Continuing with my “good news only” project for Sukkot, here is a very interesting take on Israel’s complicated relations with the European Union.
Support for Israeli settlements, i.e. those communities built in Judea and Samaria, has emerged from the most unlikely of places: Bastiaan Belder is a “Dutch member of the European Conservatives and Reformists group at the European Parliament. He is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as Vice-Chair of the Israel Delegation. He is also an advisory board member of the Europe-Israel Public Affairs.”.
This EU MP, Baastien Belder, insists that Israel has friends in Europe. In his op-ed in Ynet he writes:
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is growing in Europe. This BDS movement may be strong but it’s not powerful. Thankfully, there are true friends of Israel inside Europe and the European institutions. They work hard to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism within the European Union. They did it again when faced with the strong negative draft joint motion for resolution on the EU’s role in the Middle East peace process that was adopted in the European Parliament last week.
In a very short timeframe, they had to reflect and think of strategies to tone down the language proposed by the Socialist and Democrats Party. The proposed resolution contained so much negative language that it was almost impossible to imagine any agreement by all political parties on a joint text.
After four hours of negotiations, in which the European People’s Party (EPP) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), the first and third largest parties at the Parliament, teamed up to delete the most poisonous language from the document. The end result is still not satisfying, but much worse was prevented.
They are the face of the true friends of Israel in Europe. They seek to achieve the best possible outcome with what they’re given – a very bad deal. Nevertheless, they prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We reacted and used our political weight to tone down the text as much as feasibly possible. It was the choice of the lesser evil.
Another success of our persistence was the inclusion of the passage that any rocket fire into Israel by militant groups is unacceptable and that it is imperative for the EU to work in partnership with Israel to prevent the re-arming of terrorist groups in Gaza and the West Bank. Unfortunately, the basic notion of Palestinian terrorism is always downplayed in the corridors of the European institutions. It is the friends of Israel who remind their left-wing colleagues, that the latter is the root cause for instability in the region and the true obstacle to peace.
All in all, the end result is not perfect but worse was prevented. In Europe, the friends of Israel, want to retain strong economic, scientific and security cooperation with Israel. Side by side with the Jewish state, we want to equally benefit from EU-Israeli collaboration and secure and safe and prosperous future for both our regions. We therefore will continue to work hard to secure strong EU-Israel relations and expand our cooperation in this coming new year.
In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Belder asserts that the EU’s labelling of settlement goods is illegal, and that Israel should have the courage to fight this miserable new edict.
The European Union’s moves to label Jewish-made produce from Judea and Samaria is illegal under international trade law, Dutch European Union MP Bastian (Bas) Belder warned Tuesday.
The European Conservatives and Reformists Group MEP – who is Vice-Chair of the Delegation for Relations with Israel and a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs – added that the Israeli government should be taking a tougher stance against the moves to label Israeli produce in a bid to encourage boycotts.
”What the European Union is doing… is totally against the rules of international state law,” he said.
“Instead of going with diplomacy and soft words… to Brussels,” Israel should be making more of this fact and threatening the EU with legal action if it goes ahead with the move.
“International law is not on the side of the EU,” he emphasized, while noting such a move would also undermine the EU’s own stated goal of forging peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Is that the way to normalize Israeli-Palestinian relations? Totally not.”
This is of a piece with what Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said recently. She suggested taking the fight to the boycotters and suing them. It is very gratifying to note that even a European Minister agrees with us. It is also extremely heartening for us Israelis to know that we have such good friends as Bastiaan Belder and his associates.
Let’s just hope that they have the power to influence the reigning anti-Israel mood in the EU. And let’s also hope that our often craven government has the strength of will and the courage of its convictions to go after these bigoted edicts and confront them in the courts of law.
