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.
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.
MEP of the Month: Meszerics Tamás (Greens, Hungary)
When we think of a really good friend, we think of them knowing us well enough to tell us if we are doing something wrong and not just heap praises and sycophancy upon us. Great friends are our levelers, our mirrors to the world. And Tamas Maszerics is such a friend for Israel and for us here at EIPA.
Yes, a Hungarian Green is not who one would immediately think of, and yes the Greens as a whole are not renowned for their love of the State of Israel, but Tamas has been a rational and valued voice for us in the European Parliament, giving praise where praise is due, but also being firm and reasoned when he disagrees with our analysis. Just this week he took time out of his busy schedule as the Green co-ordinator for Foreign Affairs to meet with a group of PHD students from Ben Gurion University and give them his thoughts. Not all agreed with his analysis, but all were unanimous in their gratitude to have a straight talking, no nonsense friend of Israel such as him. Thanks Tamas and Mazal Tov from all of here at EIPA!
Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon on Monday called on the global body to denounce terrorism instead of legitimizing Palestinian terrorism.
The call came as the UN commemorated “Palestinian Solidarity Day” and passed a series of anti-Israel resolutions.
“Over the years, this assembly has passed countless one-sided resolutions blaming Israel for any and all problems confronting the Palestinians,” Danon said in a speech to the General Assembly.
“It is unfortunate that the seventieth session has joined the pitiful UN tradition of passing more than twenty empty anti-Israel resolutions, which deepen the conflict, distance us from real dialogue, and diminish the prospects of peace,” he continued.
Danon noted that in 1947, the UN adopted a resolution to partition the British Mandate into a Jewish state, and an Arab state but the Palestinians refused to accept it, and instead have launched “violent waves of terror every time they had the opportunity for statehood”.
“If the Palestinian leaders really want peace, why do they refuse to sit in the same room with the Israeli Prime Minister? To sit down and to negotiate?” said Danon.
“If the Palestinian leaders truly want a home for the Palestinian people, why do they reject the very idea of a home for the Jewish people?
“If the Palestinian leaders are concerned for the protection of their own people, why do they encourage and incite them to terror and violence?” said Danon, who stressed, “No amount of biased resolutions and empty symbols will bring the change that the people of the region so desperately need.”
“You can raise a Palestinian flag here in the UN, but as long as the Palestinians fail to raise a generation committed to peace and reconciliation, there will be no end to violence,” he stated.
Danon held up a picture of the recent victims of terrorism in Israel and said, “This is a shameful day for the UN.”
“Instead of issuing a clear and categorical statement denouncing all acts of terror, this institution has granted legitimacy to Palestinian terror,” he continued.
The heinous murder of a twenty innocent Israelis, just because they are Israelis, is no different than the cruel massacre of innocents in France. Terror is terror is terror, and it must be fought against, not justified,” stressed Danon.
If the UN wants to play a constructive role, it must get a grip on reality, and hold the Palestinians accountable. Demand that the Palestinians leaders cease their incitement to violence,” he said.
“Insist that President Abbas finally, finally respond to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repeated calls to negotiate. And make it clear that peace will only come once the Palestinians accept that Israel is the home of the Jewish people.”
this article was post on 24 November 2015 on Arutz Sheva website