Cross-Party MEPs and senior Staffers came together under the EIPA banner today in wishing Israel’s Ambassador to the EU and NATO, Mr Aharon Leshno-Yaar well and celebrating Israel’s 70th Birthday.
The celebration included a briefing, some inspiring and funny videos supplied by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about Israel and what it means to be Israeli, and a delicious Kosher lunch.
The President of EIPA’s Political Board, Lars Adaktusson MEP, introduced the Ambassador with some warm and encouraging words:
“I believe I speak on behalf of my colleagues, when I say that we will always fight back against those who question Israel’s right to exist. And those who violate the rights of the Jewish communities in Europe.
It´s this commitment, for ensuring the safety of the State of Israel, that shapes also some of our stories.Over the last years, many of us have dedicated time and energy to push forward initiatives, like rejecting BDS, a movement who seeks the isolation of Israel from the international community though academic, cultural and economic boycotts
Reforming the EU aid, to the Palestinians by installing proper checks and balances in order to denounce instigation to violence and hate – and prevent corruption. Highlighting the media bias when it comes to reporting about Israel, and criticizing the political double standard that Israel so often is subjected to.
Our European heads of state have a lot to learn from the Israeli visionary leadership in the challenges we face today in the Middle East.
An imperative reality based assessment of the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal, aimed at curbing the well-documented Iranian nuclear ambitions, and coming to terms with the fact that securing the region cannot be done without addressing the Iranian state-sponsored terrorism – and the oppressive nature of the regime that become so self-evident during this January protests.
Dear Friends, hopefully this luncheon will serve as an opportunity to discuss today’s challenges and possibilities for Israel.”
His Excellency welcomed everybody and gave a short 30,000 feet analysis of the challenges and opportunities faced by the State of Israel today. In his remarks he said,
“Israel and the EU have strong relations in various fields and shared values. While Israel faces threats from the north and from the south, the EU should clearly show its commitment to Israel’s security”
The event concluded with a lively question and answer session covering everything from Turkey to what greater opportunities and co-operation can be explored between the EU and Israel in the years ahead.
EIPA in partnership with MEP Peter Niedermüller Péter hosted the opening of the photo exhibition “From Balfour Declaration to the Jewish Nation, a celebration of Israeli life through the lens of David Seymour/Chim”, featuring pictures of life in Israel in the early days of its statehood. MEP Lars Adaktusson (EPP, Sweden) commend the resilience of the Jewish nation in the face of adversity, and underlined the European responsibility of fighting anti-semitism and any form of delegitimization of Israel. The evening concluded with the lighting of the first candle for Chanukah.
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”.
On the 5th September 2017, EIPA held an Ambassadorial Briefing and Dinner with His Excellency Ambassador to the EU and NATO Aharon Leshno-Yaar which was attended by 18 high ranking cross-Party MEPs and some of their Chiefs of Staff.
17 Members of the European Parliament, from across the political spectrum, pushed back hard on a far left initiative by fellow MEPS who extended an invite to relatives of convicted Palestinian terrorists to address the Delegation for relations with Palestine.
In a letter addressed to the President of the European Parliament, Mr. Antonio Tajani, the 17 signatories wrote “We are utterly appalled with the understanding that our colleagues from DPAL, under the pretext of discussing, ‘the situation of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails after the hunger-strike’, are in fact offering a public platform to relatives of convicted terrorists”.
The letter, sent by EIPA political board President and Swedish MEP Lars Adaktusson, comes on the eve of the meeting in Strasbourg of Members of the European Parliament sitting on theDelegation for relations with Palestine (DPAL) and their guest speakers, Mrs. Fadwa Barghouti, wife of Marwan Barghouti,and Sumoud Saadta, daughter of Ahmad Sa’adat.
The signatories conclude that the organizers of the hearing are blatantly ignoring “the Council Decision listing both the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PLPF) and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade as terrorist organisations”.
“We, Members of the European Parliament, are seriously concerned with the message this forum sends to our constituencies amidst such turbulent times in Europe”.
“Given that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict involves a wide range of issues, we encourage our colleagues, who choose to show their support for the Palestinian self-determination, to engage with Palestinian actors pursuing peace, and not with convicted terrorists.”
Teodora Coptil, head of relations with the EU Institutions at EIPA : “With a newly formed Committee on Counterterrorism, the European Parliament should vehemently enforce its rejection of any form of incitement and hate speech, and discipline its Members who are offering an official platform to PFLP and Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade affiliates; such actions undermine the very core of European values and norms”
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the founder of EIPA, added:
“Can you imagine what the reaction would be had the family of Osama Bin Laden would be invited to the European Parliament to express the motivation and supposed rationale of their terrorist relative? It is unthinkable.
