Connect with us

Anti-semitism

EU economic warfare against Israel 'can backfire'

SHARE:

Published

on

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you've consented to and to improve our understanding of you. You can unsubscribe at any time.

photo-Israel-tourism-Jerusalem-pics-hh_dp4866168By  Yossi Lempkowicz, Senior Media Advisor at Europe Israel Press Association (EIPA) 

With the US Trade Promotion Authority signed into law, the EU must think twice before imposing discriminatory sanctions and restrictions against Israel, especially in the context of TTIP.  Last week, US President Barack Obama signed into law the sweeping Trade Promotion Authority, which includes an important new federal legislation, the United States-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act, opposing boycotts and other economic warfare against Israel. 

The law will significantly increase the legal and economic risks for the EU and companies worldwide, to pass discriminatory sanctions and restrictions against Israel.  The central provision requires US trade negotiators, when negotiating trade agreements, to seek to “discourage politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from or sanction Israel and to seek the elimination of politically motivated non-tariff barriers on Israeli goods, services, or other commerce imposed on the State of Israel”.

Advertisement

This measure is particularly timely as the law will apply to a major future trade negotiation with the European Union as threats to impose economic restrictions on Israel remain. In the meantime, under mounting Western diplomatic and economic pressure, Israel has been assiduously cultivating ties with Asia, in particular India and China.

The EU should be aware of these developments. While EU-Israel relations are developing in various sectors – the EU being not only Israel’s main trade partner but the two sides sharing common values-, political relations are currently rather tense over Israeli suspicions that the EU is planning to impose ‘’sanctions’’ if peace talks with the Palestinians are not renewed.

The EU has a bad image in Israel as there is always a flavour of ‘’pressure’’ in all conversations with EU officials. Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, Gilad Erdan, who is responsible for the government’s anti-BDS (Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions) campaign, deplored EU’s stance on Israel, saying that only the EU is putting pressure and threatening economic sanctions on Israel.

Advertisement

"Helping organizations to delegitimize Israel won’t promote peace but will take us into the other direction,’’ he said.  ‘’Europe should not put pressure only on one partner as it makes Palestinians believe that they can achieve something without taking the hard decisions, without confronting the terror infrastructure,’’ the minister insisted.

While insisting that peace cannot be achieved only by signing an agreement between governments, Israel has made the case over and over that the EU must educate people on the conditions of such an agreement and to prepare them for making the necessary sacrifices.  He made clear that Israel was ready to make them with the Palestinians, as it did with Egypt. "When you don’t have talks, when Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President) takes only unilateral step, it encourages those who resort to terrorism to stay on the same path,’’ he said, stressing that peace is something everyone in Israel desires but ‘’we won’t accept it if it strengthens terrorist organizations".

A former head of Israel’s General Security Services (Shin Bet), Yaakov Peri, has become the new chairman of the Knesset delegation for relations with the European Parliament. A member of Israel’s parliament for the Yesh Atid centrist party, 71-year-old Peri will meet a delegation of MEPs in November.  He has the arduous task to strengthen the bilateral relations and to bring to the European Parliament an articulated voice.

Anti-semitism

UNWRA chief acknowledges antisemitism and glorification of terrorism in Palestinian textbooks

Published

on

The head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, acknowledged that Palestinian textbooks contain problematic material, while still insisting that the agency takes steps to prevent it from being taught, without showing that how this is actually accomplished, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

He stated, in a hearing before the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee (AFET),  that antisemitism, intolerance glorification of terrorism is present in PA textbooks in UNRWA schools and affirmed that his agency had revised the textbooks used in its schools following allegations of antisemitic content.

But several members of the committee questioned him on continued teaching of hate, violence and antisemitism in Palestinian Authority (PA) textbooks and UNRWA materials, citing a recent report by IMPACT-se,  an organization that analyzes schoolbooks and curricula for compliance with UNESCO-defined standards on peace and tolerance. on the textbooks.

Advertisement

The EU is UNRWA’s largest and most consistent institutional donor.  In June, European Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, whose department covers aid to UNRWA, issued statements calling to consider conditioning aid to the Palestinian education sector on “full adherence to UNESCO standards of peace, tolerance, co-existence, non-violence” and a “need for Palestinian education reform”.

Also in June, a cross-party group of 26 EU Parliament from 16 countries and from the largest political groups sent a letter to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres,  calling for disciplinary action and investigation of UNRWA over hate teaching.

In April, the EU Parliament passed an unprecedented resolution condemning UNRWA, becoming the first legislature to censure UNRWA over teaching hate and incitement to violence using Palestinian Authority textbooks. The adopted text demanded that hateful material be “removed immediately” and insists that EU funding “must be made conditional” on educational material promoting peace and tolerance.

