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Friday, April 2, 2010

My Essay in The Jerusalem Post, March 18


Promoting Peace, or Raising Tensions?

18/03/2010 00:18

By funding some of the worst NGO promoters of demonization and conflict in the region, the EU is in direct violation of its own principles.The first official visit by Baroness Catherine Ashton, who recently took over as the European Union’s equivalent of a Foreign Minister, is likely to add more anxiety to Israel’s already stressed-out body politic. Following Vice President Biden’s headline-making trip, Ashton is expected to plant the EU’s flag, again, squarely in the middle of the peace process, by attacking Israeli policy.

Ashton’s recent statements reflect the European emphasis on settlements, without gaining any concessions from the Palestinians. Coming a few days after the flap over Israel’s policy on Jerusalem construction that dominated Biden’s visit, this issue will no doubt be another top priority for the EU delegation. Ashton has even suggested trade sanctions against Israel as a means of increasing the pressure.

At the same time, Israel has its own list of issues with Europe. More than the US, Europe generally needs to be reminded of continued Palestinian violence, incitement, the potential for another war with Hamas in Gaza and the threats Israel faces from the wider region, including Iran.

The Israeli agenda should also include the role of European government funding for radical non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The Israeli media has recently focused on the New Israel Fund’s support for 20 of the most politicized groups leading the political warfare. But the EU and its member states grant even greater amounts to almost all these groups, affording them tremendous power and impact.

The EU also funds many radical Palestinian NGOs that are central players in the demonization, delegitimization and double-standards employed against Israel. This strategy was codified by 1,500 NGOs at the 2001 UN Conference against Racism, held in Durban. Their stated goal is “the complete isolation of Israel” internationally – through BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) and lawfare. The European Parliament’s disturbing endorsement of the biased Goldstone Report, which falsely accuses Israel of war crimes in Gaza, is a reflection of this strategy.

ADALAH IS one of the more egregious examples of an EU-funded NGO that goes beyond civil rights claims to promote demonization. This group, which was referenced 36 times in the Goldstone Report, will be the recipient of over € 600,000 between 2009 and 2012, and similar amounts from a number of individual European governments. Among its activities, Adalah published a proposed constitution for Israel that would recognize Palestinian claims to a “right of return” – a euphemism for the attempt to destroy Israel demographically. This document also declares that Israel should cease to be Jewish in character, and that immigration of Jews should be dramatically restricted.

Another disturbing example is Mada Al-Carmel. This NGO, which received NIS 356,356 in 2008 from the EU, helped compose the Haifa Declaration, a document that calls for an end to Israel as a Jewish state, and accuses Israel of “exploiting” the Holocaust.

The declaration makes the absurd claim that “Israel carried out policies of subjugation and oppression in excess of those of the apartheid regime in South Africa.”

Mada al-Carmel was one of the partner organizations behind the “My Land, Space, Body and Sexuality: Palestinians in the Shadow of the Wall” campaign, featuring a poster that suggested sexual contact
between a Palestinian woman and an Israeli soldier, alongside the caption: “Her husband needs a permit to touch her. The occupation penetrates her life everyday!”

This crude political warfare should not receive the assistance of European governments.

THE ISRAELI Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) is now funded via the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), after receiving support from the EU’s Partnerships for Peace Program for many years. ICAHD has issued statements accusing Israel of being an “apartheid” state, and of engaging in “ethnic cleansing” and “bloody and sadistic actions.”

Citing ICAHD, the Goldstone Report made the tendentious claim that the war in Gaza was Israel’s attempt at “getting rid of Gaza in order to consolidate its permanent hold on the West Bank.”

For all of these reasons, the funding raises serious questions concerning the highly secretive decision making process by which the EU awards NGO grants. Indeed, this issue is central to NGO Monitor’s January 2010 lawsuit against the European Commission, based on the violation of its own transparency regulations. In keeping this process secret, the EU is indicating that public revelation of the decision-making details would be embarrassing.

If the EU wants to promote peace in the region, Ashton and other officials urgently need to address these issues. In a recent statement, Europe’s new head of foreign policy asked to play a “more credible” role in the region. This will require implementation of the stated principles of the EU, based on the “support for [NGO] initiatives that promote peace, tolerance and non-violence in the Middle East.”

The long-standing EU funding for some of the worst NGO promoters of demonization and conflict is entirely inconsistent with these principles.

The writer is a researcher at NGO Monitor.

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