European Friends of Israel

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European Friends of Israel (EFI) is an Israel lobby group formed in September 2006 to 'improve the overall relationship between the European Union and Israel.'[1]

The group aims to convince European parliamentarians (either MEPs or MPs) to lobby for Israeli interests primarily in the European Union, but also at the individual European country level. EFI's chief executive has stated: 'We have set ourselves a target to turn Europe into Israel's ally.'[2]

Pro-Palestinian journalist David Cronin has called the EFI 'the closest thing thing side of the Atlantic to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)'.[3] In 2012 it claimed to be 'one of the largest pan European parliamentary groups of its kind' and have 1,000 members of parliament from across Europe as members.[4]

EFI's Brussels office is next to the headquarters of the European Commission.[5] Its website displays the tagline 'Democracy, Peace, Dialogue'.

Activities

Launch

EFI's inaugural reception in Brussels was reportedly attended by 'approximately 200 European parliamentarians'. High ranking EU officials present included Benita Ferrero-Waldner, then European Commissioner for External Relations and Elmar Brok, then chairman of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. Israeli Knesset representatives in attendance included Speaker Dalia Itzik[6] and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was scheduled to attend but cancelled her participation.[7]

First policy conference: targeting UNRWA and Iran

In November 2008 European Friends of Israel sponsored a gathering of pro-Israel European parliamentarians and Israeli members of Knesset in alliance with the Israel Allies Caucus Foundation, the international arm of the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus. Held in Paris,[8] the conference targeted UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, in particular blaming it for allegedly prolonging the conflict by extending refugee status to the children of Palestinian refugees.

Speaking at the event, EFI member Paulo Casaca focused on the alleged 'misuse' of the refugees by 'those who are dealing in the industry of hate' and keeping refugees on 'a hate-machine'. It is unclear whether he counts UNRWA a part of this industry.[9]

Tzipi Livni addressed the guests and urged them to more aggressively pursue Iran, claiming that Iran is not a threat because it challenges Israel's dominance in the region, but because it allegedly threatens the "entire" world:

Any sign of weakness or lack of determination in order to stop Iran, this can lead to kind of a domino effect of states trying to appease Iran in the understanding that Iran is going to be a regional power in the future..Let's understand together that time works against us, that there is a very small window in terms of time and the determination of the international community in stopping Iran or avoiding a nuclear Iran. It's not an Israeli problem, this is a problem of the entire region and the world."[10]

Hosting 'Arabs for Israel'

In 2009 EFI organised a visit to Europe by Nonie Darwish of Arabs for Israel along with Tawfik Hamid, a former militant and author of Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam.[11]

Visits from Israeli politicians

EFI has organised visits for several Israeli politicians to visit major EU institutions, including Colette Avital, who has attended several EFI events, according to journalist David Cronin.[12]

Second policy conference: Israel 'junket'

Between 5-8th February 2011 EFI organised for 400 European politicians, including 120 MEPs (one sixth of the total number), to visit Israel for its second policy conference, in what the group claimed was the first time such a large number of politicians from around the world had come together in the country.[13] A non-mandatory fee of 300 Euros was requested from those wishing to attend the trip and politicians could be accompanied by a spouse or partner for the same fee.[14] Journalist David Cronin - who claims the tour is 'best described as a junket' - suggests this sum would not even have covered El Al return flights from Brussels to Tel Aviv and considers it 'clear that EFI was covering most of the trip's costs from its own funds'.[15]

Israeli President Shimon Peres was the keynote speaker at the gala dinner in Jerusalem on Saturday 5 February. On the Sunday politicians visited various places which showcased 'cutting edge Israeli technology' - including arms company Israeli Aerospace Industry and following this joined the Herzliya Conference for dinner and a plenary session entitled 'Strategic Threats to Israel & Europe'. On Monday they attended Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, then committee meetings at the Knesset and a plenary session on 'The Delegitimisation of Israel' at which both Israeli and European foreign affairs ministers spoke. Knessey Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the closing dinner.[16]

Wining and dining in illegal settlements

Notably, early arrivals could choose from visits on February 4 which included trips to the occupied Golan Heights or to a number of settlements including Ofra, Gush Etzion and Kfar Adumim, as well as the option of dinner in the latter.[17] In 1981 UN resolution 497 declared Israel's annexation of Syria's Golan Heights is 'null and void', while these (and all other) settlements in the West Bank are illegal under the article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.[18]

