Winter Bootcamp for Pro-Israel Activists

On 1-2 December the Europe Israel Public Affairs and our partners- European Jewish Association (EJA) hosted our second Bootcamp for pro-Jewish and Pro-Israel advocates from all over Europe (literally! From Iceland to Spain, France to Romania and everywhere in between).

With practical training at its heart, this latest bootcamp gave participants proper hands-on experience in Lobbying techniques, media relations, opposition watch and network building.

Day one was focused on facts and lobbying. Ben Dror Yemini, the prominent Israeli journalist and author (his book “the industry of lies” is on the shelf of any self-respecting Israel advocate) gave the team all the facts (“I’m not a pr man”, he proudly exclaimed, I just give people the facts) necessary to counter opposition arguments.

We then spent the rest of the day dealing with the practicals of Lobbying. Our Head of Eu Institutional Relations, Ruth Isaac and our Director of Public Affairs ran through the do-and don’t’s, and were delighted to be supported by former Portuguese MEP Paulo Casaca who gave his experience of being on the receiving end of lobbyists, and lastly by new Belgian MP Michael Freilich, who gave his enlightening perspectives from “the other side of the desk” including invaluable advice and tips on effective lobbying.

At a Gala dinner in the evening, Hans Knopp was our special guest. Hans is a hugely respected dutch journalist whose most famous bit of reporting was exposing a dutch war criminal who helped the Nazis rob and murder Dutch Jews. His work was commemorated in a film “the body collector”, and he talked about his experience. His moving testimony brought the house down and he received a prolonged standing ovation.

The next morning, participants learned the basics of press release writing, followed by a role play and live interview practice with Brussels based broadcast journalist and regular on Euronews Brian Maguire who put the bootcampers through their paces.

After lunch prominent Swedish Zionist and activist Saskia Pantell , CIDI’s dutch opposition watch hero Hidde Van Koningsveld and our very onw campaigns officer Dafna Friedman shared their knowledge and expertise on opposition watching.

We then finished with an open session with Ben Dror again on the challenges in messaging before a closing panel with Ruth and our head of Strategy Tal Rabina on Network building.

Tired but fired up our advocates (many are soon to be members of the EJA’s inaugural Diplomatic Corps), left for home. Our next bootcamp is already being planned. If you want to be part of it, let us know.   


Israeli judoka Sagi Muki wins gold at World Championships

‘I never stopped believing,’ says gold medalist who dominated throughout under 81kg competition, besting Belgium’s Matthias Casse in final to become Israel’s first male world champion; Egyptian competitor refuses to shake his hand after their quarter-final match

Sagi Muki celebrates his gold medal win in Tokyo (Photo: Getty Images)

Sagi Muki celebrates his gold medal win in Tokyo (Photo: Getty Images)
A few minutes later, he stepped onto the winners podium at the Nippon Budokan Arena in Tokyo and sang along as the Israeli national anthem “Hatikva” played.

Judoka Sagi Muki and his coach Oren Smadja hold the Israeli flag after his World Championship win (Photo: Oren Aharoni)

Judoka Sagi Muki and his coach Oren Smadja hold the Israeli flag after his World Championship win (Photo: Oren Aharoni)

The 27-year-old is the first Israeli male to win the prestigious title. This is his first world title after having won gold twice at the European Championships in 2015 and 2018.

Sagi Muki holds up his gold medal at the World Championships in Tokyo (Photo: Oren Aharoni)

Sagi Muki holds up his gold medal at the World Championships in Tokyo (Photo: Oren Aharoni)

The Netanya-born athlete faced six opponents on his journey to the gold medal and showed complete dominance after beating most of them by Ippon. His Egyptian quarter-final opponent Mohammed Abdelaal refused to shake his hand after having lost their match.

Sagi Muki during his winning final match (Photo: Reuters)

Sagi Muki during his winning final match (Photo: Reuters)

After the competition, the new world champion told reporters in Tokyo that he never lost faith he could win, but conceded that his semi-final bout “was a very hard fight.”

“I came close to losing but I gave it everything and I never stopped believing. I’m glad I managed to keep up the pressure,” he said.

“This is my first time (as world champion) and it’s a very special moment for me,” he said. “I finally did it. It was a tough day.”

Israeli judoka Sagi Muki wins the World Championships in Tokyo (Photo: Reuters)

Israeli judoka Sagi Muki wins the World Championships in Tokyo (Photo: Reuters)

Muki also paid tribute to his fellow Israelis who travelled to the compeition to support him and his teammates.

