Jerusalem — At a special hearing in the Knesset today, Professor Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor said an alliance of politicized non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is the driving force behind the European Union’s recent decision to label Israeli-made products. As he noted, for these groups and their allies among European officials, who also provide large-scale funding, this is the “first step” towards a wider boycott designed to “punish” Israel.

The session of the Knesset’s Finance Committee dealt with the November decision by the EU to label products manufactured beyond the Green Line, and the links between this decision and the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign against Israel.

According to Prof. Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar Ilan University and the founder and president of NGO Monitor, for many NGOs, “the European labelling is clearly not the last step – it is the first. These powerful ‘humanitarian’ groups are preparing to target not only Israeli banks with branches over the ‘Green line’, but any bank that provides a mortgage for a home in east Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Golan Heights…. This attack is already in the pipeline.”

A powerful coalition of NGOs has been fighting Israel through legal and economic means for years. Prof. Steinberg told the MKs and experts in the room. He referred to the 2012 Trading Away Peace report, in which 22 NGOs repeat the BDS agenda, calling on the EU and national governments to wage political warfare through various forms of economic sanctions on Israel. As shown in NGO Monitor’s research, this propelled the product labeling effort in the EU.

Steinberg also alluded to a 2015 report by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), a highly politicized group that is also funded primarily by the EU and individual governments. This very visible publication, which was timed to push product labeling through the final hurdle, calls for sanctions against Israeli entities (and selected individuals) that have activities in or apparent financial contacts with Israeli settlements.

Prof. Steinberg concluded, “In response to strategic threats, Israel needs to understand the process behind this form of economic warfare, as well as broad cooperation between the Coalition and the Opposition.”