People

Staff

Staff
Michel Gourary (not ‘Gur Ari’) - Executive Director Dimitri Dombret – Director Meital Goor – ‘Israeli Affairs’ / ‘Political Affairs’ Officer
Alexandra Vardi - Press Officer Yehoshua Ben-Yosef - EFI's representative in Israel Pierre Angeli - Website
Barak Granot - Registration officer Fabian Cohen – Intern

[19] [20][21][22]

Members

According to author David Cronin, ‘EFI has two steering committees: one in the European Parliament, the other comprising members of national parliaments from EU member states’.[23] But membership of these groups is not clear.

In November 2012, EFI’s website lists the following Executive Committee in the European Parliament while a separate page lists the same people plus Bastiaan Belder, a member of the right-wing Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, as comprising the EFI 'Political Board':

EP Executive Committee / Political Board
Marek Siwiec MEP - Chairman (Poland) Frédérique Ries MEP - Vice Chairwoman (Belgium) Alejo Vidal-Quadras MEP (Spain)
Helga Trupel MEP (Germany) Hannu Takkula MEP (Finland) Bastiaan Belder MEP (The Netherlands)

[24][25]

The brochure for its February 2011 policy conference outlines the following organisational structure:

European Bureau
Gunnar Hökmark MEP, Sweden - EFI EP Chairman Claude Goasguen - Member of French Assembly; Chairman of French Friendship with Israel group Jerzy Montag - Member of German Bundestag; Chairman of German Friendship with Israel group
Rt. Hon. James Arbuthnot - Member of British Parliament; Chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel Fiamma Nirenstein - Member of Italian Chamber of Deputies, Vice Chairwoman Foreign Affairs Committee Vladimir Sloutsker - Senator, Council of the Russian Federation
European Parliament Steering Committee
Gunnar Hökmark - MEP, Sweden & EFI EP Chairman Marek Siwiec - MEP, Poland & EFI EP Vice-Chairman Frédérique Ries - MEP, Belgium & EFI EP Vice-Chairwoman
Charles Tannock - MEP, UK & EFI EP Vice-Chairman
European Parliament Committee Members
Antonyia Parvanova - Bulgaria, MEP, ALDE Monika Benova - Slovakia, MEP, S&D Helga Trüpel - Germany, MEP, Green Party
Csaba Sandor - Tabadji, Hungary, MEP, S&D Bastiaan Belder - The Netherlands, MEP, EFD Magdi Allam - Italy, MEP, EPP
Nuno Melo - Portugal, MEP, EPP Antonio Lopez-Isturiz - Spain, MEP, EPP Corinna Cretu - Romania, MEP, S&D
Anna Rosbach - Denmark, MEP, EFD Zuzana Roithova - Czech Republic, MEP, EPP Georgios Papanikolaou - Greece, MEP, EPP
Hannu Takkula - Finland, MEP, ALDE Ivari Padar - Estonia, MEP, S&D Corinne Lepage - France, MEP, ALDE
Charles Goerens - Luxembourg, MEP, ALDE

[26]

In December 2007, EFI’s website listed the following additional Steering Committee members:

Former Steering Committee Members
Monika Benova - MEP, Slovakia Paulo Casaca - MEP, Portugal Patrick Gaubert - MEP, France
Katalin Levai - MEP, Hungary Hartmut Nassauer - MEP, Germany Antonio Tajani - MEP, Italy
Hannu Takkula - MEP, Finland

[27][28]

The following politicians are also reportedly members of EFI:

Other members
Stef Goris VLD-MP - Belgian Board Member Claude Marinower VLD-MP - Belgian Board Member Paul Wille VLD-Senate - Belgian Board Member
Margriet Hermans VLD-Senate - Belgian Board Member Hugo Coveliers Senate - Belgian Board Member Paul Van Buitenen MEP - Dutch Board Member
Ryszard Czarnecki - Polish MEP Nickolay Mladenov - appointed Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2010

[29][30][31]

Honorary Committee 2008

In November 2008, a brochure for EFI’s first policy conference, listed the following people as members of its honorary committee:

