European Union flags.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On July 26, the European Union Delegation to Israel posted a promotional video highlighting the importance of EU-Israel relations. The film is narrated by Avishai Ivry, an Israeli journalist identified with the Right. Ivry’s involvement drew criticism from across the political spectrum.
Complaints from the Right included, “How dare you promote those who try to meddle in our society?” – referring to the massive European government funding of political organizations operating in Israel. The Left asked, “How dare you oppose foreign funding and simultaneously work for the EU?” – again highlighting European funding of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but this time condemning Ivry’s “hypocrisy” in disagreeing with the funding while also being paid to promote the EU.
The criticism, from both Left and Right, acutely reflects Israeli public discourse regarding the EU’s involvement in domestic affairs.
Beyond the partisan debate in Israel, the fringe anti-peace (and at times antisemetic) website Electronic Intifada discovered a number of Ivry’s past tweets against Palestinians.
Electronic Intifada demanded the EU remove the video, and indeed within 24 hours the film was removed. The EU’s stated reason – “We want no doubts that anything we do promotes the values the EU stands for.”
It thus appears that the EU is legitimately concerned when its public funds are distributed to individuals that contradict its values (or its image), so much so that it immediately acted on the demand made by the people who run a hate-filled website.
One might therefore imagine that if the EU was told that it was funding NGOs that contradict its values – such as groups that promote antisemitism – that they would immediately investigate and cease the funding.
To be sure, this phenomenon occurs. But the EU’s response has been quite different.
On August 4, Israel’s Channel 2 News exposed Palestinian Ma’an TV Network’s post of a music video and article titled “Song in Hebrew in Defense of Al Aqsa Mosque.” The video shows footage of terrorist attacks committed against Israelis, accompanied by a Hebrew song with the lyrics “I will clean my country of every Jew / I will strive for it with all my being.” The article also reports that the video “promises to clean Palestine of Jews, and protests against Israeli security measures.”
NGO Monitor research shows that Ma’an is currently the recipient of a €427,200 three-year grant (2016-2019) from the EU’s Peacebuilding Initiative for a project entitled “Media for Change: Leveraging Media Initiatives to Promote Participatory Engagement in the Peace Process.” This funding is provided regardless of the actions of members of the European Parliament, who on three occasions alerted the European Commission to Ma’an’s glorification of terrorism and Holocaust denial.
In addition to Ma’an, NGO Monitor research also notes that numerous EU-funded NGOs have alleged ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization, and dozens of EU-funded NGOs promote boycott campaigns against Israel – two blatant examples of EU-funded organizations acting in opposition to official EU policy.
And unlike their response to Electronic Intifada, when alerted to this misuse of its funds in most cases the EU avoids the immorality and simply replies that they fund “projects” and not “global funding to NGOs.” As if money is not fungible, and as if EU funding is not taken as a stamp of approval.
Electronic Intifada’s complaint, campaign and the EU delegation’s response, based on a tweet made by the narrator of an EU promotional film, will probably lead to an investigation in Brussels, while EU money distributed to anti-peace NGOs will continue to be ignored.
Unless the EU addresses its clear double standards, no video will be able to honestly speak to Israeli society, regardless of the narrator.
If the EU is serious about only promoting “the values the EU stands for,” then the millions of taxpayer euros flowing to anti-Israel and antisemitic campaigns must finally come to an end.
The author is a senior researcher at NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute.
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