fears for the “safety and liberty of Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti, and other boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists, following calls alluding to threats, including of physical harm and deprivation of basic rights, made by Israeli ministers.”
But Faaborg-Andersen didn’t notice much. In answer to a question from Israeli activist Ofer Neiman during a Facebook live chat, Faaborg-Andersen defended his role in the anti-BDS conference.
“I participated in that conference in order to explain the EU’s position on BDS which the EU does not support… I also explained the EU’s positions on settlements which in the EU’s view are illegal, and on the correct indication of origin on goods exported from Israeli settlements to the EU. This does not mean that I associated myself with the remarks of Israeli ministers at that conference but nor did I hear anyone threatening anyone’s life.”
So, now perhaps the EU embassy will claim that they did not hear Avishai Ivri “threatening anyone’s life.” And why make a fuss about genocide anyway.
This is why Israelis know they have nothing to fear from the EU. Like the United States, the EU gives an occasional slap on the wrist, Israelis cry ‘anti-Semitism,’ and everyone moves on. Nothing really happens. The trade continues, on the backs of Palestinians.