A cross party group of 60 Members of the European Parliament have urged the EU’s Foreign Affairs Chief, Federica Mogherini to marginalize, both financially and politically organizations such as BDS (Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment) that are increasingly becoming a virulent source in the spread of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism under the pretense of exercising freedom of speech and association.
The unprecedented initiative, spearheaded by representatives of the four major political groups, MEP Cristian DAN PREDA, MEP Ioan Mircea Pascu (S&D, Romania) and a Vice-President of the European Parliament, MEP Petras Austrevicius (ALDE, Lithuania), MEP Arne Gericke (ECR, Germany) “calls upon ensuring that no public funds go to organizations calling for a boycott of the State of Israel, and to instruct agencies not to engage with companies, organizations or other entities involved with the BDS movement”.
MEP Cristian DAN PREDA, foreign affairs coordinator for the largest political group, the European People’s Party, and co-initiator of the letter underlined his party’s opposition to calls for the suspension of the bilateral agreements with Israel as some of his extreme left wing colleagues echo directly from the BDS playbook. “It’s in the interest of this House, and of our citizens, to see an upgrade in the partnership agreement with Israel. We should not allow the current stalemate in the peace process to dictate the terms of our relationship with Israel.”
Swedish MEP and President of EIPA’S political Board Lars Adaktusson – a co- signatory – underlined that “the Union, and the Parliament, is in danger of being deemed irrelevant as a peace broker if it fails to address the incitement on its own soil against Israel.”
Vice President of the European Parliament, Ioan Mircea Pascu concluded that “boycotting strategic ties with Israel, a leader in the intelligence and defence international community, may prove counterproductive to the common security interests of both EU and Israel”.
The 60 signatories, among which are Chair of Security and Defence, MEP Anna Fotyga (ECR, Poland), Vice-Preident Pavel Telicka (ALDE, Czech Republic), Dietmar Koster (S&D, Germany), Vice-Chair of Human Rights Beatriz Becerra (ALDE, Spain) urged their Foreign Affairs chief to “address the incitement to hatred and violence and discriminatory practice of calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel.”
Europe Israel Public Affairs Founder Rabbi Menachem Margolin welcomed the initiative of the 60 MEPs: “Israel sometimes feels misunderstood by Europe, and this leads to a further strain on the relations. The European Parliament takes pride in its diversity, and we are glad to see such a wide support for investment, rather than divestment from something that has been for more than 3 decades a mutually advantageous bilateral relation”.
Rivlin meets with Spanish Prime Minister, calls on him to change how Spain votes in international forums such as UNESCO.
President Reuven Rivlin met today (Tuesday) with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajuez at the Prime Minister’s palace in Madrid.
Rajuez has been Prime Minister of Spain since December, 2011 and President of the People’s Party since 2004. The meeting was also attended by Minister Gila Gamliel, who accompanied the President’s entourage.
Citing the 30th anniversary of the establishment of relations between Israel and Spain, the President emphasized the special relations between the two countries and the historical roots of the relationship. The President thanked the Prime Minister for the reception and expressed his appreciation for the cooperation between Israel and Spain in various fields, stressing that Israel has a sincere desire to preserve and deepen existing ties both in the field of security and in the fields of economy and innovation.
“The secret of our relationship rests on a strong bond not only between states, but also between peoples,” the President said. “The historical family roots of many Israelis are to be found here.”
The President expressed his condolences for the terror that struck Spain last August, adding that the entire free world must join forces to ensure the eradication of terrorism: “Terrorism and religious extremism are a global and tangible threat that affect us all. Unfortunately, we have experience in the field and are willing to contribute by all means available to us in order to combat this phenomenon.”
The President spoke to the Prime Minister about the government’s stance against the boycott campaign, saying that the campaign was “tainted by anti-Semitic elements.” He also asked the Prime Minister to promote legislation in order to prevent similar steps in the future. “BDS must stop,” the President continued. “It is permitted to protest but it’s forbidden to cross the line into boycotts.”
In this context, President Rivlin said that that Israel would be pleased to see Spain change its voting pattern in international forums in a way that would reflect the good bilateral relations between the two countries. “There are decisions taken in international forums that constitute a violation of integrity and intelligent thought.”
“I want to remind you,” said the President, “that the King of Spain is also called the King of Jerusalem and to be a part of UNESCO and say that there is no connection between Jerusalem and the Jewish people is not only ignorance, it is an affront to intellectual integrity. I therefore ask you to make sure that you are not taking part in decisions that result from irrelevant political struggles.”
The President and the Prime Minister discussed at length the regional situation in the Middle East. The President stressed that Iran is a subversive element leading to the establishment of a Shiite axis in Syria and the entire Middle East, in an attempt to exploit the crises in the region. “The State of Israel closely follows the growing Iranian presence in Syria and operates according to the clear red lines that we have defined.”
On this issue, the President stressed, “The terror that Iran exports is a threat to the entire world,” and explained that the Iranian hold on Yemen with the Houtis and through them could lead to damage to international trade routes, which could be very damaging to Europe as well.
As for the nuclear deal, the President told the Prime Minister that Israel and the Western world can not allow a country like Iran that supports terror and calls on the UN to destroy Israel to have nuclear capabilities and stressed to the Spanish Prime Minister: “We must work together to prevent this at all costs. The current agreement does not benefit either Israel or Europe, and even endangers the security and stability of the region,” the President said, adding personally to the Spanish Prime Minister that if the agreement does not change: “We must ensure strict adherence to all parts of the agreement and even try to improve it, alongside plans for the day after its expiration.”
After the meeting, a cooperation agreement was signed in the presence of the President and the Spanish Prime Minister, renewing the historic agreement signed between the two countries for the first time in 1987. The agreement was signed by the Israeli and Spanish ambassadors, and includes cooperation in various fields and mutual recognition in the subjects of education and cultural science as well as mutual scholarships for students and lecturers. The agreement also includes a declaration of intentions for joint work on education against racism and antisemitism as well as education on the Holocaust.
The article was published on Arutz 7 website
Swedish aid to Plestinian Arabs is not peaceful, to put it mildly. Supporting anti-Zionist plays that turn history on its head for unsuspecting Western audiences and calling it aiding culture, is a way to make peace unattainable.
In Sweden there is an ongoing discussion about whether Sweden is funding Palestinian terrorism or not. The truth is that Sweden supports Palestinian projects and NGOs promoting terrorism and violence. By doing so Sweden is in fact guilty of encouraging violence and extremism in the Palestinian society.The Swedish aid is not peaceful and we need to protest how it has been misused.
For years Sweden has, unfortunately, been promoting violence by funding NGOs which encourage violent resistance to the Israeli presence in the Middle East.
