ECI applauds decision by Nordic Prime Ministers not to follow Sweden

Swedish recognition of Palestinian state violates Oslo Agreement

Stockholm, 28th October, 2014 - ECI applauds the decision of the Prime Ministers of Finland, Norway and Denmark to refrain from recognising a Palestinian state despite the decision of the Swedish Government to do so.  The annual session of the Nordic Council began in Stockholm on Monday, and on Tuesday ECI hosted a breakfast meeting for delegates of the Nordic Council. At the meeting, Founding Director Tomas Sandell urged the Nordic governments to respect international law by not supporting a Palestinian state.

In the meeting, which took place in the Swedish Parliament, the ECI director indicated how Stockholm’s recognition of a Palestinian state could nullify the Oslo Agreement which clearly states that ”all outstanding issues should be decided through negotiations.”
‘Unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state violates both the spirit and the letter of the Oslo Agreement’, Sandell said in a statement in Stockholm on Tuesday. He went on to say that the Swedish Government should stand up for the rule of law and not for lawlessness.
‘Isis and Hamas are two expressions of the same Jihadist ideology which is currently threatening to drive the whole Middle East region into an abyss. One cannot condemn one (Isis) and embrace the other (Hamas). By recognising a Palestinian state which is co-governed by the terrorist group Hamas, which has sworn never to recognise a Jewish state, and uses its own civilians as human shields, Sweden is undermining respect for international law and human rights, while at the same time weakening Israel, the only democratic state in the region.

‘The democratic instinct should be to stand up for the weak and the oppressed. Today Christians and other religious minorities are being slaughtered in Iraq and Syria by Jihadist forces which are similar to Hamas who rule Gaza. Only in one country in the region, Israel, can Christians and other religious minorities live in peace and security.

‘It is not in the interest of the international community, nor in the interest of the Palestinian people, to create another repressive Islamic state in the Middle East, with no respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights. The Swedish Government is contradicting itself by catapulting a Hamas co-ruled Palestinian authority into statehood, while neglecting to support those who are facing a genocide under the same Jihadist movement.’

The breakfast meeting was co-hosted by MP Roland Utbult and MP Mikael Oscarsson from the Swedish Parliament.



This month's report is a mixed bag of good news and bad news. One does not need to look very far to find some bad news concerning the situation regarding Israel in the Middle East or for the Jewish people in Europe. The recent example of the new Swedish Government and its intention to recognise a Palestinian state, without a negotiated peace agreement with the Israeli Government, is obviously bad news. The good news however, is that the idea of recognition of a Palestinian state by a Nordic bloc does not seem to be happening, after Finnish President, Sauli Niinisto, rejected the idea on Tuesday. In this report, you will find more good news from an unexpected corner of Europe - Albania - as well as from the United Nations in New York.

Please help us report more good news from Europe and the UN by supporting our work financially. The battle for the minds and hearts of the people is fierce - but together we can help bring about more good news!

ECI High Level Breakfast in the UN receives support from PM Netanyahu and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

New York - A new chapter of UN history was perhaps written on Tuesday, September 30th, as the first-ever meeting officially to mark Yom Kippur in the UN was held in the UN Headquarters in New York. The ECI-sponsored High Level Breakfast meeting, “The Spirit of Yom Kippur - Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Seasons of Conflict” gathered UN diplomats, UN officials and other VIPs to learn more about conflict resolution and peace-building, inspired by the message of Yom Kippur.

Through presentations and personal testimonies, real-life examples were presented, demonstrating how people groups and political leaders can reconcile in this day and age ? from the German-French reconciliation after WW2, to the unique process of healing and unification which took place in Rwanda after the genocide of 1994.

The powerful message of keynote speaker Ambassador Karel Kovanda (former Deputy Director General of the European Commission External Action Service)(Picture 1) and Rwandan Ambassador, Jeanne d’ Arc Byaje (Picture 2 together with Permanent Representative of Germany to the UN Harald Braun), were combined with personal reflections on the meaning of Yom Kippur from Malcolm Hoenlein (Picture 3) of the Conference on Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations, and Israeli Permanent Representative to the UN, Ron Prosor.

Gregory Lafitte and Tomas Sandell shared the vision behind the breakfast meeting, explaining the need to recognise the many contributions of the Jewish people to the creation of the UN and to world peace.

