Proportionality

Proportionality. I have come to loathe this word. It’s so sterile. It’s devoid of emotion, it’s not human. How many arguments do you have, or conversations where the dialogue is entirely ‘proportional’? Most of all who gets to decide? Who gets to sit in the armchair and say that, well Alex, your response to your colleague, wife, aggressor was not proportionate?

The amount of arguments I’ve had with Israel haters in the past when it comes to Gaza. The times I’ve had put up with this utterly bullsh%t word. Then you have the various political Institutions: statements, emergency sessions, condemnatory resolutions, commissions of inquiry…Israel acted with disproportionality.

Yesterday, on the back of one dead Hamas commander over 400 rockets were fired – completely indiscriminately – towards Israel civilian centres. As I write, there are 67 casualties on the Israeli side, one dead soldier, a bus hit, and one dead Arab migrant who was trying to protect his home. And I’m still trying to get the various sounds of screaming kids and terrified parents running for shelter that I was sent last night by friends and families, out of my head.

Is that proportional? I’ve been met with stony silence from the Israel haters and Palestinian lovers. Yep, those same people, those same political institutions with their commissions, statements and press releases, are silent.

I can almost already hear the keyboards typing their anodyne statements from here, ”we condemn the escalation of tensions and urge a ceasefire. We urge both sides to use restraint and work towards a de-escalation.”

Puke. ‘Restraint’ is almost as bad as proportionality in the pantheon of banal vocabulary. Kick me where it hurts repeatedly, target my daughter and my wife, my brother, sister, nephews and nieces, my best friend and I can assure you, restraint will be the last word on my mind, well maybe not the last, top spot goes to ‘proportional’.

But let me tell you about restraint. Restraint is knowing that in two minutes you could turn every Hamas home into a car park, but you don’t. Restraint is taking the repeated kicks and not lashing out in righteous fury as your family narrowly walk the thin line between life and death as a result of some coward hiding in the bushes. The coward who invokes g-d as he launches a rocket that he hopes will kill (who? it doesn’t matter, its one dead Jew!), then will gloat and cheer, and be lifted on shoulders, called a hero while someone random in Israel, maybe an accountant, or a supermarket worker, maybe a teacher or a schoolkid, lies bleeding, dismembered or dead. Israelis know all this. But those calling for restraint and proportionality don’t.

But if it was Amiens instead of Ashkelon? if it was Prague not Petah-Tikvah? or Nuremberg instead of Netivot? If, while they and their family were a home, and they had seconds to take shelter at the sheer randomness of a rain of rockets, would they feel restraint? Would they ask themselves, are my feelings proportional to the threat? I mean maybe that rocket wasn’t meant for me? What made the poor man want to fire it in the first place? Maybe he’s having a tough time? Of course they bloody well wouldn’t!

And yet this is the kind of self-effacing language and acts that are expected of nobody else in the world except for Israel when it comes to dealing with Gaza. We feel your pain but restrain yourselves, your life is a living hell but hey, put it into proportion.

My esteemed colleague asked me why today, what’s so different about this barrage, to the recent ones. Why am I angry today? Because today I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of restraining my language to please the target audience and their commissions of inquiry and press releases. I’ve had enough of the silence of the pro-Hamas human rights activists who pick and choose what proportional is, what it means and who preach restraint but act differently when it comes to Palestinian terror. There’s a line in a movie that I’m going to paraphrase: “For every action, there’s a reaction. And an Israeli reaction is quite a (expletive) thing.”

Now is the time for such a reaction. To the one-sided Institutions, to the haters, the Palestinian activists I say this: Today you can keep your proportionality and restraint.

And if I have to take your outrage and finger wagging knowing that my friends, families and fellow Jews (and indeed Israeli arabs) are safe in their houses, I will gladly do so.

How can I respect any self-righteous position taken by you from the comfort of your impersonal gilded office armchairs? Where those two vomit-inducing words flow so easily because you don’t know any friends or family who live there?

I have no idea what proportional means to you. And right now, at this precise moment, I really don’t care. Because through your silence, or your sterile words, you show you don’t care about me, about the people I care about it, or the country I love.

Alex Benjamin, Director of Europe Israel Public Affairs.


Peter and Paul

Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Many of us know this expression, but not its origin from 16th-century England, when part of the estate of Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Westminster was appropriated to pay for repairs to Saint Paul’s in London. That brief trivia titbit aside, the expression fits very well when it comes to EU funding of the Palestinians.

On Thursday afternoon, after much advocacy work from us at EIPA, and other groups such as the excellent Impact SE, the European Parliament budgets committee recommended a 15 Million Euro freeze in funding to the Palestinian Authority until it changes its school textbooks. Regular readers of mine will know that we at EIPA have done a lot of raising on this issue. It’s bad enough that many schools under Palestinian Authority control are named after terrorists who committed terrible atrocities, and that encourage pupils to emulate their life, but textbooks, funded in part by EU taxpayers, refer to Jews as liars, sinful, apes and pigs and utterly refuse to countenance the existence of the State of Israel. It doesn’t take much head scratching to figure out why the Palestinian population is completely unprepared for peace. How can they be when they teach their children, as part of the school curriculum to hate, and to believe in the falsehood that Israel is a fabrication, it doesn’t exist, and that martyrdom and resistance to the ‘occupation’ is the way forward?

So, when the news came out yesterday, our phones at EIPA HQ and whatsapp were running red. Is this true? Will the Commission accept the parliament’s recommendations? Finally, is the EU is starting to wake up?

