Final countdown to a Palestinian UN statehood bid?

Brussels - After several years of campaigning, the next weeks may prove decisive for the Palestinian bid for non-member statehood at the UN. Behind the innocent-sounding phrase lies a web of deception. An upgrade of the Palestinian Authority at the UN would be a de-facto recognition of the Palestinian claim for statehood. To quote the PA leader Mahmoud Abbas; “After the vote, Israel could no longer claim that it occupies “disputed territories” but it would be clear that it occupies another nation state.”

The two dates mentioned for a vote are November 15th and November 29th. The earlier the vote, the less time there would be for the US (who opposes a unilateral PA statehood bid) to organise a counter campaign. November 29th will mark the anniversary of the UN Partition Plan of 1947 which the Arabs rejected. This date is commemorated every year at the UN as a Palestinian solidarity day, thus manifesting the UN bias against Israel.

It has to be noted that if the Arabs had accepted the UN Partition Plan in 1947, they would already have a Palestinian state. Instead they chose to attack Israel. Furthermore, if the Palestinians had really been interested in a state of their own, they could have gone ahead and created it before 1967, when Jordan lost Judea and Samaria to Israel. These are now the “disputed territories” which the Palestinians consider “occupied” and claim as their own. There has still been no satisfactory answer as to why they did not create a state during the many years that the Arabs controlled the territory.

PA officials expect around 115 votes for their bid. These are mostly from Arab, African, Latin-American and Asian member states; there are currently 22 “no” votes, led by the US, and 56 “abstentions” in the 193 member organisation.

Europe hesitates while PA lobbies hard in key capitals

Brussels – In the last months the Israeli Government has been busy keeping an eye on Iran and its nuclear enrichment program as well as the developments in Syria where Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal could soon end up in the hands of Hizbollah. Meanwhile the Palestinians have actively campaigned to get majority support for their statehood bid in Europe. Last week the PA toured France, Germany, UK, Finland, Sweden and Denmark to try to convince these governments to vote “yes” for Palestinian statehood.

The moral battleground is now in Europe. European Union member states have not found a common position and it seems that the vote will be split between “no”, “yes” and “abstentions”. On Saturday, the EU urged the Palestinians to postpone their statehood bid in order not to interfere with the Israeli elections, which take place in January.

The European Coalition for Israel is planning a last-minute effort to counter the Palestinian diplomatic blitz. An ECI delegation visit to New York is scheduled for the last week of November where we hope to convince several undecided ambassadors to say no to a unilateral declaration. The trip will also coincide with the UN Solidarity Day for Palestine and a possible vote in the General Assembly on the November 29th.

ECI has campaigned for a negotiated solution to the peace process in the Middle East for more than two years, objecting to a unilateral Palestinian statehood bid, which would make the Old City of Jerusalem its capital.

Please would you help us during this last stretch before a UN vote? Whilst the PA campaign is sponsored by oil money and EU subsidies, we will have to rely on your generous support.

Church at the forefront in diplomatic war against Israel

Brussels – Last week a one-sided report using strong words, to criticise Israel for its settlements, was presented in Brussels. Behind the report is a coalition of mostly Christian Aid organisations: among them are Finn Church Aid from Finland, Diakonia and Church of Sweden from Sweden, Norwegian People’s Aid and Norwegian Church Aid from Norway, Dan Church Aid from Denmark, Christian Aid and the Methodist Church in UK and Cordaid from the Netherlands.

The report is calling on the EU to label Israeli products from the disputed territories in order for EU consumers to be able to boycott them more effectively. They demand that the EU bans settler imports and EU financial transactions with settler bodies, as well as discourages EU real estate purchases and tourism to settler territories. The report goes on to name and shame companies, which are active in the disputed territories.

The Israeli Government has slammed the report, saying that it singles out Israel in its demands to label the origin of goods, but fails to mention other countries where goods (or parts of a product) are produced in either occupied or disputed territories. They fear that a boycott of Israeli goods from the disputed territories may lead to boycotts of all Israeli goods, irrespective of whether they are made within the Israeli borders recognized by the international community or in the disputed territories.

The report is part of a wider NGOcampaign to isolate and demonise Israel as an aggressor and violator of international law. This campaign moved into a new phase at the infamous UN Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa in September 2001, when international anti-racist organisations decided to make Israel their next victim and Zionism the key source of racism in the world. Many Jewish anti-racist campaigners who attended the conference, among them the late Tom Lantos (US Congressman and Holocaust survivor), reported that they had not experienced so much vicious anti-Semitism since the Holocaust.