Yet this is precisely what the Delegation for Palestine sought to do. We welcome the MEPs initiative to quickly move and raise their objections at this abhorrent move. It is now up to the President to ensure that this doesn’t happen.”
To read the letter and list of MEPs please go to the following link:
Letter_regarding the meeting agenda of the Delegation for relations with Palestine
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)
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.
By now, you will have undoubtedly heard about last night’s despicable terror attack in the trendy and buzzing Sarona district of Tel Aviv, in which 4 people were killed and over a dozen injured when two gunmen opened fire on diners in a restaurant.
EIPA was busy as soon as news broke of the attack, and today we managed to mobilise 21 vital and important voices in the European Parliament, despite a busy Strasbourg session into action. Why did we do so?
Largely because of the anodyne response from the EEAS’ chief’s Federica Mogherini spokesperson. It appeared that the attack didn’t warrant a response from the High Representative herself in person.
This is the sum total of what the spokesperson had to say:
“Wednesday night’s terror attack in the Sarona complex in Tel Aviv exposed scores of innocent civilians and families to indiscriminate fire. Four people were killed and more seriously injured. Our thoughts are with the families of the dead and injured. Those responsible for these murders must be brought to justice. Those who praise this attack must be condemned.”
A cross-party group of 21 Members of the European Parliament – including Vice-Presidents, Senior Foreign Affairs Committee Members and the Chairman for the delegation for relations with Israel felt this didn’t go nearly far enough.
The MEPs, in their joint statement – which we at EIPA initiated – said today from Strasbourg”
“We Members of the European Parliament, are shocked and saddened at the terror attack that took place last night in the Sarona Market, Tel Aviv.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, Idan Ben Arieh, Ilana Neveh, Michael Faiga and Mila Meshayev and we wish a speedy recovery to the 13 people wounded as a consequence of this heinous and abhorrent terrorist act.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this act of senseless barbarism, and call upon the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to promptly, and without equivocation, denounce this act of terrorism, and again on the occasion of his visit to the European Parliament on June 22.
“We also call upon the High Representative of the European Union, Federica Mogherini, to condemn this terrorist act, and to denounce the Palestine Liberation Organisation for inciting further violence by calling the attack ‘a natural response’.
“We reiterate our ongoing support for a two state solution on the basis of 1967 borders, whilst ensuring the security of the State of Israel in tandem with an independent democratic and viable Palestinian State.”
We at EIPA want to thank the 21 MEPs, and if you want to as well, their names are below and you can find their details HERE
Cristian Dan PREDA (EPP, Romania), Ramon TREMOSA I BALCELLS (ALDE, Spain), Lars ADAKTUSSON (EPP, Sweden), Fulvio MARTUSCIELLO (EPP, Italy), Arne GERICKE (ECR, Germany), Petras AUSTREVICIUS (Vice-Chair ALDE, Lithuania), Jan ZAHRADIL (Vice-Chair ECR, Czech Republic), Bas BELDER (ECR, the Netherlands), Tunne KELAM (EPP, Estonia), Hannu TAKKULA (ALDE, Finland), Marijana PETIR ( EPP, Croatia), Milan ZVER (EPP, Slovenia), Frederique RIES (ALDE, Belgium), Geoffrey van ORDEN ( Vice-chair ECR, UK), Charles TANNOCK (ECR, UK), Ioan Mircea PASCU (S&D, Romania, Vice President of the European Parliament), Andrej PLENKOVIC (EPP, Croatia), Artis PABRIKS (EPP, Latvia), Davor Ivo STIER (EPP, Croatia), Ryszard CZARNECKI (ECR, Poland, Vice President of the European Parliament), Ramona Nicole MANESCU (EPP, Romania)
In the meantime, we thank for your support at this difficult time, and we all hope for easier days ahead.
Former journalist hopes his Scandinavian homeland will better understand Israel’s difficult position.
At first blush, Lars Adaktusson hardly seems like a likely Israel supporter. A former journalist and Swedish politician serving as a Member of the European Parliament, Adaktusson’s curriculum vitae make him unique among Israel’s defenders abroad.
Indeed, Adaktusson, a member of the Christian Democrats, often finds himself at odds with his own government, particularly on the issue of Israel.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom, has earned a reputation for her harsh criticism of Israel and often baseless claims. In December, for example,Wallstrom suggestrd that Israel was systematically “executing” Arab terrorists. Earlier last year, Wallstrom blamed the Paris terror attacks in November on “Palestinian frustration” with Israel.
Speaking to Yediot Ahronot on Tuesday, Adaktusson offered his view on why so many in Sweden – and Europe generally – have such a dim view of the Jewish state.
