The Brussels reporter who made headlines around the world last year for attempting to place former UK prime minister Tony Blair under a citizen’s arrest has done it again, this time with the foreign minister of Israel, the hard-right Avigdor Lieberman.
David Cronin, a freelance reporter in the European capital since 1998, on Tuesday morning (22 February) called out to the minister as he entered the press room of the Justus Lipsius building, the headquarters of the European Council, for a briefing following an meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council: “Mr Lieberman, this is a citizen’s arrest. You are charged with the crime of apartheid. Please accompany me to the nearest police station.”
He was grabbed by a pair of security guards and shuffled out of the room.
“Free Palestine!” he continued as he was led away.
A spokesman for the Israeli mission to the EU told EUobserver: “This was utterly uncivilised, in bad taste. But Israel, like the EU, is very supportive of free speech. It’s just a shame that some people take advantage of that freedom sometimes.”
“He is obviously obsesssed with Israel, judging by what he’s written, a dedicated anti-Israel activist. Unfortunately this will now get an echo in the press,” he added.
“We are not going to press for tighter security from the EU institutions though.”
It is the second time that Mr Cronin, who has written for the Economist Group’s European Voice newspaper, the Inter Press Service news agency and the UK Guardian’s Comment is Free website, has attempted a citizen’s arrest of visiting dignitaries in the EU.
In March last year, he placed his arm on Tony Blair during a visit by the former UK prime minister to the European Parliament and said he was under arrest for war crimes relating to the invasion of Iraq.
At the time, he was let off with a warning and his EU press card was restored to him. Speaking to this website after he was released by EU guards at the time, he said that the head of security had told him he would not get another chance.
“He told me: ‘If you come into my house, you have to behave yourself,'” Mr Cronin recounted. “It’s a price I’m willing to pay though. Apartheid – the domination by one racial group over another – has been recognised as a crime by the UN since 1973. Israel is an apartheid state, both in the occupied territories and in Israel itself.”
Mr Cronin has recently published a book on EU-Israel relations and travelled to both Israel and the Palestinian territories for a book tour, visiting the Jimmy Carter Center, the Boycott from Within and Alternative Information Centre activist groups, as well as a series of bookshops in Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Jerusalem.
Piero Soldati, the head of press accreditation for the European Commission, which issues press cards for all Brussels-based institutions except Nato, said that he will meet with representatives of the European Parliament, the EU Council and the International Press Association (API) on Monday next week to see what action to take on Mr Cronin.
“I cannot think that there will be any changes to security though. This sort of thing does not happen very often,” he noted.
Lorenzo Consoli, a member of the board of the API, said that Mr Cronin’s card would most likely not be given back to him. “It’s not the sort of thing a journalist does,” he said, “and it’s the second time.”
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