In Jenin, a town in the Palestinian controlled part of the disputed territories in Samaria there is a theatre called the Freedom theatre (TFT). The theatre very actively promotes BDS against Israel, glorifies terror and takes part in campaigns aimed against Palestinians who choose peaceful co-existence with the Israeli society.
Sweden supports TFT with hundreds of thousands of shekels every year. According to the theatre’s annual report of 2015 the Swedish government payed salaries and student grants to the staff at the theatre for about NIS 152 083 and supported TFT with NIS 204 449 in total in 2015. In 2016 TFT received NIS 244 000 from Swedish funds. The money is transferred through PPAN a Palestinian BDS network which has been given over NIS 8 million from generous Sweden since 2016. This money cover the TFT’s performances in Jenin’s refugee camp. And last year over 12 500 Palestinian children and adults watched its performances.
So what kind of plays does TFT perform that would promote Sweden’s official peaceful goals with development aid? Are these plays about peace, building bridges between people or ending violence?
No, no and no.
’The Siege’ is the title of one popular play TFT recently has been touring with in Palestinian towns and in the US.
The play is based on an event that took place between April 2 and May 10, 2002, during which 39 armed terrorists occupied the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, taking 200 civilians and 46 monks, even children, hostage. According to some testimonies the terrorists used pages in the Bible as toilet papers and kept the food in the church for themselves while the hostages starved.
The Palestinian terrorists booby-trapped the church with 40 bombs and threatened to blow the holy site up and kill the hostages. The terrorist later agreed to leave the church as they were promised to be sent to freedom in Europe and Gaza.
However in ’The Siege’ the terrorists are portrayed as action heroes defending their homeland. Terrorists like Ibrahim Moussa Abayat contributed their narrative to the script. He is also featured in the promotional video clip for the play.According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abayat was involved in shooting attacks and killings of several Israeli civilians. On the poster advertising the play an actor playing one of the terrorists is seen smiling posing with a rifle.
Another play TFT is performing is ’Return to Palestine’. The play centres around Jad, a Palestinian Arab, who grew up in the US. One day he travels to the ‘Palestinian territories’. According to the Palestinian Authority Maan News Agency in the end of the story Jad reaches the conclusion that the land needs blood and sacrifice for its survival and for a free life. In an interview with Maan News Agency, Shireen Jarrar, secretary of the board of directors of the Freedom Theatre, says that the play presents a very beautiful message to all expatriates. She also says that the message of the play carries an invitation to the Palestinian Arab expatriates to ”return and challenge all difficulties”. The performance is funded not only by Sweden but by the PA ministry of Culture.
‘Return to Palestine’? I call it an invitation to terror and violence as the main character of the play concludes that violence (blood and sacrifice) is the way forward.
Terror organizations like PFLP have met with TFT. In 2014 it met with the terror organization. During the meeting TFT staff revealed to PFLP that TFT not only graduates artists, it also graduates ”performing resistance fighters”. The younger generations in towns like Jenin who come to TFT shows will be encouraged to perform acts of violence and terrorism as TFT portrays Palestinian terrorism as heroic and its terrorists as poor victims.
Some prominent members of TFT have a background in terror organizations.
Palestinian online newspaper Donia Al-Watan has interviewed the late TFT member Rabea Turkman, who was a Fatah militant in the Al Aqsa martyrs’ brigades since the age of 16.
Al-Watan asked Turkman if the theatre is an alternative to armed struggle. His answer was that the theatre is not an alternative to armed struggle but a complement to that. He also added to his answer, that in all revolutions art has been a form of resistance, without denying armed struggle.
So TFT does not see its ”cultural resistance” as an alternative to armed activities, it is merely a complement to terror activities. The cultural resistance is not replacing the armed struggle but rather serves as a tool to keep the people fed with the ideas of armed struggle and hostility towards Israel. In Europe and the US ”the Palestinian cultural resistance” has the goal to change our Western perspective of Palestinian terrorists from viewing them as terrorists to viewing them as victims, freedom fighters and heroes. The end goal is to make Israel lose support in Europe and the US.
Another member of the Al Aqsa martyrs’ brigades active in the theatre is one of its co-founders, Zakaria Al-Zubeidi. He is described in Palestinian media as a local leader of the Fatah armed wing.During the second intifada he was the terrorists’ bombmaker. But he is also the co-founder of the local branch of the Fatah armed wing in Jenin. TFT also reveals that Al-Zubeidi allegedly has been hiding 50 weapons. The theatre in addition to this states that staff, students, and board members have been arrested multiple times.
TFT also has cultural activities for children, which may look innocent on the surface. The ”soft” activities with small children however are there to create a positive image of TFT and to divert attention from TFT’s focus on graduating ”performing resistance fighters” and showing solidarity with terrorists.
TFT is just one of many many organizations Sweden is currently funding with millions of shekels from the Swedish tax payers’ money. Another organization is the anti-Semitic Miftah which until just recently made neo-Nazi material available on it’s webpage (now removed). Miftah has also been promoting violence in its contests for youths.Yet another organization Sweden funds is the Abu Dis Youth Club which honors acts of terrorism with championships and teams named after terrorists while hosting PFLP events inciting the youths to violence.
Sweden needs to wake up and realise that its foreign aid projects in the Palestinian territories are immoral and wrong. So on November 5I invite the Swedish tax payers to protest the irresponsible way in which Swedish development aid has been used. We will protest the government for inciting to violence with its destructive aid policy. For the very first time in history a demonstration against the Swedish government’s anti-Israel policies will take place in the heart of our democracy, outside the Swedish parliament.
May the truth liberate the Swedish people and ignite democratic resistance against Sweden’s immoral and destructive aid policy that creates terrorists instead of peacemakers.
Tobias Petersson is the director of Swedish think tank Perspektiv på Israel (Perspective on Israel)
The article was published on Arutz 7 website
The Balfour Declaration was a document signed in November 2, 1917, by then-British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour, which declared Britain would “view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
In preparation for the 100th anniversary of the historic declaration, the Palestinian delegation in London launched an accusatory campaign according to which “the declaration helped establish the State of Israel and led to the Palestinian disaster.”
The campaign includes posters with photographs of what is described as “the peaceful life of the Arab population in Palestine” before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, alongside photographs taken after the establishment of Israel that purport to show the “destruction and bereavement among the Palestinian people.”
The Palestinians planned to hang the posters at London Underground stations, where hundreds of thousands of people pass every day.
But Transport for London (TfL), the authority responsible for the transport system in Greater London, refused to allow the hanging of the posters on the grounds that the ads “did not comply fully with our guidelines.”
