12/23/2015

UN recognises Yom Kippur as official holiday!


Holiday miracle in New York:
UN recognises Yom Kippur as official holiday!

New York, December 21st, 2015 - In one of the last working days before Christmas, the United Nations has officially recognised the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur as an official UN holiday. For the first time in its 70-year history UN employees who observe Jewish faith will have the day off and there will be no official meetings on this day. The decision implements General Assembly resolution 69/250 which was adopted last year.  The resolution adds Yom Kippur, Day of Vesak, Diwali, Gurpurab, Orthodox Christmas and Orthodox Good Friday in addition to President´s Day, to a floating holiday which the employees can choose for themselves. Christmas Day, Good Friday, Eid al-Fits and Eid al-Adha have previously been recognised as official UN holidays.

The decision comes after two and a half years of active campaigning by the Israeli Permanent Mission to the UN and the European Coalition for Israel. The idea to have the UN recognise Yom Kippur as a holiday was first floated by ECI in a meeting with the Israeli government in the summer of 2013. On October 1st, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin presented the request to the Deputy Secretary General of the UN Jan Eliasson in conjunction with the High level week of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly.

But it would take until May 12th, 2014 before the Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor presented an open letter to all UN member states, requesting their support for the initiative. The request was officially presented at a luncheon of the newly formed ECI initiative Forum for Cultural Diplomacy, which marked 65 years of Israeli membership of the UN.

Sixty-five (38 + 27 EU) UN member states have expressed their support for the request.
The United States, in particular the US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, played a crucial role in agreeing to make the American holiday, President’s day, a floating holiday which can be replaced by any of the new religious holidays. This way the initiative was prevented from being blocked by the anti-Israel majority of the UN. The other religious holidays which were given UN recognition alongside Yom Kippur, were part of a compromise agreement which helped secure the support of UN member states representing other major religions.

In meetings with UN officials in New York on Friday, ECI Director for UN Affairs Gregory Lafitte and ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell expressed their appreciation over the decision which is an important step for better inclusion of Israel and the Jewish people in the family of nations by respecting their most holy day in the calendar year.

The recognition was made possible thanks to the active support of senior UN officials, including the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who on September 21st attended a special Tashlich ceremony at the UN headquarters in preparation for Yom Kippur. The ceremony was hosted by the Israeli Permanent Mission to the UN and the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy.

- This decision shows that Israel has, in fact, many more friends at the UN than those who generally stand with Israel in critical votes. By highlighting the universal values of the Jewish holidays we can bring nations closer to Israel as we at the same time strengthen the values of the UN charter, Lafitte said.

European Coalition for Israel commended the Israeli Permanent Mission to the UN which has tirelessly worked to see the recognition become a reality.

- There could be no better way to commence the Christmas holidays than to celebrate the fact that after 70 years the UN will finally recognise Yom Kippur as an official UN holiday, Sandell concluded.

12/16/2015

PRESS RELEASE


ECI mobilises grassroots activists in EU member states to oppose EU labelling guidelines

Brussels, December 14th, 2015 - The European Coalition for Israel has mobilised its grassroots constituency across the EU member states in an unprecedented campaign to oppose the EU labelling directive which was published in Brussels on November 11th.  The notice instructs the EU member states to clearly mark Israeli products from the disputed territories in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. No similar guidelines are given to other disputed territories around the world.

ECI has previously called the guidelines, ”discriminatory, counterproductive and simply wrong” and repeated this in an open debate with senior EU officials at an ECI symposium in the European Parliament in Brussels on 3rd December.  Also many EU member states, among them Greece, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, have expressed opposition to the directive. The President of the German Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, has called the guidelines ”unwise.”

In a unique pan-European grassroots campaign to present the main arguments against labelling Israeli products the ECI has mobilised activists in more than 20 of the EU 28 member states to reach their respective Foreign Ministers with an official ECI letter which spells out the flaws of the directive. The reactions have been mostly positive. In one southern EU member state with a track record of being consistently critical of Israel, the Foreign Minister has asked to meet the ECI representative in person after he sent him the ECI letter on Thursday.

The letter summarises the legal and practical arguments against the labelling notice, pointing out that the planned EU measures will further weaken the Palestinian economy by putting at risk job opportunities for over 30 000 Palestinians and by further separating the Palestinians from the Israelis.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council is due to meet in Brussels on Monday, 14th December and although the labelling notice is not on the official agenda it can be raised by any member state.

12/08/2015

PRESS RELEASE


Newly appointed EU coordinator on anti-Semitism: 
“When the canary no longer sings, Europe is in crisis”

Brussels, December 4th, 2015 - On Tuesday, December 1st, the European Commission appointed its first ever coordinator on combating anti-Semitism. Two days later, on Thursday December 3rd, the newly appointed coordinator, Katharina von Schnurbein, gave her first official speech at an ECI symposium in the European Parliament in Brussels on “Jewish contributions to European culture and values”.

In her speech she compared the situation for Jews in Europe with that of the canary in the coalmine. “When the canary no longer sings, Europe is in crisis”, she warned.
The expression refers to the historical role of canaries in the mining industry. As long as the bird kept singing, the miners knew the air supply was safe to breathe. If the canary died, the mine was immediately evacuated.

At the symposium von Schnurbein spoke about the threat to Jewish life in Europe and the need for an early warning system. She will report directly to the first Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, who announced his decision to appoint two coordinators, one for anti-Semitism and another one for anti-Muslim hatred, at an EU colloquium in Brussels in early October.

The new office will be an EU contact point for anyone who has experienced anti-Semitic incidents and the office will also develop strategies to combat anti-Semitism in Europe. Von Schnurbein reminded the audience that the problem is not with the EU.  She pointed out that “although the EU has outlawed Holocaust denial, only 13 member states out of 28 have implemented the directive”.

In other speeches, EU officials and Members of the European Parliament gave numerous examples of Jewish contributions to European culture and values.

Conference host MEP Hannu Takkula warned that when Jews are afraid in Europe, this is no longer Europe. He asked for better protection for the Jewish communities in Europe as well as good and strong relations with the modern state of Israel.

The Vice-President of the European Parliament, MEP Ryszard Czarnecki, reminded the audience of the long history of Jewish life in his native Poland. According to some sources, the name “Poland” means “safe dwelling” in Hebrew and this helps to explain the fact that at one point in time over 80% of the worldwide Jewish population lived in Poland. During the Nazi occupation and the Holocaust, Poland lost 90% of its Jewish population. However, after the war, Poland was the only country to let the Jews make aliyah to Israel without needing a special visa. Since these early days Poland and Israel have had strong ties, irrespective of party affiliation, and Jewish life has returned to Poland, Czarnecki explained.

