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EU cancels Europe Day reception to avoid hosting Ben-Gvir

TJI Pick
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Published: 9 May 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

The decision reflects an ideological clash which, ironically, has its origin in Europe’s commitment never to see a repetition of its treatment of Jews during World War II.

Organisers of the European Union's annual "Europe Day" event in Tel Aviv has cancelled the reception after far-Right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir insisted on addressing the ceremony.

Members of the European delegation to Israel said they "do not want to offer a platform to someone whose views contradict the values the EU stands for."

Despite explicit requests from the European Union and prominent constituent countries to send a minister who is not identified with the extreme Right, the Israeli government nominated Ben-Gvir to attend the ceremony and the Otzma Yehudit leader said he intended to attend and speak at the event.

The office of the far-Right minister released a statement saying that Ben-Gvir would use his speech to tell EU representatives that it is "inappropriate for EU countries to fund initiatives against IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens”.

Haaretz reported that there was almost complete consensus among the ambassadors against Ben-Gvir's participation, with Hungary and Poland being the only countries not in favour of this position.

There was concern that Ben-Gvir's arrival would prompt a large demonstration, requiring a more significant security preparation than originally planned.

But the primary driver is an ideological clash which, ironically, has its origin in Europe’s commitment never to see a repetition of its treatment of Jews during World War II.

Haaretz writer Noa Landau commented that the Government’s decision to assign Ben-Gvir to the Europe Day reception was deliberately provocative.

“Of all the superfluous cabinet ministers and their myriad deputies in the current government, the reddest flag on hand was deliberately selected. It is not merely a finger in the eye of Europe, it is a middle finger in the eye. Many Israelis have come to take for granted the new public standing of the head of Otzma Yehudit – “Jewish power” in Hebrew, a name that in any European language recalls dark days on the continent.

“But for the Europeans it remains, rightly, a symbol of Kahanist racism. Of values whose normalisation would appear to be entirely verboten, precisely in the name of the lessons of that dark time. Once again, it’s sad historical irony at its best: Europe is trying to cling, with the last of its strength, to the world of liberal-democratic values that emerged as a counterreaction to the horrors of World War II, and the state of the Jews, perversely, seeks to challenge these values head-on (and afterward to claim that its relations with those countries are based on ostensibly liberal “shared values”).

“On a deeper level, at the foundation of this madness is the Israeli perception that the lesson of the Holocaust is particular (never again – for the Jews) rather than universal (never again – for anyone). On this level, Ben-Gvir is indeed the clearest expression of the idea that ethnic supremacy is forbidden against Jews but permitted against Arabs.

“And so, in complete contradiction to the illusion that Israel cultivated for years of being part of the liberal world, under Benjamin Netanyahu the country is in practice growing increasingly closer to the anti-liberal camp and the far-right forces in Europe. These are forces that, like him, seek to challenge the post-World War II liberal world order of the era – and, above all, international law.”


EU Nixes Tel Aviv Ceremony Over Ben-Gvir Insistence to Give Address (Haaretz)

Israel Gives Europe the Finger (Noa Landau, Haaretz)


Israel razes EU-funded Palestinian school near Bethlehem (Times of Israel)

Demolition, which follows a court ruling from March, prompts protests from the European Union and Palestinian Authority.

 Hamas warns Israel ahead of nationalist Flag March through Old City’s Muslim Quarter (Times of Israel)

Gaza terror group says it won’t let allow ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem, vows to maintain ‘equation’ ahead of controversial march on Thursday.

Israel’s Netanyahu, Ben-Gvir in open war over Gaza escalation (Al-Monitor)

Against the backdrop of Gaza tensions and in the most serious dispute so far within the Netanyahu government, the Likud party and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir exchanged threats in the media.

Photo: Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks at a settler rally in the West Bank, last month (Moti Milrod)

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