These guidelines bar “images or messages which relate to matters of public controversy or sensitivity.”
“Palestinian history is a censored history,” Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, claimed. “There has been a 100-year-long cover-up of the British government’s broken promise, in the Balfour declaration, to safeguard the rights of the Palestinians when it gave away their country to another people. TfL’s decision is not surprising as it is, at best, susceptible to or, at worst, complicit with, all the institutional forces and active lobby groups which continuously work to silence the Palestinian narrative. There may be free speech in Britain on every issue under the sun but not on Palestine.”
The British Foreign Office denied Palestinian claims it was involved in the decision to disqualify the campaign.
The city of Frankfurt passed a historic bill on Friday outlawing municipal funding and rooms for BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) activities targeting the Jewish state.
Uwe Becker, the deputy mayor and city treasurer for Frankfurt, who initiated and steered the bill to passage, told The Jerusalem Post: “The BDS-movement does not only strongly resemble the ‘Don´t buy from Jews’ argumentation of former times of the National Socialists, but the movement is built on the same toxic ground and it is poisoning the social climate in the same dangerous way.
BDS strongly attacks the fundamental basis of the legitimation of the Jewish State and takes the detour via antizionism to spread antisemitism.” Beck added:”That´s why we decided to ban any municipal funding or the renting of rooms for any activities of groups or individuals, who support the antisemitic BDS movement. We also instructed our city-owned companies and called upon private landlords to act in the same way.”
The anti-BDS bill will now be sent to the city parliament for a vote. Becker said with today’s backing of the city government, the bill “has already gained the necessary support.” The city parliament is slated to vote on the bill in a few weeks.
The city of Frankfurt, which has a population of 730,000 and is Germany’s main financial center, became the first municipality in Germany to ban material support for BDS activities. The Bavarian capital Munich is expected to pass a similar anti-BDS measure after the summer break.
Becker announced in early August that he would seek to stop public Frankurt funds for BDS and support of the “antisemitic BDS movement.” Antisemitism under the flag of BDS has no place in Frankfurt, said Becker.
Becker said “the major aim of the BDS movement is the delegitimization of the State of Israel, for which reason they proclaim boycott and spread defamation. BDS activities are not a contribution to a democratic discussion, but they try to intimidate companies, artists, politicians etc.”
He added that “not everybody who supports BDS is an anti-Semite him- or herself, but those who support BDS help to spread antisemitism, because BDS is an antisemitic movement.”
Becker said “Frankfurt is a city with strong Jewish traditions, Jewish life is part of the identity of our city, part of the history of the development as an economical powerhouse, as a city of culture and education – and we are proud of that. And we have a strong and vivid partnership with Israel, that has grown over the past 37 years with a strong friendship, that we have with our sister-city Tel Aviv.”
“For our city, threats towards Israel are being felt as threats towards the people over here too,” said Becker.
The article was published in The Jerusalem Post
The deputy mayor of Frankfurt, Uwe Becker, submitted a bill on Wednesday that would ban municipal funds and space being used for activities that aim to boycott Israel.
Becker, a leading German political voice against antisemitism, said, “The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement with its messages uses the same language the National Socialists once used to express: ‘Don’t buy from Jews!’”
The boycott movement targeting Israel is “deeply antisemitic and should have no place in Frankfurt,” he said.
The proposed law would outlaw all public funding and space for the support of “antisemitic BDS activities.” The bill in Frankfurt, which has a population of nearly 733,000, would also urge private companies to refrain from commerce with BDS groups.
The deputy mayor spearheaded his Christian Democratic Union’s adoption of its anti-BDS platform at the party’s congress in 2016.
Becker said on Wednesday, “Frankfurt maintains, with its partnership with Tel Aviv, a special closeness to Israel and has continued to expand over the previous years this special relationship.”
The municipality said in a statement that Becker announced Frankfurt’s clear position against BDS in light of anti-boycott measures taken by other national and regional legislatures, including Munich’s.
Becker said BDS, at its core, is a movement that “delegitimizes the State of Israel and uses the method of a boycott to defame [Israel].” He cited BDS actions to intimidate artists who want to appear in Israel.
He also noted the boycott activities of “department store police” who stigmatize Israeli products in order to pressure stores to turn against the Jewish state.
Anti-Israel activists have over the years marched into stores in Bremen, Bonn and other German cities to single out Israeli goods for opprobrium.
Becker said his city is engaged for a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Last week, Becker wrote on his Facebook page: “With the rising terrorism in Europe, more and more people start to understand the situation that Israel has been facing since David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the independence of Israel on May 14, 1948. This rising awareness should also open the eyes of the people in Europe to see that it is up to us to support Israel, as it is the only democratic country under the rule of law in the Middle East. Israel is the democratic bridge between Occident and Orient and is linked closely to our European values and virtues and way of life.”
He continued, “This year marks a decade of suffering for the people in Gaza. No, not from Israeli policy, as many people in Europe might think. No, people in Gaza suffer from a lack of freedom, from a lack of democracy, from the brutal rule of Hamas, which is betraying its own people and has been governing Gaza since Israel withdrew in 2005 and Hamas took over power in 2007 after fighting between Hamas and Fatah. The corrupt leadership of Hamas has received hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade, but the money has not gone to the people, but to the accounts of corrupt Hamas leaders and to the funding of terrorism and terrorist infrastructure in their fight against Israel.”
Becker further said that “there should not be any European tax-money funding terrorism. And as long as it is not possible to track where our tax money meant for the humanitarian aid in Gaza goes, we should freeze our financial support.”
Why the European Parliament, and other EU institutions, need to take a strong position on the movement calling for a boycott of the State of Israel.
Brussels took upon itself the Snakes and Ladders task of building a common European position on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by pushing in the last five years for a hands-on approach designed to ensure a return on the European political and economic investment in the region.
This policy of “differentiation,” in Brussels jargon, reflects the European Union’s self-professed determination “to take any action to preserve the two-state solution on the ground” by making a distinction in its bilateral agreements with Israel between Green Line Israel and Palestinian territories. So far, the policy has yielded two sets of EU Guidelines, on Israeli participation to Horizon 2020 in July 2013 and on indication of origin of products, respectively EU labeling of settlement products, in November 2015.
Doves in Israel, and around the world, anticipated that the EU’s new policy would expose the allegedly pro-Palestinian grassroots movement for what it is, an umbrella of organizations and individuals that deliberately question the legitimacy of the State of Israel and that represent a hotbed for anti-Semitism.
There was hope that once there was a clear EU policy distinction between the State of Israel and its settlements in the territories, the voices calling for a boycott of Israel would change their tune and start lobbying Brussels to instead begin exerting its economic leverage to foster a vibrant Palestinian civil society and an accountable Palestinian political leadership.
