The Council for Freedom Protection was created and budgeted by the EU at 1.5 million NIS, to counter Israeli government legislation such as the Judicial Override law and the law prohibiting documentation of IDF soldiers in Judea and Samaria.
The European Union (EU) has created and is financing a left-wing organization, at the sum of 1.5 million NIS. The organization is called “The Council for Freedom Protection”, and its goal is to “curb the dangerous trends” of the policies of the of the “messianic-nationalist right-wing” Israeli government. The organization’s basic assumption is that the extreme left organizations “must combine forces and move from defense to offense” against “conservative right-wing forces.” In other words, the EU is explicitly intervening in the internal Israeli political arena.
Mark Gallagher, the EU’s deputy ambassador to Israel, described the Council as the “flagship” of EU projects in Israel. The EU’s grant document bears the following title: “The Creation of the Freedom Protection Council: Ensuring democratic space for Civil Society Organizations in Israel.”
The document also states that the overall objective of the Council is to “ensure active engagement of Civil Society Organizations” – a whitewashed term for extreme leftist organizations – by “countering systemic barriers that limit their participation in policy-making processes.”
The amount transferred by the EU to the Council is classified as an “action grant”, meaning that it is not a contribution to another pre-existing organization, such as Breaking the Silence or B’Tselem, but rather meant for the creation of a new leftist body that will protect the existing leftist organizations and will act to increase their influence on Israeli reality, in opposition to the will of most Israeli citizens and financed by residents of the EU. The grant period for the Council is expected to be for the end of 2019.
In accordance with the instructions they received from the EU, Council members meet with Knesset members, Director Generals of government Ministries, legal advisors and spokespersons of the Knesset committees and government ministries with the aim of “maximizing the influence” of the various extreme left-wing organizations “and reach the ears of the decision makers more easily.”
The Council openly declares that they are working to “initiate legislation meant to counter legislation promoted by the government” and to thwart government initiatives that are not to their liking – such as the Judicial Override law, the anti Boycott Law, the National Law, the Comptroller’s Law and more. The organization’s “Strategic Action Plan” states that “the Council will send a letter to the relevant Knesset members, the ministers and the media, explaining its opposition to the legislation.” The Council also appeals to other potential donors to finance “ongoing lobbying work in the Knesset.”
In their response to this article, the Eu and the Council claim that the Council is independent and does not act “in the name of the EU.” Their full responses are presented at the end of this article.
44 million NIS to the Extreme Left
Recently, the Council launched a campaign to thwart the bill proposed by MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beiteinu) to prohibit the disruption of IDF operations in Judea and Samaria. Members of the Council sent a letter to Knesset members asking that they oppose the law and “any legislation that will act to restrict the ability to document IDF activities in the territories.” The email to which the message presented below was attached (and which is in the possession of MiDA), clearly states that “the project is funded by the European Union.”
The Council complained that the new bill would harm the extreme left’s efforts to thwart the IDF’s fight against terrorism. “The camera is a central tool in the hands of human rights organizations and journalists operating in the territories – it enables documentation and dissemination of difficult and routine situations of occupation, of the reality of life in the territories as it is,” the letter sent to the MKs states. “Any attempt to limit the ability of the organizations to document the IDF’s activities can only be interpreted as an attempt by the political establishment to conceal the actions of the military.”
The wording of the bill, passed last week in a preliminary reading but expected to undergo significant changes, mentions the names of Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem and MachsomWatch Women as organizations targeted by the bill. In the past seven years, the European Union has transferred to the coffers of the three organizations a cumulative sum of NIS 7.5 million. According to the NGO Monitor Institute since 2012, the EU has transferred more than NIS 44 million to a variety of left-wing organizations in Israel.
Hanin Zoabi in the Founding Nucleus
The Council for Freedom Protection incorporates over 30 representatives from Israeli left-wing organizations. The Council’s “strategy document” uses blatant anti-Israeli rhetoric, according to which the State of Israel was established “on the ruins of the Palestinian people,” without any mention of the Arabs’ rejection of the UN Partition Plan and the war against the nascent Jewish state.
The Council ignores the Palestinians’ stubborn refusal to compromise and accuses Israel alone for the political stalemate, questioning Israel’s being a democratic state (“its pretension to be a democratic state”), backing the extreme to even criminal conduct of Arab MKs against the state and criticizing the Citizenship Law Which effectively prevents the right of return.
Behind the establishment of the Council are the Van Leer Institute and the I’lam Center. In the years 2016-2015, Van Leer received more than NIS 80,000 from the Fund for a New Israel, and faculty members served and serve in the Fund, including Fund’s former president, Naomi Chazan. The I’lam Center was established in 2000 and one of its founders is Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi, who served as the organization’s director in years 2003-2008.
