European Union (EU) foreign minister Federica Mogherini sent a strongly-worded rebuke to Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, slamming his ministry’s “vague and unsubstantiated” claims that Brussels is financing “terrorism” and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
The letter, sent to Erdan on 5 July and obtained by Haaretz, also criticises the Israeli government for seeking to conflate “terrorism with the boycott issue”, efforts Mogherini described as “inopportune and misleading”, and liable to create “unacceptable confusion in the public eye regarding these two distinct phenomena”.
Mogherini was responding to a report published in May by the Strategic Affairs Ministry titled “The millions given by EU institutions to NGOs with ties to terror and boycotts against Israel”.
The report alleged that “in 2016 the EU funded fourteen European and Palestinian NGOs which openly and clearly promote BDS”, adding that “several of the BDS-promoting NGOs that receive direct and indirect EU funding are linked to EU-designated terrorist organizations”.
Strongly refuting what she described as unsubstantiated accusations, Mogherini reaffirmed that while the EU “does not support calls for boycott”, the EU also “stands firm in protecting the freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights”.
Mogherini added: “simply because an organization or individual is related to the BDS movement does not mean that this entity is involved in incitement to commit illegal acts, nor that it renders itself ineligible for EU funding”.
“Freedom of expression is also applicable to information or ideas, ‘that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.’ Any action that has the effect of closing the space in which civil society organizations operate by unduly restricting freedom of association should be avoided”.