European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)


Country/TerritoryEuropean Union
Founded2007 by Martti Ahtisaari (Finland), Joschka Fischer (Germany), and Mabel van Oranje (Holland) “with initial funding from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, the Communitas Foundation,” and other private foundations.
In their own words“Inspired by the role American think tanks played in helping the US move from isolationism to global leadership, ECFR’s founders set about creating a pan-European institution that could combine establishment credibility with intellectual insurgency.”



  • Seven branches in Europe with over 50 staff members.
  • ECFR’s Middle East and North Africa program has “sought an invigorated European role in de-escalating crises and driving peace-building solutions in the MENA region during this period of unprecedented turmoil.”
  • In November 2021, following the UK declaring Hamas a terrorist group, ECFR Policy Fellow Hugh Lovatt published an article stating that “A motion to label the entire Hamas movement as ‘terrorists’ is an attempt to score political points at the cost of a peacemaking strategy for Israel-Palestine.” 
  • In December 2020, ECFR released “The end of Oslo: A new European strategy on Israel-Palestine,” claiming that “Israel has created a situation of egregious human rights violations and institutionalised discrimination that amounts to modern-day apartheid.”
  • In April 2020, ECFR supported the decision by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda to investigate alleged war crimes in the “State of Palestine” and called for EU member states to “defend the ICC’s impartial role” as a “full-scale investigation would provide a rare opportunity to address Israel’s 50-year occupation of Palestinian territory, as well as the climate of impunity surrounding the current Israeli leadership’s expansion of settlements and annexation of land.”
  • In December 2019, the Jerusalem Post published an article exposing that ECFR accepts donations from donors who do business in the occupied territories of Western Sahara and Northern Cyprus, while pushing for the EU and European governments to adopt policies that promote silent boycott and divestment of any business activities supposedly related to Israeli “settlements built on occupied territory.” This reflects ECFR’s non-objective standards, which single out Israel while ignoring comparable conflict situations.
  • In a May 2018 article, Hugh Lovatt placed sole blame on Israel for the continuation of the conflict, stating that “the disproportionate use of violence by Israel translates into greater Palestinian support for a return to armed resistance, or at least nurtures more nihilistic violence against Israelis.”
  • On June 2, 2017, ECFR published a report, “Israel’s unlawfully prolonged occupation: consequences under an integrated legal framework,” authored by Valentina Azarova, a consultant with a history of anti-Israel activism, arguing that “third parties have an obligation to put an end to an occupier’s violations through collective and unilateral measures,” and called for the UN Security Council to “act in accordance with its authority under the UN Charter to determine that such acts are ‘crimes against peace’ which therefore constitute an international threat to peace and security” (emphasis added).
  • On November 27, 2017, Lovatt and Azarova presented their reports at a European Parliament event, “Fifty Years of Occupation and Counting: Is it time for a new EU Policy on the Middle East Peace Process?” The conference featured politicians, academics, and NGO officials advocating Israel’s isolation, and calling on the EU and other countries to increase international pressure and to impose sanctions on Israel.