Yes. Most likely (as under the co-decision procedure on budgets it can’t ignore parliament) And lastly, sadly no.

Sadly no? that’s a bit defeatist isn’t it? You and others actually got one of the EU institutions to put pressure on the PA and introduced conditionality on Aid, something that you have been banging on about for years now? Where’s the beef, Benjamin?

All fair questions dear reader. By the time you read this, it will be Strasbourg week (when the European Parliament decamps beside the Rhine to vote in plenary). On the agenda is UNWRA. As most of you know, the American administration cut its funding to the UN agency, which is unique as a refugee agency for exacerbating the very problem it is tasked to solve. Under its tenure UNWRA has seen refugee numbers rise from some half a million at its inception, to roughly 5 Million today. Think about it. That’s a bit like having a food aid programme that actually contributes to famine isn’t it?

Anyway, long story short, we knew what was coming. Late on Thursday, once the 15 Million had had its few hours in the news cycle, the office of Federica Mogherini announced that it was giving UNWRA 40 Million Euro to help bridge the gap in US funding to UNWRA.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul. We might be stretching the analogy a bit here equating ourselves to the parishioners of St. Peters (and our Rabbis would probably have something to say about it too), but what sense does it make to cut PA funding in half on textbooks (good by the way, and long, long overdue), whilst simultaneously funding a UN body that keeps Palestinians trapped in a spiral of permanent refugee status, with little prospect of quality of life, under a terrorist dictatorship and which only underlines and compliments the very narratives that are expressed in the textbooks, and lead year after year to needless deaths, more hatred and more entrenchment?

Answers on a postcard please to EEAS HQ at Schuman Roundabout in Brussels if you figure that one out. Oh and post your answer in comments below please and spare my already raw scalp from further self-inflicted scratching abuse.

The Op-Ed was written by our director, Alex Benjamin and was also published in The Times of Israel


The celebration of Israel’s 70th Anniversary with MEPs and H.E. Ambassador Leshno-Yaar

Cross-Party MEPs and senior Staffers came together under the EIPA banner today in wishing Israel’s Ambassador to the EU and NATO, Mr Aharon Leshno-Yaar well and celebrating Israel’s 70th Birthday.

The celebration included a briefing, some inspiring and funny videos supplied by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about Israel and what it means to be Israeli, and a delicious Kosher lunch.

The President of EIPA’s Political Board, Lars Adaktusson MEP, introduced the Ambassador with some warm and encouraging words:

“I believe I speak on behalf of my colleagues, when I say that we will always fight back against those who question Israel’s right to exist. And those who violate the rights of the Jewish communities in Europe.

It´s this commitment, for ensuring the safety of the State of Israel, that shapes also some of our stories.Over the last years, many of us have dedicated time and energy to push forward initiatives, like rejecting BDS, a movement who seeks the isolation of Israel from the international community though academic, cultural and economic boycotts

Reforming the EU aid, to the Palestinians by installing proper checks and balances in order to denounce instigation to violence and hate – and prevent corruption. Highlighting the media bias when it comes to reporting about Israel, and criticizing the political double standard that Israel so often is subjected to.

Our European heads of state have a lot to learn from the Israeli visionary leadership in the challenges we face today in the Middle East.

An imperative reality based assessment of the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal, aimed at curbing the well-documented Iranian nuclear ambitions, and coming to terms with the fact that securing the region cannot be done without addressing the Iranian state-sponsored terrorism – and the oppressive nature of the regime that become so self-evident during this January protests.

Dear Friends, hopefully this luncheon will serve as an opportunity to discuss today’s challenges and possibilities for Israel.”

His Excellency welcomed everybody and gave a short 30,000 feet analysis of the challenges and opportunities faced by the State of Israel today. In his remarks he said,

“Israel and the EU have strong relations in various fields and shared values. While Israel faces threats from the north and from the south, the EU should clearly show its commitment to Israel’s security”

The event concluded with a lively question and answer session covering everything from Turkey to what greater opportunities and co-operation can be explored between the EU and Israel in the years ahead. 


EIPA applauds Trump decision on Jerusalem

Europe Israel Public Affairs applauds the decision of US President Donald Trump to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

The move comes after more than two decades after the adoption by the US Congress of Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, urging the federal government to relocate the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Every 6 months the sitting American President would sign a waiver from that bill.

President Trump opened his historical address stating “It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done”

Czech Republic followed suit becoming the first EU country to break the bloc of Member States and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

EIPA Director Alex Benjamin observed that despite differences between EU and Israel over the 1967 imposed borders, and most vehemently over the settlements issue, more EU countries should consider acknowledging the de facto status of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. “We fail to see the reasons for High Representative Federica Mogherini ‘serious concerns’. The US announcement does not prejudge nor impose borders for Jerusalem, which are still subject to final status talks. It merely reflects the historical accuracy of the last five decades, during which Jerusalem functioned as Israel’s capital.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, EIPA Founder added “Historical evidence attests our Jewish presence in Jerusalem dating way back to 3000 years ago. Jerusalem has always been our home. It is about time state leaders catch up with history and acknowledge this indisputable fact.”


Briefing and Dinner with Israeli Minister for Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information, Gilad Erdan

On the 6th of December EIPA was honored to host, in partnership with the Minister for Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information Gilad Erdan, a briefing and dinner for distinguished MEP friends and key staffers at our HQ.


Ambassadorial Briefing and Dinner

On the 5th September 2017, EIPA held an Ambassadorial Briefing and Dinner with His Excellency Ambassador to the EU and NATO Aharon Leshno-Yaar which was attended by 18 high ranking cross-Party MEPs and some of their Chiefs of Staff.


