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