Thursday, 24 January 2013

Anti-Israeli NGO funding - The European Union and its divergent diplomacy

Spot the difference! Source: the Excellent Dry Bones blog.

News came at the end of 2012 that the European Court of Justice threw out a three year lawsuit against the European Union, which had attempted to force the release of details on EU funding to non-governmental organisations. The lawsuit was brought by NGO Monitor, a group critical of EU funding to prejudicial NGOs that seek to defame Israel.

The EU stance on Israel has long been highly critical, and can be deemed prejudicial for good reason. For example, the EU has displayed an oddly disinterested attitude toward reports that their financial aid, derived from the unknowing EU tax payer, is used to fund anti-Israeli incitement in the Palestinian education system, and covertly assist terrorism.

Similarly, the EU has failed to proscribe Hizbullah as a terrorist entity, which allows the group to raise funds and political support in Europe. Their failure is all more bizarre considering Hizbullah’s links with the Assad regime, and the numerous rounds of EU sanctions against Assad.

Obsessive secrecy

This month Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor addressed the bizarre secrecy at the core of EU NGO funding.
On 29 September 1999, a small committee of the European Commission met to allocate €5 million for "Middle East Peace Projects" to what are ostensibly non-governmental organizations (NGOs). No protocol or record was published for the public, in contrast to most meetings involving EU allocations… The only reason that we have this information is due to a leaked protocol from this single meeting. In the thirteen years that have followed, all documents related to EU funding for dozens of Israeli and Palestinian political NGOs have been labeled top secret - reminiscent of the most highly classified military plans and nuclear weapons designs. As a result, even members of the European Parliament are also denied substantive information.
NGO Monitor have been attempting to obtain such information on NGOs from the EU for years. It should have already been in the public domain but has been censored supposedly over security concerns. The information is apparently so secretive that NGO Monitor claim it has prevented those working on behalf of the EU from evaluating the effectiveness of the EU's own spending! Steinberg continues:
While the EU funds a few political advocacy NGOs in other democracies (three in the U.S., a handful in Canada, for example – and not in secret), there is nothing comparable to the scale of its involvement in Israeli civil society... European officials understandably fear public criticism of their role in alienating millions of Israelis who reject the neo-colonialist effort to use groups like Peace Now to manipulate Israeli democracy. €600 million from European taxpayers allows their well-compensated lawyers and public relations firms to flood the courts with frivolous political lawsuits, and to travel around the world campaigning against Israel.
Steinberg asserts that approximately sixty million Euro goes to anti-Israeli NGOs each year. The figure is loosely based on fund disclosures by NGOs themselves. However, the figure may be substantially larger considering the secrecy of the endeavour, and indeed Steinberg goes on to question the judicial process adopted by the European Court of Justice, suggesting perhaps that a level of intervention occurred:
in an extraordinary violation of the ECJ’s rules of judicial procedures, we were prevented from presenting the case. To protect the EU's most important secrets, the ECJ handed down a decision without even hearing oral arguments. It blindly accepted EU assertions that public disclosure of the details of funding decisions would lead to violence, and no attempt was made to examine the record and the implausibility of such scenarios. The identities of the NGO recipients are known – many boast about their European funding; but the EU decision making has been kept secret. The ruling - for a change, a public document - is filled with inconsistencies, and also avoids the core issues regarding due process and the public's right to know.

A divergent economic motivation

The EEC (EU) signed its first free trade area deal with Israel in 1975. However, Europe's one-sided criticism of the Jewish State is just as old. Despite the development of further trade deals between the EU and Israel, European criticism of the Jewish State intensified. In the aftermath of the 1973 OPEC crisis, the EEC took an increasingly vocal role in support of the Palestinian position because its oil security, and financial stability, was subject to blackmail. 

Why would the EU attempt to appease the oil-rich Arab world whilst maintaining close trade relations with Israel? Perhaps because Israel increasingly constitutes something of a technology-based economic super-power, regardless of its tiny geographic area and populace. It has almost half the number of companies listed on the NASDAQ financial index as the totality of all twenty seven nations of which the entire European Union community comprises! Even Russia, Israel's old diplomatic foe, is showing an interest in improving relations. It would seem that strategically the EU seeks the best of both worlds.

Ultimately, Europe’s highly secretive efforts to fund anti-Israeli NGOs, its failure to properly regulate funding to the Palestinian Authority, its continued reluctance to censure Hizbullah, and its prolific criticism of the Jewish State, can justly be seen as a sustained semi-covert propagandistic assault on Israel’s legitimacy.

For further information on the EU’s conduct please see "The EU at war with Israel".

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