As this report describes, in recent years the Israel lobby has increasingly sought to establish a firm presence in Brussels. While groups like the European Friends of Israel, Europe Israel Press Association and European Coalition for Israel may be a natural outgrowth of previously existing lobbies within the European Union, other groups like the Friends of Israel Initiative, AJC Transatlantic Institute, Israel Allies Caucus, European Foundation for Democracy and European Leadership Network have strong connections, both organisationally and through their funders, to the right-wing pro-Israel movement in the United States, which has Islamophobic tendencies and partnerships with extremist Israeli settlers. Furthermore, some of these groups and others like the European Jewish Parliament are linked to shady oligarchs from ex-Soviet countries who are aligning with the extreme European right. The negative implications for a just peace in Israel and Palestine could not be more far reaching.
The lobby appears increasingly nervous that the European Union will finally take some concrete measures against Israel. European Friends of Israel asked candidates standing in the 2014 European Parliament elections to sign a pledge that they would oppose a boycott of Israel. Elinadav Heymann, EFI’s then director, warned that he expects the idea of labelling goods produced in Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank to ‘gain momentum’, arguing that this will be a challenge for EU-Israel relations.
In January 2014, Yair Lapid, then Israel’s finance minister, also warned that if ‘a European boycott begins, even partially, Israel’s economy will go backwards’. A study undertaken for his ministry predicted that Israeli exports to the EU could drop by one-fifth. Gidi Grinstein, head of the Reut Institute, has called the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement ‘a strategic threat’ to Israel, ‘potentially an existential threat’. Because the movement causes Israel to have a ‘legitimacy deficit; it takes away our legitimacy’, he has argued that ‘we need to create a legitimacy surplus in other areas’. Promoting Israel’s achievements in science and innovation would be an important step towards achieving that ‘surplus’, he suggested.
While Israel is undoubtedly successful in those particular sectors, this focus on achievements is a clear attempt to change the conversation away from the government’s continuing crimes against the Palestinian people amid increasing international isolation. And as this report details, many of those who back Israel’s burgeoning Brussels lobby are also complicit in the expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements and the peddling of hate speech against Arabs and Muslims.
Similar to the unequal struggle inside Israel and Palestine, there is anything but balance between the Israel and Palestine lobbies. In contrast to the well-financed pro-Israel groups in this report, the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine had just over €11,000 at its disposal for its Brussels office in 2012.
This funding imbalance suggests that a just peace in Israel and Palestine requires firm action by the EU’s governments against individuals and groups that are working to sustain the ongoing occupation of Palestine : PDF DOWNLOAD