Honorary Commitee 2008
Vaclav Havel - Last President of Czechoslovakia, 1989–1992; First President of the Czech Republic, 1993–2003 Aleksander Kwasniewski - President of Poland, 1995–2005 Vaira Vike-Freiberga - President of Latvia, 1999–2007
Philip Dimitrov Dimitrov - Prime Minister of Bulgaria, 1991; Special Envoy of the President of the OSCE for Armenia and Azerbaijan, 2004 Sir John Major - Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, 1990–1997 Wilfried Martens - Nine-time Prime Minister of Belgium, 1979–1992; President of the European People’s Party, 1992–Present
Péter Medgyessy - Prime Minister of Hungary, 2002–2004 Lord David Trimble - First Minister of Northern Ireland 1998-2007, Nobel Peace Laureate ‘98

[32]

Supporters

  • Benita Ferrero-Waldner EU commissioner for external relations and former Austrian Foreign Minister. (attended EFI's Gala event and sang the praises of the organization)
  • Elmar Brok MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee for Foreign Affairs[33]
  • Jana Hybaskova, chairman of EP interparliamentary delegation for relations with Israel[34][35]

Possible role of Mark Cogen

Marc Cogen, a professor of international law at the University of Ghent is described by a number of sources as a ‘co-founder’ or ‘co-founder and director’ of European Friends of Israel.[36][37][38]

Cogen has also spoken at the October 2007 CounterJihad Brussels Conference alongside the likes of Bat Ye'or, Filip Dewinter of the far right Vlaams Belang party in Belgium, and Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch.[39]

He has also spoken at American Freedom Alliance events, including as a panelist at a June 2007 conference called 'The Collapse of Europe, the Rise of Islam and the Consequences for the United States', where Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Douglas Murray, Daniel Pipes and Dennis Prager, among others, also spoke. On the AFA's website Cogen was described as an academic and 'an advisor to the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs' at that time.[40].

Funding

The EFI recorded in the EU transparency register that it operated on a budget of 400,000 Euros in 2010, but estimated that its costs 'directly related to representing interests to EU institutions in that year' were less than 50,000 Euros.[41] The group is not transparent about where the majority of its funding comes from. However, according to the Jerusalem Post, one major donor is Alexander Machkevitch.[42]

David Cronin claims that when he asked for details of how the organisation was funded EFI stated that donors were private European individuals - and he questions whether this was 'economical with the truth' given that Machketevitch is an Israeli citizen.[43] However, in October 2012 EFI's website had no information about the nationality or identity of any of its funders. Executive director Michel Gourary stated in 2011 that most of the group's donors are from Western Europe, including 'businessmen and women from the UK, Greece, Spain, Italy and Germany'.[44]

Contact

Website: www.efi-eu.org
Address: 168 Joseph II, Brussels 1000, BELGIUM
Telephone: +32 2888 8456 or +32 2237 1150
Fax: +32 2235 7271

