Jerusalem slams EU session on Knesset NGO bill

Israeli Embassy in Brussels issues statement criticizing European Parliament session devoted to attacking Knesset bill that seeks greater transparency regarding foreign governmental funding of NGOs operating in Israel.

BERLIN – The Israeli Embassy in Brussels issued a statement last week criticizing a European Parliament session devoted to attacking a Knesset bill that seeks greater transparency regarding foreign governmental funding of NGOs operating in Israel.
According to the statement, the government “expresses disappointment over the [European] Parliament’s decision to maintain the issue of Israeli NGOs Bill on the Plenary Agenda, in spite of the major changes that the Draft Law underwent since the Parliament’s original decision....
As a result of these modifications, adopted in the course of the normal law drafting process, the Parliament will be debating tomorrow on a non issue.”
The Belgium-based Israeli diplomats added that “In a week in which direct Peace Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians begin, and with other pressing issues on the scene of the international arena, including in Iran and the Middle East, the decisions taken by the Parliament in regard to its agenda, casts serious questions as to the relevance of this agenda when it comes to Israel and the Middle East Peace Process.”
Gerald Steinberg, the head of Jerusalembased NGO Monitor, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the session “was led by a small group of MEPs who work closely with the NGOs involved in the demonization of Israel.”
German Alexandra Thein, one of the European Parliament members who submitted the motion to debate the Knesset bill represents the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and is a member of the Free Democratic Party (FDP). Thein, who is married to an Israeli- Arab, visited the Gaza Strip last January and met with Hamas legislators along with 49 other MEPs.
At one point her party’s Web site contained a link to the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza group. On her own Web site, Thein has a section called “Focus Palestine,” and posts notices about Israeli acts of “land discrimination.”
Thein was slated to speak in May at a pro-Hamas conference in Berlin, but pulled out of the event at the last minute after the Post reported on the event and queries were made to the FDP headquarters in Berlin.
Steinberg told the Post that MEPs who initiated the discussion “repeated the distorted claims and patronizing attitudes towards Israeli democracy. But it is encouraging that a number of other MEPs spoke out against this bias and highlighted the real problem – the EU’s violation of its own transparency norms in funding radical NGO advocacy under the false banners of ‘partners for peace’ and promoting democracy.”
In related news, Steinberg blasted American billionaire George Soros for donating $100 million to Human Rights Watch (HRW). Steinberg said that “HRW claims to be ‘even-handed’ and to publish ‘credible reports,’ but this is contradicted by highly biased activities in the Middle East, particularly on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“Time and again, HRW reports on Israel are based on false or unverifiable claims, and the analysis strips away the context of the conflict, denying Israelis the right to self-defense. George Soros has supported this travesty,” he said.