Advertisement

At the AFET meeting, Lazzarini stated that “we largely agree with the conclusion that there are a number of issues needing to be addressed.”

But he was challenged by several parliamentarians. German MEP Dietmar Köster, a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), questioned Lazzarini on the textbooks. “UNRWA admitted that between March and November 2020, its own education directors produced educational material branded with UNRWA logo that incites to violence, calls for jihad and rejects peacemaking as identified in IMPACT-se report.

I have serious concerns regarding the textbooks. In view of UNRWA’s serious shortcomings in recent years, I believe the European Parliament has no other choice but to discuss the question of whether we need stricter oversight over the agency. Please explain,” he said.

Spanish MEP Jose Ramon Bauza Diaz, of the liberal Renew Europe group posed a similar question. There are mentions of terrorism in certain texts and of course various countries in the EU have decided to block their contributions to this agency. For this reason, it would be very serious for the money of European taxpayers to pay for encouragement of terrorism or to foster corruption.”

Slovak MEP Miriam Lexmann, from the European People’s Party, the largest political group in the EU parliament, challenged Lazzarini when she asked: “What concrete steps have been taken? What has been done to collect these materials back from 320,000 students? We know if these books remain with the students, they will create further damage.’’

She mentioned the fact that the U.S. State Department accountability office (GAO) report on UNRWA said that UNRWA teachers ”have refused to take part in training for tolerance and conflict resolution.’’

Dutch MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen, from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, said: “We need to look at the recent IMPACT-se report….it shows that in the new textbooks of UNRWA there is daily mention of violence and rejection of peace and denial of the legitimacy of Israel in terms of presence in the region. I think there is a question of how long we can tolerate this.  What have you done about our concerns expressed in relation to school textbooks?”

Continue Reading

Anti-semitism

Progressive discourse is ‘cancelling’ the fight against antisemitism

Published

on

The explosion of antisemitism across the world during the last two months has been hugely concerning for Jewish communities. The facts speak for themselves. Synagogues, cemeteries and Jewish property have been vandalized, while Jews have been verbally harassed and physically attacked across Europe and in the United States, with many more targeted online. In the UK, a 250% rise in antisemitic incidents was recently recorded. Similar spikes were documented in other European countries and in the United States, writes Brig. Gen. (Res) Sima Vaknin Gill.

The sheer intensity of antisemitic incidents has abated, but nobody should be lulled into a false sense of security. Far from it. In fact. progressive circles are in danger of accepting a pernicious ‘new normal’ in which the battle against Jew-hatred is being ‘cancelled.’ As a result, they are fanning the fire of antisemitism.   

There are many painful questions to be asked. Why did Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza, unlike any other conflict in the world, become a green light to intimidate and attack a minority community? Why are Jews and Jewish communities uniquely ascribed responsibility for actions in a decades-long, geo-political dispute thousands of miles away? Perhaps the most disheartening question of all, is why Jews were left feeling abandoned in their hour of need by the very progressives who preach tolerance and social justice?

Advertisement

Part of the answer can be found in the dangerously simplistic binary world view which has gripped progressive circles. This lens sees only privileged and under privileged (based on race not wealth), oppressors and oppressed. In this context, Jews are unjustifiably viewed as white and privileged, while Israelis are automatically seen as wicked oppressors. Jews and Israel have found themselves on the ‘wrong’ side of the progressive fence, thanks to a manufactured and frankly antisemitic stereotype.

We are now witnessing the very worrying consequences of this deeply flawed group think. The last two months has seen not only an indifference to Jewish fears among progressives, but a hostility towards them. Too often, voicing concerns over antisemitism is treated as an affront, something of a threat to other minority groups.

At the end of May, chancellor of Rutgers University, Christopher J. Molloy, and provost, Francine Conway, issued a brief message expressing sadness and deep concern over “the sharp rise in hostile sentiments and anti-Semitic violence in the United States.” It also referenced the overall racial injustices in the United States, mentioning the murder of George Floyd and attacks on Asian American Pacific Islander citizens, Hindus, Muslims and others. Incredibly, just a day later, Molloy and Conway made an apology, saying “it is clear to us that the message failed to communicate support for our Palestinian community members. We sincerely apologize for the hurt that this message has caused.”

Advertisement

Similarly in June, April Powers, a black Jewish woman and head of diversity and inclusion initiatives in SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) issued a simple and patently uncontroversial statement, saying “Jews have the right to life, safety and freedom from scapegoating and fear. Silence is often mistaken for acceptance and results in the perpetration of more hatred and violence against different types of people.” Lin Oliver, the organization’s executive director soon backtracked, saying “On behalf of SCBWI, I would like to apologize to everyone in the Palestinian community who felt unrepresented, silenced, or marginalized,” while Powers resigned over the ‘controversy’.

