Today in London a new report entitled The Israel lobby and the European Union is being released. Researched and written by Public Interest Investigations and Spinwatch and published by EuroPal Forum, it seeks to explore a number of Israel lobby groups in the European Union, the power they wield and the dubious sources that fund them, while also uncovering the secretive transatlantic networks behind them.
A series of pro-Israel lobby groups have sprung up in Brussels in recent years. Some of the most influential being the European Friends of Israel (EFI), modelled on the UK’s very successful Conservative Friends of Israel, and Friends of Israel Initiative (FII). The report manages to dissect the support base for these groups and others, including detailing their links with far right groups across Europe. It cites a former director of a London think tank relating to anti-Semitism who pointed out that many far-rightists and former neo-fascists seeking political respectability “now support Israel and see Israel-supporting Jews as potential allies in their fight against the “Muslim threat”.
The establishment of similar pro-Israel groups in Brussels is part of efforts over the last decade to create what the report terms “a powerful transatlantic lobby in the heart of the European Union”. This has direct links to the Israel lobby in Washington, as well as American funders. These funders have been shown to routinely support organisations engaged in the occupation of Palestine and policies that directly harm the potential for peace. For example, a notable donor to FII is the Middle East Forum; a think-tank based in Philadelphia which the report says is a “distributor of funding to the transatlantic Islamophobia network”. The group finances the establishment of Israeli settlements through its support for the Central Fund of Israel and Friends of Ir David. The Ir David foundation, baked by right-wing American Jewish millionaires and Israeli government money, appropriates Palestinian land and properties for the settlement enterprise.
The report also examines EU-Israel trade relations, looking at key points in recent history such as Israel’s wars on Gaza and EU reactions to them.While Israel faced a freeze in upgraded trade relations with the EU following the 2008-2009 Gaza war, subsequent opportunities to put pressure on Israel over its treatment of Palestinians have been missed. Instead, trade relations have developed; with the efforts made to apply pressure on Israel often successfully resisted by the Israel lobby.
Perhaps the timeliest chapters in this report are the ones that deal with the issue of criminalising resistance and silencing dissent. The Israel lobby in both the US and the EU has had considerable success in this arena. Lobby groups in the EU have used the closure of respected Muslim charities in the US to strengthen their call for European countries to classify Palestinian and Arab non-violent resistance to Israeli aggression as criminal. The report also deals with the tactic employed by supporters of Israel of accusing its critics of anti-Semitism. This is very relevant to the recent Labour anti-Semitism row which has led to many debates regarding the blurring of the line between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionist or what is referred to as ‘new anti-Semitism’.
The Israel lobby and the European Union is an in-depth study of the Israel lobby groups making headway in the European Union. It highlights their ties with right wing pro-Israel movements in the US, some of which demonstrate Islamophobic tendencies and support Israel’s settlement industry, while successfully mapping out the complex network of individuals and organisations underpinning them. The Israel lobby is incredibly strong and wields a great amount of power in politics today. Reports such as this challenge that power and are all the more important considering the lack of power the Palestinian lobby wields. Despite all this, there is some good news in the report- the push for a strong Israel lobby in the European Union springs from the recognition that Palestine solidarity movements are having an effect on public opinion. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign has seen considerable progress, as has other campaigns that are taking root across Europe.