Sagi Muki's parents watch as he wins the gold medal in Tokyo (Photo: Yair Sagi)

Sagi Muki’s parents watch as he wins the gold medal in Tokyo (Photo: Yair Sagi)

“Judo is the most successful sport in Israel and every medal creates a great fuss,” he said.

Sagi Muki after his win (Photo: Reuters)

Sagi Muki after his win (Photo: Reuters)

“A lot of Israelis came to Tokyo to encourage the team and I’m glad I could them happy.”

A delighted President Reuven Rivlin took to Twitter to congratulate Muki, writing: “Your achievement makes us so proud and teaches us that hard work, humanity and a hand always extended in peace can conquer the greatest heights.

“Congratulations on your gold medal and thank you for the pride you bring us all as Israelis,” he wrote.

The article was published on Ynet


A COUNTRY BY COUNTRY LOOK AT THE EU ELECTIONS

Here is a quick glance at what we know so far on Monday.

With the European elections results coming in overnight there are some surprises, but many predictable outcomes. The elections have ramifications for Europe’s position in the world because the more Europe is unstable and fractured by infighting, the less it will play a role in world affairs. In addition, the more extreme parties in Europe will fuel the continued cycle of the instability, likely exacerbating the inability of the continent to act as a whole on policies, leaving such issues as immigration and security in the hands of states that have deepening societal divisions.

Here is a quick glance at what we know so far on Monday.

Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party remakes map of UK politics

The pro-Brexit leader Nigel Farage, who appeared to leave politics after the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, led a new party to a surprising thirty percent of the votes in the UK European elections. These elections weren’t supposed to even happen because the UK was already supposed to have left the EU. His message was that his party wants to take responsibility for leaving the EU and that if the ruling Conservatives don’t act then they will be crushed at the next polls.

The Conservatives already were humiliated in the EU elections in the UK, receiving less than ten percent. The Liberal Democrats performed well with almost 20 percent of the vote while Labour slipped to 14% and the Greens grabbed 11%. It’s clear that a coalition of Labour, the Greens and Liberal-Democrats, with the Scottish Nationalists, likely could run the UK after the next general election. For now it is the EU that will be getting Farage back.

Germany goes Green

In Germany the centrist and historically dominant Christian Democrats and Social Democrats lost votes to the Green Party. The Greens took twenty percent of the vote while the right wing AfD took ten percent. For Germany, any notion that right wing parties might do well always conjures up comparisons to the past. But the reality is that there is no massive swing to the far-right in Germany, yet. Instead the major parties are simply being weakened. The smaller leftist Die Linke party, for instance, took five percent of the vote. Liberals took another five percent.

Le Pen wins, again, in France

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally defeated President Emmanuel Macron’s party by a whopping 23.3% to 22.4%. This is supposed to make us all gasp that Lep Pen has “won,” but she hasn’t really won anything. Macron has been beset by massive protests by the “yellow vests” and French politics is fickle. They tend to dislike their presidents. The Le Pen phenomenon has continued for twenty years in France. In 2002 Jean-Marie Le Pen received 17% in the presidential election. Marine Le Pen got 33% of the vote in 2017. So her 23% isn’t a win, it’s a loss for her party. It just looks good in comparison to Macron’s failure. The real winners, in a sense, in France were the Greens with 13% of the vote, an increase from last time. See a pattern here with the Greens doing better in Germany and the UK?

Italy’s one third

A third of Italians voted for the Lega, Matteo Salvini’s party that is popular in the north of the country. Another 23% voted for the social democrats while only 16% chose the Five Star Movement, a new party that had got around a third of the vote in the 2018 elections. It appears that Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia got 7% of the vote. One supposes that means former Italian leader Mr. Berlusconi is back in politics, something he has been trying to achieve for the last few years. The end result in Italy is that although the right wing is doing well, they are still divided and kept at a third of the votes.

Sweden’s moderate politics

Not so long ago Sweden thought that it might be swept up in populist politics with the rise of the Sweden Democrats. The wave appears to be cresting as they now have 15% of the vote, a continual rise from 2018 when they had 13% in national elections. But the rest of Sweden’s politics is predictable. The Moderate party got 16% and the center-left took 23%. The Greens now have 11%.