Instead, the EU’s policy is becoming the thin end of the wedge that BDS activists use to access EU institutions, employing Trojan horse tactics that seek nothing less than a complete severance of economic, cultural, scientific ties with Israel.
High Representative Federica Mogherini has repeatedly reassured Prime Minister Netanyahu of “the EU’s opposition of boycotts against Israel”. And in all other bilateral forums, committees and subcommittees with Israel, EU officials are all singing from the same sheet: The policy of differentiation does not constitute a boycott of the State of Israel, but merely an implementation of existing EU legislation.
I could question the good will and intention of the EU diplomats, who selectively isolate one of the core issues of the conflict, as if it exists in a vacuum, or the zealous use of “existing EU legislation” for a still in progress European foreign policy. It is not the purpose of this piece, however.
I would like to draw attention to the fact that the line between diplomatic pressure put on the government of Israel on the issue of settlements and a fully-fledged boycott of the Israel is getting more and more blurred as BDS activists are offered shelter under the EU’s freedom of speech. Europe cannot afford itself to go down that path,regardless of the stalemate in the peace process.
BDS leader Omar Barghouti is frequently invited to address members of the European Parliament, the Delegation for relations for Palestine (DPAL), and other forums, and offered the public space to openly call for the boycott of Israeli products, academic exchanges and other types of sanctions.
His crude tactic of trying to “make the occupation unbearable” comes at the cost of demonizing and entire population and infringing on their civil liberties by seeking their isolation in trade, cultural exchanges, academic cooperation and security.
Mirroring the institutions’ impulse for “a continued, full and effective implementation of EU legislation,” one cannot but wonder why does EU shy away from substantiating its rejection of BDS. This position has been articulated on multiple occasions, including in MEP Martina Anderson’s answer on the question of the legitimacy of the BDS movement: “The EU rejects the BDS campaign attempts to isolate Israel and is opposed to any boycott of Israel.”
Similarly, European Council President Donald Tusk, in his first visit to Israel in August 2015, ahead of the publication of EU guidelines on labelling, reassured Prime Minister Netanyahu that “we have to avoid words like boycott because for sure this is not the intention of Europe. No country in Europe wants to boycott Israel.”
Concrete action needs to be taken by Brussels. The EU’s guidelines on the eligibility of Israeli entities participation to Horizon 2020 from July 2013 did not dissuade BDS activists who are lobbying members of the European Parliament from continuing to question, three years later, the participation and allocation of funds to the Israel Ministry of Public Security through LAW-TRAIN, an EU-funded project on drug trafficking.
Similarly, another European legislator addressing the European Commission on its Patronage of WATEC Italy 2016, questions the participation in the fair of Mekorot, Israel’s national water company. Furthermore, an entire political group finds it “balanced” to call for an end to all cooperation between Israel and the European Defence Agency, and to allow no funding to Israeli entities through Horizon 2020.
Unmistakably, Europe is going through a period of social disorder marked by disenchantment with mainstream politics, and one does not need further proof following Sunday’s results in the French presidential elections.
As such, for the sake of preventing further scapegoating tendencies and radicalization, I would like to make the following recommendations:
- Allocate resources and establish a task force within the European Commission that would monitor and investigate the impact of BDS on the European communities, possibly under Commissioner Vera Jurova (Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality);
- Issue a notice to all member states, asking them to monitor the activities of BDS supporters and take further legal action in line with the Council Framework decision from November 2008 that “racism and xenophobia are direct violations of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and rule of law” and to take measures to punish the following intentional conduct: Publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by race, color, religion descent or ethnic origin;
- Prevent EU taxpayers’ money to fund any entity that calls for the boycott of the State of Israel;
- Issue a notice on BDS supporters’ access to the EU institutions and a disclaimer for any organizations or entities that call for a boycott of Israel.
European political leadership, as well as EU policy makers, should indeed “take further action in order to protect the viability of the two-state solution.” They should not allow, under any circumstances, their policy to be misused and ultimately abused by BDS activists operating under the pretext of freedom of speech and association.
The above recommendations would ensure that the EU’s stated aim of getting a meaningful return on its investment would encounter many more ladders than snakes going forward.
This article was written by Teodora Coptil, a consultant specializing on the EU’s policy for MENA region and head of institutional relations at Europe Israel Public Affairs, a Brussels-based NGO advocating for a strategic EU-Israel bilateral relation and accountability of EU aid going to the Palestinian Authority. it was also published on Ynet.
EIPA welcomes European Parliament position on the need to fight ‘unfair collective boycotts”, as stated in its annual report on EU Competition policy, a milestone achievement in the fight against the movement calling for a boycott of the State of Israel, respectively Boycott Sanctions and Divestment movement.
The legislative amendment, spearheaded by MEP Fulvio Martusciello (EPP, Italy) Chair of the delegation for relations with the State of Israel, introduced for the first time in an EU legislative report a clear condemnation of any boycott practice, including against the State of Israel.
The push followed a previous Cross Party MEPs Declaration on BDS delivered by MEP Fulvio Martusciello at an event hosted by EIPA and the Israel mission to the EU in the European Parliament in Bruxelles, and co-signed by 12 other MEP from the other three major political groups, calling for a “ resolute opposition to any form of boycott of the State of Israel, and any organizations or entities pushing for boycott”.
Please see co-signatories and full statement bellow.
I would like therefore to outline the following principles, as agreed by a number of my peers across the political spectrum:
- We firmly stand for a secure State of Israel and for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict.
- We support the enshrined right of the freedom of speech and we understand the importance of criticism in any participatory democracy, accordingly Israel is such a strong testimony of a healthy dialogue between the government and its civil society.
- We resolutely oppose any form of boycott of the State of Israel, and any organizations or entities pushing for boycott, as well as any hate speech that discriminates against a group on the grounds of their ethnicity or religion, respectively Jews or Israelis.
- Ultimately, we believe that activities carried in the international arena seeking to ‘isolate’ Israel run counter to building trust and understanding between the parties, and ultimately peace.
MEP Fulvio Martusciello (EPP, Italy)
MEP Arne Gericke (ECR, Germany)
MEP Petras Austrevicius (ALDE, Lithuania)
MEP Lars Adaktusson (EPP, Sweden)
MEP Cristian Dan Preda (EPP, Romania)
MEP Milan Zver (EPP, Slovenia)
MEP Tunne Kelam (EPP, Estonia)
MEP Patricija SULIN (EPP, Slovenia)
MEP Marijana PETIR (EPP, Croatia)
MEP Hannu Takkula (ALDE, Finland)
MEP Geoffrey Van ORDEN (ECR, UK)
MEP Artis Pabriks (EPP, Latvia)
One of the founders of the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been arrested for concealing large sums of money from tax authorities.