‘All around the UN we see examples of these Jewish contributions - from the Norman Rockwell mosaic of the Golden Rule (“do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) to the Isaiah Wall and its universal vision for world peace’, Lafitte said.

The new ECI initiative - Forum for Cultural Diplomacy - aims to build on these principles, in order to strengthen the original values and objectives of the UN, and better include Israel in the family of nations.

Whereas other world religions have their holidays recognised at the UN, Jewish holidays have no such recognition. ECI is currently involved, along with the Israeli Government, in asking for UN recognition of Yom Kippur.

The historical significance of the breakfast meeting was illustrated by a personal letter from Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu who thanked ECI for all its efforts to make Yom Kippur a UN holiday.  There was also a letter to ECI from UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, describing the event in the UN Headquarters as ‘very important’.

The recent High Level Breakfast meeting proves that Israel has more friends in the UN than what is generally perceived to be the case, and that these nations can be mobilised if we use the right approach. The Forum for Cultural Diplomacy will continue to raise awareness of Jewish contributions to the international community as we reach out to more UN member states.  At this point, ECI has met with some 70-80 UN missions in New York, in constructive and positive discussions about Israel. There are currently 193 member states in the UN.

(Photos by Arnold Brower)

ECI delegation meets with President of Albania
Receives invitation to celebrate Hanukkah in Tirana

New York - Only one nation had more Jews after the Holocaust than it had before. This nation is Albania, one of the smallest and poorest nations in Europe, but with a heart for the Jewish people.
A delegation from ECI was received by the President of Albania, Bujar Nishani, during his visit to the General Debate of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York in the last week of September.  In the meeting, President Nishani expressed great interest in the work of ECI and the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy and our remit to strengthen relations between Europe and Israel and to protect the Jewish people.

It may come as a surprise that Jews were so well protected in this predominately Muslim country, but Albania continues along this path today. In the UN vote on Palestinian non-member observer state status in November 2012, Albania belonged to a small group of nations who abstained, despite the country being formally part of the Islamic Bloc. The country was later harshly criticised by the Turkish Prime Minister for having failed to support the Palestinian cause.

The President explained his country's close relations with the Jewish state and their growing trade relations as something very positive. The President was one of very few European statesmen to have attended the 90th birthday party of former Israeli President, Shimon Peres, and last year he hosted a Hanukkah party in Tirana in recognition of Jewish culture in the nation. At the end of the meeting, the President kindly extended an invitation to the ECI delegation to attend the next Hanukkah party to be held in Tirana in December. He also re-iterated that the Albanian Government is interested in working with ECI to enhance good relations between Israel and Europe and with the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy at a UN level.

The case for Albania is not unique. A number of countries in the world are currently drawing closer to Israel to learn from its dynamic developments and start-up culture. ECI is proud to support these relationships and facilitate their support on an EU and UN level.

New government in Sweden plans to recognise Palestinian state - but other Nordic countries unlikely to join

Stockholm - The plan of the new Swedish minority government to recognise a Palestinian state has launched a diplomatic avalanche in the Nordic countries, with Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja hoping to join the Swedish campaign and then try to convince the other Nordic governments to follow suit.

The Swedish plan may still hit some major hurdles at home as the opposition parties do not agree with the new position. The Swedish initiative was not a complete surprise. Earlier in the year, future Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, had made a statement in sympathetic support of Israel on his Facebook page, which, as a consequence, was flooded with anti-Semitic messages of the most violent nature. The Prime Minister later had to delete his statement and has apparently been forced to give in to the strong anti-Israeli lobby in the party.

In 2008, the Social Democratic Party made an agreement with the Muslim Council in Sweden, promising to support the Muslim cause in exchange for political support from the Muslim community.  But the anti-Israeli sentiments in the party date back to the 1970s, when Olof Palme expressed his support for Yasser Arafat. In 1983, Palme was the first Western leader to receive Yasser Arafat and present him as a statesman and not as a terrorist leader. The current leadership of the Social Democratic Party has been involved in close relations with the terrorist group Hamas.

The Swedish plan however, violates international law and the criteria for statehood according to the Montevideo Convention.  This states that a prospective state needs to control its own territory and have settled any border disputes before it can receive statehood. “The Palestinian state” meets neither criterion, as the territory is divided between Hamas and Fatah and the Palestinian Authority has yet to settle its border disputes with Israel.