Flemish Nationalism rises in Belgium

The new Flemish Alliance, which had 20% in the 2014 vote got only 13% in the EU elections, but its more far-right Vlaams Belang got 11%. On the left the socialists took 10%, the French speaking Greens 7% and the Flemish speaking Greens another 7%. Flemish socialists also got 6%. All in all the politics in Belgium is so divided that it’s hard to make any real conclusions, besides the obvious fact that the Flemish right is rising. Previously the the Vlaams Belang had only around 3% of the vote. But a previous incarnation of the far-right, the Vlams Blok, once got 12% of the vote in 1994 and 15% in 1999. So the new far-right Flemish speakers have merely gone back to what they used to have.

Puigdemont gets a seat in Spain

The Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont secured a seat in Spain while another group supporting local regions, Ahora Republicas, got 5% of the votes. Its leader Oriol Junqueras has been in imprisoned on charges of “rebellion.” The populist Vox party got 6% of the vote in Spain. Overall Spain’s politics are largely dominated by the normal parties with the socialists getting 32% and the center-right People’s Party getting 20%. Another center-right Citizens party got 12%.

Orban’s Hungary

Viktor Orban continued his dominance of Hungarian politics, taking more than 50% of the vote in the EU elections there. He has been the leader of the Fidesz party for years and a dominant figure since the late 1990s. It is the only European country where a party got over 50% of the vote.

Poland goes for two big parties

Poland looks the way western European countries used to look in its voting pattern for two large parties. Forty-three percent chose a right wing conservative party called Law and Justice, while 38% chose the European Coalition. In general Poland’s politics have not fractured like many other countries in Europe.

Austria’s Greens and Freedom Party

Austrian politics also looks relatively normal in the EU election, with the People’s Party taking 34% and the Social Democrats taking 23%. The Freedom Party, with is more right wing, has 17% and the Greens 14%. This looks like the 2017 Austrian legislative elections in which the Freedom Party got 20% and the Greens got 12%. Basically there is no news from Vienna.

Romania’s socialists lose out

In Romania the center-right National Liberal Party got 27% of the vote while the Social Democrats got only 24%. A centrist party called USR-PLUS got another 18%. The Social Democrats had 45% of the vote as recently as 2016. They now have been handed a major defeat. Romania matters to the Eu because it has 32 seats in the 751 parliament, making it one of the larger members in the 28 member block. Germany, Italy, France and the UK are the largest, followed by France and Poland.

Ireland also goes Green a bit

Ireland largely voted for the parties one would expect, Fine Gail got 29% and Fianna Fail got 15%. This represented a defeat for Fianna Fail while the Green Party grabbed 15%, much more than in the 2016 elections in Ireland. Sinn Fein got 13%, which is exactly what it got in 2016. No big surprises here, except for the Greens.

Netherlands says goodbye to populism

The Party for Freedom (PVV) once had 16% and 13% in EU elections in 2009 and 2014. But it slipped to a dismal failure in the 2019 elections, illustrating the far-right nationalism may not be on the march. It came in second with 13% of the vote in the 2017 general elections in Holland. But the Dutch decided on more traditional politics this election, sending Labour to the EU with 19% of the vote and the People’s Party with 14%. The Greens got 10% of the vote. The surprising failure of the populists and nationalists in Netherlands may point to a turning point in that country and others. After almost two decades, since the days of the Pim Fortuyn List, politics in the low country seem a bit more traditional.

The article was published on The JPost


Following the Event with the Leader of BDS Mr. Barghouti at the European Parliament

No, Mr. Barghouti – BDS is not a matter of freedom of speech, not when your misrepresentation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict imposes upon my social consciousness by demanding me to undertake actions that adhere to a set of lies, and ultimately boycott peace.

BDS leader Omar Barghouti was offered a platform at the European Parliament for the first time last Wednesday at an event organised by an S&D MEP Ana Gomes, despite protests from the S&D leadership who eventually distanced themselves publicly by ordering EP security forces, shortly into the panel, to enter the room and take down the socialist banner.

Seasoned politician, widely respected among her peers for her opinionated positions, MEP Ana Gomes has built for herself a reputation of a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause. While it is commendable for any politician to be consistent with one’s beliefs, MEP Ana Gomes exercised her hosting duties in a disquieting contradiction with her socialist values and her self-proclaimed “love for her Jewish friends” by calling “the Israeli settlements the real cancer of the international community”, while barely finding the strength to utter the word “Israel” by the end of the panel.

She was adamant to underline that as a result of “a very perverse lobbying” the Palestinian issue has not been discussed “that much”, however, she is happy to have overcome “the intimidating tactics” and “lies that misconstrue” that sought to prevent her from holding this event.