“It’s [part] of a long process,” he said. “We’ve had a problem with biased media reports, and we have a strong leftist movement – both in the Social Democrats Party and in other leftist parties – whose hostility towards Israel is very strong. We need to deal with this basic hostility in Sweden, and it’s a problem.”
Adaktusson expressed hope that as Europeans struggle with the rising threat of terrorism at home, they will be better able to understand the difficulties Israelis face every day.
“I hope that people understand what Israel has to deal with – the stabbings, the various continuing attacks by Hamas. The facts speak for themselves.”
Regarding the future of relations between Israel and the European Union, however, Adaktusson argued that both sides had room for improvement.
“As far as diplomatic relations, we’re talking about something that’s two-sided. We need to be more open to and more willing to have good relations with Israel on a variety of levels, and to strengthen our ties and relations [between us]. But that also will require from the Israeli side a willingness to listen to Europe and also listen to criticism.”
The article was published on Arutz Sheva
A lot has already been said about the Swedish government’s Middle East policy and I will not get dug down in my past criticism of it. After spending a couple of days in Israel together with colleagues from the European Parliament, I would like however to underline a clear observation; The Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström’s anti-Israeli statements have damaged the image of Sweden more than we so far have realized.
That the Israeli government´s representatives, parliamentarians and media began speaking about a flaring diplomatic crisis is one thing, but when the general public and ideological supporters of Wallström react in the same way it illustrates the seriousness of the situation. In fact, Sweden’s reputation has been destroyed as a result of Wallström´s actions and some of the foremost critics are her own Social Democratic Party friends in the Israeli Labour Party.
In the meetings and conversations that I participated in, both in the Parliament and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swedish government’s actions have been a recurring topic. This was clearly expressed in Knesset’s Vice President, Social Democrat Nachman Shai, who explained that Margot Wallström not only has hurt her own image, but also Israel´s:
”What we are talking about is a terrible mistake. Tell her that we are hoping for a quick generation shift in Swedish Social democracy.”
Alongside this debacle, Israeli domestic politics are dominated by the country’s security situation. A special focus is of course on the Palestinian attacks against innocent civilians, attacks who are currently spreading terror among the population. Since the wave of terror began last year, over a hundred attacks have been conducted in which around thirty people have been killed and hundreds injured.
The functions of fundamental social institutions is being challenged and people’s daily lives have been limited. What previously was easy suddenly became impossible. At the same time, I was impressed by how well the society seems to work, how people’s concerns are taken care of and how quickly the necessary political decisions and measures have been taken. The handling of national crises in Israel is part of normality.
The security challenge is constantly present, and it also applies to the neighbouring countries, regionally and globally. Israel is surrounded by more or less hard line, hostile dictatorships ruling over their 450 million inhabitants. In addition a number of militant terrorist organizations are currently operating in Israel’s immediate vicinity; Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and al-Qaeda and Islamic State in Sinai. All sharing the expressed purpose to destroy Israel.
This is relevant and important to recall in a political context where Israel is often portrayed as the stronger and militarily superior party. This is of course correct in relation to the Palestinians but in a broader perspective the country is in a vulnerable position facing the surrounding dictatorships and terror organizations.
After days of political discussions, meetings and field trips, I can conclude not only that the outside world´s perceptions of Israel’s security situation is at odds with reality. In the Swedish and European context it is almost only the occupation and the settlements that are discussed, which makes the picture incomplete. Other major events and phenomena are neglected or silenced.
People interested in foreign policy and media consumers seldom get to see the true Israel. A country with successful enterprises, entrepreneurship, research and education with empathetic and involved citizens.
Let me mention some of these citizens – people who daily are involved in shaping the Israeli society. Recently I met them in their different situations and places:
Salman Zarka, doctor at the Ziv hospital in Safed near the border with Lebanon and Syria. For years he has been responsible for projects treating victims of the civil war in Syria. Often the patients are people who were rescued by Israeli army patrols in the border areas.
When I met Salman Zarka he explained that the main focus is treating seriously injured and traumatized patients – both soldiers and civilians. So far, he and his team have been able to save the lives of 580 severely injured people out of the total of 3000 war wounded Syrians who so far have received care in Israeli hospitals.
”Most of them have learned at an early stage to see Israel as the worst enemy. But as a doctor and human being, it is my job to save lives, regardless of nationality”.
Gad Moshe Yarkony, Mayor in Eshkol in southern Israel. Born and raised on the Kibbutz Nirim, just a few kilometres from the border with Gaza, Yarkony lived for many years under attacks from Palestinian terrorist groups. In the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas he served in the Israeli army when a Palestinian rocket attack changed his life. Two of his closest friends were killed in the attack that also wounded himself. Hit by shrapnel both his legs are today amputated.