Also Ambassador Felix Klein from the German government could testify that his country is experiencing a revival of Jewish life and culture. After the war, most Jews believed that life in Germany was over, but today there are over 200,000 Israelis living in Germany and new synagogues are being opened every other month, he explained. He hoped that this unique experience of successful migration could also be of use in today’s migration crisis.

The new EU Head of Unit for the Middle East, Raoul Fuentes Milani shared about Jewish history in Spain. He acknowledged that Spain lost much of its former glory and identity when the Jews were expelled in 1492. Spain recently decided to grant citizenship to Sephardic Jews who can prove their Spanish ancestry from this time period. He quoted the King of Spain who, when addressing the expelled Jews around the world, announced: “We missed you.”

Although all speakers agreed that Europe is richer with flourishing Jewish communities and warm relations with the State of Israel, there was clear disagreement on whether Israel is being fairly treated by the EU today, as demonstrated by the labelling directive that was issued two weeks ago. Whilst the EEAS Director for the Middle East and Northern Africa, Christian Berger, called the decision “a technicality”, Israeli Deputy Ambassador Shuli Davidovich accused the EU of double standards.

Due to a decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the week, she was not permitted to comment on the peace process from which the EU has been sidelined.

Conference host, ECI Director Tomas Sandell expressed his disappointment with the labelling directive and promised that ECI will contact member state governments in time for the next council meeting in Brussels on December 14th with a request that the decision be revised.

“When Europe was paralyzed by the terrorist attack in Paris three weeks ago, Israeli intelligence officers were the first to come to our aid and help prevent further attacks in Hanover and elsewhere in Europe”, he said.

“Europe is always better off with good relations with Israel and the Jewish communities. This is not only true for our history but also for our common future”, he concluded.

12/02/2015

MONTHLY REPORT - DECEMBER 2015


Israel comes to our assistance as terror strikes at the heart of Europe

Paris - In the last two weeks we have heard a lot about “war and rumours of war”. For one whole week Brussels was in a lockdown and Europe is said to be “at war”.

Following the terrorist attack in Paris on November 13th, ECI European Director Perrine Dufoix has sent a letter of condolence to the President of France with the message that EU and Israel should fight terrorism together.

Many observers, including ECI, have been warning for years of the consequences of not facing the jihadist threat in time. We have pointed out that Israel has been at the frontline in this war against international terrorism for years without getting the proper support and sympathy from Europe. We have also warned that one day this same terror may strike in Europe.

Terror has struck in Europe before, most notably in Madrid in 2004 and in London in 2005, but the terrorist attacks in Paris on January 7th and again on November 13th have left many in a state of shock.

This is a wake up call to Europe and its political leaders. Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens has noted that “it is no longer just synagogues or Jewish museums that are the targets for the terrorists but mass gatherings and public places”. As the old saying goes: “It starts with the Jews but it never ends with the Jews.” Now we are all targets.

It should be crystal clear that Israel is our best ally in this global war against terrorism. Just one week after the Paris attack it was revealed that IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot had travelled to Brussels for secret meetings with Belgian security officials. According to the German magazine “Stern”, Israeli intelligence provided the crucial information that led German authorities to cancel a scheduled friendly soccer game between Germany and Netherlands at the Hanover stadium on November 17th.

As Israel has been facing regular terror attacks for months, the EU has responded by issuing new directives against Israel (products from the disputed territories) instead of offering help. However, it now seems that Europe is also “disputed territory” in this unfolding war among civilizations. Given the lack of support for Israel in Europe we can count ourselves lucky that Israel is willing to come to our aid.


ECI challenges EU labeling directive in Brussels 
- now the battle comes back to your own capital

Brussels - The European Coalition for Israel has challenged the legality of the EU guidelines for Israeli products from the disputed territories in a written position paper and in private meetings in Brussels during the week which led up to the publishing of the guidelines.

The formal decision was made by the European Council (Foreign Ministers of the EU member states) already in 2012 but was put on the shelf in order to be used at the right time to put political pressure on Israel. The ”right time” turned out to be on November 11th, one day after the 77th anniversary of “Kristallnacht”, the night when the Nazis destroyed thousands of synagogues and Jewish businesses in Germany after having first been marked as ”Jewish.”

In Brussels EU officials have assured that the decision is only “a technicality”, but in discussions with senior official it has become clear that the EU is sending a political message to Israel.

The directive is a direct blow to some thirty thousand Palestinians who today work in Israeli businesses in the disputed territories.

Whereas the decision is now settled in Brussels, the directive is now sent to the member states where the respective governments are asked to implement the guidelines. But they can also refuse to do so - or simply put them on hold. Hungary and Greece have already indicated that they will challenge the labelling directive and Germany has also expressed its opposition. In the European Council only 16 Foreign Ministers (out of 28) have actively been pushing for the directive.

Let us hope there are leaders in Europe today who will follow their moral compass instead of giving in to intimidation and irrational directives that do not promote peace. ECI will shortly be in contact with the member state governments with a clear message to support Israel in this time of crisis.

To put it simply. The EU should label terrorists - not Israeli tomatoes.


ECI sends letter to the UN Security Council
- Israeli legislation is the best guarantee for minority rights in Jerusalem


New York - While Israel continues to face terrorist attacks inside its borders, at international institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union Israel faces a different war - known as “international lawfare”. Although this is a war of words, its consequences can be just as deadly as any terrorist attack.

After having neglected the legal history of the State of Israel for many years, the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, has recently taken an interest in the foundational documents behind the creation of the State of Israel and various historical precedents for regimes that provide protection for territories and their inhabitants.

ECI has for many years been raising awareness about the legal foundations of the State of Israel as it relates back to the San Remo Resolution of 1920. In 2012 ECI organized a lecture on this topic with Dr. Jacques Gauthier for ambassadors at the UN Security Council in New York.

In a written submission to the UN Secretary General and the 15 members of the UN Security Council dated  November 17th 2015, ECI provides the blueprint for the status of Jerusalem and the ”West Bank” under international law. The letter calls upon the Security Council to “respect the rights and obligations arising under all existing instruments, in particular the Mandate for Palestine and UN charter principles” and concludes that “Israeli legislation provides the most sophisticated and advanced system for protection of minority rights based on the rule of law in the region”.

In its closing statement ECI calls on the Security Council “to respect the rights of Israel as a sovereign UN Member State to negotiate a resolution of the conflict based on the rights, obligations and principles laid down in existing instruments”.


Local churches make a difference for Israel
 - Sion Church in Vasa, Finland

Vasa, Finland - ECI is only as strong as its own constituency, consisting of local Christians in Europe and around the world who stand behind Israel and ECI in prayer and by giving financially.

