The EU’s decision to halt economic cooperation with Israeli institutions beyond the Green Line was highly influenced by lobbying efforts on the part of dozens of local political nongovernmental organizations funded by the EU.
How does an NGO turn into an extension of interested third parties, under the cover of acting to help society at large? For European countries, government funding (sometimes secret) to dozens of Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, is a central method for advancing their interests. Their goal is to change Israeli policy while circumventing democracy and diplomacy.
These same organizations work to undermine Israel’s relations with the rest of the world. They want to force their agenda on the Israeli public. Any issue related to the conflict is oversimplified and used to vilify Israel. Under these absurd circumstances, senior European officials are fed unreliable, inaccurate and distorted information from organizations that they themselves fund (under the pretense that they represent Israeli “civil society”). On the basis of these falsehoods, they criticize Israel and make policy decisions that are disconnected from reality. It is a closed feedback loop that turns Europe’s decision-making process into a failure. It prevents educated discussion and raises the question of whether it is appropriate for political NGOs and European governments to influence the Israeli and Palestinian publics.
This defective policy planning also manifests itself in the EU’s connection to international organizations. If we study the language of the Europeans’ latest directive, we cannot ignore the striking resemblance to the recommendations published by 22 European and international NGOs in a report from October 2012. Most of these organizations are funded by the EU itself. In addition, the EU itself admitted to have adopted some of the recommendations.
An NGO Monitor study titled “EU Documents Repeat False NGO Claims,” demonstrated this phenomenon by analyzing EU-issued reports over the last two years. The reports were written by European representatives to the Palestinian Authority and copied, in the most negligent way, unfounded reports of political organizations without the rebuttal of any official Israeli organization.
The EU’s directive is not economic in nature, as many people seem to think. It is political, and proof can be found in the document of guidelines, which calls for the cessation of cooperation with Israeli institutions on the other side of the Green Line, but does “not apply to activities which, although carried out in the territories … aim at benefiting protected persons under the terms of international humanitarian law who live in these territories and/or at promoting the Middle East peace process in line with EU policy.” For example, these could be activities under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, the Neighborhood Civil Society Facility and/or the Partnership for Peace program. The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights is the body through which the EU transfers money to Israeli NGOs.
The secrecy surrounding the funding of non-governmental organizations and Europe’s role constitutes an injustice for citizens of Europe who foot the bill without results, as well as for Israeli citizens.
The Knesset and the government must ask European senior officials to explain the double standard, the dependence on radical NGOs and their enormous budgets, which are much larger than the EU budget for NGOs in the world’s worst dictatorships. Hearings and discussions in the Knesset committees will give an opportunity for those responsible for funding this activity to provide direct answers and to publicly clarify their intentions.
The European Union must understand that hostile actions bring about inverse reactions, pushing away the chance for dialogue and for a peace process based on trust.