Police say Omar Barghouti, founder of both the BDS movement and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, was arrested on suspicion he committed tax evasion over the past decade, concealing $700,000 in earned income from tax authorities.
During a raid of Barghouti’s house, police say they found credit cards and purchase records confirming the allegations against him. After being taken into custody, Barghouti was transferred to Haifa for interrogation before being released on bail.
Investigators say Barghouti received the money from a company in the Palestinian Authority which sells and rents ATM machines, where Barghouti has served as director. The BDS co-founder also received large sums of money from speaking tours around the world. In both cases, Barghouti is believed to have concealed the hidden incomes in banks outside of the reach of Israeli tax authorities – one in the United States and one in Ramallah.
The Qatari-born anti-Israel activist was raised in Egypt but received permanent residency status after he married an Israeli Arab woman. Barghouti currently resides in the northern Israeli town of Acre (Akko) and studied in Tel Aviv University – despite his own calls to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
Barghouti has openly advocated for the destruction of the Israel as a Jewish state and the end of Zionism. Barghouti rejects the two-state solution, and has compared Israel to both Apartheid-ridden South Africa and Nazi Germany.
The Article was published on Arutz Sheva website
The measure was introduced by Christian Imark, a National Council deputy from the conservative Swiss People’s Party. It passed 111- 78.
Switzerland’s National Council – the lower chamber of the legislature – passed a bill on Wednesday to stop government funding of organizations that promote boycotts of Israel and spread antisemitism and racism.
The measure will be submitted in May to the Council of States, the upper chamber of the legislature, which will decide whether it becomes law.
Olga Deutsch, director of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor’s Europe Desk, told The Jerusalem Post: “Today’s positive developments in Switzerland mark a milestone in seriously countering BDS campaigns, antisemitism and hatred, by equating them in the motion. The motion sets an important precedent. NGO Monitor was instrumental in providing details to Swiss decision-makers regarding their government’s funding of organizations that oppose official Swiss foreign policy, such as NGOs that propagate anti-normalization, BDS, and one-state frameworks.”
She added, “This is a perfect opportunity for Israeli and European officials to capitalize on the Swiss example and work together on guidelines and evaluation mechanisms that contribute to positive change in addressing this serious issue.”
The measure was introduced by Christian Imark, a National Council deputy from the conservative Swiss People’s Party. It passed 111- 78.
Dominik Feusi, a senior editor with the Basler Zeitung newspaper, first announced the groundbreaking motion on Twitter, writing “Swiss parliament approves a Motion to end funding of NGOs who work for terror, hate, racism or antisemitism…”
Imark’s motion to slash funding for organizations that boycott Israel appears to the first national parliamentary act in Europe to blunt economic and political warfare targeting the Jewish state.
The head of the Federal Council, Didier Burkhalter from the FPD Liberal party, opposes the measure. According to an article in the Zurichbased Weltwoche weekly, Burkhalter, who oversees the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, blames only Israel for the collapse of the peace process.
Feusi published a series of eye-popping investigative reports over the past year on alleged financial misconduct in the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The Swiss government provided funds in December to the US- and EU-designated terrorist organization Hamas for a conference in Geneva. Switzerland’s government funneled nearly $60 million to diverse projects in the Middle East, many of which are shrouded in secrecy.
Swiss government money flowed to the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, which advocates the boycott of the Jewish state. Switzerland – in contrast to the US, Canada and the EU – does not recognize Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations.
Switzerland also funds the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which routinely calls for the arrest of Israeli politicians and compares Israel with the former apartheid regime in South Africa, and Al-Haq, a Ramallah-based legal center that engages in lawfare against the Jewish state.
According to NGO Monitor: “The Swiss government, directly through the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (managed by the Institute of Law at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah and the NIRAS consulting firm in Sweden), provides core-funding to a network of organizations, some of which are directly affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization designated as such by the US, EU, Canada and Israel.”
NGO Monitor continued: “From 2013 to 2016, the IHL Secretariat provided a total of $2.38m. to organizations directly affiliated with the PFLP, while the Swiss government’s contribution amounted to approximately one-quarter of the total secretariat budget. The IHL Secretariat distributes 56% of its budget to NGOs that advocate for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaigns against Israel.”
Silvia Müller, a spokeswoman for the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, told the Post that “Switzerland decisively condemns calls for hate, violence, forms of racism and antisemitism.”
She said that “Switzerland works together with organizations that uphold democratic values and principles and work for human rights and humanitarian international law.”
BDS Switzerland slammed the anti-boycott motion because “its goal is to ban financial support for human rights organization in the context of Israel/Palestine.”
The group said the motion is an attack on the Palestinian population, freedom of speech and organizations that work for human rights.
The piece was published on The JPost on the 9th of March 2017
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.
Help us fight BDS and win a FREE return ticket to ISRAEL!!!!!
Last month we held our first jam-packed pro-Israel anti-BDS conference at the European Parliament.
This was our poster for the event, one idea out of many.
We are sure some of you think could have done a better job… so we decided to make it interesting and fun!
Design a cracking anti-BDS poster and you might win a flight to ISRAEL.
So what do you need to do?
- go on our Facebook page
- Like and Share the post
- Design an anti-BDS poster
- Post your poster on our wall (with a short explanation if you wish)
The winner will be announced on the 15 of March.
Get stuck in and we look forward to seeing your efforts.
*Participants would be giving up the copy rights for their designs
MK Gila Gamliel (Likud), Minister for Social Equality, spoke at EU conference encouraging investment in Israel, countering BDS.
MK Gila Gamliel, Minister for Social Equality, spoke at the EIPA (Europe Israel Public Affairs) Conference in the EU Parliament entitled “Israel: Include. Invest. Involve. 3 I’s to counter B, D and S”. The conference took place in cooperation with EJA and the Israeli mission to the EU.
Text of the minister’s speech:
Shalom and good afternoon.
I am delighted to be with you as Israel’s first ever Minister for Social Equality, a ministry established to enhance Israel’s effort to combat social inequality. I strongly believe that helping create a more equal society in Israel will make a stronger, better country for us all.
Since its founding, Israel has been committed to a vision of a society of equal opportunity. Our Declaration of Independence guarantees equal rights for all citizens – regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion.
In a region of instability and violence, I am so proud to stand here as a woman, as a mother of two young daughters, as the daughter myself of immigrants [to Israel] from Libya and Yemen, representing the State of Israel!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Over the last decade, we have been witnessing a notorious global campaign against the State of Israel, known as BDS. It is but the newest weapon in a decades-old effort to eliminate Israel, and deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination.