Last week Tomas Sandell joined the Sion Church in Vasa, Finland to share about the work of ECI and train activists to become more effective in their support for Israel.

In the evening Israeli ambassador to Finland,Dan Ashbel, joined the seminar where he spoke about the current challenges facing Israel.

Sion Church has been actively supporting Israel for many years and today its former chairman Fredrik Ekholm is the first ever Honorary Counsellor of Israel to Finland. By organizing a whole weekend about Israel, Pastor Stefan Sigfrids wants to take the message about Biblical support for Israel to a new generation of Christians.

Sion is one of many churches across Europe and the world that have decided to stand in solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people. We are proud to call them our friends!


11/17/2015

PRESS RELEASE

ECI sends letter of condolence to French President
- EU and Israel need a united front against terrorism

Brussels, 16th November, 2015 -  ECI has sent a letter of condolence to the French President Francois Hollande after a terrorist attack struck Paris late on Friday night and killed at least 129 innocent civilians while many more were injured. In the letter, dated Monday 16th November, Founding Director Tomas Sandell called the act “a crime against humanity”.

“Terrorism can never be justified, but must always be denounced and confronted, regardless of where it strikes”, he said. “This is a time for the whole civilised world to stand united behind the people of France against a common enemy.”

Over the weekend it became clear that Israel had provided France with intelligence related to the perpetrators and about other terrorist plots in Europe. In the letter to the French President, ECI points out the central role of Israel in the fight against global jihad.

"It is imperative that the EU and Israel coordinate their efforts in this battle for our collective security and freedom to live in peace. Only by strengthening our bonds of common values can we win this battle."

"As France is in national mourning, we are united with the people of France in prayer and solidarity", the letter concludes.


11/11/2015

ECI critical of impending EU labelling directive

EU should promote cooperation - not separation

Brussels, November 10th, 2015 - The European Coalition for Israel has issued a written statement against an impending EU directive to label Israeli goods from the disputed territories in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. The directive is expected to be published in Brussels on Wednesday. In a statement in Brussels on Tuesday ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell called the move, which comes just one day after the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht, “a first step on a slippery slope which risks leading Europe back to its dark ages.”

“The directive is untimely, disproportionate and simply flawed”, he said in Brussels on Tuesday. “This (directive) will not only stigmatize legitimate Israeli businesses, but also put at risk the livelihood of tens of thousands of Palestinians who are currently employed by Israeli companies operating in the disputed territories.”

The directive has been championed for several years by radical anti-Israeli NGO groups across Europe who have as their ultimate goal a complete boycott of Israel.

In a written statement on Tuesday, ECI Legal Counsel Andrew Tucker points out that “the EU provides aid and financial cooperation to numerous countries that maintain settlements in occupied territories, such as Morocco, Turkey and Russia”. “If it is EU policy to not support activities in occupied territories, it should apply that policy equitably in all similar situations”, he writes.

He also explains how the law of occupation does not prohibit the occupying power from allowing its own citizens to be present and undertake productive enterprises in the occupied territories. On the contrary, it recognizes the need for the occupying power to maintain order and safety in those territories pending resolution of the underlying dispute.

Goods from the disputed territories are already excluded from the free trade agreement between EU and Israel and are labelled separately from other Israeli goods when passing through EU customs. The impending guidelines would apply this to consumer labelling also.

Although the European Commission maintains that the directive is strictly “a technical matter” as the political decision was made by the Foreign Ministers of the EU already in 2012, it is clear that the measures are meant to put economic and political pressure on Israel. No such measures have been applied to the Palestinian Authority which still refuses to come back to the negotiating table and instead continues its incitement to violence. Some senior Israeli leaders have called the directive “a reward for Palestinian terrorism”.

According to Israeli Ambassador to the EU, David Walzer, “the directive awakens painful memories in the Jewish communities in Israel and around the world as they commemorate the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht”.

Sandell insists that the European Commission should not give in to radical groups who want to isolate and demonize Israel. “The new directive does not promote peace and cooperation but rather separation and hostility. The European Commission should know better. European integration in the 1950´s came about by compelling previous enemies to work together, not by separating them or creating further hostility.”

“In a situation where the whole Middle East is being swept into an abyss of violence and chaos, the EU should support Israel as the only country in the region that shares its democratic values and not undermine it by singling out only Israel for labelling”, Sandell concludes.

It is still unclear how the directive should be implemented in the EU member states.  The legislation is complicated and varies according to the product. In some cases it may be obligatory on all member states, while it other cases it will be up to member states to decide.

11/10/2015

MONTHLY REPORT - NOVEMBER 2015

This month ECI has again been active in reaching out to decision makers and political leaders, from Reykjavik in the north to Geneva in the south, for a fair treatment of Israel and the Jewish people. Together we continue to make a difference.

European Coalition for Israel - a unique calling to those in authority - with a heart for unity

Since the founding of ECI in 2003, its influence has been steadily spreading from its home base in Brussels to many nations in every continent. In this year alone ECI has been instrumental in giving leadership and guidance to several new initiatives around the world. Last month our legal counsel Andrew Tucker travelled to Nigeria to attend a conference where the idea of an African Coalition for Israel was considered for the first time. Earlier in the year he was in New Zealand to help a national pro-Israel initiative engage with their government. Last month the founding director, Tomas Sandell, was in close contact with the new Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition in order to share resources and foster closer cooperation. During the year outgoing chairman Harald Eckert has also been travelling to the four corners of the world to inspire Christians to get involved in supporting Israel, giving ECI as an example of what can be achieved when we work together.

However, ECI is not called to go just anywhere in the world. We are part of a bigger picture. Just as in the times of Nehemiah, “the work is extensive and spread out and we are widely separated from each other.” (Neh. 4:20) This was one of the reasons why ECI was founded in 2003, to help bridge the gap in areas where ministries had not previously been very active, especially in reaching out to their governments. Today ECI is partnering with renowned ministries such as Christians for Israel International, Operation Exodus, International Christian Chamber of Commerce, Pentecostal European Fellowship, Word of Life International ? in order to more effectively coordinate Christian support for Israel in various international forums.

There is a specific task and calling for all of us, individuals and ministries alike. In the coming years ECI will seek to “make our calling sure” (2 Peter 1:10) while at the same time striving for unity with other ministries who are also part of the bigger picture. This was also the conclusion when the executive directors of European Coalition for Israel and International Christian Embassy Jerusalem met in Helsinki last week. These are two important ministries which we believe the Lord has raised up, with sometimes overlapping callings, but with a desire to see greater unity, synergy and effectiveness in the broader movement of Israel related ministries.

