[Opinion] Europe's neo-colonialist agenda in Israel
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European colonialism ended after the Second World War. And while African and Asian countries experienced post-colonial challenges, Israel developed quickly into a democracy with a burgeoning economy. But, along with these successes, Israel also became a playground for a neo-colonialist European agenda with its goals being to meddle and manipulate the Israeli democratic processes.
This is evident in Israel’s vibrant non-governmental organisation network, which has grown into an industry funded in large-part by European countries and the European Union. Israeli NGOs use this funding to prepare reports that form the basis of European policy recommendations. Combined with the fact that these reports often contain false and misleading information, this process is highly problematic and counterproductive to achieving a coherent policy for the region. The strong European-NGO relationship has fostered a strategy to exert pressure on Israeli officials. And, with regards to the EU, this has been implemented deceptively and with no regard for Israel’s sovereignty.
From December 2010 to February 2012, six documents from the EU offices in Israel and the Palestinian Authority were leaked to the media – after they failed to pass through the union’s diplomatic channels. These documents, dealing with the highly sensitive issues of Israeli policy in Jerusalem, Area C, the status of Israeli-Arab citizens and violence in the West Bank, repeat false allegations and highly distorted information from politicized EU-funded NGOs. This forms the basis for ill-conceived policy recommendations.
However, manipulating Israeli democracy via NGOs is not a substitute for failed diplomacy through conventional channels. The strategically leaked documents demonstrate Europe’s failure to develop an independent and reliable capability to deal constructively with these complex issues. Instead, the union relies solely on the information provided by the same NGOs that it funds. Not surprisingly, this results in one-sided EU reports.
In the Area C report, the EU claims that “prior to the Israeli occupation in 1967, Palestinian population of the Jordan Valley was estimated at between 200,000 and 320,000 – as of 2009 the population is approximately 56,000”. This information is presented as absolute fact, without a doubt. But, according to the 1961 Jordanian West Bank census, the population of the ‘Jericho district’ was 63,980. The entire population of the West Bank was only 600,000 in 1967. And the Jordan Valley was one of the least populated regions. The goal of presenting absurd population claims is to imply a false allegation of ethnic cleansing.
Similarly, the 2010 report on Jerusalem claimed that: “Only citizens of Israel or those legally entitled to claim Israeli citizenship (i.e. Jewish) can buy property built on state land.” This simply is wrong. Israeli law explicitly allows for every citizen or permanent resident to buy property built on state land, regardless of religion, race, or nationality. Officials are explicitly authorised to certify sales to non-citizen non-residents. Indeed, in the six leaked documents, EU officials apparently made no attempts to verify information or to engage in discussions with Israeli experts or officials. Instead, they relied on a very narrow group of EU-funded political advocacy NGOs – ICAHD, HaMoked, ACRI, Ir Amim, Yesh Din and B’Tselem – an entirely inappropriate model for these multifaceted challenges.
By making policy recommendations on complex issues based on simplistic, incorrect or misleading information provided by political advocacy groups – the EU has violated basic norms, increased tensions between Europe and Israel, and made Israelis weary of outside policy recommendations. In the European model, Israel is where the EU uses money and connections to circumvent Israeli democratically elected officials. Via these NGOs, the EU immorally manipulates the public debate and policy considerations regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. European colonialism in the region ended after the Second World War but in Israel, it remains to this day.