Israel and its self inflicted tremors

When no one understands, that’s usually a good sign that you’re wrong.” – Victoria Schwab

And so it was this past week. As a lobbyist I spend a lot of time speaking to people. And the chorus from my friends, acquaintances and the occasional barman leaning over the counter was the same: “Alex, seriously, why does Israel thinks that this is good idea, and how can you possibly defend it?”

The people asking this are not loony leftie Israel haters, or BDS supporters. In fact the overwhelming majority were pro-Israel, even if they don’t shout it from the rooftops. And that was the scariest bit. When those who usually side with you pull you to one side and say, look this is a bridge too far for me, you better sit up, listen and act.

And it got me wondering if the Israeli government is suffering from a collective bout of Hans Christian Andersen’s the Emperor’s New Clothes. Is there nobody around to reign them in and say people, this is nakedly hostile, unnecessary and wrong?

I am of course talking about the recent bill that gives a green light for Israel to appropriate Palestinian land in the West Bank by paying for it, regardless if it is for sale or not.

Everyone here in EU institutions, restaurants, bars and newspaper shops can see it for what it is. And even in Israel the Prime Minister didn’t even vote for it, nor seek to properly explain it.

This week I spoke to a group of students from the Hebrew University. The represented a broad range of Israeli society, some religious, some not, some pro-settler, some not. But I got a very strong impression that the majority just want the Israeli supreme court to rule it out so that we can all get back to normal.

But as I explained to them it’s not that easy. When things like this happen, it undoes so much of our good work on presenting Israel in the best possible light in the EU Institutions. We build beautiful political structures around high tech, Israeli medicinal advances, environmental wonders, agricultural genius, cybersecurity miracles etc, etc. in short we show the EU the Israel that we love, the Israel that we want the world to see, the one that makes us puff out our chests with pride.

But then a big self-inflicted political tremor like this Knesset Bill just comes and shakes the whole edifice to smithereens, meaning we have to spend a long time rebuilding.

But do you know what the most frustrating thing is? Yesterday, we saw the Mahmoud Abbas motorcade roll into Brussels , having come from Paris, with another few stops scheduled after dropping past the EU capital. He got to put his side of the story, unhindered, unchallenged to a receptive audience.

We didn’t see a single Israeli politician in Brussels this week. So we lost. Again. By default . Or sheer bloody mindedness on the part of our ‘emperors’.

Things don’t have to be this way.

“I believe that if Israel were to put an end to the settlements in the West Bank tomorrow, as it did in Gaza, there would still be reluctance on the part of the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish secular democracy.”

Alan Dershowitz is right. The Settlements are an excuse by the Palestinian Authority for inaction and continued incitement. Anybody with half a brain knows that Arik Sharon’s ballsy Gaza pull-out in 2005 was ample proof that the problem of getting the Palestinians engaged in a peace process run much deeper than housing developments past the 1967 borders.

But for the EU the settlement issue has become ‘the’ principal impediment to peace.

Whether we like it or not, these are the rules of the game here. We try and push back on them, we try to get the focus elsewhere, but this is one enormous, stubborn political boulder that can’t be shifted for now. But it could be, relatively easily.

We need high ranking Israeli representation in Brussels to properly articulate the issue. To explain it properly, warts and all. To show the EU Institutions the erroneousness of the PA position. That settlements are an excuse and absolutely not the main obstacle to peace.

That’s why throwing the Knesset Bill into the political debate makes Donald Trump’s visa ban look like a supremely well-oiled bit of political manoeuvring.

How did we get here? There was a time when Israel’s leaders and politicians looked outwards and sought to show the best of Israel, a country that makes us, and our supporters proud. The late great Shimon Peres was a great advocate of this approach, and possible the best lobbyist that Israel could ask for.

Is this Knesset bill – that will almost certainly be quashed by the supreme court anyway – really the best we can do? I’ll leave any Israeli politicians reading this with a quote from Leo Tolstoy to ponder: “Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”

Can we get back to being right again? No more tremors please. We got some serious rebuilding to do. And we need your help to do it.

The piece was written by EIPA director Alex Benjamin and was also published on The Times of Israel and on The JPost


ISRAEL include. invest. involve 3 ‘i’s to counter b.d. and s

23/01/2017  European Parliament , Brussels.

Want to see what supporting Israel and fighting BDS looks like in the European Parliament? EIPA is delighted and humbled by the over 250 people that came out to show their disgust at BDS and their support for Israel at our event in the European Parliament on Monday evening. With distinguished guests from the Israel and the EU’s political scene to schoolkids from Antwerp, all contributed to an unforgettable and inspiring evening, culminating in a rousing Hatikvah and Isreali street food party. If you missed it, well you missed it! Enjoy the pics nonetheless.