Together we can serve the interests of Israel and the Jewish people better.


Visit to the UK helps spread the ECI vision

London - European Coalition for Israel is a grassroots movement which is only as strong as its support base. In the second week of October Founding Director Tomas Sandell visited London to speak at a Feast of Tabernacles conference at the Emmanuel Centre, hosted by Barry and Batya Segal from Joseph Storehouse.

In a full house at the Emmanuel Centre many heard the story of ECI for the first time and a large number of them signed up to receive our monthly reports.  Joseph Storehouse is doing an important work by caring for some of the most vulnerable people in Israel through its unique social outreach programs. ECI has always made it clear that our calling is first and foremost to the political leadership and we rely on other ministries to bless Israel through social outreach. In this respect ECI complements many existing pro-Israel ministries and adds value to the bigger picture.

Because of our singular focus on the political leadership we have not always been very good at making our organisation known to the wider body of friends of Israel. It is therefore important from time to time to come out and share about the work, as happened in London on 9-10 October.

On Sunday, Tomas Sandell was invited to preach at the Kingdom Faith Church in Horsham, which is pastored by our friends Clive and Jane Urquhart.  Again several hundred people heard the message of prayer, education and advocacy for Israel.

All this was made possible thanks to the initiative of Alistair and Connie Scott who are coordinating our ministry in the UK. We are now looking to host more meetings in London and for other ways of staying in contact with our core constituency and also to share our vision to new groups of people. ECI is also open to visiting other capitals in Europe. Please feel free to contact our office if you want to invite ECI to your capital.

ECI in EU talks about root cause for rise of violence in Israel

Brussels - October has been one of the most violent months in Israel in 2015 when so called “lone wolf Palestinian terrorists”, inspired by their leaders to murder Jews, have killed over ten people and injured another 50 people in some of the most brutal acts of violence in Israel in a long time. It is clear that the killing spree is inspired by the daily calls for violence in Palestinian mosques, schools and television, as well as directly by their political leaders.

ECI has been protesting against this culture of hate for many years and has repeatedly asked the European Union and Western governments to make funding to the Palestinian authority conditional on an immediate halt to any hate speech.

Still, the leaders in Brussels have so far refused to acknowledge any responsibility for the violence although the EU is the single largest financial contributor to the Palestinian Authority. The fact of the matter is that without EU funding the PA would simply cease to exist. When Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was visiting Brussels last week he was again received as a foreign dignitary by EU Foreign Chief Federica Mogherini who refused to bring him to account for his inflammatory speeches and simply mentioned “lack of hope” as the reason for the violence.

In the meantime ECI has been able to meet privately with senior EU officials to discuss the current wave of violence in Israel, pointing to the responsibility of the Palestinian leadership to stop the incitement and for the EU to make their funding conditional on this. The discussions have been open and frank and the differences in our perspectives have been evident. But the discussions have been conducted in a good spirit and with mutual respect. On the day when ECI, through Tomas Sandell, first brought up its concerns, there had still been no official reaction to the violence in Israel. But only a few hours after the meeting, the EU ambassador to Israel suddenly expressed his condolences, which helped calm the situation.  The EU ambassador in Israel works under an EU official in Brussels, and we have reasons to believe that he received his instructions to do so directly from Brussels.

The only way to have an influence in the EU is to engage constructively and respectfully with the EU officials. We feel honoured that we have an open door to many of the EU officials, that we are able to freely present our point of view, and that our efforts also have an impact.

ECI meets with new UN Director General in Geneva

Geneva - ECI’s UN Director Dr Gregory Lafitte has met with the newly appointed Director General of the UN headquarters in Europe, Michael Moller. Moller was recently appointed Director General of the UN in Geneva after previously serving as Acting Director General. Lafitte, who had met Moller on a previous occasion, gave him an update on the recent activities of ECI at the UN in New York and discussed the on-going campaign for UN recognition of Yom Kippur.

The UN office in Geneva has recently come under attack for promoting anti-Israeli books in their official bookshop and for electing Saudi Arabia as chair of the UN Human Rights Council. However, as in many other decisions at the UN, it is the member states that elect members to the UNHRC and not the officials of the organisation.

ECI has become increasingly active at the UN in Geneva this year. In June ECI took part in a large pro-Israel rally in front of the UN headquarters, hosted the by the World Jewish Congress, where Lafitte was one of the keynote speakers.

Meanwhile in Paris, our European Director Perrine Dufoix has been raising a red flag as the 58-member executive board of UNESCO has voted to recognize the tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel's tomb as Muslim heritage sites. An attempt to declare the Western Wall in Jerusalem as a Muslim heritage site was thwarted after an international campaign of condemnation, led by the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova. UNESCO is the UN special agency for education, science and culture and is headquartered in Paris.

New attempt to recognize Palestinian state thwarted at the Nordic Council

Reykjavik, Iceland - A new initiative from the parliamentary assembly of the Nordic Council to ask the Nordic governments to immediately recognize a Palestinian state has been thwarted at the annual session of the Nordic Council in Reykjavik. Last year the newly elected Swedish government recognized a Palestinian state and tried to get the other Nordic nations (Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland) to follow suit.

Last year this attempt failed and the resolution did not have any better success this year as the initiative was rejected by a majority of the delegates. In a compromise resolution the “need for peace and reconciliation” was stressed and a possible recognition of a Palestinian state has been left for later, which implies negotiations only and not a unilateral declaration.

Many ECI activists across the Nordic countries have been mobilizing support for the rejection of the original resolution. An approval would have disrespected international law and sent a dangerous signal to the international community. The parliamentary assembly of the Nordic Council does not have any legislative powers but can only give recommendations. ECI thanks all its Nordic supporters for remaining diligent and pro-active.

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


10/14/2015

Time for the EU to take a stand


Time for the EU to take a stand – against terrorism in Israel

Brussels, 14th October, 2015 - As violence continued to escalate in Jerusalem on Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini issued a statement calling for “Israelis and Palestinians to restore calm.”

In a written statement to Federica Mogherini and in meetings with senior EU-officials in Brussels on Tuesday, ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell stressed that “there can be no neutrality in relation to terrorism and the brutal killing of innocent civilians in Jerusalem. As the single largest financial contributor to the Palestinian Authority, the European Union has a moral responsibility to immediately call for a stop of all Palestinian incitement and violence or freeze any further EU financial support. ”

ECI and many concerned Members of European Parliament have for years called for the EU to stop funding hate in the Palestinian territories and have warned of the consequences of sustaining a culture of hatred and incitement throughout society, from Palestinian kindergartens and UNWRA children camps to the highest echelons of power in the Palestinian Authority.

