Pro-Israeli lobby groups in US getting foothold in EU

A new report reveals how pro-Israeli groups based in the US are now setting up sister organisations to influence policies in Brussels.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledges applause as he arrives to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in Washington, March 4, 2014.

A new report released by a UK-based campaigning organisation has uncovered organised efforts by far-right pro-Israeli lobby groups in the United States to get a foothold in the European Parliament in Brussels.

The report released on Friday by the EuroPal Forum said that a network of pro-Israeli businessmen and activists linked to "extremist settler" movements in the occupied West Bank have mobilised their resources to impose their agenda in the European media.

Basing its findings on research conducted by the Public Interest Investigations/Spinwatch, which investigates the influence of the public relations industry and corporate and government propaganda on social discourse, the report also stated that the groups were linked to Islamophobic movements in the US.

Far-right Jewish settler Meir Ettinger attends a remand hearing at the Magistrates Court in Nazareth, Israel, in this August 4, 2015 file picture.

"The establishment of similar pro-Israel groups in Brussels is part of efforts over the last decade to create what the report terms ‘a powerful transatlantic lobby in the heart of the European Union’," the EuroPal Forum said on its website.

"This has direct links to the Israel lobby in Washington, as well as American funders. These funders have been shown to routinely support organisations engaged in the occupation of Palestine and policies that directly harm the potential for peace."

According to the report, the Friends of Israel Initiative (FOII), AJC Transatlantic Institute, Israel Allies Caucus, European Foundation for Democracy and European Leadership Network were among the main lobby groups.

These groups have founded and supported smaller groups in Europe, such as the European Friends of Israel, Europe Israel Press Association and European Coalition for Israel, the report said.

While some of these groups are relatively new, the European Coalition for Israel (EC4I), a Christian pro-Israeli lobby group, has been campaigning in Brussels as early as 2003.

European Parliament.

Through these organisations, the pro-Israeli lobby in Europe seeks to counter pro-Palestinian causes, downplay Israeli abuses against Palestinians and influence European policy, the report added.

Pro-Palestinian sentiment has been growing in Europe in recent years. Back in December 2014, a  resolution in the UN Security Council calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state narrowly fell short of approval.

Italy, however, became the latest major European country to vote for a non-binding resolution that encourages the government to recognise Palestine as a state in February last year, a move that underlines European frustration over stalled Middle East peace negotiations.

A similar resolution was adopted by the British government in October 2014, while Sweden formally announced its recognition of Palestine in the same month, prompting Israel to recall its ambassador from Stockholm.

The Portuguese parliament also voted to recognise Palestine but its Foreign Ministry said recognition would be announced only when the time is suitable. A similar move was also seen later in Belgium.

The upper house of parliament in France had also voted to urge the government’s recognition of Palestine, a move which was slammed by Israel.

According to the Palestinian Authority, around 135 countries have recognised the state of Palestine including several that are now EU members.