Leaving aside the inaccuracy of ascribing, yet again, everything that is wrong in the world to Israel, the use of such divisive language that resembles more of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” by an elected member of the House, though even by the looks of it an isolated one, should not be waved off as “misspeaking”. MEP Ana Gomez must be exhibiting forms of selective memory, since she expressed herself discontent on the recent visit to Iran, noting that “human rights questions were evaded by their counterparts”. How many times can one “misattribute” the word “cancer” to Israel during a one-sided panel that calls for boycotts of Israel; apparently, for this member of the House at least a dozen.

Europe Israel Public Affairs, where I head the Public Affairs department, has been part of the “perverse lobbying” MEP Ana Gomez was referring to by openly calling on the political leadership of the House not to give credibility to a voice that has gone on record, all the while yet again yesterday opposing EU policy on a number of issues, including the two-state solution.

Oddly enough, the only reason why Mr. Barghouti, now a charismatic leader with a poised demeanour, was in the position to deliver a message in the European House was because his alma mater, Tel Aviv University, has protected his freedom of speech and education, and awarded him a degree.

Mr. Barghouti addressed some of the questions raised by a couple of pro-Israel voices by clarifying from the start that he does not respond to questions that he finds demeaning to the debate on account of their personal nature.

As much as Mr. Barghouti enjoys taking the higher moral ground by claiming to embody the struggle for Palestinian self-determination, he knows very well that politics are personal, and his appeal to grassroots followers is a proof of his ability of making politics personal.

Ultimately, it is more convenient for the BDS agenda to complain to the international forums that do not hold them accountable than to put the Palestinian house in order.

Mr. Barghouti, your bid for boycotts of Israel, from the sanctity this House confers, is personal when you urge me to adopt a reductive narrative that focuses exclusively on the settlements, a misrepresentation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, withholding facts, denying Israel’s legitimacy and creating bias.

Mr. Barghouti, you are making it personal when I enter my supermarket in Belgium, and a BDS sticker placed on a product tells me that the only way I can express solidarity with the Palestinians is by boycotting the one partner they need to achieve peace.

Mr. Barghouti, it is personal when you ask me to defer my intellectual integrity by boycotting an agreement or academic exchange with the Hebrew University for the sake of a movement that does not even support the two-state solution.

Mr. Barghouti, your politics are personal as they seek to corrupt my very own freedom of choice and my integrity with lies.

And this is what the EU institutions and the EU leadership refuse to acknowledge – the expression of calls for boycotts fails to be protected under the freedom of speech and association the moment it starts to pre-condition the European citizen through a series of misrepresentations or lies to undertake an action that is not an expression of his/her freedom of choice as a consumer but that of propaganda.

Mrs. Ana Gomes, why does Mr. Barghouti’s freedom of speech have to come at the expense of my freedom of choice?

Teodora Coptil is a consultant specializing in the EU’s policy for the 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.


BELGIUM WITHDRAWS PALESTINIAN SCHOOL SUPPORT OVER TERROR GLORIFICATION

The Belgian Foreign Ministry is protesting the renaming of an elementary school south of Hebron after a notorious terrorist.

The Belgian Foreign Ministry announced today that it is removing its financial support for a Palestinian school in the Southern Hebron hills after discovering that the school had changed its name to the Dalal Mughrabi Elementary School. Dalal Mughrabi was one of the terrorists that carried out the Coastal Road massacre in 1978 in which 38 Israelis including 13 children were murdered and 71 injured.

The Belgian Foreign Ministry said, “In reaction to a number of articles published the last few days, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo clarify the Belgian policy regarding the support to schools in the Palestinian Territories.”

“The Belgian government has supported the construction of a school building in the south of Hebron in 2012-2013. When the school building was handed over to the local community in 2013 it was called ‘Beit Awwa Basic Girls School’. This name was later changed to the Dalal Mughrabi Elementary School. The Belgian government was unaware of this name change.”

The announcement adds, “Minister Reynders and Minister De Croo find this change of name unacceptable.”

“The Belgian government unequivocally condemns the glorification of terrorist attacks. Belgium will not allow itself to be associated with the names of terrorists in any way. Our country has immediately raised this issue with the Palestinian Authority and is awaiting a formal response.”

Belgium has also put on hold aid worth €3.3 million for two projects related to the construction of Palestinian

It has taken a long time for the Belgians to act on this issue. The Israeli media reported about the name change back in 2014 and research institutes monitoring Palestinian affairs have also reported the matter.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem believes that this is another indication of a new trend in Western Europe against anything that smacks of encouraging Palestinian terror.

The article was published on The JPost