Friday, September 23, 2016

Belgium: Unraveling the Belgian BDS connection

It should be noted that Brigitte Herremans is not the only one - there are many like her in Belgian society who are passionately devoted to Palestinians and indifferent to the fate of Jews.  You would be hard put to find NGOs that would be willing to defend Israel - but you will find many engaged in Israel-bashing.  The media was totally behind Brigitte Herremans and so were the people they interviewed.  The fact is that Jews are being increasingly sidelined in Europe and whereas friends of Palestinians are to be found everywhere it's hard to find anyone who defends Jews or Israel.

Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor @ Times of Israel:
On September 9, Brigitte Herremans arrived at Ben Gurion airport, planning to lead an “alternative tour” of political activists, as she had done many times before. But this time, the polite-sounding Belgian activist was not given the usually automatic tourist visa. Instead, by her own account, she was unceremoniously denied entry and turned back.

Brigitte Herremans is in many ways typical of Western European leaders of BDS and demonization campaigns. Her official title is Policy Officer for the Middle East at Broederlijk Delen (BD) meaning “fraternal sharing”– an influential and semi-official Belgian Flemish Catholic aid organization. (She plays a similar role in another Catholic NGO — Pax Christi.) They claim to combat poverty and inequality by working with local organizations, but are tainted with a radical political agenda that includes intense demonization of Israel. Out of the €6 million annual budget provided by Belgian taxpayers, €264,000 goes to political projects in “Israel/Palestine” that have nothing to do with aid. This is Herremanns’ radical mini-empire.

The blatant anti-Israel agenda and Palestinian victimization narrative reflects the Western European norm, including strong Christian theological echoes and a patronizing neo-colonial relationship with Palestinians. BD’s website states: “Unlike the Palestinian people, the Israeli people has more than 60 years of statehood, established on 78% of historic Palestine” a standard slogan that erases the history of wars, terrorism and hate. Herremanns is not a terrorist — she echoes the soft form of warfare, and in this spirit, BD held a public event on “Peaceful resistance in Palestine and Israel” in May 2016. “Resistance” is the goal – not peace and security based on mutual recognition and compromise.  [...]

Upon her return to Belgium, Herremans immediately provided further evidence of her deeply ingrained hostility. In an interview on Flemish Radio 1 on 12 September, Herremans repeated her support for “sanctions against Israel” and demanded that Israeli citizens who come to Belgium (actual tourists, not activists) be subject to “interrogation.” 

 In the same interview, when asked about reports that showed a rise in antisemitism in Belgium, Herremans accused “Israel’s allies” of “inflating” the level of antisemitism in order to “distract from its treatment of Palestinians.” Following the standard script particularly in Europe, Herrremans was criticized by Michael Freilich, the editor-in-chief of the Jewish newspaper Joods Aktuel, and she was defended by Emmanuel Stein, a member of the far-left group A Different Jewish Voice in an op-ed in the De Morgen daily in which Stein said he was “deeply ashamed” over Freilich’s words.

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