ECI was able to respond to the Swedish declaration on the very same day that it was announced, through a widely-circulated commentary in the newspaper Varlden Idag, explaining why the declaration is against international law. These arguments were later picked up and quoted in speeches and articles in Sweden and other Nordic countries and may have helped galvanise a defence against recognition of a Palestinian state.

By engaging in the public debate with relevant arguments, ECI can help shape the debate in favour of Israel.


European Coalition for Israel 11th Annual Policy Conference in the European Parliament in Brussels,
20th -21st November, 2014.

‘EU-Israeli Relations - 70 years after the Liberation of Auschwitz’

Seats are limited, please pre-register today. More information with details for registration will be sent out in the next days.

Editor Tomas Sandell tomas.sandell@pp.inet.fi
Copyright © European Coalition for Israel


ECI hosted High Level Breakfast meeting in the UN Headquarters in New York in preparation for Yom Kippur

New York, 3rd October, 2014 - On Tuesday, ECI hosted a historic event to honour the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur in the UN Headquarters in New York. The High Level Breakfast Meeting, ”The Spirit of Yom Kippur, Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Seasons of Conflict”, took place in conjunction with the General Debate in the UN General Assembly. In a letter to ECI, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, called the event, ”an important meeting in the UN Headquarters.”

In his keynote speech, former Deputy Director General of External Relations at the European Commission, Ambassador Karel Kovanda, spoke about forgiveness and reconciliation in seasons of conflict.
'Reconciliation is a bottom-up process.  It starts with reflection, regret, remorse and apology, then redemption and perhaps even atonement,' he said. He differentiated between reconciliation between elites (as in the case of France and Germany), between peoples (as between Germans and Jews) and on an individual level (as in the reconciliation process in Rwanda). But he also mentioned nations such as China, where the collective memory of the cultural revolution is still being suppressed. 'In China´s official history it is a blank unexamined page,' he said.

Ambassador Jeanne D’Arc Byaje gave a personal account of the national process of unification and reconciliation which took place in Rwanda after the genocide of 1994. In order to deal with the murder of up to a million people, the Rwandan authorities had to dismiss the traditional judiciary process and instead apply a transitional justice process based on the village custom of Gacaca. The system has managed to deal with 400,000 people accused of having participated in the genocide. Some were released, some were sentenced to community work, some paid fines and others received prison sentences. The system was closed down last year.

In his speech ECI UN Director, Gregory Lafitte, spoke about the universal values of Yom Kippur, stressing the need to look back at one’s life in order to look forward.
’The Jewish feasts and holidays teach us important lessons’, he said, giving examples such as forgiveness and reconciliation as demonstrated in Yom Kippur and freedom from slavery as seen in Pesach. He went on to remind the audience about how the UN has been shaped by ideas from Jewish thinking, as in the principle of the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have others do to you) or the peace vision of Isaiah Chapter 2, written on the Isaiah Wall, right across the road from the UN Headquarters.

’This Isaiah vision points to a future when swords will be turned in to ploughshares and there will be war no more. This vision has inspired social reformers throughout history as well as the creation of the UN.

’As we listen to one and other and recognise the values of the Golden Rule we strengthen the core purposes and principles of the United Nations’, he concluded.

The breakfast had received an official greeting from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who described the values of Yom Kippur as universal. In his letter he thanked ECI for their efforts to help make Yom Kippur a UN holiday.

At the breakfast the Israeli Government was represented by Permanent Representative to the UN Ron Prosor who spoke about the many contributions of the Jewish State to the international community today, from water sanitation to agricultural technology. Malcolm Hoenlein from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations spoke about the religious significance of Yom Kippur for the Jewish community.

ECI Founding Director, Tomas Sandell, quoted Madeleine Albright in saying that ”The world is a mess!”
’In order to achieve peace, we need to foster a culture of forgiveness and reconciliation. By making Yom Kippur a UN holiday we can correct a historical injustice by giving the Jewish people a day of rest, similar to the other monotheistic religions. But the meaning for Yom Kippur is universal, a day to reflect on forgiveness and reconciliation, which are also the core values of the UN Charter,’ he said.

This was the second event organised in the UN Headquarters by the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy which is the ECI initiative for its UN-related work. The vision of FCD is to offer an arena where we can recognise the many contributions of the Jewish people to the international community and build on these principles.