Exhibition: Rockets into Rosses

“Control your aid money and put me out of business”, Rockets into Rosses creator tells European Parliamentarians. 
Strasbourg 6 October 2016. Israeli artist and Rockets into Roses creator Yaron Bob urged members of the European Parliament to increase their controls on EU aid into Gaza, so that they can put him out of business.
The Rockets into Roses creator, who takes rocket shells fired at Israel and transforms them into roses and other beautiful sculptures, exhibits his work around the world. He lives in Yated, southern Israel, which borders the Gaza Strip and Egypt. The area bore the brunt of thousands of indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza. It is also where many terror tunnels are routinely uncovered.
Mr Bob was in the European Parliament in Strasbourg for a week long exhibition of his work that was organised by Brussels based pro-Israel advocacy group Europe Israel Public Affairs and hosted by the Chairman of the European Parliament’s delegation to Israel, Fulvio Martusciello MEP.
Speaking to the Parliamentarians at an evening reception,  Mr Bob said,
“Life is sometimes full of ironies. Here I am talking to you on the same day that a rocket landed in Sdrot, and the same day that the Gaza bound women’s flotilla sought to break the blockade.
“I can’t imagine that had they succeeded they would have asked for Hamas to return the millions it has stolen in aid money, to stop executing gays and lesbians or anyone who speaks against their death cult, much less ask Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel.
“But I can ask you, members of the European Parliament.  You send millions into Gaza. Pease, please start properly controlling it. Spend it instead on education projects promoting peace, that teach children that terror and violence is not the answer. Hamas don’t care about their people. They only care about building rockets and digging tunnels.
“Control the aid, and put me out of business.” 

EIPA director Alex Benjamin said,

“I fell in love with the concept of rockets into roses as soon as I saw it two years ago, and knew EIPA needed to bring the artist and his work to the European Parliament

“Judging by the positive reaction from parliamentarians, and staffers it seems that many shared my passion.

” It is such a strong and meaningful message, turning terror into beauty. And one that sums up Israeli resilience and the desire for peace. EIPA was proud to be part of it”

 

 

 


Is there a dark side to EU funding?

 

On July 12, EIPA, MEP Fulvio Martusciello and MEP Artis Pabriks hosted a hearing on conditioning EU AID going towards the Middle East. The hearing was entitled: “Is there a dark side to EU AID? Building safeguards and ‘conditionality’ for EU funding in the Middle East.”

The hearing also saw EIPA formally launch a Cross Party Working Group on EU AID in the MENA region. The Working Group is looking at building in ‘conditionality’ when it comes to EU funding in the Middle East.

‘Conditionality’ in plain English means that funding can be cut or stopped entirely when recipients directly promote or incite violence.

MEP Pabriks, who chaired the hearing, focused on the impact that conditionality would bring to EU Aid. A strong advocate of EU soft power, he underlined the importance of EU Aid in bringing peace to the region. However, it can’t be done without controls from elected officials of the EU he added.

Mr Hans Gustaf Wessberg, the Swedish member of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) explained the role of the ECA in the funding process,  focusing on the auditing methods used in monitoring and assessing the efficacy and impact of the Aid programs on the ground.

Mr Wessberg himself personally led an audit team to the West Bank. His team went to Gaza but for security reasons he was advised not to go. The Court of Auditor’s report can be found HERE. The ECA found several irregularities, notably that EU funds are paying wages to PA officials in Gaza that are not working. 

He concluded his presentation by stating that “The commission has not made sufficient use to leverage reforms in the civil area”, and that “conditionality should be used more”.

The third speaker was EIPA’s Director Alex Benjamin. His presentation gave the audience an overview of how EU funds are currently being used by the PA. The Palestinian Authority set up a Martyrs Fund, that pays the families of terrorists that have killed Israelis.

Many schools are also named after those terrorists, inciting the children to follow their example.

Members of the EU Parliament that attended the event were very interested and an Q&A followed the presentations.

The Working Group will meet for the first time this autumn.


Visit of Ben-Gurion MA and PHD Students

On Wednesday 29th of June, EIPA hosted a group of 20 students from Ben Gurion University, Israel. 

After meeting Foreign Affairs’ Chairman Elmar Brok, EIPA introduced them to MEP Tamas Meszerics, coordinator of the Foreign Affairs committee for the Greens. He briefed them on his work at the European Parliament and restated that the Parliament believed that the only solution is a two state solution.

Over lunch, Alex Benjamin, EIPA Director explained EIPA’s work in the European institutions, before joining the group for a meeting with Raul Fuentes Milani, Head of Unit Middle East, Israel and Palestine at the EEAS.

We are always glad to show students from Israel and Europe the reality of EU-Israel relationship. 


The EU-ISRAEL Relationship Post-Brexit

13516479_1561127274184206_2728719172270976182_nIt’s a sad day. We say goodbye to Britain from the EU Playground. But there are many others for pro-Israel people to make friends and continue to play with.

Words are cheap these days. Everyone is a ‘star’, ‘breaking news’ can last all day, and ‘legend’ status is bandied about freely.

But what we woke up to this morning is truly unprecedented.

Britain has voted to leave the European union. And they may not be the last country to do so. They weren’t the first – that honour/calamitous decision depending on how you see the news this morning – goes to Greenland. They left what was then called the EEC in 1985.

But with all respect to Greenland, Britain is a much bigger fish, economically and politically. It was a major and important member of the European Union. There are questions this morning whether the UK can even survive when Scotland voted massively to stay in the EU. The Prime Minister David Cameron has resigned, prompting a period of uncertainty as to whom will take up the reins and negotiate the terms of departure.

These are the deep questions that the UK has to answer.

But we are a Pro-Israel advocacy group operating at the heart of the EU Institutions, and we are busy looking at the current lay of the political land and what it will all mean for the EU Israel relationship.

Our offices sit opposite the European Council and the European Commission. And some of us sat outside the office this morning taking it all in. Eurocrats walked past in groups, the most common words we picked up were “I don’t know’, ‘slap in the face’, most looked ashen faced with smartphones in hand reading the news. And to be honest we are not far behind. This truly is uncharted territory.

Let us be honest again, the UK- Israel relationship was a rollercoaster ride with as many highs as lows: From the British Mandate to good relations during the Suez Crisis. In the 60’s Britain was seen as pro-Arab. The 80’s were not much better, with Britain imposing an arms embargo on Israel during the 1982 Lebanon war. But since then, things were on the up again. Relations were strong, a majority of British parliamentarians are pro-Israel and only last year the British government began efforts to outlaw BDS activities in the UK.

So we have lost a good, solid and largely dependable pro-Israel voice in the European Institutions. We have lost not only a great number of MEPs who were our friends and allies, but also many more British staffers and policy wonks – those who actually prepare the briefing notes, do the research and advise their political and bureaucratic masters on lines and positions to take on Israel. So from that perspective it’s sad and you could allow yourself to worry.

But there are opportunities too. The emerging markets as we call them: Balkan States, the Visegrad group of countries, and not forgetting the Baltic States, will undoubtedly feel emboldened after Brexit. They will feel their voices have become louder in the Council and Parliament, they will also feel that that Britain’s unprecedented – there’s that word again – departure shows cracks in the old established power blocks, and that they can be the cement.

As these countries enjoy a by and large excellent relationship with Israel, their cement can only be good news for us, and we anticipate a deeper and more co-operative relationship with them at Permanent Representative and EU institutional level.

But the real question is can the EU, as presently constituted, even survive? This morning it feels like a game of Jenga. The UK have removed their brick from the tower, and the edifice looks shaky and could potentially collapse.

So we say goodbye to Britain in the EU playground with a heavy heart. But just like all playgrounds, there are always plenty of others to make friends and continue to play with. This is EIPA’s task in the months and years ahead.

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The piece was written by EIPA director, Alex Benjamin and was published on the Huffington Post and The Times of Israel 


Want to defeat BDS? You need an Army.

The state comptroller’s report on Israeli government efforts to tackle BDS does not make for pleasant, much less reassuring reading. It speaks of failures, inter departmental fighting and a lack of a clear plan to deal with the scourge that is the BDS movement. In short, the report claims that the campaign is flailing, largely ineffective and, as presently constituted, will more than likely fail. 

And it leaves me, and countless other pro-Israel advocates deeply frustrated. But there’s something we can all do with this frustration. We can take matters into our hands.  

I was at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York on Sunday. It was a packed hall, full of inspirational people who want to help, who want to do something. But as panel speaker Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein rightly noted, its not enough. We can’t do it on our own, we need help and support from Christians, Atheists, in fact from whoever we can find that are committed to the cause. 

I’m talking about building an army. No, not that kind of an army. I’m talking about an army that fights with it’s mind, that fights with its collective intellectual muscle to exert unstoppable pressure on governments in Europe who might be swayed into anti-BDS initiatives. 

One of my media adviser colleagues, based in our Paris Office, went to meet a French Parliamentarian who was planning to vote in favour of ‘La Republique’ recognising a Palestinian state. In his office, the parliamentarian showed my colleague one of the nearly 400 identical letters from the public calling on him to recognise a state. The parliamentarian added, very matter of factly, that he is elected to serve the needs of his constituents, and if he receives such a volume of mail on such an issue, he felt compelled to act. 

So there you have it. It’s not rocket science. Politicians, like everyone else respond to pressure. So where was our pressure? Where were our 400 letters of rebuke? 

That’s where an army comes in. And I’m 100% convinced that a cross-European army would defeat BDS here.

So we are building one. In two of the organisations that I direct, Europe Israel Press Association, and Europe Israel Public Affairs, we undertook two test cases of online advertising. We increased interest in our work by as much as 3108%. So it’s clear that there is interest. But interest is not enough. It’s action that counts.  

In the coming weeks we intend to campaign online, advertise and visit Shuls, churches, Universities, think tanks, you name it, to recruit active participants in this army. 

We will be working with other Jewish groups, Christian organisations and will be taking a leaf out of AIPAC’s book on how to mobilize and defeat anti-Israel activities and initiatives wherever, and whenever they arise.  

We will mobilize whenever there’s a pro-BDS media article, whenever a politician or student leader speaks up in favour of a BDS campaign.

We are in a war ladies and gentlemen. And contrary to current military thinking, this war can only be won with boots on the ground.  

You see, as our online advert noted, Israel’s greatest asset isn’t its army, or its public representatives. It’s you, the public reading this, you have the power by hitting the dislike button, by leaving a comment, by writing a letter, by picking up the phone. Combined, we are powerful force for pro-Israel advocacy and defeating the BDS movement.  

It’s not a lost cause and never has been. Together we can do this.  

So I’m calling you to arms. Join the EIPA army today. You can do so HERE, on our website.

 Ten-hut! 

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EU is shamefully ignoring number one Israeli concern: Security

Europe’s media are rightly focussed on the despicable Islamist stabbing attack in Munich this morning that has left one dead and three injured.

So most Europeans will have undoubtedly missed that in Jerusalem, also this morning, two 80 year old women were stabbed in the back whilst out for a morning stroll by Palestinian assailants who fled the scene and went back to East Jerusalem.

Two 80 year old women. Probably grandmothers. About as much threat to anyone as a feather duster.

Shlomi Tedegi, a medic, described the scene of the attack: “In an area adjacent to the promenade we saw two approximately 80-year-old elderly women lying in the dirt. They were fully conscious and suffering from stab wounds, one in the extremities and her upper body and the second in her upper body.”

Meanwhile in Gaza, the Israeli defence forces keep uncovering fresh terror tunnels, and large amounts of chemicals used to propel rockets.

Starting tonight, Israel marks Yom HaZikaron, the remembrance day for all the soldiers who have fallen in defence of the country, from 1948, 1967, 1973, two Lebanon wars and all the attacks and skirmishes in between, as well as remembering the 23,447     Israeli citizens murdered to date by terrorists. It is rare to meet a single Israeli whose family circle or whose friends haven’t been touched someway by terrorism, or a loss of a loved one on active duty. This remembrance day is not harking back to a bygone age, it reflects every day reality and the price that Israel pays for simply existing. The numbers go up every year.

The number one overarching concern for Israeli citizens, wherever they are, is security. They want the freedom that most of us enjoy in Europe, despite the recent terror attacks: to live a life without concern that you may be stabbed, blown up on a bus, your house hit by a rocket or just randomly targeted to be shot whether you are a boy, girl, man, woman, pensioner, whatever.

Events in Munich, and the threat of Munich – and much worse besides – is the daily reality for Israeli citizens.

And sadly, shamefully, it is being massively overlooked by the EU. Who prefer to hold debates about settlements, and later today in Strasbourg about demolitions of illegal Palestinian buildings in Area C.

Tonight’s debate in the European Parliament, where EEAS Chief Federica Mogherini will speak too, is symptomatic of this myopia and, to be brutally honest, total lack of regard for Israeli security.

There is a simple and perhaps inconvenient truth that the EU must digest: The Palestinian population is currently completely unprepared for peace. They are fed from birth with a steady and unrelenting diatribe of hatred for Jews and Israelis.  They are incited to stab, murder and maim. Most cannot even countenance the existence of the State of Israel. As one Israeli academic and thinker once noted “Even if we were to move all of Israel into a small apartment in Tel Aviv, it would be too much for them”.

Taking all of the above into consideration and in the absence of any concerted EU effort to tackle this ongoing and daily incitement, this raw and unbridled hatred that saw two stabbed 80 year olds lying in the dirt; we would respectfully ask any European citizen if they would want unchecked and illegal construction of homes by people who seek their and their family’s destruction within rocket reach of their own homes, cities, villages or hamlets?

We think the answer would be a resounding no.

So why must it be imposed on Israeli citizens? Something for all of us to think about as MEPs and Mrs Mogherini gather this evening to discuss demolitions of illegal buildings that they support through EU taxpayer funded programmes.

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This Article was written by our executive director , Alex Benjamin and was published on The Times of Israel


How UK labour moderates played the Jewish card, and why they used us to do it.

0.41%. I want you to keep that number in mind. It’s important in the context of the current UK Labour Party woes over Anti-semitism.

That’s the percentage that British Jews make of the entire UK population. Or for those of you who prefer real numbers, we Jews are 263,000 people out of 64.1 million in the UK as a whole.

Let’s put that into an even bigger context, there are more members of the labour party (388,000), than there are Jews.

So anyone looking at these numbers is probably thinking the exact same thing I am. How on earth has such a tiny minority managed to exert such a strong influence on British politics? And how on earth have such a tiny minority managed to effectively bring about one of biggest crises in the opposition labour party since the early 1980’s?

Well the short answer is that we haven’t and we don’t. We have simply been used as the latest pawn in the game of thrones by moderates in the parliamentary Labour Party who desperately want to unseat the radical head of Labour, Mr Jeremy Corbyn and his far left leaning acolytes.

Of course, we are quite right to feel indignant at the recent comments from some in the Labour Party about Israel, Hitler and Zionism. But they came from people that we shouldn’t be in the least bit surprised about.

‘Red Ken’ Livingstone has a history longer than my arm on being rabidly hostile to Israel and being supportive of the Palestinians. Jeremy Corbyn regards the IRA, Hamas and the PLO as legitimate friends and people to be negotiated with, and Naz Shah – who was suspended from the Labour Party last week – is the MP who dethroned George Galloway, the Saddam loving anti-semite, in Bradford: a town with the largest Muslim population in the UK, where race riots took place and where anti-Israel hostility is commonplace.

The only difference between these people from the last election is that they were marginalised, on the periphery, and not representative of the party as a whole. Like the embarrassing drunk uncle at the dinner table they were tolerated and derided in equal measure.

Now they sit at the top table, advising Corbyn and able to articulate their wacko views with impunity. Or so it seemed until last week.

You see, up until the moderates pulled out the Jew/Anti-semite card and put it on the table, they were out of options to get rid of Corbyn. They had tried throwing everything at him: Trident (the UK’s nuclear deterrent that Corbyn opposes), his desire to get rid of the Army, his poor performances at Prime Minister’s question time, his views on minimum wage and taxing the rich to the hilt, etc, etc, etc…

None of it worked, none of it stuck. For the moderates it was like one of those nightmares where you are trying to fight someone off and the punches you land, seemingly with all your force, feel soft and have no effect.

So somewhere, in a corner office in the House of Commons, a researcher was put to work on the Jewish/anti-semitism card. They sifted through tweets, facebook posts, old statements, speeches, you name it, to find the necessary dirt on the wacko faction. They didn’t have to look too hard.

They then picked the two weeks before the London Mayoral, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish Assembly elections, not to say regional elections to launch their attack.

The idea was to create such a furore that the effect on Corbyn would be shattering. As it stands, Labour look set for their worst regional council elections since 1982.

Their Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan has already said the row was costing him electorally.