Since Durban, many Christian organisations have adopted this agenda and are today campaigning actively with Islamic organisations and radical left wing groups against Israel. These are the same groups which are behind the Gaza flotilla and the BDS movement and are demanding boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel. (A few weeks ago BDS even protested against Barcelona Football Club for having invited the released Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to one of their games!)

The campaign to demonise Israel seems to gather momentum at the same time as tens of thousands civilians have been killed in Syria and religious minorities, Christians in particular, have been targets across the Middle East. The report fails to mention any of these facts or that Hamas still refuses to recognise the existential right of the Jewish state and are, together with Iran and Hizbollah, determined to wipe Israel off the map.

You can read their whole report here http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/Trading%20Away%20Peace%20October%202012_tcm15-63607.pdf

First diplomatic victory as Finn Church Aid removes anti-Israel campaign from website

Helsinki - Last month we reported on how our Finnish members had made contact with Finn Church Aid in protest of their divestment campaign.

This month, Finn Church Aid has removed the campaign from its website and has replaced it with a call to help fleeing Syrians, in line with ECI’s demands. Although the leadership of Finn Church Aid was very upset by the attention we gave their campaign, they have now partially retracted as the campaign can no longer be found on their website.

This is only a partial victory as the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) is still supported by Finn Church Aid and they are also part of the coalition, which presented the paper in Brussels. Nevertheless, these developments prove that Christian NGOs are sensitive to well-founded criticism from their own constituency.

ECI helped raise awareness of the anti-Israeli campaign by directly alerting our Finnish supporters and later by engaging in media debate in radio and in print. Many phone calls were also made to board members and other church leaders who were completely unaware of the campaign.

Now you can do the same in your country

As a Christian believer in the countries where these organisations are active, you can make your voices heard by contacting them directly and also by alerting others about their activities.

Help counter their arguments by sharing our educational resources with your friends from www.givepeaceachance.info

Each individual should decide for themselves whether they can continue to support Christian Aid organisations which wage a diplomatic war against Israel but fail to help Christians who suffer in the region.

You can make a difference. Remember, the Holocaust started with boycotts of Jewish goods. If we do not act now, one day it will be too late.

Here are some of the facts.

- Judea and Samaria are historically part of Israel and were only renamed “the West-Bank” in 1948 after Jordan had captured and illegally occupied these territories which were promised to Israel in San Remo 1920.

- Judea and Samaria were recaptured by Israel in 1967 in a war of defence and therefore cannot be considered illegal. If this were the case in international law, it would mean that a nation can attack another nation and if they lose territory, claim it back later. This would lead to chaos in the international system.

- The disputed territories are, according to the Oslo accords, to be settled in a final and comprehensive peace agreement by Israel and the Palestinians. Any interference or boycotts in the meantime will only pull the two parties further away from each other. Settlements are not obstacles to peace. The demand to have a “Jew free” Palestine is an obstacle to peace.

- In conclusion: Whereas there are strong legal and historical arguments to defend the right for Jews to settle in Judea and Samaria the territories remain disputed under international law. Given the bigger picture in the Middle East and around the world, ECI is objecting to any campaign, which is singling out Israel as the only violator of international law. This disproportionate criticism of Israel (“double standards”) has been categorized as a new form of anti-Semitism by the EU Agency for Fundamental rights (Formerly EUMC) and should be recognized as such also by the Christian aid organisations.


Help ECI support Israel

Israel needs your help now. As you have read in this monthly report, ECI can make a difference both on a national level as well as at the UN and the EU.

Please help us financially reach out with our message to national governments, the EU and the UN.

Training is key. ECI will step up its efforts to educate and provide training resources for our activists. You can still register for the Training Conference in Brussels – ‘Israel and the Diplomatic War’ - in Brussels on November 16th and 17th by sending an e-mail to info@ec4i.org

We want to be your voice, your arms and your legs at the EU and at the UN, but at the same time train you to be active in your own country. Thank you for your support and partnership.

If you would like to support the work of the European Coalition for Israel, please click the "Donate" button beneath and you will find payment details, both for paying online and for bank transfers.

Editor Tomas Sandell tomas.sandell@pp.inet.fi