Prof. Amal Jamal, the current director of I’lam, is a lecturer and a researcher in the Department of Political Science at Tel Aviv University. Jamal, a Druze who defines himself as an Arab, calls Israel’s policy in Judea and Samaria an “apartheid regime,” declares that he does not identify with the symbols of the state and calls for the elimination of Israel’s Zionist character. During Operation Protective Edge, I’lam joined in calling for the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to examine whether Israel committed “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in the Gaza war.
The Mission: to Discredit Right-Wing Organizations
At the founding conference of The Council for Freedom Protection, extremist elements such as MK Joseph Jabarin of the Joint List and representatives of the Coalition of Women for Peace, the leading Israeli organization of the anti-Semitic BDS campaign, were in attendence. The coalition also includes B’Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights and “A New Profile” that assists young people to evade military service.
"לא כיפה ולא ברזל צה"ל לך לעזאזל…" ככה שמאלנים מקללים את החיילים שלנו! קולטים?.. והם תושבי מדינת ישראל !! לאנשים כאלה אפשר לאחל רק דבר אחד… יהי רצון שיפול עליכם טיל ותלכו אתם לעזאזל!!
Posted by מי לה' אלי on Saturday, July 26, 2014
The Council complains of “incitement discourse” by right wing media such as Israel Hayom, Mida and Channel 20, and also does not like “aggressive journalists” from major media outlets that dare criticize left-wing activists. In an attempt to regain control of the media discourse, Council members meet with senior journalists in order to “prevent publications” against extreme leftist organizations, while on the other hand push for investigations against right-wing organizations and their links with extremist elements in the world.
The Van Leer Institute recently issued a working paper for the Council, intending to question the credibility of right-wing media. They did not succeed in refuting facts that were published, so instead turn to insinuation: the very fact that the prime minister shares articles from a particular media site on his Facebook page is, in their view, clear and incriminating evidence that it is a “mobilized” paper or news site with “dubious credibility.”
The position paper, which is intended to provide the basis on which the Council’s action plan will be drawn, lists various initiatives that the left does not like – such as banning supporters of terrorism from being elected to Knesset, the recommendations law, and curbing the excessive power of the Supreme Court – labeling them as “tyranny of the majority”, “limiting freedom of expression” and a “weakening of the democracy.” In concurrence with left-wing talking points , they of course identify “broad and comprehensive processes” in which Israel is liable to deteriorate into a state with characteristics of “undemocratic regimes.”
On the international level, the Council is supposed to hold bi-annual conferences, to which they will be inviting left-wing organizations from around the world, as well as representatives of foreign embassies stationed in Israel.
Crossing a Red Line
The Council, as stated, owes its existence to the European Union, which gave it a launch grant under the definition of “democratic participation and civil society.” The grant was given through the “European Neighborhood Instrument” (ENI), a project established by the EU in 2014 and which enjoys a huge budget of more than NIS 63 billion, which is expected to be utilized by the end of 2020.
The ENI project includes 16 foreign entities from the Middle East and Eastern Europe: Israel, Syria, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, the Palestinian Authority, Libya, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Ukraine.
As can be seen, almost all of the supported entities do not enjoy full democratic rule, and in some cases even a cruel and repressive tyranny is practiced. In their response to the article, the EU explains that on the basis of Israel’s membership in the ENI, there is also cooperation between the government and the EU.
The establishment of “The Council for Freedom Protection” demonstrates that even by the standards of the European Union, which regularly disparages Israeli government institutions and does not hesitate to intervene in Israel’s internal affairs, it is crossing a red line. The Israeli government would do well to put an end to this farce and place the issue of subversive financing at the center of the diplomatic discourse with the European Union and the countries of the continent.
The EU Delegation to Israel responded: “The EU supports a vibrant, diverse and independent civil society which signifies a strong democracy. Non-governmental organizations in Israel often work in partnership with the government, as well as with the Knesset as part of proper democratic conduct. The EU finances independent projects and NGOs, and these do not work for the EU. The claim that EU funded projects operate as lobbying bodies for it is unfounded ”
The Council for Freedom Protection responded: “The Council for Freedom Protection was established by civil society organizations and is funded by the European Union as part of its support of civil society. The Council works to protect the space of liberties and democratic values in Israel, while working to change legislation that violates freedoms and to promote legislation that promotes democratic values. The positions of the Council represent its members and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the European Union.
Due to the concern over the limitation of the democratic space in Israel, the Council seeks to raise awareness of the issue and to allow for different thinking, and does so among other things through meetings with academics and researchers, civil society activists,as well as with elected representatives, while encouraging democratic and pluralistic thinking that is contrary to concepts that infringe on minority rights. We are not lobbying for one party or another, but we want to shed light on the importance of thought, legislation and the democratic spirit in Israel.”
*(Translated from Mida.org.il Hebrew)
Gilad Zwick is a correspondent with Mida Hebrew edition
[Find this article interesting? You can find more in depth articles on Israel and the Middle East @en.mida.org.il]