This autumn Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has called “for filthy Jews not to be allowed on the Temple Mount” and praised ”the pure blood spilled by martyrs in Jerusalem” without any official protests from Brussels or Washington. Meanwhile imams in mosques in the Palestinian territories have called for the killing of Jews, hence fuelling the unprecedented wave of brutal murders of civilians in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel in these last days.

In his message in Brussels on Tuesday, Sandell noted that the EU cannot remain neutral by simply calling for “calm on both sides” when innocent Jewish civilians are stabbed to death, but needs to specifically call to account those Palestinian leaders who are responsible for inciting and coordinating the attacks against innocent civilian Jews.

Jewish lives matter, just as much in Jerusalem as in Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen. If the European Union wants to remain “a union of values”, it cannot turn a blind eye, not to mention continue to finance, a regime which is inciting, supporting and orchestrating terrorist actions, he said.

In a series of tweets late on Tuesday night, the European Union´s ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, condemned the deadly terrorist attacks against Israelis in Jerusalem.

He writes: “I condemn today’s brutal attacks in Jerusalem. My thoughts are with the families of three more victims of terrorism and the many injured. These attacks not only cause human suffering. They undermine the trust ordinary citizens feel for passers-by in the street, let alone the trust people need as communities if there is to be any prospect for peace.”

10/09/2015

MONTHLY REPORT - October 2015

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attends ECI co-hosted Tashlich event in honour of Jewish holidays

New York - UN diplomats from over 50 member states have participated in an ECI co-sponsored Tashlich event at the Rose Garden of the UN in New York to mark the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah and prepare for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

The event was the culmination of several years of bilateral and multilateral meetings at the UN where ECI - through its UN initiative Forum for Cultural Diplomacy - has introduced UN missions to the universal messages and principles of the Jewish holidays.

The event is the largest and most significant event to date as some 150 people participated at the Rose Garden and, led by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, took part in the special Tashlich ceremony by “tossing their sins in the east River in order to start the new year and the 70th session of the UN General Assembly on a clean slate.”

ECI Director for UN Affairs Gregory Lafitte quoted the Chief Rabbi of the great synagogue in Paris, Moshe Sebbag, in explaining that “while the tossing of breadcrumbs in to the river cannot cleanse us of our sins it is a reminder of our need for forgiveness and reconciliation with God and with one another.”

He illustrated this principle by the Jewish prayer of Avinu Malkeinu which reads “Our Father, our King, we have sinned before Thee. Have compassion upon us and our children.”

Lafitte reminded the audience of the many contributions of the Jewish people to the international community and the creation of the UN, from the young Jewish prophet Isaiah, who wrote about the “turning of swords in to ploughshares” to the role of the Jewish communities in the drafting of the UN charter in San Francisco in 1945.

The main objective of the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy is to learn from the universal messages of the Jewish holidays, from the lesson of forgiveness and reconciliation in Yom Kippur to the meaning of freedom of slavery in the Passover story and the lessons from freedom of religion in Hanukkah.

ECI has been campaigning for UN recognition of Yom Kippur for over two years. This year the UN recognised for the first time the importance of this holiest day in the Jewish calendar and the UN offices were subsequently closed on Yom Kippur, which this year coincided with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

The event was also one of the last appearances of outgoing Israeli Permanent Representative Ron Prosor who spoke about the need for the UN to reform itself and finally become a bastion of freedom and a temple of peace.

The Tashlich ceremony was led by Senior Rabbi Arthur Schneier who called the event “a milestone occasion.”  He went on to say a prayer of thanksgiving “for having kept us alive to witness the first Tashlich ceremony at the UN.”

The evening was moderated by ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell who explained why the European Coalition for Israel is reaching out to the United Nations in honouring and celebrating the Jewish people and their culture.

“The Shoah was made possible because of a lack of respect for the Jewish people and their culture. Tolerance is not the antidote to anti-Semitism. Only by learning to appreciate the Jewish people and their culture can we ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of past generations”, he said.

Apart from Gregory Lafitte and Tomas Sandell, ECI chairman Rudolf Geigy and board member Harald Eckert also attended the event, which was co-hosted by the Permanent Representation of Israel to the UN.

Last picture, from left to right: Harald Eckert, Tomas Sandell, Ambassador Caleb Otto from Palau, Rudolf Geigy and Gregory Lafitte.

Photo credit: Arnold Brower


Cultural events help bring together friends and foes of Israel

New York - Whereas the political situation in the Middle East is getting increasingly polarised, our recent event at the UN proves that cultural events with a spiritual message can help bridge the gap. The high number of UN ambassadors and UN officials who attended the Tashlich event on Monday 21st September proves that there are more nations who are supportive of Israel than those approximately seven UN member states that usually vote in favour of Israel at the UN General Assembly.

In the aftermath of the historic Tashlich ceremony, many noted the presence of ambassadors and diplomats from countries which are not traditionally pro-Israel.  Commentators were especially encouraged by the fact that the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon himself, and many of his closest UN officials, took part in the ceremony, which honoured the Jewish high holy days.

The work of FCD is based on the assumption that given the right approach ? through cultural diplomacy ? we can help Israel make new friends. Until very recently Israel had lacked a platform at the UN where they could be respected and appreciated, but also where they could express their concerns. The Forum for Cultural Diplomacy has quietly developed in to such a group.

EU colloquium gives ECI platform to raise concerns

Brussels - Although the month of September is historically a busy month when the ECI leadership meet in Jerusalem for board meetings and then attend the General Debate of the UN General Assembly in New York, this year we were also able to attend the First Annual European Commission Colloquium on Fundamental Rights in Brussels.

Although ECI does not always see eye to eye with the European Commission with regards to their policies towards Israel, it is important to remain in dialogue and for them to recognise that Israel is not alone, and that there is a non-Jewish voice in support of Israel accredited to the European Union.

As a matter of fact, ECI was born out of the EU dialogue following the second intifada and the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe in 2003-2004 when then European Commission President Romano Prodi called together a symposium on the fight against anti-Semitism.

Eleven years later, in 2015, the European Commission reacts to the terror attacks in Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen with a symposium to discuss anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred. ECI, like many Jewish organisations, finds it disturbing that the European Commission can no longer recognise anti-Semitism as a specific problem without balancing it out with anti-Muslim hatred.

Many speakers noted that the EU-work has taken a few steps backwards after the great awakening in 2004. The old EU definition of anti-Semitism, which included disproportionate criticism of Israel, has been taken off the EU website.

