Maybe the EU did us a favor on Wednesday. At least now we know what we’re up against.
With the publication of its new guidelines to member states encouraging them to label Jewish products produced beyond the 1949 armistice lines, the Europeans finally convinced us that they hate us. They don’t care about peace. They don’t care about the Palestinians. They just want to harm Israel.
This is old news for long time EU watchers. Since late 2000, Europe has inexorably ratcheted up its hostile treatment of the Jewish state to the detriment of chances of peace.
Take for instance the timing of the EU’s first official act of open economic warfare against Israel.
On July 29, 2013 US Secretary of State John Kerry brought the heads of the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams together in Washington to officially launch a new round of peace talks.
The same day, the EU announced that starting at the beginning of 2014, it would be ending all joint projects with and all funding from the EU and its member governments of Israeli entities located or operating in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights. The only exceptions to the funding and cooperation ban were Israeli organizations working to harm Israeli control over the areas, and non-Jewish Israeli entities.
The message was obvious. As far as Europe is concerned, “the peace process,” isn’t a means to achieve peace. It is a means of criminalizing Israel.
This week’s labeling guidelines were no surprise. They were promised two years ago. We have also known for years, that neither the funding ban nor the product labeling are ends to themselves.
In May 2013, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linus Linkevicius told the Jerusalem Post that the labeling policy is merely a preparatory step on the road towards implementing the EU’s ultimate objective: a full economic boycott of Israel.
The next step down that road is already clear to the experts. The Europeans intend to strike Israel’s tourism industry.
In the coming months, every tourist agency in Europe and Israel that includes trips to Jerusalem’s Old City in their literature and itineraries are liable to find themselves subjected to a never-ending stream of litigation, damage claims and fines. All businesses and official bodies that publish and disseminate tourist materials mentioning that the Western Wall is located in Israel will likely be subjected to civil suits for publishing and disseminating misleading and harmful material.
Israel’s Ministry of Tourism will be hard pressed to operate in Europe and Israel’s tourism industry as a whole will be seriously harmed.
A pilot of this initiative was already implemented, to great effect.
In April 2010, Britain’s Advertising Standard Agency ruled that a Tourism Ministry ad picturing the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock was “false advertising,” because it led consumers to believe that the tourist sites are located in Israel.
Then there are the NGOs.
As NGO Monitor President Prof. Gerald Steinberg has been demonstrating for more than a decade, Europe uses NGO’s registered in Israel to advance its aggressive policies against Israel. The EU and its member states use these groups to get Israeli cover for their anti-Israel policies. They pay them to produce films and publish reports slandering Israel and calling for a boycott of its economy and the isolation of its government and citizens. The EU and its members then use these products they ordered and paid for as “proof” of Israeli criminality, which in turn justifies their aggression against the Jewish state.
Take Ir Amim for instance. Ir Amim works to deny the legitimacy of Israeli control over unified Jerusalem. In 2014 it received funding from the EU, and the governments of Holland, Norway and Sweden.
In 2010, the group called on the US government to cut off diplomatic ties with Israel or, at a minimum end its foreign aid to the Jewish state. Ir Amim supported and defended Britain’s decision to prohibit the Tourism Ministry from noting that the Western Wall is in Israel.
What all this boils down to is the plain fact that the EU is waging a political and economic war against Israel that is based on a comprehensive, well-conceived strategy that uses the EU’s strengths to their best advantage.
And how is Israel responding to this war?
The government’s initial response to Europe’s announcement indicates that our leaders have yet to accept that the time has come to counter Europe’s comprehensive, well-conceived strategic assault against us with a comprehensive, well-conceived counter-assault of our own.
So far, Israel’s response has been to try to shame Europe into suspending its assault.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu used this response to great momentary effect Wednesday when he said that Europe should be ashamed of itself for labeling Jewish products. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and opposition MK Yair Lapid were similarly right to call Europe’s action anti-Jewish.
But shaming Europe is a reaction, not a policy. And from the looks of it, Europe has no shame.
Consider the timing of this week’s announcement. The EU chose to announce it is labeling Jewish products the same week that we commemorate Kristallnacht – the 1938 pogrom which marked the official beginning of the Holocaust.
For many Europeans, no doubt the timing was fortuitous rather than ironic.
In Sweden, out of “concern for their members’ safety,” Jewish groups were barred from participating in official Kristallnacht commemorations.
Then there are the Netherlands.