”The attack took place on the last day of the war. But I made a decision; to survive and work for peace with the Palestinians. From my hospital bed, I announced my candidacy for mayor.”
Yehuda Cohen, head of the Lipski company in Ariel in the West Bank. For several years Lipski is one of the leading manufacturers of plastic products in the region. The company is profitable, sales are steadily increasing and 20 per cent of what is produced is exported to Europe.
Half of Lipskis over a hundred employees are Israelis, half of them Palestinians. Yehuda Cohen said that staff turnover is low, and wages and employment conditions are the same for Palestinians and Israelis.
”For me, this job is a peace project. The owner of the company is considering moving the production because of the uncertainty regarding the EU’s decision on labelling of goods from the occupied territories. If so, I will not follow, since I want to continue working for coexistence with the Palestinians.”
Israel, like all countries is neither perfect nor flawless. But in all its simplicity, the meetings with Salman Zarka, Gad Moshe Yarkony and Yehuda Cohen, however complete the widely recognized and unfortunately one sided negative picture of the Middle East’s only democracy.
It’s time for that picture to change.
(This is an English translation of the blog post in Swedish ”Det verkliga Israel” published on this blog on February 13th 2016)
you can also find it here
Ten years ago I was appointed Middle East Correspondent for Swedish National Television. Personally and on daily basis I experienced, and reported on, violence and terror attacks in Israel and the Palestinian areas. Regrettably, not much has changed since then. The core issues of the conflict have not been solved. And to be honest: in many aspects things have gone seriously worse.
The recent wave of terror against innocent Israeli civilians is fueling an already dangerous situation in the relations between Israelis and Palestinians. The terrorist attacks are intended to spread fear and horror among the civilian population, and sadly, it has already succeeded. People in Jerusalem and other Israeli cities today live in a constant distress and worry of further attacks.
The acts of violence so far seem to have one common denominator. The Palestinian attackers consider themselves taking part in ”protection” of the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The fact that the Palestinian population accept the pledge ”to attack to protect”, is in one way understandable – the Palestinian society is completely infiltrated by anti-Semitism, anti-Israeli propaganda and hate. Children’s programs on Television, school education, preaching’s in mosques, and media reporting are all delivering the same distorted message: The al-Aqsa Mosque has to be protected from the ”Jewish threat”.
Politically responsible for the Palestinian propaganda and todays serious developments is the Palestinian leadership and notably; president Mahmoud Abbas. The president’s direct support for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians is as obvious as unacceptable. And let’s face it; the image of Mahmud Abbas as a reliable partner for peace, a representative of democracy and non-violence, is incorrect and false.
For peace to become a reality president Abbas needs to put an end to Palestinian violence – and the personal propaganda visits to the families of Palestinian terrorists. Furthermore the President needs, once and for all, to take action against corruption. The system with salaries, paid from the PA budget, to jailed Palestinian terrorists, has to be abolished. Money transfers to NGOs campaigning for hatred against Israel have to stop.
When it comes to bilateral aid and humanitarian assistance to the PA, my home country Sweden, will contribute with approximately 150 million Euro over the coming five years. Together with support and donations from other member countries and the EU funding, we are talking about huge amounts of money. Huge amounts that risk ending up in wrong pockets.
I believe the EU should stop sneaking around this issue by continuing to make large wire transfers to PA bank accounts. We need to be firm. Much of this aid is counterproductive – just as counterproductive as the labelling of products from settlements.
Instead we need to support and facilitate activities and projects that foster respect for human rights and democratic values in the Palestinian society. At the same time: whereas we are engaged in state-building measures with funds and expertise, we should link all the EU funds to a clear condition of an actual Palestinian renouncement to hate and all kind of violence.
As political representatives, as decision makers, we have a responsibility – not only to European tax payers, but also to people who are in need of our humanitarian support. For the sake of the most vulnerable, the most affected Palestinians, we are obliged to make sure that development aid from the EU is channeled in a accurate manner – to Palestinian organizations and stakeholders that promote and stands for peace, democracy and human rights. That is the single most effective way, and the most candid way, to assist the Palestinian people.
With these introductory remarks, I will again welcome you to this important seminar.
After a difficult end to 2015 in the EU-Israel relationship due to the labelling guidelines, EIPA kicked off 2016 with a hugely successful standing room only event in the European Parliament entitled “Safeguarding the Peace Process: can the EU be an honest broker?”
Hosted by European Parliament Vice-President Pascu and Lars Adaktusson MEP, the cross party event heard from distinguished Israeli and EU speakers on the subject of Palestinian incitement, conditioning EU aid on a rejection of Incitement to violence and lastly on the EU’s role in the Peace Process.