In a logic twisted beyond belief, to raise concerns over antisemitism, or to express sympathy for Jews facing intimidation and attack, is deemed offensive. We find ourselves in a progressive world turned on its head. Those concerned with equality and social justice should proudly demonstrate solidarity with any minority under threat. Increasingly, what they are doing is worse than simply ignoring antisemitism. They are censoring, ‘cancelling’ attempts to stand with Jews facing hatred and fearing for their safety.

Those who genuinely do care about the welfare of Jewish communities, who are appalled by the prevalence of antisemitism, are too often silenced or bullied into ‘fixing’ their ways. It amounts to a progressive ‘totalitarianism’ which censors the boundaries of acceptable thought. In a world of black and white, this outlook dictates that Jews and Israel must be placed on the dark side of history.

Unless progressives wake up to the dangers of such self-censorship, they will be facilitating a potent long-tail antisemitism. While paying lip service to the cause of equal rights, they are instead singling out one sole minority undeserving of solidarity and protection. In doing so, progressives are doing the work of the racists for them. They are leaving the door wide open to an antisemitism which they claim to abhor.   

Brig. Gen. (Res) Sima Vaknin Gill is the former Director of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, co-founder of Strategic Impact consultants and a founding member of the Combat Antisemitism Movement.

Continue Reading

Anti-semitism

European Jewish leader to seek meeting with Belgian Interior Minister over plan to remove army protection at Jewish institutions

Published

on

The European Jewish Association deplores that the decision was taken without consultation with Jewish communities and without a suitable alternative being proposed. EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin rails against decision, saying it makes ‘Zero sense’ and adding that in absence of providing alternative security arrangements, it leaves Jews “wide open with a target sign on our backs”. The Belgian planned move takes place as anti-semitism is increasing in Europe, not decreasing, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

The head of the Europen Jewish Association (EJA), a Brussels-based umbrella group representing Jewish communities across Europe, has written to Belgian Interior Minister, Annelies Verlinden, seeking an urgent meeting with her to discuss a government plan to remove army protection from Jewish buildings and institutions on 1 September. Rabbi Menachem Margolin, who has learned "with great alarm" the plan to remove army protection through its partner organization the Forum of Jewish organizations in Antwerp and Belgian MP Michael Freilich, will ask the minister for the move to be reconsidered. He is calling for a urgent meeting "in order to find common ground and to try and mitigate the effects of this proposal".

The European Jewish Association deplores that the decision was taken without consultation with Jewish communities and without a suitable alternative being proposed. In Belgium the security threat is currently medium according to the metrics provided by governments own Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (CUTA). But for Jewish Communities, as well as the American and Israeli embassies, the threat remains “serious and probable”. Army presence at Jewish buildings has been in place since the terrorist attack against the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014 which left four people dead.

Advertisement

In a statement, EJA Chairman Rabbi Margolin said: “The Belgian government has up until now been exemplary in its protection of Jewish Communities. In fact, we at the European Jewish Association have held up the Belgian example as one to be emulated by other member qtates. For this dedication to keeping us safe and secure we have always expressed our utmost gratitude and appreciation."

"Is it also because of this dedication that the decision to remove the army on 1 September makes Zero sense,’’ he added. "Unlike the US and Israeli embassies, Jewish communities do not have access to any State security apparatus," he noted. “It is alarming too that Jewish communities have not even been properly consulted about this move. Nor is the government presently proposing any alternatives. As of now, it leaves Jews wide open and with a target on our backs," deplored Rabbi Margolin. The Belgian planned move takes place as anti-semitism is increasing in Europe, not decreasing.

"Belgium, sadly is not immune to this. The pandemic, the recent Gaza operation and its fallout are worrying Jews enough as it is, without this even added to the equation. Worse, it sends a signal to other European countries to do likewise. I am urging the Belgian government to reconsider this decision or at the very least offer a solution in its stead,” said Rabbi Margolin.

Advertisement

MP Michael Freilich is reportedly proposing a legislation that would see a €3 million fund made available to Jewish communities to increase their security in light of the 1 September plans. It will be urging the government to preserve the same level of security as before. The text of the resolution is to be discussed and voted tomorrow (6 July) in the Parliament’s committee on internal affairs. The Interior Minister’s Office couldn’t be joined for a comment on the plan. Around 35,000 Jews live in Belgium, mainly in Brussels and Antwerp.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending