Israel Resource Review 27th June, 2001


How the European Union Meddles in Israeli Politics
by Yoav Yitzchak
Senior Investigative Journalist, Maariv

European governments, in general, are breathing down Israel's neck. In the political-military struggle against the Palestinians, they support the Palestinians.

The Union's Policy

One had to observe the behavior of the television station of the BBC in the report that it prepared and broadcast, in which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was presented as the "Accused" and as the party responsible for the horrendous massacre in Sabra and Shatilla, in order to understand the tendentious way in which the State of Israel is treated by the European governments directly, as well as indirectly by way of various organizations on the Continent.

Our story here relates to deep involvement by European states, apparently even gross intervention, in the internal affairs of the State of Israel, involving relatively large sums of money. The involvement is seemingly carried out in the open, through non-profit Israeli organizations and public institutions. However, things are not as they seem: the actual activities are hidden from the public eye.

The decisions are made in the European Union headquarters in Brussels. The decision makers are not Israelis; therefore, their activities - deep inside Israel - are not sufficiently monitored. Furthermore, the entities receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars of financial support from those decision-makers are reticent to reveal it to the public, for various reasons.

It should be said here, that the European Union carries out, supports and finances various welcome activities in Israel. It supports, among other things, humanitarian projects along with activities designed to bring Jews and Arabs closer. The EU donates tens of millions of dollars to good and worthy causes. Along with that, however, a portion of the support and donations transferred as assistance, is given - at least according to working papers of the EU itself - in order to further political goals. At times, it is accomplished with the active cooperation of the recipient of the aid, happy to receive the funds and to act towards the furthering of the goals of the EU. At other times, it is accomplished through what appears to be tacit agreement. That is, the beneficiary does not object to receiving the funds, even if it appears, on the face of it, that the benefactor has political goals of one sort or another. We will present here some of those goals, based on exclusive information that was brought to my attention about the activities of the EU and on subsequent clarifications which I sought from the relevant parties.

The Attempt to Transfer Russian Votes from Right to Left

On September 29, 1999, the Aid Committee of the European Union held a meeting. On the agenda: support for a new non-profit organization, The World Democracy and Leadership Foundation (WDLF), headed by Member of Knesset (MK) Roman Bronfman. Laid in front of the EU was a proposal to approve a 400,000 Euro grant, a sum equivalent to forty percent of the total allocation for a project called "Impact." According to the protocol, the objective of the organizers, among them MK Bronfman, was to develop leadership and social involvement among immigrants from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

However, the European Union had another objective, even more important to it: to influence the processes in Israel and to cause voting citizens to transfer their support from the right-wing block, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, to the left-wing block, led by Ehud Barak. The meeting protocol records, among other things, the following: "De Oujda (one of the members of the Aid Committee of the European Union - Y.Y.) presented the project, saying that its objective is to bring the Russian immigrants in Israel into the peace camp. He explained that there is no overlap with or duplication of the activities of the Peace Now organization in the activities of this organization, which is targeted at immigrants from the Soviet Union. The "Impact" project is headed by a new immigrant from Russia, MK Roman Bronfman, a member of the Russian centrist party, "Yisrael B'Aliyah", a member of Barak's coalition government. That promises appreciable political weight and a different attitude.

"The activities will include a campaign of public awareness and peace, and educational seminars in the Russian community. The Russian community voted overwhelmingly for Netanyahu in '96, and moved towards Barak in '99. In light of this background, Mr. Duplais (another member of the Committee) added that the European Union's support of education towards peace among such important sectors of the public in Israel would be a good investment."

In an attached document, the contact persons are listed, along with the organization's account number (Bank HaPoalim, Asia Branch, Acct. 294110). Ultimately, the money was transferred only in December 2000 due to internal problems at the WDLF, which found their expression in a delay in the establishment of its governing bodies, including the appointment of a Managing Director.

From the foregoing it can be clearly seen that the European Union wanted to support the trend of voters transferring their support from Netanyahu to Barak. The decision was made at a sensitive time: at that moment, Barak had been in the Prime Minister's chair for about two months (the government was sworn in in September 1999). The European states were pleased: Netanyahu had been thrown out of power. "Yisrael B'Aliyah" was part of Barak's peace coalition and was considered a most important part thereof. It was led by Minister Natan Sharansky.

Roman Bronfman may have left "Yisrael B'Aliyah" a few months prior (in June 1999), but he was still identified with the movement led by Sharansky - to empower the new immigrants and to integrate them into a decisive political force in Israel.

The treatment of Bronfman by the European Union appears to be a donation to a foundation of which he is the director. This may raise some questions, especially in light of the Party Financing Law, which forbids members of Knesset to receive donations or support in any manner contradicting its provisions. In this case, we are specifically talking about financial support for political ends, at least from the perspective of the donor.

This past Wednesday, I asked Bronfman if the WDLF received 400,000 Euros from the European Union and, if so, when. He replied positively and said that the funds were given in December 2000. He further emphasized that the support that was given was in no way related to political activity and that the funds were not targeted for political purposes. The Foundation is apolitical, he pointed out, and thus far not one shekel of the money has been spent, due to organizational delays in the Foundation.

I further asked if, in light of this, the transferred funds could not be seen as support, a donation in every way, apparently in violation of the Party Financing Law.

Bronfman was startled by the question: It was not a donation, he emphasized repeatedly, and even objected to the very question. It was, he said, assistance to an apolitical, social interest project that anyone could identify with. "The objectives of the Foundation are pure," he said. Bronfman added that, in order to facilitate the receipt of the aid, he was in contact with EU representatives in Brussels, through the offices of the Embassy.

Bronfman asked to point out another important point, "I am responsible for what I wrote, not for what was written in the EU. I was not a part of the Barak coalition. Starting in 1999, I was in opposition to Barak and to Sharon. I left 'Yisrael B'Aliyah' in June 1999. I got out of there, I and Member of Knesset Alexander Tzinker, and we founded the 'Democratic Choice' faction. We are the opposition, not part of the present coalition nor of the previous one."

In June 1999 (on the eve of the establishment of the Barak government), Bronfman announced that he withdrew from "Yisrael B'Aliyah", "after my dispute with Sharansky's approach to the coalition agreements and with his desire to enforce certain arrangements in the faction. And therefore, I left."

In response to questions presented to him in writing, Bronfman replied in a letter that "the financial support was given to the organization for the purpose of furthering community projects and projects encouraging youth leadership among the immigrants, within the framework of the objectives of the organization, which consist primarily of activities among the new immigrants in four main fields: democracy, leadership, peace and communications.

"The organization never justified any request for support from the European Union, or from any other source, with a political need, as stated in your letter. In practice, during the period of the 1999 elections, the organization was inactive and had no financial expenditures whatsoever.

Furthermore, the organization was never involved in any activity with the purpose of support for any political candidate, and never made any expenditures related to such activity."

Four Mothers

During a meeting on September 29, 1999, 250,000 Euros were allocated to the Four Mothers organization. Here, too, the story repeated itself: the inclination of the European Union to nurture groups in Israel that wish to attain political objectives. The contact person in the organization was Ronit Nachmias, known for her extensive activism in favor of the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon.

According to the protocol of the meeting, De Oujda explained the importance and uniqueness of the project. Its objective is to initiate, for the first time, a dialogue between Israeli and Lebanese women, in order to lay the groundwork for a wider relationship, after Israel withdraws from Southern Lebanon. The project, he said, "enjoys the support of Yossi Beilin, the Israeli Justice Minister and a central figure in the peace process."

The activity, it was said, will include a campaign of public education and educational seminars under the leadership of women. It was further said that the European Union would be the sole donor at the moment, but that, once the project takes off, other donors are expected to support it.