At the round table Tomas Sandell pointed out that “Zionism is not the cause for anti-Semitism but has historically been the solution to it.” Also the convenor of the colloquium, the first Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans (picture), noted that, “anti-Israelism cannot be a cover for anti-Semitism. “

ECI has for many years called upon the European Commission to appoint a special envoy for anti-Semitism, similar to the US and Germany. Last week Mr Timmermans announced his decision to appoint such a coordinator alongside another coordinator for anti-Muslim hatred.

ECI is committed to fighting all forms of racism and xenophobia, including anti-Muslim hatred, but regrets the fact that it is today impossible for the European Commission to discuss the existential threat of anti-Semitism to European Jewry without also speaking about anti-Muslim hatred. There is no correlation. The approach seems to want to cover up the fact that most cases of anti-Semitic violence in France and other major European countries are committed by radical Muslims. This could be the topic of the next EU colloquium.

Belgian Coalition for Israel co-hosts Shalom festival

Brussels - European Coalition for Israel is not only active in government circles but also in grassroots activities through partner organisations such as the Belgian Coalition for Israel. In Belgium the Coalition, together with likeminded Christian and Jewish organisations, have established what they call a Shalom Festival.  The message expresses hope for peace for all nations in the world, despite the painful experience of the past. In early September they organised a Shalom event in Brussels, which was well attended by Christians and Jews. The next shalom event will be organised in Antwerp on 25th October.

For more information please visit http://www.shalomfestival.be/.

Upcoming ECI events  - Important information

It has been decided that the next ECI policy conference will be held in conjunction with the next Prayer Summit from 21 -24 April 2016. This means that those who in the past have had to choose between the two events can now attend both events for the price of one ticket.
We believe this is a good decision to enable as many of our friends as possible to attend our events.

In the meantime we will organise a smaller event in Brussels from 2-3 December, which co-incides with the European Prayer Breakfast on 2 December.
This includes a dinner, a briefing session with ECI and a symposium in the European Parliament:

Wednesday, 2 December, 19.30 Annual Dinner
Thursday, 3 December, 9.00-11.30 Annual ECI briefing
Thursday, 3 December, 13-15.00 ECI symposium in the European Parliament on the Jewish contributions to Europe - now and in the past.

Space is limited, so if you are interested in attending please let us know as soon as possible. More details will follow shortly.
If you are also interested in attending the European Prayer Breakfast, please send us an email and we can put you in contact with the organisers.

21-24 April, 2016
ECI Annual Policy Conference and Prayer Summit in Brussels



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

Copyright c European Coalition for Israel








10/02/2015

PRESS RELEASE


ECI invited to first EU Colloquium on Fundamental Rights
- Incoherent EU-policies prevent effective measures against anti-Semitism


Brussels, 2nd October, 2015 - The European Commission has held its first annual colloquium on fundamental rights by highlighting the rise of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hatred. The decision to combine anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred in one and the same conference received both praises and criticism from the delegates. On Thursday First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans defended his decision by saying that “it is high time that both groups sit down and talk to each other instead of talking about each other”.  Timmermans acknowledged that the two phenomena are different in origin, history, manifestation and impact, but still believed that they needed to be tackled in the same colloquium.

Founding Director Tomas Sandell of the European Coalition for Israel was invited to the roundtable and was the only representative of a non-Jewish pro-Israel organisation. In his remarks he gave credit to Timmermans for acknowledging that “there are those who use anti-Israelism as a cover for anti-Semitism”.  He went on to state that “Zionism has historically been the solution to anti-Semitism and not the reason for it”.

Today the mere existence of a Jewish state is again being questioned by radical groups that call for boycotts of Israel. The same groups also hold a negative view of the Jewish people as such. In a separate written statement Sandell warned that “the European Commission risks undermining its own goals of preventing anti-Semitism by time and again singling out Israel and calling for the labelling of Israeli goods produced in the disputed territories”. The new directive is expected to be introduced any week now and is likely to give further fuel for anti-Israeli forces who like to see a ban of all Israeli products. In Reykjavik, Iceland, the city council recently had to backtrack from a decision to ban all Israeli goods after international outrage. ”The call for labelling of Israeli goods will only strengthen those forces who believe that Israel is the sole reason for the conflict in the Middle East and who turn against Jews in Europe in retaliation”, he wrote. He also reminded the European Commission of the fact that the rise of anti-Semitism in the Third Reich started with the boycott of Jewish businesses.

At the conference Timmermans announced his decision to appoint two coordinators with special responsibilities for following issues related to anti-Semitism and another one for Islamophobia.

Many Jewish groups have expressed their disappointment over the passive reaction by the European Commission to the terror attacks against Jewish targets in Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen. While they acknowledge the existence of other forms of racism and xenophobia in Europe they fear that the European Commission is not addressing their real concerns.

At the colloquium Mette Bentow, one of the survivors of the terror attack in Copenhagen, shared her testimony of the trauma that it had inflicted on her young family. She openly asked if she has a future in Europe.

In his address President Moshe Kantor of the European Jewish Congress warned that the EU is not doing enough to prevent Jews from leaving Europe. Over the last years tens of thousands of Jews have left Europe to seek a safer home elsewhere. And today one third of Europe's 2.5 million Jews are considering emigration. Whole areas of Europe are being emptied of Jews and not enough is being done, he warned.

In his written statement Sandell noted that “it appears as if the European Commission no longer acknowledges anti-Semitism as a specific problem that threatens the very fabric of European Jewry but simply refers to it as another form of racism and discrimination. When Europe faced its last peak of anti-Semitic violence in 2003 and an EU survey named Israel as the worst threat to world peace, the then European Commission President Romano Prodi called together a crisis summit to specifically tackle the rise of anti-Semitism. Eleven years later the new European Commission reacts to the same challenge by calling together a seminar to speak about anti-Muslim hatred, he noted.

Despite its critical remarks, ECI remains fully committed to working together with the European institutions to ensure that the threat of anti-Semitism is fully recognized and tackled by EU and the member states. It also notes the need for intercommunal dialogue and alliances between Jews and Muslims in facing common threats, such as the calls for the banning of male circumcision and ritual slaughter, but notes that the EU needs to do more make Jewish life safe and secure for future generations.


9/24/2015

ECI co-hosts first ever Tashlich ceremony at the UN




ECI co-hosts first ever Tashlich ceremony at the UN  - Time to honour the Jewish people and their culture

New York, September 22, 2015 - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, together with other top UN officials and senior diplomats from some 50 nations, have gathered at the UN Rose garden in New York to celebrate the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashana and prepare for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.  The unique event was hosted by the Israeli Mission to the UN and the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy, which is a European Coalition for Israel initiative to the UN.

In accordance with the ancient Jewish custom of Tashlich, invited guests, led by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon threw breadcrumbs into the East River, as a symbol of the tossing away of one’s sin in order to start the new year on a clean slate. The event was the first of its kind to be held at the UN and it took place only two days before Yom Kippur and at the beginning of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly.

