Europe’s Palestinian blind spot - opinion

As long as money is thrown in the wrong direction and bestowed on bad actors, Palestinians cannot possibly create a “civil society” of any sort, let alone a free and democratic one.

 EUROPEAN UNION flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels. (photo credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)
EUROPEAN UNION flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels.
(photo credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)

Nine European countries declared on Tuesday that they would continue backing the Palestinian NGOs designated by Israel last year as terrorist organizations. In a joint statement, the foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden argued that Israel hadn’t provided “substantial information… that would justify reviewing [their] policy” towards the “civil society” groups in question.

Referring to the area in which the said organizations operate as the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories) – rather than the PA (Palestinian Authority) – these EU members said that “should evidence be made available to the contrary, we would act accordingly.”

This was after professing to take “accusations of terrorism or links to terrorist groups… with the utmost seriousness.” All well and good, if one’s definition of the deadly phenomenon is open to interpretation.

“A free and strong civil society is indispensable for promoting democratic values and for the two-state solution,” the countries concluded, to give grounds for their continuing to fund the NGOs on Israel’s list of outlaws. This sentence alone is proof of Western Europe’s willful blindness when it comes to all things Palestinian.

MEMBERS OF the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) aim their weapons at an effigy depicting US President Donald Trump as they ride a truck during a protest in Gaza City. (credit: REUTERS)MEMBERS OF the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) aim their weapons at an effigy depicting US President Donald Trump as they ride a truck during a protest in Gaza City. (credit: REUTERS)

There is nothing “free” about the PA

In the first place, there is nothing “free” about the PA, which is controlled by corrupt and evil leaders. Secondly, no “democratic values” are promoted by the honchos in Gaza and Ramallah. Nor do the rulers of either push for a “two-state solution.”

Quite the opposite. They educate children to hate Jews and Israel; they fill their classrooms and media outlets with propaganda the purpose of which is to encourage the destruction of the Jewish state; and they pay hard cash to those who carry out attacks against the “Zionist entity” and its denizens.

FURTHERMORE, THE blood libels spread by Palestinian officials are not only inspired by Third Reich texts; they could cause Hitler to salute from the grave. Less than two weeks ago, for instance, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh accused Israel of “augmenting the pain of the families bereaved at the loss of their children by withholding the corpses of their children and using them in the laboratories of medical schools in Israeli universities in flagrant violation of human rights, values, principles and scientific ethics.”

According to the Palestinian news outlet WAFA, Shtayyeh made this remark on July 4 at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Ramallah, where he “called on universities around the world to boycott those Israeli universities involved in the withholding and the exploitation of the corpses of Palestinians killed by Israeli army gunfire in order to put pressure on the Israeli occupation authorities to show respect for the dead Palestinians and to immediately release the dozens of withheld corpses so that their families can bid them farewell in a manner that befits them and respect their feelings.”

This Palestinian hoax, one of many, is worthy of note for its inherent irony. Either Shtayyeh doesn’t realize or doesn’t care that one sector in Israel that’s especially sympathetic to him and his fellow liars is academia. Indeed, Israeli campuses are rife with left-wing professors and students – both Jews and Arabs – producing papers and holding demonstrations against the “occupation.”

WHICH BRINGS us to the hell that broke loose on the Left, at home and abroad, when Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz made the announcement in late October that he was listing six Palestinian NGOs – Al-Haq, Addameer, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees – as terrorist organizations. The impetus for the move, he explained, was that all were “active under the cover of civil-society organizations but in practice belong to and constitute an arm of the [PFLP]… the main activity of which is the liberation of Palestine and destruction of Israel.”

Gantz was taken aback by the angry response that this elicited, including among his colleagues in the now-collapsed coalition. After all, the Iran-backed PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) is recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States, the EU, Canada, Australia and Israel.

But he should have known that casting aspersions on Palestinian NGOs would strike a nerve. US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that Israel hadn’t given America “advance warning” about “these designations,” adding, “We believe respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and a strong civil society are critically important to responsible and responsive governance.”

Talk about a platitude that has zero relevance to the current situation in the PA, and certainly none in relation to the Gantz-targeted NGOs, whose only “freedoms” are those they enjoy while operating in and against Israel.

This didn’t stop J Street from referring to the ban as a “repressive measure… designed to outlaw and persecute important Palestinian human-rights groups.”

Ah, yes. Human rights. The murderous, Marxist-Leninist PFLP – which, by the way, never denied a connection to the said NGOs – is known for its upholding of such high values.

“Squad” member Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) also took the opportunity to engage in Israel-bashing. “There must be immediate consequences from the US and the international community for this brazen act,” she tweeted.

The above condemnations from outside of Israel were a drop in the Left’s large bucket. The New Israel Fund, Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow and Human Rights Watch, too, chimed in to denounce the anti-terror measure.

Then came the hysteria from within the Knesset. The Joint (Arab) List went ballistic. Health Minister and (soon-to-be-replaced) Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz demanded proof that the six NGOs were even indirectly linked to terrorism, and bemoaned the way in which the issue “complicate[d] things for Israel internationally… [with] implications [at home] for human rights and democracy.”

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, founder and president of the policy analysis think tank NGO Monitor, defended Gantz’s decision.

“To make sense of the furious reaction to the Israeli government’s designation of six Palestinian NGOs… as prohibited terrorist fronts,” he wrote in the quarterly Fathom Journal in November, “it is necessary to understand the political and ideological context. Behind the ‘non-governmental’ label (or ostensibly independent civil society), the network is an integral part of Palestinian strategy, and for at least 20 years, has received core funding from foreign governments (primarily Western European, including the EU) in return for influence and information. Under cover of civil society, the NGOs cooperate with their European sponsors, promoting soft-power warfare targeting Israel, including the apartheid and war-crimes campaigns.”

Therefore, he explained, “the Israeli designation constitutes a major threat for actors invested in the NGOs and their political campaigns. Despite expressions of surprise and claims by American and European officials that they were not informed in advance, the decision should have been expected, based on earlier actions and existing public information.”

“When European officials say they see ‘no evidence’ of the terror links of their Palestinian NGO clients, they are ignoring numerous open-source verifiable examples. There is no excuse for this blind abuse of taxpayer funds.”

Prof. Gerald Steinberg

STEINBERG SPOKE up again this week, telling The Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov: “When European officials say they see ‘no evidence’ of the terror links of their Palestinian NGO clients, they are ignoring numerous open-source verifiable examples. There is no excuse for this blind abuse of taxpayer funds.”

Brussels, Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin, Dublin, Rome, Amsterdam, Madrid and Stockholm clearly beg to differ. What their governments fail to see is that it’s not merely their own populations who are robbed as a result of the folly.

As long as money is thrown in the wrong direction and bestowed on bad actors, Palestinians cannot possibly create a “civil society” of any sort, let alone a free and democratic one.