Backing up Belder’s claim (and of course Israel’s claim as well) that the settlements are legal and boycotting and labelling are illegal, here is Ben-Dror Yemini on The lies of BDS and the truth:
… there is a difference between a legitimate argument, relevant criticism of Israeli policy, and a monumental campaign of false claims of apartheid, genocide, crimes against humanity, and proclamations that Israel was born in sin because it is a colonialist entity and as such is involved in the serious crime of ethnic cleansing.
The following short answers do not attempt to defend this government, or any other government of Israel. They are meant only to refute some of the false claims that are uttered time and again against Israel.
The Lie: “Zionism is a colonialist movement. You conquered from the Palestinians land that is not yours.”
The Truth: Zionism is a national liberation movement, like many others that were established in the 19th and 20th centuries. Zionism did not “conquer.” Many Jewish people, who were persecuted, especially in Eastern Europe and the Arab countries, started making their way to Israel. There was no entity called Palestine at that time. It was a piece of land extremely sparsely populated, under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
The Lie: “You drove millions of Palestinians off their land. That is ethnic cleansing.”
The Truth: In the first half of the 20th century, there were waves of population exchanges for the purpose of establishing Nation States. About 60 million people were uprooted from the homeland. In 1947 the U.N. declared the establishment of two States between the River Jordan and the sea – a Jewish State and an Arab State. The Jews accepted the decision. The Arabs rejected it, and declared a war of annihilation.
Many Arabs fled because of the upcoming war, and a few were driven away following the invasion of the Arab state armies into the newly born State. About 711 thousand Arabs became refugees. As a result of that conflict about 850 thousand Jews were forced to leave the Arab countries. Many of them were driven out and their possessions confiscated. Out of tens of millions of refugees in those years, the only ones who remained as refugees are the Palestinians, and that is as a result of a conscious decision of the Arab countries to perpetuate their situation.
The Lie: “Palestinians who live in Israel are second-class citizens.”
The Truth: Israeli Arabs are citizens with equal rights. Arabs serve as Members of Parliament, as judges in courts, including the Supreme Court, as professors and doctors. In the past there were incidents of discrimination, and sometimes there still are. But according to any objective measure, the condition of Israeli Arabs is far better than that of Muslim minorities in Europe.
The Lie: “Israel enforces an apartheid policy in the occupied territories.”
The Truth: Israel has completely withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, and most West Bank Arabs live under the Palestinian Authority which covers most aspects of their lives. The Palestinians on the other side of the Green Line are not Israeli citizens, because they aspire for a Palestinian State, and Israel did not annex the West Bank.
The Lie: “Israel is committing Palestinian genocide.”
The Truth: Eleven to 12,000 Palestinians have been killed between 1967 and 2015. The vast majority were involved in hostile activities. Relative to the size of the population this number is smaller than the average death rate from road accidents. One can call it many things – but not genocide.
It does not even come close to being genocide. This is one of the most blatant lies behind anti-Israeli propaganda. Contrary to terrorist organizations, who intentionally target civilians (both with rockets and with suicide-attacks in densely populated centers); Israel makes every effort not to harm innocent civilians.
The Lie: “Only an academic and consumer boycott of Israel will improve the situation of the Palestinians and bring peace.”
The truth: Objective data proves that the Palestinians’ situation has improved under Israeli rule. For example, in 1967 there was not even one academic institute in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. Since Israeli rule, and under its patronage, scores of institutions of higher-education have been established.
The Lie: The definition of Israel as a “Jewish state” is an expression of racism.
The Truth: The most important principle in the U.N. Charter is the right to self-determination. Jews who want autonomy, as well as Palestinians, have that right. Jews have fought for the right to self-determination because they suffered persecution.
Czechoslovakia was divided into two nation states; Yugoslavia was split into six entities, because each people claimed their right to self-determination. An effort to deny any people this right is a violation of International law, and in itself is an expression of racism. It must be said, that as a Jewish Democratic country, non-Jews have full and equal rights in Israel.
There is so much more at the link. Read it all, share it widely, and let’s refute these terrible lies about Israel which form the basis for the bigoted and biased edicts that emanate from the EU and UN amongst others.