Summary and Recommendations
This submission has been prepared in response to the European Union’s call for consultation with civil society regarding review of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). It focuses on the EU’s human rights and conflict management policies, as well as the EU’s relations with Israeli civil society organizations and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that focus on the conflict.
Part 1 of this submission details how EU policy regarding Israel is repeatedly frustrated by:
1. Reliance on and support of a narrow segment of Israeli civil society, which advances a specific political agenda:
ENP fails to subject NGO statements to careful scrutiny and independent verification, and does not consult a wider range of civil society organizations, results in a distorted understanding of Israeli society.
2. Disproportionate focus on the Arab minority, to the exclusion of other ethnic and religious groups:
EU policy documents neglect the challenges and complexities of Israel’s broad diversity, and misrepresent the economic, social, and cultural situation in Israeli minority communities.
3. Disproportionate focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict:
NGO submissions and statements reinforce an obsession with the conflict and its supposed implications for the region. These groups also exploit and distort international legal principles, which are then repeated uncritically by European officials, painting a false picture of Israeli obligations and responsibilities.
4. Misguided funding for political advocacy NGOs:
5. Some European-funded NGOs promote anti-normalization, BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions), and delegitimizing campaigns against Israel. These activities, which deny the Jewish right of self-determination, are diametrically opposed to a “two-state” framework. The problems are exacerbated by the lack of a formal conditionality policy for NGOs that are eligible for funding.
Part 2 of this submission examines the growing rate of antisemitism in Europe, and connections between this phenomenon and the Middle East conflict and European policies toward Israel. Significant factors include the EU’s lack of a clear definition of antisemitism and failure to acknowledge antisemitism’s root causes and the lack of discussion about antisemitism in ENP countries.
Part 3 discloses the organizations and projects funded through a variety of European Union frameworks.
1. The ENP must address the fundamental distortion in the EU’s perception of Israel, which is almost exclusively restricted to the lens of Israel’s relations with Palestinians and with the Israeli-Arab minority. Important issues related to democracy and human rights in the complex and unique Israeli context are entirely missing from this agenda.
NGO Monitor analysis shows that the EU privileges dialogue with a specific segment of Israeli civil society: fringe political advocacy NGOs that are hostile to mainstream, consensus approaches in Israel. The unreserved reliance on these NGOs contributes to a misconstrued picture of Israel and a dysfunctional policy-making process. The privileged partnership with these NGOs also prevents a direct and honest political dialogue with the Israeli government, and, consequently, cooperation on common challenges in the field of human rights and development.
The EU needs to broaden the dialogue with Israeli civil society and the Israeli government, and develop a political dialogue where both Europe and Israel address common challenges. The ENP should foster mechanisms that subject NGO statements to careful scrutiny and independent verification, and consult a wider range of civil society organizations, in order to prevent a narrow group of organizations from advancing a political agenda that is detrimental to Israel and the peace process.
2. In order to make an effective contribution to peace, the ENP should (a) deny EU funding for NGOs that advance anti-normalization, BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions), and delegitimizing campaigns against Israel; (b) adopt a radically different approach to the Middle East conflict; and (c) enact the principle of conditionality with regards to its funding of non-governmental actors.
In the realm of funding for NGOs, the EU maintains a contradictory policy: It funds peace, development, and human rights projects and fosters venues of cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis (and Jordanians), but, simultaneously, also funds NGOs that advance anti-normalization and BDS campaigns against Israel. Not only has the EU ignored the phenomenon, but has intensified it by adopting and threatening sanctions against Israel.
Due to extensive European funding, once-fringe NGOs that espoused anti-Israel views have grown and expanded their influence on policy-making and political discourse. Their political agendas are focused on slandering Israel and do not advance any vision of a shared, stable future, prosperity and development of marginalized groups, or long-term cooperation.
The ENP should therefore adopt a strict conditionality policy that excludes from funding NGOs that, through extreme views and hostile language, promote adversarial activities aiming to undermine the legitimacy of Israel’s existence and harming diplomatic relations between the EU and Israel. It is not sufficient to ensure that the specific EU-funded project does not promote these hostile activities; an NGO in receipt of any EU funds must adhere to these standards. Any peace-building policy must corroborate the beneficiaries’ commitment to dialogue.
3. The ENP must improve transparency of decision making and evaluation processes of all funding mechanisms.
Information regarding decision making and evaluation processes of all EU funding mechanisms must be made transparent. The EU has consistently refused to release relevant information related to its funding for NGOs involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Such refusals reinforce concerns about the irresponsible funding of NGOs with agendas that undermine EU foreign policy.
4. Revise EU policy that simultaneously funds and consults with political NGOs, as reflected in ENP Reports
In seeking to attain an accurate picture on human rights, the EU should consult with a wider range of civil society organizations in the ENP process and subject NGO statements to careful scrutiny and independent verification. Given the numerous instances in which NGO statements on Israel have been shown to be inaccurate or misleading, caution must be exercised in repeating NGO claims in the ENP Progress Report.
5. The EU should establish a working definition of antisemitism that includes virulent anti-Zionist propaganda and dehumanization of Israel as a form of modern antisemitism. This definition should build on the Fundamental Rights Agency’s (FRA) previous working definition that was removed from its website in 2013.
6. The EU should include a work plan for combating antisemitism in the ENP goals and programs. Growing antisemitic sentiments in ENP countries, mostly connected to Israeli policies, thwarts any attempt to strengthen political dialogue and societal cooperation. Measuring and reporting on antisemitism and anti-Israel demonization is necessary in order to foster adequate policies and programs that address these issues.
7. Adopt and enforce a rigorous code of conduct for EU-funded NGOs and all NGOs that contribute to the ENP. Groups that are involved in antisemitic or virulently anti-Israel rhetoric and activities should be ineligible to receive EU funding.