For years, those who wanted to destroy Israel first tried wars, and failed.They tried terrorism, and failed. And now they are trying another method which was also used in the past: anti-Israel boycotts. The Nazis used boycotts of Jewish goods in the 1930s. For decades, starting in the 1950s, Arab countries boycotted Israel. Any company that sold products to Israel could not sell products to Arab states.So this is not new. We thought these demons of the past were gone.
Let me be clear: the aim of this movement is not the two-state solution or any peaceful solution.
It seeks the return of Palestinian refugees — not to a future Palestinian State — but to Israel: to Haifa, to Jaffa, to Jerusalem. In this way, it seeks to undermine Israel’s right to exist as the homeland of the Jewish people. That’s what this conflict has been about since Israel was created in 1948. And that is what it remains about today.
The method has changed: instead of only fighting the Israeli army on the battlefield or killing civilians through acts of terror, the BDS movement seeks to destroy Israel’s image in the eyes of the world. If you say a lie enough times people will believe it. Yet, as hundreds of thousands of people are being killed in Syria, including some by chemical attack, as Yemen is being ripped apart by outside forces – these self-styled advocates of human rights are silent. We don’t see movements to boycott parties to these conflicts.
But Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is singled out for boycotting! The leaders of the BDS movement do not care that their boycott actually hurts Palestinians. This is simply of no interest to them and their supporters. For the head of the BDS, attacking Israel supersedes everything, even
their own people.
The voices of BDS are the voices of hatred and bigotry. These are the voices of demonization.
They echo the voices of demons of the past. This discriminatory campaign may have a new name but is the same old poison of the past.
Make no mistake: Every country has its faults. It is legitimate to disagree with some of Israel’s policies. But to single out Israel and to hold it to a different standard than any other nation in the world – is anti-Semitic. It is anti-human rights and anti-peace.
So let us be honest and call out the BDS movement for what it is: the latest evolution of the effort to wipe Israel off the map.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Just as the conflict will not be resolved by the decades-old tactic of boycotting Israel, lasting peace will only be achieved through education. Everything begins with education towards peace.
Shalom — or peace – is the first word our children learn in school. Tragically, all too often, Palestinian children are incited to hatred, to violence, and to murder.
It is well known that Hamas incites to kill. But this incitement all too often is coming not just from Hamas but from the Palestinian Authority. Most Europeans are unaware – or intentionally blind themselves to –the extent of Palestinian incitement to violence, and where it is coming from.
It is not on the news in Europe. It is not in newspapers here. It doesn’t receive coverage on TV.
It simply isn’t PC –politically correct — to say that the PA – yes the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas — names streets, names squares after the worst Palestinian killers of Jewish men women and children. They give money to the families of suicide bombers.
This is incitement to kill; pure and simple. Just as we will not achieve a resolution to the conflict through an immoral boycott, we will never get to peace without education towards peace.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
We are living in difficult times. The threat of radical Islamic terrorism should unite – must unite —
the Western World. The same terrorism that brought death to the streets of Israel for year is now targeting the streets of Europe. Just like there should be no double standard in singling out one
country for boycotting and taking no action in the face of genocide taking place in neighboring countries, there must be no double standard when it comes to terrorism.
The killing of civilians is terrorism. Period. There can be no excuses. Period. As I told the UN Security Council, the world all too often loses its voice when it comes to terrorism against Israel! We must say in a loud clear voice: we condemn and will fight against terrorism everywhere, anywhere. There is no difference between the targeting of innocents, whether here in Brussels, Paris, Istanbul or Jerusalem.
In conclusion, as Minister for Social Equality, I believe that women are powerful agents of moderation, particularly in the face of extremism. As leaders and decision makers we can be a stabilizing force. Especially in this region of the world, women are an untapped potential for more peaceful societies. It is an honor to be part of a society where we champion the empowerment of women and gender equality: where we have a woman, Golda Meir, who served as Prime Minister; where a woman is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for the second time now; where women serve in top business roles, and where an Arab parliamentarian is the Chairperson of the Committee for the Advancement of Status of Women in the Knesset.
This is my Israel.
Thank you very much
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.
ISRAEL. include. invest. involve
3 ‘i’s to counter the b.d. and s
Europe Israel Public Affairs, in partnership with the Israeli Mission to the European Union organizes in the European Parliament, Bruxelles its first public conference for pro-Israel activists across the 28 member states of the European Union, on 23rd of January 2017, 16:00-19:00.
Please join us in the European House for a debate on why inclusion, investment and involvement are better than boycott, divestment and sanctions as a means for further development of the EU-Israeli ties.
Come and share with us why you like Israel!
For allowing us to facilitate your access to the European Parliament, please fill in your details HERE:
The anti-BDS motion is a setback for BDS activists.
Germany’s Christians Democratic Union party on Wednesday passed a resolution opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement because the anti-Israel action is antisemitic.
“Who today under the flag of the BDS movement calls to boycott Israeli goods and services speaks the same language in which people were called to not buy from Jews. That is nothing other than coarse antisemitism,” the CDU said.
The CDU likened BDS to the National Socialists who boycotted Jews in the 1930s. BDS dresses up antisemitism in the “new clothes of the 21st century” as anti-Zionism, the party said.
“The German CDU declares with this motion its disapproval and rejection of every form of BDS activity and condemns these activities as antisemitic. The CDU will decisively oppose every hostile action that Israel faces.
The CDU professes its deep friendship toward Israel and continues to work toward a peaceful solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” the resolution read.
Uwe Becker, the chairman of the CDU branch in Frankfurt, which formulated the resolution and submitted it at the CDU conference, said he was pleased with the result.
Chancellor Angela Merkel was nominated at the convention to run as the party’s candidate in next year’s federal election. The CDU’s resolution appears to be the first German party motion to reject BDS and classify the anti-Israel movement as antisemitic.
Last week, Israel’s ambassador to Germany criticized BDS activities in the state of Lower Saxony.
Writing in the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung daily, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman said: “In Oldenburg a teacher agitates against Israel in an official way; in a magazine of the GEW labor union [the Education and Science Workers Union]. This teacher publicly spreads the proposal to relocate Israel to Baden-Württemberg” in southeastern Germany, wrote Hadas-Handelsman.
The ambassador cited additional outbreaks of contemporary antisemitism in Lower Saxony and asked: “What is wrong in Lower Saxony?” The administration of the Social Democratic Gov.
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.