The outworking of all this is that post-elections, the moderates can legitimately start sharpening their knives and inflict their badly wanted death blow on Corbyn and reclaim labour, putting it back on the centre ground.

And we helped them do it. We responded exactly as we were supposed to. Ambassador Mark Regev, Israeli politicians, Rabbis from every denomination, all appeared on TV. We, this tiny minority, got huge airtime and acres of newspaper coverage.

Ask any British Jew what they want most, and most will tell you to live peacefully, quietly, and to live a Jewish life without fuss and attention.

That’s why it sits so badly with me that we have been manipulated like this. Used and I would say, abused in this inter-Labour warfare.

We have been used in the past as pawns across the Political spectrum. We need to be more careful in future before falling into the same trap again.

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The piece was written by EIPA executive director, Alex Benjamin.


EIPA advisory board meeting

Today (25th of February) Members of the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee and MEPs on EIPA’s Advisory Board met with Mr. Ohad Cohen, Head of Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry.

The joint event in conjunction with Israel’s Ministry of Trade and Mission to the EU, underlined the importance of strong EU-Israel bilateral trade relations.

With a current détente in relations between the EU and Israel following the fallout of the labelling guidelines, MEPs, key staffers and representatives of the Ministry of Trade, held a round table discussion about the clear mutual benefits to both Israel and the EU of continued trade arrangements and Research and Development programs.

MEPs did however hear of Israel’s concerns about the spill-over effects of the labelling guidelines and the associated possibility of a “quiet boycott” of Israeli companies and products which may happen under the radar.

Another key question raised was how to ensure that EU-Israel economic relations were decoupled from matters relating to the on-going political machinations of the peace process.


PA violence is elephant in the room that EU can no longer ignore

Another week and still the indiscriminate stabbing attacks against Israelis continue, another week and still no condemnation from the Palestinian Authority, nor calls on this bloodlust to cease.

Can you imagine the international uproar and the weight of worldwide opinion if Israelis were wandering around randomly stabbing Palestinian Arabs? And can you imagine if the Prime Minister and his Ministers justified it as ‘popular resistance’? It would, quite rightly, result in a deafening cacophony of condemnation.

Yet with one more off-duty sergeant dead, and a civilian and two border guards wounded as a result of stabbing attacks in Sha’ar Binyamin and Jerusalem this week, there is instead deafening silence from the European Union. No attempts to hold the Palestinian Authority and its president Mahmoud Abbas to account. No attempts to impose cuts on their funding as they seek to wash their hands and say “this is simply a reaction to the occupation”. 

Meanwhile Israelis, stoic as always go about their daily lives and respond in the way they do best: with gallows humour.

I was in Jerusalem at the start of the week, the first time since October, and the sense of tension was palpable. People looked over their shoulders, were wary of people who didn’t look Israeli, and they make jokes about who gets to stand in the middle if they are walking in threes, as that’s the best place to be if someone tries to stab you.

Whilst waiting for an Israeli friend to show up at Cinema City in the Government quarter, I found myself leaning against a wall, rather than sitting down so as to get a better view of people passing by. And I felt bad, knowing this is daily life for hundreds of thousands of Israelis.

This has to stop. And the EU needs to massively up its game in getting it to stop. If the Palestinian Authority think it can get away with inciting violence, then cry crocodile tears after acts of terror take place, well, it will.

So far – and now we are now in our fifth month since the wave of stabbing started – the EU has done precious little. A few words of condemnation, but no sanctions, no holding to account, no proper scrutiny, in short nothing of real diplomatic nor political worth.

So, as a result, the Palestinian Authority can continue to act with impunity. Safe in the knowledge that the EU is a toothless tiger. And that means more stabbings. More dead Israelis and Palestinians.

As Director of a Brussels based pro-Israel advocacy group, we are actively working on a political campaign to ensure that there is conditionality when it comes to EU aid.

What do I mean by conditionality? The Palestinian Authority gets Millions of Euros in taxpayers money in aid and support. Money that currently goes to support the cradle to the grave hatred of anything Jewish or Israeli. It currently supports schools named after suicide bombers, it supports the families of incarcerated terrorists, with a sliding scale of money dependent on the atrocity committed. It supports a regime – and I use that word in its proper context – that espouses the politics of the lowest common denominator: rabble rousing and hate mongering as a tactic to avert attention from its own shortcomings, namely endemic corruption and complete impotence in meeting the pressing social and economic needs of the people it professes to ‘represent’ despite the billions in aid money it has received over the years. I put represent in parentheses for good reason, the last and only  elections, as you know, were in 2005.

And Brussels is turning a blind eye for now. Which is hardly surprising given it has its collective blinkers on when it comes to its obsession with settlements. After the labelling debacle of last November, the EU has been trying to mend bridges with the State of Israel.

But it still refuses to tackle the bloody great elephant in the room, resplendent in neon signage that flashes “Palestinian violence and incitement to violence.”

Ask any Israeli what their biggest concern is and the vast majority will answer in one word: security. Yet all of the EU’s diplomatic ammunition is pointed at settlements, thereby alienating one side of your partners for peace, and worse still playing directly into the false Palestinian assertion that “it’s the settlements stupid”.

If the EU is serious about getting the Peace Process back on track, serious about being seen as an honest broker, and serious about rebuilding its relationship with the Israeli government and its people, it needs to remove the blinkers and allow the spotlight to move to EU aid and funding Mahmoud Abbas’ hate churning Palestinian Authority.