MK Hanin Zoabi, who can’t open her mouth without slandering Israel, was invited to deliver remarks at a Kristallnacht remembrance ceremony in Amsterdam. No doubt the organizers knew what they were going to get when they called her. Zoabi compared Israel to Nazi Germany for them.
For an ever growing number of Europeans, castigating Israel as the new Nazi Germany means absolution for the crime of the Holocaust. By transforming the Jews into Nazis, Europeans can shrug their shoulders at the fact that most of the nations of Europe collaborated with the Germans in their genocide of European Jewry.
So shaming isn’t a strategy, and it isn’t effective.
How about the government’s other response to the labeling decision?
Wednesday the Foreign Ministry announced that in retaliation for the labeling decision, it is temporarily suspending for no more than a couple weeks, its official dialogue with the Europeans about human rights and the Palestinians.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is not exactly a serious Israeli response to a serious assault on Israel.
What would a serious response look like?
First, it must have a serious, substantive goal.
Europe’s goal is to isolate Israel and harm its economy. Israel’s goal must be to prevent its isolation and prevent harm to its economy. To achieve these ends, Israel needs to exact a real price from the EU for the actions it has already undertaken in order to force Brussels to reconsider those actions, or at a minimum, cancel its plans to continue escalating its war against Israel.
For instance, the EU’s labeling guidelines against Jewish products are supposed to be permanent, not temporary. It is reasonable to respond by denying the EU any official say in peace talks with the Palestinians. So Israel’s suspension of its dialogue with the EU about the Palestinians should remain in force until the EU cancels the labeling guidelines.
The EU’s aggression makes clear yet again that Israel must take serious action against the EU-funded anti-Israel NGOs.
Currently, the Knesset is considering a bill that would require EU funded NGOs to publicize their EU funding in a prominent way. While a welcome move, the bill is insufficient. Given the key role Israeli registered NGO’s play in Europe’s war against Israel, the Knesset must revoke their tax exemptions for donations they receive from foreign governments and foreign government-funded NGOs. Israeli taxpayers shouldn’t be required to subsidize the anti-Israel activities these organizations undertake on behalf of foreign governments.
Then there are the official Europeans who openly operate against Israel from Israel and the PA. For instance, the European observers in Hebron.
Following Baruch Goldstein’s 1994 massacre of Muslims at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Israel approved the deployment of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, or TIPH. The government renews TIPH’s mandate every six months.
No Israeli interest is advanced by its continued deployment to the city. Today the TIPH’s sole purpose is to demonize Israel.
Israel should announce that it will not renew TIPH’s mandate at the end of the current six month period. All TIPH personnel must leave Hebron and Israel as soon as its mandate ends.
Then there are the European consulates in Jerusalem. Those consulates, which are not accredited by the government are the epicenter of the EU’s war against Israel. The consuls in Jerusalem have prepared strategy documents to escalate the war. They direct the operations of the EU financed NGOs.
Given their subversive and hostile actions, the time has come to reassess the treatment they receive from the government. For instance, there is no reason for Israel to continue to provide consulate personnel with entry visas or to renew the visas of those already stationed here.
Internationally, as international law experts Profs. Avi Bell and Eugene Kontorovich set out in a report published two months ago, by imposing obstacles to free trade with Israel, the EU stands in material breach of the international trade agreements that form the basis of the World Trade Organization.
Prime Minister Netanyahu should order the Foreign Ministry, the Justice Ministry and the Ministry of the Economy to work together to prepare and submit a formal complaint against the EU at the WTO’s judicial body.
According to EU ambassador Lars Faaborg Andersen, Israel itself initiated the EU’s illegal and aggressive assault against it. In trade negotiations with Israel in 2005, the EU insisted that its free trade agreement with Israel doesn’t apply to areas beyond the 1949 armistice lines. Although Israel rejected the EU’s position, then economy and trade minister Ehud Olmert agreed to provide Europe with Israel’s postal code map in order to enable the EU to differentiate between products made inside and outside the armistice lines.
In response to the malicious use the EU has made of the information, Israel should stop including postal codes of Israeli exporters on export documents.
In the interest of protecting our largest export market, Israel has consistently bent over backwards to appease the EU. While well intentioned, the EU’s decision to label Jewish products shows that our concessions have backfired. They are being used against us.
The time has come to stand up to Europe. If we refuse to do so, if we refuse to launch a comprehensive counter-assault, a day will soon come when labels will lead to their inevitable end point: a full European economic boycott of the Jewish state.