While the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign aims to hurt Israeli companies, the movement’s actions have actually had the opposite effect, the head of a major Israeli company told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Ambassadors Against BDS International Summit at United Nations, Daniel Birnbaum, the CEO of popular home soda-maker SodaStream, said that when people ask him whether there is a correlation between BDS and his company’s profits, his answer is always yes.
“The more active the BDS movement was in a certain market of ours, the more successful we have been,” he said. “In the course of the last six to seven years, when BDS was attacking SodaStream, we grew from a $90 million revenue company to more than $400 million. I encourage any company that wants to grow its sales to be attacked by the BDS movement.”
SodaStream made headlines in January 2014 when Hollywood actress and company spokeswoman Scarlett Johansson was harshly criticized by the BDS movement for a Super Bowl commercial endorsing the product. At the time, SodaStream operated one of its factories in the Mishor Adumim industrial park in the West Bank. It has since shut the plant down and moved inside the Green Line to a larger facility, which, Birnbaum said, was not done “because of BDS.”
Birnbaum told The Algemeiner that those countries which led the boycott against SodaStream also happen to represent the company’s most lucrative markets. “Specifically in the Nordic markets, where they embrace the rhetoric of BDS to a greater extent than other countries in the world, they did not want to receive any product manufactured by our Palestinian and Jewish employees in our West Bank factory,” he said. “The Nordic media actually led the boycott of SodaStream during the years 2009 to around 2015.”
“The Nordic market insisted we get our products from the mother of human rights, China,” he said, where “apparently, the organs of dying prisoners who are to be executed are removed from their bodies while the prisoners are still alive and then sold. So China’s behavior is fine for the Nordic markets.”
As a consequence, Birnbaum said, “we supplied product from China and SodaStream did very well in these markets during these years.” Today, SodaStream has about a 20 percent household penetration in Finland and Sweden, “which means that one in every five households in these countries have a SodaStream machine in use,” he said, adding, “There is your correlation for you.”
SodaStream’s newest factory, located in the Negev Desert, now supplies all products for the company’s Nordic markets, Birnbaum said. “In this new factory, we have Israelis, Israeli Arabs and Bedouins working side by side, in peace and harmony, and we hear no more issues about boycotts from Nordic markets. Hopefully this is a chapter that belongs in history and from which we can move forward.”
In February, SodaStream was forced to lay off its final 74 Palestinian workers who were the target of the BDS movement.
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.
Manuel Valls, in Israel to advance his country’s plan for Mideast summit, says he has ‘a genuine desire to help the situation’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Monday the French initiative for an multinational conference to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, telling French Prime Minister Manuel Valls that direct negotiations were the only path forward toward a lasting agreement.
Speaking at a joint press conference in Jerusalem before a closed-door meeting with Valls, Netanyahu said a multilateral effort would replace bilateral talks and not bring about any agreement.
“Peace is not achieved in international UN-style conferences, nor through international diktats that come of meetings of countries around the world sitting to decide our fate,” Netanyahu said. “Peace is achieved through direct negotiations where the Palestinian Authority would face a historic choice: recognize a Jewish state side by side with a demilitarized Palestinian sate, or try to eliminate it.”
The meeting with Valls came as part a two-day trip to the region by the French premier that began Sunday, aimed at advancing his country’s plan for the summit in the face of opposition from Netanyahu.
The Israeli prime minister claimed Monday that the international conference was being used by the Palestinian leadership as a way to prevent direct talks with Israel.
“The Palestinian Authority does not see the French initiative as an inducer for negotiations, but as a way to avoid them,” he said.
Instead, Netanayhu said, he would be willing to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “in Paris or wherever,” and hold face-to-face negotiations without international mediation. “Every difficult issue will be on the table,” he said.
Abbas has welcomed the French initiative to hold a meeting of foreign ministers from a range of countries on June 3, without the Israelis and Palestinians present.
According to the plan, another conference would then be held in the autumn, this time with the Israelis and Palestinians in attendance. The goal would be to eventually restart negotiations that would lead to a Palestinian state.
Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.
Earlier Monday Valls met with President Reuven Rivlin, who, in his first public statements on the French initiative, also criticized the plan, saying “there are no shortcuts in the Middle East.”
Preempting Netanyahu’s comments, he said that Israel was weary of such international efforts as they absolved the Palestinians of responsibility to negotiate.
Valls told both Rivlin and Netanyahu that France had Israel’s best interests in mind.
“France has a genuine and real desire to help the situation between Israel and the Palestinians,” he said in his statements to both Rivlin and Netanyahu.
Before his meetings with senior Israeli officials, Valls visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial where he laid a wreath in memory of the six millions Jews killed during the Holocaust. He also went to the Givat Shaul ceremony in Jerusalem cemetery to visit the graves of four French citizens killed in the January 2015 attack on the Hypermarche Kosher supermarket in Paris, and whose bodies were bought for burial in Israel.
After meeting with Netanyhau Valls will travel to Ramallah for a series of talks with Palestinian Authority officals, including meeting with Abbas.
Valls’s visit comes at a time of political turbulence in Israel, with Netanyahu expected to soon finalize coalition negotiations with the Yisrael Beytenu party, led by hardliner Avigdor Liberman, who is detested by the Palestinians.
Liberman, who lives in a West Bank settlement, is expected to take on the key role of defense minister.
On Sunday, Netanyahu told his cabinet that adding Liberman to the coalition would not negatively impact peace efforts.
“A broad government will continue to strive for a diplomatic process with the Palestinians and we will do so with the assistance of elements in the region. I personally deal with this a lot, in many places, and I intend to continue to do so,” he told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
To watch the meeting with PM Netanyahu klick HERE
The Article was published on The Times of Israel on 24 may 2016.
The decision to label settlement goods causes friction within the bloc and strains ties with a staunch ally.
Israel’s U.S. ambassador sent gift boxes for the 2015 holiday season containing wine, olive oil, body cream, and halva — and a defiant note calling out the European Union.
The products came from what the international community considers to be occupied territories, and Ambassador Ron Dermer was determined to make a blunt point about the EU’s recent move to instruct member countries on how to label goods produced in areas outside Israel’s 1967 borders.
“The Jewish state is singled out and held to a different standard than other countries,” Dermer wrote. “Of the over 200 unresolved territorial disputes around the world, Europe decided that only these Jewish-made products deserved to be labeled.”
“In response to this effort to cast a beacon of freedom, tolerance and decency as a pariah state, I have decided this holiday season to send you products that were made in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights,” he added.
Dermer’s reaction reflected the anger that many in Israel felt after the EU announced that the wording such as “product of West Bank (Israeli settlement)” should be displayed on cosmetics and food products, similar to the guidelines already in place inBelgium, the U.K and Denmark.