Resources

Notes

  1. EFI, About Us, accessed 19 October 2012.
  2. Itamar Eichner, First pro-Israel lobby in EU set up, YNet News, 6 September 2011, accessed 19 October 2012
  3. David Cronin, "The Rise of the Israel Lobby in Europe", in Duad Abdullah and Ibrahim Hewitt (eds.), The Battle for Public Opinion in Europe, London, MEMO Publishers, 2012 p.41
  4. EFI, About Us, accessed 19 October 2012.
  5. Jonny Paul, 'European Friends of Israel inauguration attracts 200 parliamentarians, officials', Jerusalem Post, 19 September 2006, accessed 19 October 2012
  6. Jonny Paul, 'European Friends of Israel inauguration attracts 200 parliamentarians, officials', Jerusalem Post, 19 September 2006, accessed 19 October 2012
  7. Itamar Eichner, First pro-Israel lobby in EU set up, YNet News, 6 September 2011, accessed 19 October 2012
  8. Carrie Sheffield, "MKs launch new alliance with European parliaments," Jerusalem Post, 03 August 2009, accessed 18 October 2010.
  9. Etgar Lefkovits, "EU MPs urged to rethink refugee issue," Jerusalem Post, 10 November 2008, accessed 05 December 2010.
  10. Carrie Sheffield, "MKs launch new alliance with European parliaments," Jerusalem Post, 03 August 2009, accessed 18 October 2010.
  11. David Cronin, Europe's Alliance With Israel, Pluto Press, 2011, p.140
  12. David Cronin, Europe's Alliance With Israel, Pluto Press, 2011, p.141
  13. David Cronin, "The Rise of the Israel Lobby in Europe", in Duad Abdullah and Ibrahim Hewitt (eds.), The Battle for Public Opinion in Europe, London, MEMO Publishers, 2012 pp. 41-42
  14. 2nd Policy Conference - Invitation and Draft Programme, European Friends of Israel via www.Blog.PaixJuste.lu, accessed 19 October 2012
  15. David Cronin, "The Rise of the Israel Lobby in Europe", in Duad Abdullah and Ibrahim Hewitt (eds.), The Battle for Public Opinion in Europe, London, MEMO Publishers, 2012 pp.41-42
  16. 2nd Policy Conference - Invitation and Draft Programme, European Friends of Israel via www.Blog.PaixJuste.lu, accessed 19 October 2012
  17. 2nd Policy Conference - Invitation and Draft Programme, European Friends of Israel via www.Blog.PaixJuste.lu, accessed 19 October 2012
  18. Israeli Violations of International Law, Israel Law Resource Center, accessed 19 October 2012
  19. Itamar Eichner, First pro-Israel lobby in EU set up, YNet News, 6 September 2011, accessed 19 October 2012
  20. EFI Policy Conference 2008, European Friends of Israel, accessed 12 November 2012
  21. EFI, Secretariat, 10 October 2007, accessed 05 December 2010.
  22. Contcat Us - Team, European Friends of Israel via Internet Archive, accessed 13 November 2012
  23. David Cronin, Europe's Alliance With Israel, Pluto Press, 2011, p.140
  24. Executive Committee EP, European Friends of Israel, accessed 12 November 2012
  25. EFI Political Board, European Friends of Israel, accessed 13 November 2012
  26. 2nd Policy Conference, p.12, European Friends of Israel via Scribd, accessed 12 November 2012
  27. Steering Committee, Tuesday, 18 December 2007, European Friends of Israel via Internet Archive, accessed 12 November 2012
  28. Gunnar Hökmark, Press Release – European Friends of Israel, 20 June 2007, accessed 16 October 2012.
  29. Flemish Liberals populate pro-Israel lobby group, Altermedia.info, accessed 12 Novemeber 2012
  30. The most protected place in Brussels, Ryszard Czarnecki blog, 14 September 2006, accessed 12 November 2012
  31. EFI Policy Conference 2008 p.10, European Friends of Israel, accessed 12 November 2012
  32. EFI Policy Conference 2008 p.15, European Friends of Israel, accessed 12 November 2012
  33. Conservative Friends of Israel, CFI Parliamentary Chairman, James Arbuthnot MP helps launch European Friends of Israel (Word doc), 15 September 2006.
  34. European Friends of Israel, Press Release, 20 June 2007, accessed 16 March 2008.
  35. Press release indicates that she was a co-signatory of the item.
  36. International Workshop on Israel and the European Union in the Enlarged Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), International and European Research Unit, 12 December 2006, accessed 13 November 2012
  37. Biographies: Panellists and Moderators, American Freedom Alliance, accessed 13 November 2012
  38. Biographies - Speaker Biographies, Counterjihad Europe, accessed 13 November 2012
  39. Biographies - Speaker Biographies, Counterjihad Europe, accessed 13 November 2012
  40. Biographies - Panelists, American Freedom Alliance, accessed 13 November 2012
  41. European Friends of Israel profile, EU Transparency Register, accessed 19 October 2012
  42. Gil Shefler, 450 MPs from 37 European countries come to promote friendship with Israel, Jerusalem Post, 6 February 2011, accessed 19 October 2012
  43. David Cronin, "The Rise of the Israel Lobby in Europe", in Duad Abdullah and Ibrahim Hewitt (eds.), The Battle for Public Opinion in Europe, London, MEMO Publishers, 2012 p.65
  44. Gil Shefler, 450 MPs from 37 European countries come to promote friendship with Israel, Jerusalem Post, 6 February 2011, accessed 19 October 2012