Senior Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Park East Synagogue, who led the religious ceremony, saw the event as an answer to many years of prayer as the UN officially acknowledged the importance of Yom Kippur as the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and its universal relevance to the UN institutions.

ECI director for UN Affairs, Gregory Lafitte reminded the audience of the centrality of Jewish thinking in the creation of the UN and its vision of world peace which is visibly displayed on the so-called Isaiah wall across from the UN headquarters in New York. The monument records the famous verse from the book of Isaiah, chapter 2, which talks about a time when “swords will be turned into ploughshares.” Speaking about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, he said, “Tolerance is not the answer. It is not merely enough to ‘tolerate’ the Jewish people but we need to honour and celebrate their culture and many contributions to mankind.” Lafitte ended his speech by offering the prayer of Avinu Malkeinu, which is traditionally sung on each of the first days of the year leading to Yom Kippur.

Outgoing Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN, Ambassador Ron Prosor, expressed, in one of his last speeches at the UN, his genuine desire to see the UN achieve its goal to become a temple of peace and a bastion of freedom by the casting away of hatred and apathy in order to make the world a better place.

The official speeches were followed by a unique ceremony of Tashlich where UN officials and diplomats, led by Rabbi Schneier and Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon tossed breadcrumbs in to the East river, as a symbol casting away our sins.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was duly honoured by the organisers for having recognized the importance of Yom Kippur and for having personally attended this first ever Tashlich ceremony, which is traditionally held in connection with the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, which this year fell on September 14.

The evening was part of a campaign to make Yom Kippur a UN holiday which has gained the support of over 60 nations. This year, there will be no UN activities on the day of Yom Kippur, which falls on Wednesday 23 September, one day before the Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha which already is a UN holiday.

The European Coalition for Israel has been campaigning for UN recognition of Yom Kippur for the last two years. In a statement on Tuesday, Israeli Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador David Roet thanked ECI for its support for these efforts throughout the years.

The evening was led by ECI founding director Tomas Sandell and Rabbi Arthur Schneier. In his closing remarks Sandell noted that “the message of Yom Kippur, forgiveness and reconciliation, are values that we must continue to build on - as friends of the Jewish culture.”


(In the picture, from left to right: Rabbi Arthur Schneier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN, Ambassador Ron Prosor, ECI director for UN Affairs, Gregory Lafitte and ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell.)





9/19/2015

MONTHLY REPORT - SEPTEMBER 2015

Happy New Year!

Sunday evening 13th September marked the Jewish New Year - Rosh Hashana. The period following Rosh Hashana is called the “Days of Awe” (or days of repentance), and leads up to the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This year Yom Kippur starts on the evening of 22nd September. Yom Kippur has been in the focus of the work of ECI for many years as we have actively campaigned to get UN recognition of this important holiday. Our work has not been in vain. This year there will finally be no UN activities on Yom Kippur!

The month of September is important for ECI also for another reason. It was in September 2001 that the ECI vision and mission was born and presented for the first time. This was also the time of the UN World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, which according to many observers unleashed the worst wave of anti-Semitism since the Holocaust. One and a half years later, in March 2003, ECI was legally formed in Brussels on the day of Purim, “for such a time as this”.

We believe the timing of these important events is not a mere coincidence but an illustration of God’s appointed times - for Jews and Gentiles. Thank you for standing faithfully with ECI during these years and for your continuous support as we press forward in our support for Israel at the EU and the UN. The recognition of Yom Kippur as a day when there will be no UN activities is a sign of encouragement. Together we can do more.

Please consider a generous donation as we prepare to travel to New York for the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, which begins this week on 15th September.


Change of guard as ECI elects new chairman

Jerusalem - During the short history of ECI there have been only three chairmen of the board; Willem Glashouwer, Helmut Specht and Harald Eckert. On Thursday 3rd September, ECI elected J. Rudolf Geigy from Basel, Switzerland, as the new chairman.

Rudolf Geigy has been active in ECI for the last five years and before that he was involved for many years in other Israel related initiatives. At the same meeting Tor Gull was elected as a new board member. Gull is a native Finn with a long career in banking and development aid. The appointment of Geigy and Gull will strengthen the board, along with Harald Eckert, Antti Hamalainen, Bedros Nassanian and Rick Ridings.
ECI wishes to thank Harald Eckert for his term as chairman and welcomes the new board members.

(In the picture, from left to right: Tomas Sandell, Perrine Dufoix, Ambassador Gideon Behar, Rudolf Geigy and Gregory Lafitte in Jerusalem.)


European Parliament wishes Israel Happy New Year - with new sanctions on Israeli goods

Brussels - The European Parliament has voted to label Israeli goods produced in the disputed territories. According to Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, “labelling of products amounts to boycotts and echoes the labelling of Jewish goods in Germany in the 1930’s.”

Only 70 members out of the 751 strong European Parliament voted against the resolution while another 31 abstained. The vote came just a few days before the eve of the Jewish New Year and was a stark reminder of the growing hostility towards Israel during a time when the European Union faces an unprecedented migration crisis due to the turmoil in Syria and the rise of radical Islam in the Middle East. But whereas the EP remains obsessed with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is helpless when it comes to solving the real problems in the region. It is estimated that the war in Syria has already caused over 200,000 deaths and some 4 million refugees are displaced outside of its borders.

While whole villages and regions in Syria and Iraq have been ethnically cleansed by the Islamic State, the European Parliament has been slow in reacting. In an effort to cover up its disastrous Middle East policy, the EP instead turns against Israel, the only democracy in the region.

In his inaugural speech at the ECI co-hosted Holocaust Remembrance day event in the European Parliament in January 2012, EP President Martin Schulz stated that his most important role as new President of the European Parliament would be to “stand up for the Jewish people and the state of Israel”. His track record of the last few years does not support this pledge.

In a separate message on Thursday, European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans expressed his best wishes for the Jewish New Year by stating that the European Commission takes the concerns of the Jewish people very seriously.

But the same Timmermans has been a champion of boycotts and sanctions of Israeli goods while serving as Foreign Minister in the Netherlands and is part of a European Commission that even now plans new measures against Israel.

In a press release issued on the occasion of the Jewish New Year, ECI points out that “Israel is a solution to the problems in the Middle East, not the problem.” The press release has been sent to the President of the European Parliament as well as to the First Vice-President of the European Commission.


