Europe must stop funding demonization of Israel
Op-ed: In the past, Europe was involved in the demonization of Jews. Today, Europe is funding the demonization of the Jewish state. A normal country can’t allow donations that fund the campaign to destroy that same country, and it’s time for Israel stop this absurdity too.
Particularly large funding, of €2.5 million, was given to the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC). One of the senior employees of the WCLAC is Manal Tamimi. Tamimi propagates anti-Semitic cartoons, often defines Israel as a Nazi state, and her tweets include content such as “Vampire Zionist celebrating by drinking Palestinian bloods” and “I do hate Israel, I do hate Zionism, I wish a third intifada coming soon and people raise up and kills all these Zionist settlers everywhere.”
Furthermore, dozens of Palestinians NGOs which support the BDS movement have the support of European countries, the European Union and other foundations. Do European taxpayers know that their money is funding anti-Semitic incitement and encouragement of terrorism? Probably not. But the EU knows. A parliamentary question on the issue was submitted at the European Parliament, and the NGO Monitor organization sent a letter to the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, specifying the activities the EU funds were used for. The Delegation of the European Union to Israel said in response that the EU was against incitement and anti-Semitism, and that funding was only provided for the goals defined in the projects.
A double standard in all its glory
Admittedly, there are already signs of change. On May 17, the European Parliament decided to “ensure that no EU funding can be directly or indirectly diverted to terrorist organizations or activities that incite these acts.” More importantly, about two weeks ago the same parliament adopted the working definition of anti-Semitism which clarifies, once and for all, that demonization, drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis and denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination are anti-Semitism. All the bodies supporting the BDS movement fall into this definition.
There have been interesting developments in other countries in Europe. Only last week, the Swiss Council of States voted in favor of a resolution to prevent funding to NGOs involved in anti-Israel incitement, racism and anti-Semitism, after a similar resolution was adopted by the Swiss Parliament in March. The Swiss Council of States’ resolution explicitly mentioned the BDS campaign. Norway and Denmark are holding back budgets too, following the hard work of the NGO Monitor organization. Germany is one of the only countries in Europe which keeps funding the demonization without a hint of self-criticism.
The right to receive a donation as part of the freedom of association is recognized in the countries’ laws. That doesn’t mean that a country should agree to any kind of foreign meddling. In 2007, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer rejected a Saudi donation to help fund an Islamic center. In 2010, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre made it clear to the Saudis that his country would gladly accept their donation for the establishment of two mosques, as long as the Norwegians would be able to donate money for the establishment of two churches in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis gave up.
A report on the link between Saudi funding of mosques and the support of jihadi terrorist groups was submitted to the British government only recently. France and Germany are also considering banning foreign funding of mosques. In other words, there is no constitutional principle in international law which requires a country to accept a grant from any foreign element.
Like in Israel, there are active civil organizations in Western countries too. Britain, for example, has the Stop the War Coalition (StWC). Code Pink: Women for Peace is a US-based NGO that is active against the American involvement in wars and has participated in aid flotillas to Gaza. Iraqi Veterans Against the War (IVAW) helps whistle-blowers like Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, and the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) works to prosecute war criminals. The Federation of Expellees (BdV) is active in Germany for the rights of refugees who were expelled after World War II.
Like in Israel, these bodies have been playing in the political field. British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was associated with StWC; one of Code Pink’s leaders, Jodie Evans, was a fundraising bundler for former US President Barack Obama; and Erika Steinbach, a former BdV president, is a member of the Bundestag on behalf of the ruling party, the Christian Democratic Union.
The difference is that not a single foreign state or the EU would dare fund these organizations. The CJA organization, like Breaking the Silence, receives funding from George Soros’ Open Society Institute, but takes pride in the fact that there is no state funding. These bodies receive no foreign funding because there are things that are considered “unthinkable.” It’s definitely unacceptable, to say the least, for Israel to would allow foreign funding to an organization like Baladna, which encourages resistance to national or military service and fosters the “right of return.” Not everything that the law does not forbid is acceptable between countries—unless is has to do with Israel.
Sweden and Germany don’t donate to such organizations in the world, but they do donate to such organizations in Israel. That is a double standard in all its glory. Yet Germany keeps condemning Israel on NGO issues instead of engaging in self-examination over the fact that Germany itself, as well as the EU, donate to bodies that deny Israel’s actual right to exist.
The enemy of peace
So what should Israel do in light of the tens of millions of dollars funding the incitement propaganda and/or the denial of Israel’s right to exist? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented an initiative last week to ban donations from foreign states to Israeli NGOs. That’s a comprehensive proposal. It seems, however, that the resolutions adopted in Europe actually point at the right way to go. And even if Europe itself is failing to implement its own resolutions, Israel should implement them when it comes to NGOs that are active in Israel. For that purpose, it must adopt the rules set in the working definition of anti-Semitism, which was adopted by the European Parliament and is in line with the Swiss Parliament’s resolutions.
Israel cannot stop the EU or Germany from funding organizations that support terror or the BDS movement and operate outside Israel. Israel can act, however, when it comes to bodies operating inside Israel. A normal country can’t allow donations that fund, whether directly or indirectly, the campaign to destroy that same country.
Europe is not an enemy. On the contrary, trade relations are thriving and our cooperation with the EU is growing in many fields. It seems, however, that when Europe condemns anti-Semitism on the windshield, it funds bodies that create the demonization on the rear window. In the past, Europe was involved in the demonization of the Jews. Today, Europe is funding the demonization of the Jewish state. Needless to say, this article wouldn’t have been written had Europe been funding bodies—both on the Israeli side and on the Palestinian side—that advance peace and reconciliation. But it’s the other way around: Europe is funding demonization.
There is no need to change the rules of the game. On the contrary, the acceptable rules between democratic countries should be implemented. The double standards must end. Liberal parties in Europe should actually be working to halt the funding of organizations infected with incitement and anti-Semitism, because the demonization campaign is the enemy of peace. It increases hatred, it encourages incitement, it bolsters the fundamentalist elements among the Palestinians. The Swiss Parliament and the European Parliament have already adopted resolutions in the right direction. It’s time for all of Europe, including Germany, to adopt this direction.