More than one month after the guidelines were issued, the fallout continues. The decision has dogged European officials, caused friction within the European Union and strained the bloc’s ties with Israel.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini faced combined pressure, built up over several years, from the European Parliament and EU countries critical of Israel’s settlement activity to act. But now, as she tries to reassert her role as a trusted broker in the Middle East peace process, the labeling decision has made her task difficult.
“For Mogherini it’s never been the right time,” said Hugh Lovatt, the Israel/Palestine project coordinator at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “She ran out of runway and had to issue it before the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on November 16, because member states said ‘we don’t want to have to bring this up again.’”
In the immediate aftermath, Israeli canceled some meetings, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “The labeling of products of the Jewish state by the European Union brings back dark memories; Europe should be ashamed of itself.”
Then, at the end of November, Israel announced that it was suspending diplomatic contact with EU officials involved in peace efforts with the Palestinians.
“There have been a lot of gesticulations from the Israelis,” said one European diplomat, adding that particular ire had been directed at France, Belgium, Malta, Ireland and Sweden — countries traditionally seen as being more likely to criticize Israel.
But the diplomat said the EU is talking to Israel as before, pointing out that Fernando Gentilini, the EU’s Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, did not raise the issue on his recent visit to Israel.
The Israeli reaction “is an intimidation technique that the Israelis have tried and tested many times,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “For us, there’s no fundamental questioning of our relationship with Israel.”
Hostage to politics
Mogherini had a model for how not to proceed, in the previous attempt, by her predecessor, Catherine Ashton.
“It was handled badly,” a source close to this year’s deliberations said of the labeling guidelines proposed in 2013. “The Americans never heard about the proposal [before it was issued] and neither did the Israelis.”
Ashton’s push came at a time when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was trying to revitalize the peace process. Israel complained and at Kerry’s request the EU shelved the proposal, which was hardly heard from again during the rest of Ashton’s tenure.
This time around, the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians were informed before the guidelines were released. “The work of quiet diplomacy,” the source said.
Another element of the strategy employed by Mogherini’s team was to attempt to use both political and technical arguments. Unlike the Ashton move, which was handled exclusively through the European External Action Service, this time more prominence was given to the role played by the Commission’s trade directorate.
“The EEAS chose to put communication on this matter in the hands of DG Trade, and say it was purely technical,” an EU official said. “As a way to unload the burden.”
In issuing the guidelines, an EU official argued the Commission was merely responding to member states’ request for “full and efficient implementation of existing legislation when it comes to the [Israeli] settlements.”
“This notice does not create any new legislative rules,” a Commission spokesperson said. “While it reflects the Commission’s understanding of the relevant EU legislation, enforcement remains the primary responsibility of member states.”
European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskisreiterated that the labeling instructions were just “a technical issue, not a political stance.”
The problem, according to Lovatt, was that by delaying publication out of fear of stoking tensions in the region, “Ashton and then Mogherini held the labeling guidelines hostage to political considerations — so they’ve lost the legal, technical argument which they’ve had in previous situations.”
He compared the labeling fuss to the way Brussels brought in its rules for financing going to entities located beyond Israel’s 1967 borders.
“There was no attempt to intervene politically to delay the EU’s funding guidlines in July 2013,” Lovatt said. “In that case the EU stuck to its guns without having to sacrifice political capital.”
Instead, on labeling, “it has taken three years and two ministerial letters to write three pages,” one exasperated diplomat pointed out. “We organized the Crimea sanctions against Russia in three weeks! It’s unfortunate, if this had gone ahead three years ago we would have avoided the hysterics.”
This article was written by Vince Chadwick and Maia De La Baume and was published on the Politico website on 04/01/2016
The start of a new year is an excellent time for reflection. When looking at the past year, I can’t help but notice that the struggle for Israel’s security in Europe remains. One needs to keep reacting to efforts that seek to undermine Israel’s legitimacy in Europe and it’s security in the Middle East.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is growing in Europe. This BDS movement may be strong but it’s not powerful. Thankfully, there are true friends of Israel inside Europe and the European institutions. They work hard to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism within the European Union. They did it again, when faced with the strong negative draft joint motion for resolution on the EU’s role in the Middle East Peace Process that was adopted in the European Parliament last week.
In a very short timeframe, they had to reflect and think of strategies to tone down the language proposed by the Socialist and Democrats Party. The proposed resolution contained so much negative language that it was almost impossible to imagine any agreement by all political parties on a joint text. After four hours of negotiations, in which the European People’s Party (EPP) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), the first and third largest parties at the Parliament, teamed up to delete the most poisonous language from the document. The end result is still not satisfying, but much worse was prevented.
They are the face of the true friends of Israel in Europe. They seek to achieve the best possible outcome with what they’re given – a very bad deal. Nevertheless, they prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We reacted and used our political weight to tone down the text as much as feasibly possible. It was the choice of the lesser evil.
We took out, for example, the wording, which called for the release of all Palestinian political prisoners currently serving sentences in Israeli jails. The ECR and EPP refused profusely to include any such reference, arguing that some terrorists are in prison because they planned to commit, directly or indirectly, a terrorist act. Releasing such people would go entirely against peace and EU values. Finally, the left was forced to make a huge concession to leave out any such reference in the final draft of the resolution.
Other wording that was deleted from the text included the call for the labelling of Israeli produce originating from entities beyond the green line. The draft text called for the ‘correct labelling of Israeli settlement produce on the EU market, in line with existing EU legislation’. The ECR and the EPP once again used their political weight and demanded any such reference be omitted. How can, we argued, such reference be conducive to the EU’s attempt to create a positive environment in which peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians can resume?
Another success of our persistence was the inclusion of the passage that any rocket fire into Israel by militant groups is unacceptable and that it is imperative for the EU to work in partnership with Israel to prevent the re-arming of terrorist groups in Gaza and the West Bank. Unfortunately, the basic notion of Palestinian terrorism is always downplayed in the corridors of the European institutions. It is the friends of Israel who remind their left-wing colleagues, that the latter is the root cause for instability in the region and the true obstacle to peace.
All in all, the end result is not perfect but worse was prevented. In Europe, the friends of Israel, want to retain strong economic, scientific and security cooperation with Israel. Side by side with the Jewish state, we want to equally benefit from EU-Israeli collaboration and secure and safe and prosperous future for both our regions. We therefore will continue to work hard to secure strong EU-Israel relations and expand our cooperation in this coming new year.
Bastiaan Belder is a Dutch member of the European Conservatives and Reformists group at the European Parliament. He is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as Vice-Chair of the Israel Delegation. He is also an advisory board member of the Europe-Israel Public Affairs.
This Op-Ed was posted on The Jerusalem Post on the September 25th 2015