Europeans furious at proposed laws addressing Non-Governmental Organization abuses.
In November of 2012, the UN voted 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions, to recognize a state of “Palestine” in the West Bank and Gaza. There was no requirement that such “state” cease terrorism, its violence and hostilities towards its neighbor Israel, even recognize Israel for what it is and what it was always intended to be, a Jewish state.
What shocked me at the time was not the outcome of the vote, but that fact that, except for the Czech Republic, every single member of the EU either voted in favor or abstained.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech preceding the vote, referring to Israeli “aggression” rather than defense in Gaza, and claiming to want peace despite having rejected a far-reaching peace proposal only four years prior, was mendacious from the first sentence to the very last applause line.
How was it, I wondered, that the European nations were unable to see through his charade?
I simply could not understand at the time how so many representatives from the EU member states could be taken in by Abbas’s claims.
Of course, I shouldn’t have been shocked.
The truth about Europe is that while anti-Semitism went underground there for a period of time, it never really disappeared, and it is now resurfacing. The 2012 vote at the UN was just one sign. It is most noticeably visible in the rise in violence against Jews on the streets of European cities, but street violence is not the only manifestation of the resurgence of Europe’s anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is re-asserting itself in the governments of the EU’s individual member states, as well as in the European Parliament itself.
NGO War Goal – Tie the IDF’s Hands
One of the less visible ways that European anti-Semitism is manifesting is in the EU giving direct financial support to Non-Governmental Organizations (“NGO’s”) operating inside of Israel whose sole actual role, despite their protestations to the contrary, seems to be defaming Israel in the international media.
Breaking the Silence (BTS), for example, has been featured prominently in the news this month, for releasing a collection of anonymous, unsworn, uncorroborated “testimonies” in an attempt to malign Israel to the international press over its conduct during Operation Protective Edge.
In 2013-14, according to the group NGO Monitor, BTS received funding directly from the EU itself, as well as directly from the government of Norway, and indirectly, through a group called Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat, from the governments of Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.
As explained here, however, BTS’s unstated but apparent actual goal is not to uncover IDF misconduct; if that were the goal, BTS would provide the details of events so that the IDF could investigate and, if warranted, prosecute misconduct. Instead, BTS aims to shackle the IDF so that its ability to defend Israel is markedly decreased.
As journalist Matti Friedman wrote about the BTS report:
were the Israeli army to adopt what Breaking the Silence appears to recommend—that is, to act with less force and expose soldiers to greater risk—Hamas would have an easier time fighting Israel and more Israelis would die.
It’s not a very far leap to conclude that this is exactly what BTS’s funders in Europe want.
Another example is B’Tselem, a group which claims to document human rights abuses but which recently was found to be employing a Holocaust denier as a researcher. Even after admitting that its staffer Atef Abu Roub made statements denying the Holocaust, and saying that the group “reject[s them] with disgust,” there was no indication that B’Tselem had actually discharged Abu Roub.
From 2012-2014, the EU gave B’Tselem approximately NIS 1.3M in direct grants.
Like BTS, B’Tselem has also received funding from the governments of Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands through the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat. There is no pretense of evenhandedness with these groups, they exist only to issue one-sided condemnations of Israel.
As set forth in an NGO Monitor report and summarized here, B’Tselem and BTS are only two of many groups hostile to Israel that get funding from European governments.
I doubt that there is any country on earth that would tolerate this type of foreign funding for an attack from within, without trying to fight back.
A proposal to combat this assault on Israel’s legitimacy has been discussed for some time, mainly by requiring greater transparency for these groups and refusing them tax-exempt status.
EU – Afraid of the Sunlight
One version of this bill, proposed in May of 2014 by now-Justice Minister, then-Knesset Member Ayelet Shaked, would have defined as a foreign agent “a body that receives funding from a foreign state, following a commitment to advance that state’s interests, or the interests of people who are not Israeli citizens.” It would have required such a group to disclose the governments that provided its funding and any commitments made in exchange for the money, and it would have revoked the group’s tax exempt status.
Transparency, and elimination of the Israeli government subsidy in the form of a tax exemption. Sounds horrible!
So I was somewhat blown away when I read the European reaction to the mere possibility that such a bill, along with others unpopular with the international left, would again be proposed in the new Knesset. According to Reuters:
‘The red lines for us aren’t just about settlements,’ said the ambassador of one EU member state. ‘When you look at some of the legislation being proposed, it is very worrying. It is anti-democratic and looks designed to shut down criticism. It’s the sort of thing you normally see coming out of Russia.’
Actually, although Russia does have an NGO law, it is not the only country that has one. The US has one as well, with requirements about transparency similar to those that are being discussed in Israel.
This is probably because transparency furthers, rather than hinders, the democratic process, by allowing people to understand the sources of the information that they hear and read, thereby facilitating an understanding of the possible motivations and credibility of the speaker.
There is simply nothing anti-democratic about transparency. Nor is there any principal of democracy that requires government subsidies for organizations whose primary function is to defame the state.
While there has not yet been a proposal in the new Knesset, it’s reasonable to presume that any new bill would look a lot like the 2014 bill, requiring transparency, and removing the Israeli government’s subsidizing of such groups through an automatic tax-exempt status. The coalition agreement between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Shaked’s Jewish Home party requires submission of a bill “stipulat[ing] that an NGO seeking a tax exemption for a contribution from a foreign state will require the approval of the defense and foreign ministers and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.”
Yet the mind-boggling response from Europe is to compare such a measure to a government that jails punk rock bands.
Europe pumps money into groups that meddle in Israeli internal affairs and malign Israel in the international press, making it even more difficult for Israel to defend itself from military and diplomatic attacks, and then claims that attempts to shine a light on this process are anti-democratic.
The EU is funding a war against Israel through biased NGOs. Shedding sunlight on who is behind that war is the least Israel can do to defend itself.
[Featured Image – Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, via The Official CTBTO Photostream].
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