Billionaire Republicans and professional Islamophobes : The pro-Israel lobby in Brussels

A report released this month reveals the deep ties between pro-Israel organisations operating in Brussels and US-based right-wing donors, Republican supporters of Islamophobic causes and proponents of Israel’s settlement project. The report’s authors argue we need much greater transparency in political lobbying at the EU.

Since Palestinian civil society announced the call in 2005 for an international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, similar to the one that helped end apartheid in South Africa, an array of pro-Israel organisations have been established in Brussels to influence European policy on Israel-Palestine. Most of the discussion of the ‘Israel lobby’ centres on its activities in Washington. But are there similar groups active in Brussels? For more than two years we have been researching that question. It turns out that there is indeed a burgeoning Israel lobby in Brussels …

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Conclusion : 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 :

Europal

Le rapport en  DOC. PDF

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Contents of the Report

Chapter One: Europe’s new ‘Friends of Israel’

European Friends of Israel
Friends of Israel Initiative
Right-wing politics
Funding

Chapter Two: Entrenching the lobby in Brussels

AJC Transatlantic Institute
Israel Allies Foundation
Europe Israel Press Association
European Foundation for Democracy
European Coalition for Israel
European Leadership Network
Jewish News One and the European Jewish Parliament
European Strategic Intelligence and Security Centre

Chapter Three: EU-Israeli trade relations

Growing EU-Israeli trade in weapons
The lobby’s role in warming relations
EU announces new guidelines
The lobby redoubles its efforts

Chapter Four: Criminalising resistance

The campaign against Hamas
The campaign against Hizbollah
Waging war against Iran

Chapter Five: Silencing dissent

The ‘New anti-Semitism’
Censoring criticism of Israel
Blaming ‘radical Muslim elements’

Conclusion

List of figures

Figure 1: Map of known donors to the Israeli lobby in Brussels
Figure 2: Timeline of the Israel lobby in Brussels
Figure 3: Selected grantees of all known funders of the Friends of Israel Initiative and American Jewish committee (2009-2013 excluding donor advised funds)
Figure 4: Selected grantees of the Hochberg Family Foundation between 2009-2013
Figure 5: Key American funders of the Israel lobby in Europe and affiliated organisations
Figure 6: All known American funders of the Israel lobby in Europe that are also financing settlements in occupied Palestine (excluding donor-advised funds)

List of tables

Table 1: Known funders of the Friends of Israel Initiative (2010-2013)
Table 2: Known funders of the American Jewish Committee between (2009-2013)
Table 3: Known funders of the Israel Allies Caucus Foundation Inc. in Washington (2009-2013)
Table 4: Known funders of the Friends of the European Foundation for Democracy (2009-2013)
Table 5: Known donors to Friends of ELNET (2009-2013)

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