Ronit Nachmias confirmed the foregoing. She pointed out that the Four Mothers organization did indeed request aid. The aid was approved, however, ultimately, it was not given after the withdrawal from Lebanon and the dissolution of the organization.

Peace Now

The Peace Now organization is considered an established client of the European Union. The organization runs a series of projects simultaneously and it requested assistance from the European Union for one of them.

And so, on September 29, 1999, the Aid Committee of the EU approved 400,000 Euros for the organization. In the protocol, it is stated that the aid is intended to fund a social justice project, principally educating the public for peace. The activity will focus, according to the protocol, on a social group that traditionally holds anti-peace views, those who voted for the Likud. It will be important to present to that group the benefits of peace.

Jeanette Aviad, responsible for this project in the framework of Peace Now, said to me in response, several weeks ago, that the project was indeed approved by the European Union, but that the money has yet to be received. She pointed out that it was a project designed to help both Israelis and Palestinians and that Peace Now is expecting to receive the funds soon.

Torpedoing Construction in Jerusalem

The European Union is acting determinedly to torpedo construction in Jerusalem. European foreign policy is clear about this matter. Yet, it seems that the EU is acting behind the scenes, encouraging and funding Israeli Jews, so that they will act to prevent construction in those parts of Jerusalem where there is staunch Palestinian opposition.

In this context, the EU Aid Committee approved, on September 29, 1999, financial support of at least half a million Euros: 250,000 for the Committee Against House Demolitions and another 250,000 for the Ir Shalem organization, whose leadership includes Jeanette Aviad (active also in Peace Now).

In the discussion which was held on the matter before the Aid Committee, it was stated that it was necessary to act to raise social awareness about and to foster concrete action against the practice of land expropriation and house demolitions by the Israeli Army on the West Bank.

In the matter of the activities of Ir Shalem, even more emphatic things were said: the director of the center, according to the protocol, Attorney Danny Seidman (who was the man operating the Ir Shalem organization), with the assistance of several experts, is one of the most respected and successful legal activists in the matter of Jerusalem. In May of 1999, he obtained a temporary injunction from the High Court of Justice, which determined that the decision of the Netanyahu government, to evacuate the Orient House in the eastern part of the city, was void, thus preventing a dangerous crisis that could have ended in a physical confrontation between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Further, it was suggested to allocate part of the funds to "legal services": registration and filing requests, preparation of articles, interpretation of proposals and practical solutions to some of the problems that reach the courts, including Har Homa, Ras El-Amud, Silwan, Jewish development of sites in the Moslem quarter of the Old City, and the Orient House.

The foregoing resolutions speak for themselves. They make it clearly apparent that the European Union interferes in the internal affairs of Israel. The question is, who is responsible for oversight of the flow of funds in Israel to the various bodies, and why would a democratic state open its gates to meddling by foreign states, even if they are considered friendly?

This article appeared in Maariv on June 22, 2001

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Rowdy Knesset Debate on EU Aid to the Israeli Left
Aryeh Bender
Knesset Correspondent, Maariv

The Knesset engaged in a rowdy debate yesterday in the wake of the expose by Yoav Yitzhak in Ma'ariv about the EU having given leftist groups in Israel hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding. Yitzhak reported that the EU gave money to a non-profit organization headed by MK Roman Bronfman whose objective was to have new immigrants from the CIS transfer their support from Binyamin Netanyahu to Barak. Funds were also given to Four Mothers, Peace Now, the Committee Against House Demolitions and the Peace Now non-profit organization.

In the course of the Knesset debate MK Benny Elon (National Union) presented EU protocols that indicated that funds transferred to Peace Now were earmarked for printing placards reading "Netanyahu is killing peace," and "Netanyahu has to go."

"That is what the EU is paying money for? I say for a fact that Israeli organizations operate like foreign agents to help realize the objectives of foreign countries that meddle with the State of Israel's internal affairs," Elon said. Elon said he would demand a police investigation.

MK Michael Kleiner (Herut) said: "Regretfully, part of the Left is dealing in ideological espionage. Part of the Left serves foreign interests. For part of the Left, money has no odor."