It needs to hit the PA where it hurts: In its pockets. Conditionality means that PA funds get cut unless it stops inciting violence.

With 229 attacks to date, 340 hurt, and 32 Israelis murdered since this ‘campaign’ started, it’s essential that this incitement stops.

Turn the screws on PA bank accounts today and I’d bet it will stop tomorrow.

This Op-Ed was written by EIAP executive director, Alex Benjamin and was published at The Times of Israel as well.


Israel Suspends Peace Process Dialogue with EU

Last night Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to suspend contacts with EU representatives regarding the political process/peace process with the Palestinians.

Mr Netanyahu has ordered contacts to be frozen until “a reassessment process is completed”.

The MFA indicated in a statement that Israel was withdrawing from several bilateral forums dealing with the Palestinian issue.

“We have suspended the subcommittee on diplomacy, the subcommittee on human rights and international organizations,” the ministry said. “The remaining dialogues [with the EU] are continuing as planned

The move is a response to the recent decision by the EU to label settlement products from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Earlier this month the Prime Minister said: “The EU has decided to label only Israel, and we are not prepared to accept the fact that Europe is labelling the side that is being attacked by terrorism.” He then went on to add: “The Israeli economy is strong and will withstand this.”

It should be stated that whilst Israel is suspending cooperation and work with the European Union itself on the peace process, it will continue diplomatic cooperation with individual member states such as Germany, Britain and France.ShowImage

In addition to the suspension of contacts with the EU, and as part of its fight against the EU decision, Israel has decided to take measures against 16 European countries: the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Denmark, Ireland, Croatia, Malta, the Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, Slovenia, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, Belgium and Finland.

The measures include summoning the ambassadors of the 16 countries to the Foreign Ministry for an official rebuke; and restricting meetings between ambassadors and senior Israeli officials to low-level government staffers.

Here at EIPA we view this as a worrying move at a time when EU-Israel co-operation in fighting the terror and threat of terror should be at its peak.

As firm believers that the EU and Israel have much to share and co-operate on, we urge both sides to be restrained in their language and to rebuild the important political and diplomatic ties that both share.

We will of course keep you up to date on latest developments and to clarify the situation going forward. In the meantime we again urge cool heads to prevail, so that this situation can be seen as a diplomatic storm in a teacup that can and will be overcome as quickly as possible.


Alex Benjamin, EIPA Executive Director


Israel helps EU deal with new reality

It’s an odd sensation when friends in Israel are calling you up or sending you messages to stay safe. In Brussels.4689

The lockdown here – that has only been lifted this morning after the terror alert was downgraded – was the first real taste for many in the European capital of what the threat from Islamist terrorist looks and feels like. It was something so alien and so uncomfortable that many had no clue what to do.

Watching all this on the evening news from their living rooms in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, many an Israeli would be forgiven for allowing themselves a wry smile and a “welcome to our world” remark. Let us not forget that ordinary Israelis are still facing a wave of stabbings and car rammings that continue to kill, maim and injure. This week saw 2 more dead and 11 wounded, including a 12 year girl that was stabbed.

Instead, Israel, despite the recent raw deal it got from the EU on labelling, and despite an overarching feeling that Europe doesn’t really care, was magnanimous and generous in its response to the terror attacks in Paris and the dark shadow of a real threat to life in Brussels.

Quietly, surely and delicately Israel has been sharing its expertise in dealing with terror with its counterparts in Europe. Last week many Israeli anti-terror experts were in Brussels, all below the publicity radar, offering briefings, solutions and best practice.

The highest profile of these visits this week came from IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, who held a number of private meetings with Belgian security officials.

The purpose of the trip was to establish unprecedented security ties involving Belgium and Israel. During his one-day trip to Europe, the IDF chief of staff also held meetings with high ranking military officials from the United States. Earlier this week, it was also revealed that Germany had received from Israeli intel services

key intelligence regarding an imminent terror attack against a packed soccer stadium.

This led lead German authorities to cancel a scheduled friendly soccer match between Germany and the Netherlands at Hanover Stadium on November 17.

It is a sad state of affairs that terror has brought its blood soaked hands to Europe. To many experts it wasn’t a case of if but when. Well, there can be no doubt that it is here now, and European capitals, particularly Paris and Brussels are left undeniably altered and shaken.

It’s a tough lesson for Europe to learn, where old certainties and comfortable clichés such as “why can’t we all just get along?” no longer apply.

This harsh new reality does however offer an unprecedented opportunity for rapprochement between the EU and Israel after a testy few months.

We do, after all, now share a very simple and stark reality: That there are those who seek our destruction, by any means necessary. That there are those who abhor democracy, freedom of speech and the liberties that we take for granted.

I sincerely hope that the tragic episodes in Paris and Brussels will wake Europe from a slumber that somehow separates and compartmentalises the Israel-Palestinian conflict into something “other”, something that is unique.

It is anything but. Settlements and the temple mount are simply the latest smokescreen in a long running attack on the only democracy in the middle east. This is instead a sadly on-going struggle against fundamentalism that sees no place, no future and no role for any non-arab in the region, just as it views any non-adherent to this brutal and murderous narrative as the enemy.

Israel has shown this week that it can swallow its bruised pride on EU labelling, rise above it and take a decisive and leading role in showing EU states how to deal with and fight terror. It is showing people how you can live and prosper, in spite of terrorism.

Brussels is renowned as a foggy place. But its is starting to feel like people are now slowly beginning to see what is at stake.

The Op-Ed was written by Alex Benjamin, EIPA executive director and was published in The Times of Israel