BDS Activities

  • In October 2022, following reports that would not add a warning notice only to its listings owned by Israelis in the West Bank, ECFR Policy Fellow Hugh Lovatt stated that “By continuing to list properties illegally built in Israeli settlements, these foreign businesses are implicating themselves and foreign tourists in Israel’s internationally unlawful actions and human rights abuses against Palestinians – all of which are subject to a war crimes investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).”
  • In November 2021, ECFR published an article by Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies international advocacy officer Maha Abdallah calling for “Effective differentiation measures and a ban on the sale of such products and services.” The article further called on the EU to enact “Restrictive measures…such as travel bans and freezing the assets of individuals involved in the unlawful appropriation and exploitation of land and resources, including businesspeople and settler leaders.” Abdallah urged the EU to “publicly warn companies and financial institutions about the legal consequences of activities with illegal settlements.”
  • In February 2020, ECFR lobbied in support of the discriminatory UN database of businesses operating across the 1949 Armistice line, aimed at bolstering BDS campaigns against Israel. According to ECFR, “The report’s unveiling is itself an accomplishment, as it provides an important basis for promoting corporate accountability around the Israeli occupation.”
  • Two ECFR researchers, Mattia Toaldo and Hugh Lovatt, write extensively on what they call the “differentiation” policy. In “EU Differentiation and Israeli settlements” (July 22, 2015) ECFR calls for sanctions against Israeli entities (and certain individuals) that have activities in or apparent financial contacts with Israeli settlements, claiming that this does not constitute BDS. The report lays the responsibility for failure to reach peace solely on Israel, ignoring Palestinian violence, incitement, and rejectionism. According to Toaldo and Lovatt, the EU should extend this policy to the business and sports sectors. They argue that these forms of “differentiation” reflect EU policy, whereas, in reality, the issue was specifically negotiated between Israeli and European senior officials (after the release of the EU’s “Guidelines” in 2013), and the EU clearly stated that it was not considering ECFR’s approach.
  • In December 2019, ECFR launched a “Differentiation Tracker” that includes a “detailed snapshot of European relations with Israel – and the extent to which these comply with UNSCR 2334 and the EU’s policy of differentiation.”
  • On July 26, 2017, ECFR published a report, “Rethinking Oslo: How Europe can promote peace in Israel-Palestine,” authored by Hugh Lovatt and Omar Dajani, calling for “Deepening and broadening differentiation” as well as for “Imposing targeted sanctions upon persons or entities providing support to or benefitting from Israel’s unlawful practices in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories], including its illegal annexation of Palestinian territory” (emphasis added).
  • In June 2016, Hugh Lovatt, along with Martin Konecny from the European Middle East Project(EuMEP), endorsed sanctions against Israel, calling on FIFA “to exclude settlement clubs from the Israeli Football Association,” as part of a broader campaign against Israel initiated by several pro-BDS groups.” Lovatt stated that a ban would send a “very strong message” to Israel that it “cannot use football teams as a political tool to try to impose acceptance of its occupation.”
  • In May 2015, Toaldo and Lovatt published “How to Revive EU Policy on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” claiming that Israelis should be confronted with a future without European support since, according to the authors, progress in the peace process “depends…on Israel.” The report implies that only through sanctions on Israel can the peace process be resolved and presents the Palestinians as passive actors.
  • In November 2015, Hugh Lovatt called for additional measures to punish and impose “real financial consequences for average Israelis who remain ambivalent about Israel’s settlement project.”
  • In September 2015, Hugh Lovatt participated in a session by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People titled, “International Meeting on the Question of Palestine: Israeli Settlements as an Obstacle to Peace – Possible Ways Forward.” The session focused on “the role of the international community, including regional organizations” and the “import of goods produced in Israeli settlements and EU guidelines.”

ECFR-MENA Employees

2017-2020 Funding (partial list; amounts in UK pounds)

Donor 2020201920182017
Austrian MFA
Danish MFA198.174101,310132,88951,146
UK Department for International Development (DFID)265,299185,739
Dutch MFA73,015117,53691,728
European Commission30,00029,085
Finnish MFA25,00026,38414,439
Open Society Foundations863,6981,215,807121,60151,331
German MFA81,73393,258
Norwegian MFA307,641475,589521,618402,212
Portuguese MFA
Belgium MFA50,000
France MFA75,3008,726
Spain MFA27,8196,006
Sweden MFA189,758812,417
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)626,201516,473303,680
European Endowment for Democracy (European Union)
Italian MFA118,619
Japanese MFA189,150106,026
Robert Bosch Stiftung56,00979,889
Stiftung Mercator (Germany)710,753
Compagnia di San Paolo (Italy)252,652295,039
Rockefeller Brothers Fund34,47044,015

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