MK Shaul Yahalom, (NRP) said: "Answers must be obtained from the EU how it dares to do this."

MK Marina Solodkin (Yisrael Ba'aliya) accused the EU of trying to influence the voting patterns of a million new immigrants. [ . . ]

MK Rahamim Maloul (Shas) said: "It turns out that Four Mothers has one very big and rich father in the form of the EU, whose job it was to grease well the wheels of the organization, whose job it was to bring about the IDF's withdrawal from Lebanon." [ . . ]

MK Mossi Raz described the uproar as a "tempest in a drop of water. An Australian millionaire transfers funds to the Jewish settlement in Hebron, for the most nefarious purpose -- and that's okay. But a friendly state is forbidden from contributing to the most noble goals in the State of Israel."

Chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee MK Ophir Pines proposed that the MKs sign a bill banning non-profit organizations from accepting donations from abroad. [ . . ]

The article appeared on June 27, 2001 in Maariv

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EU Defends its Role in Funding the Israeli Left
Gil Hoffman and Nina Gilbert
The Writers are Correspondents for the Jerusalem Post

European Union officials have defended the support they provide to Israeli leftist organizations, including Peace Now, the Four Mothers, and MK Roman Bronfman's Impact project.

MKs on the right have criticized Europe's intervention in Israeli politics following an investigation by Ma'ariv journalist Yoav Yitzhak that revealed that the European Union provides hundreds of thousands of euros a year to Israeli non-profit organizations affiliated with the Left.

"The European Union has always held a policy of supporting non-governmental organizations that work for peace, democracy, and human rights in the civil societies around the Mediterranean," an EU official told The Jerusalem Post. "The Israeli government is fully aware of this funding and has never complained about it. The EU has never provided financial support for political parties," he stressed.

Yitzhak cited an EU document which he said showed that officials decided to support Impact, a project intended to teach leadership to Russian immigrants, because they hoped it could help tilt the Russian immigrant electorate from the right to the left.

Bronfman (Democratic Choice) confirmed that the EU gave Impact 400,000 euros ($320,000) in December 2000, but denied that the organization is political and said its objectives are pure.

According to Yitzhak, as part of its People to People Program, the EU also approved in its September 9, 1999 meeting 400,000 euros for Peace Now and another 250,000 euros for the Four Mothers movement, which lobbied for the IDF to withdraw from Lebanon.

The EU official did not deny the funding for such organizations, but said it also supports groups "that work in religious and rightist environments."

"We don't look at the political complexion of the people who apply to us," the official said. "We look at the project and if it meets our criteria, it is a candidate for our support." However, he said, "We don't support projects under the EU People to People program that do not support the peace process."

Asked to provide an example of a rightist organization the EU supports, the official cited Machon Mifne, an organization that teaches democracy to haredim, run by Tzvia Greenfield, a well-known peace activist in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood.

MK Michael Kleiner (Herut) called upon Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to recall Israel's ambassador to the EU and close its east Jerusalem office to the Palestinian Authority, calling its funding for the left "disgusting."

Communications Minister Reuven Rivlin called upon law enforcement authorities to open an investigation into the funding, while National Religious Party faction chairman Shaul Yahalom submitted a motion to the Knesset agenda for discussion.

"The biased intervention of foreign nations in the democratic processes of Israel is unprecedented and shameful," Yahalom said.

During the Knesset debate on the issue, Benny Elon (National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu) slammed Israeli organizations he said are acting as "agents for the political agenda of foreign countries."

Elon read out Peace Now's program from May 1998 through April 1999 sent to the EU explaining its use of the funds. According to the document Elon presented, the money was spent on advertising for its activities, including distribution of 12,000 posters reading "Bring Back Peace," "Netanyahu is killing Peace," and "Netanyahu must go."

"The EU is paying for this?" Elon asked, and urged MKs to sign a protest letter to the EU calling on it to stop interfering in Israel's internal political affairs.

Mossy Raz (Meretz) said that Peace Now, which he headed for six years, has "never hidden its funding sources, as opposed to groups on the Right." He said he did not understand what was so objectionable about the EU helping support ad campaigns for the group. Moreover, he said the information published by Ma'ariv was also in the media two years ago.

This article appeared in the Jerusalem Post on June 27, 2001

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Text of MK's letter to EU protesting their intefering in internal Israeli Politics

The Knesset

6 Tamuz, 5761
27 June, 2001

To: PM Goeran Persson
President of the European Union

It has been made public in Israel that the European Union has been providing financial support to Israeli groups/institutions/organizations that are all partisan and political in nature. This is a blatant attempt at intervening in the internal affairs of the State of Israel. Attached is a list of these organizations, which was made public in Israel.

The European Union represents democratic states. It's democratic character is an inherent part of it's nature. As such, it should refrain from any attempt to influence the internal democratic process of another democratic state.

We, the undersigned members of the Israeli Knesset, would like to express our shock and outrage at this attempt at achieving political purposes by extending financial support to Israeli citizens and groups.

As the elected representatives of a democratic, free society, we strongly oppose such attempts at influencing our state's domestic politics and the policies of our government, by financial means.

In light of the gravity of these activities, we expect that the European Union will take the following measures:

1. Discontinue the financial support to Israeli non-profit organizations that are politically oriented;

2. Publicly disclose the list of Israeli groups/institutions/organizations which receive financial support from the European Union. The citizens of Israel will thus be informed as to those organizations that are influenced by, or are serving foreign interests, and EU member-states will be apprised of the objectives of the of the expenditure of their money.

Considering that the European Union is a democratic institution, that represents free and democratic nations, we are certain that it will act out of similar respect for the sovereignty and freedom of the State of Israel.

Respectfully yours,

Benyamin Elon, Eliezer Cohen, Zevulun Orlev, Ze`ev Boim, Maxim Levy, Ayoob Kara, Mordechai Mishani, Michael Nudelman, Rahamim Melloul, Ofer Hugi, Nissim Zeev, Itzhak Gagula, Avraham Ravitz, Moshe Gafni, Avigdor Liberman, Nissim Dahan, Yitzhak Cohen, Yuri Shtern, David Tal, Shaul Yahalom, Amnon Cohen, Michael Kleiner, Marina Solodkin, David Magen, Yechiel Lasry, Yair Peretz, David Azoulay
[More names to follow]

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The Significance of the EU Funding of Israeli Political Groups:
European Governments Sponsor Vilification of Zionism and the State of Israel
by David Bedein

The significance of the aid that the European Union extends to Israel's left wing organizations reaches beyond the inappropriateness of interfering in Israeli politics.

Several of the groups that the EU helps have declared war on the essence of Zionism and Israel.

The CFR, the Council on Foreign Relations, uses its EU grant to finance vile essays by Henry Siegman against Israel.

The Committee Against Housing Demolitions uses its EU grant to spread falsified human rights reports against Israel, while its leader, Jeff Halper, often refers to Israel as a "Nazi entity".

Ir Shalem uses its EU grant to conduct litigation against Israeli Jews who have legally purchased homes in predominantly Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, to make them look like fanatics who want to expel the Arabs there.

Peace Now uses its EU grant o conduct public campaigns that demonize the Jewish population of Judea, Samaria and Katif, to create the impression for the media that if it were not for the Jews in these areas, then there would be peace.

The Foundation foe Middle East Peace uses its EU grant to fuel its lobby against Israel on Capital Hiill, while always advertising that it works without the assistance of any government.

The Mifneh Institute uses its EU grant to conduct vile campaigns throughout Israel to portray observant Jews in a pejorative manner.

In other words, the EU grants have been used by those who wish to vilify Israel "from within". Until recently, it was widely assumed that these groups represented a sad commentary on the nature of dissent in the state of Israel.

Now the story can be told: They are the product of foreign governments

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