At a government meeting in Israel, concerns are expressed over recent developments in Europe

Jerusalem - An ECI delegation has met with senior officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry to discuss the changing landscape in Europe as the continent faces its largest migration crisis since the end of World War II. An Israeli official, with insight in to European politics in Africa and the Middle East, expressed his concern over the long-term consequences of the migration crisis which may also hit back at Israel in unexpected ways.

- The mass immigration of the last few months will most certainly result in a strengthening of anti-immigration sentiments in Europe, which tend to automatically flow over into anti-Semitism, the official said. With the influx of new immigrants, xenophobic parties like Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece will be further empowered, leading to new policies targeting both the Muslim population and the Jews. The demands to ban circumcision and ritual slaughter are two issues which may soon face both the Jewish community and the Muslim community.

A large majority of those immigrating to Europe come from countries which have been in wars with Israel and where anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiments run high.  With changing demographics in Europe, the European electorate may soon turn even more anti-Israel, the official warned.

ECI has been actively raising awareness of the plight of the Christian communities in Syria and northern Iraq who are today facing ethnic cleansing in areas where there have been Christians for the last 2,000 years. There are currently plans to help evacuate part of these communities to Europe and ECI is actively supporting this initiative.


Palestinians to raise their own flag at the UN ?
Help us honour Israel in the midst of the nations!

New York - In time for the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, the UN has voted in favour of allowing the Palestinians to raise their own flag at the UN headquarters in New York despite the fact that they are not a full UN member state. The resolution was passed by - 120 for, 8 against, 40 abstentions and 20 no shows. Although the decision will change nothing on the ground in Ramallah or Gaza, it is likely to attract a lot of publicity as world media is eager to spread the images around the world. The decision is another humiliating blow to Israel while the Palestinian Authority refuses to meet eye to eye for peace talks.

The vote at the UN, as well as the vote in the European Parliament to label Israeli goods, is part of a growing international campaign to isolate and weaken the Israeli government.

ECI has chosen another path, namely to honour and celebrate the Jewish people and their state. On 21st September we will do this at the start of the high level segment of the General Assembly with a special event to mark the Jewish New Year and prepare for Yom Kippur.  Many nations are already signed up to join the event and thus honour Israel and the Jewish people in this special way.

We believe it is important that Israel is given proper recognition in the nations - as a source of blessing and inspiration, through its many contributions to mankind in the past and its many innovations, which are saving lives today.

Our message is simple. Israel is not the problem in the world - but a solution to many of its problems.


9/10/2015

PRESS RELEASE

ECI honoured the Jewish New Year with meetings in Jerusalem - Israel is not the problem in the Middle East but the solution to its many problems


Jerusalem, 10th September, 2015 - As the European Parliament reconvened in Brussels after the summer recess last week, the European Coalition for Israel travelled to Jerusalem in honour of the upcoming Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, and for meetings with Israeli government officials.  At a dinner meeting in Hotel Yehuda in Jerusalem on Thursday evening, Founding Director Tomas Sandell explained why Christians in Europe find it important to stand on the side of Israel and the Jewish people in this volatile season.

- The state of Israel represents everything that is right in the Middle East. While many of its neighbours fall deeper into an abyss of radical Islam, the state of Israel continues to prosper.

According to a new study which was published in June this year, the citizens of Israel are the 11th happiest people in the world, ahead of the United States. The World Happiness Report is a survey of global societal well-being that ranks 158 countries by happiness levels using variables such as GDP per capita and healthy life expectancy. The report also includes extra factors such as social support, generosity, freedom to make life choices, and perceived absence of corruption.

- In no other country in the region can Jews and Arabs live with the same prospects for a good quality of life than in the Jewish state.  For these reasons the European Union should stop its policy of undermining the Israeli government and instead try to make the other countries in the region learn from Israel. Israel is not the problem in the region but the solution to many of its problems, Sandell said.

In his speech, Daniel Meron, Head of Bureau for UN and International Organisations at the Foreign Ministry, mentioned the many areas where nations can learn from Israeli innovations, from renewable energy to agricultural technology.

Meron praised ECI for its efforts on behalf of the state of Israel at the European Union in Brussels and the United Nations in New York which has resulted in a new level of recognition of Jewish holidays. He pointed out that this year there will be no activities in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.  ECI has for the last two years called upon the UN to respect the Jewish holidays. In a separate meeting at the UN headquarters in New York last week between the Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General also brought up the UN decision to avoid meetings on Yom Kippur as a step in the right direction.

This year the General Debate of the UN General Assembly has been postponed to September 28th, in respect for the Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha and the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. This is the first time in UN history that there are no UN activities on Yom Kippur.

In his dinner speech, ECI Director for UN Affairs Gregory Lafitte explained why the European Coalition for Israel finds it important to celebrate the Jewish holidays.

- The antidote to the rise of anti-Semitism is not merely to tolerate the Jewish people and their culture but to honour and celebrate their many contributions to mankind which can be illustrated in the Jewish holidays.

European Coalition for Israel has made it a tradition to begin the new working term by meeting in Jerusalem, thus honouring the centrality of Jerusalem as the capital of the modern state of Israel and the cradle of our Judeo-Christian civilisation.

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins on Sunday evening, 13th September.

8/25/2015

MONTHLY REPORT - AUGUST 2015



”Understanding the times and knowing what ECI should do”

”Sons of Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” 1 Chronicles 12:32

Autumn is often synonymous with new seasons and new beginnings, regardless of whether we study and go to school or live in the political world. Contrary to our Gregorian calendar, where January 1 marks the New Year, the Jewish calendar is more accurate by marking Rosh Hashanah, which this year begins in the evening of September 13, as the new civil year. According to some Jewish scholars, the upcoming Jewish New Year, 5776, will also mark a Year of Jubilee.

But also, outside of the Jewish context, international relations seem to be entering a new phase as the nations prepare for the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in New York in September. There is hardly a world leader who is not planning to be in New York during the High Level Debate.

This autumn will see the ratification process of the Iran nuclear deal come to a close in the US congress in Washington and a presentation of a new UN resolution to set the parameters for a final and comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, a de-facto unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

It seems as if the nuclear agreement with Iran has ushered in a new age of optimism in the international community where world bodies hope to solve the long standing conflict between Israel and the Arab world ? now with the more active involvement of the EU.

For ECI this new season poses many challenges that will require your active help and support. As Israel is becoming increasingly isolated in the international community it is important that we step up our support.

These are our priorities for 2015-2016

From time to time it is important to recapitulate what European Coalition for Israel is and what our current priorities are. There is no better time to do so than at the beginning of a new season.

ECI was founded in 2003 in order to give Christians a voice in support of Israel in the corridors of power in Brussels and across Europe. Over the years this mandate has expanded to include the UN in New York where today we are reaching out successfully to a growing number of nations.

Whereas there are many excellent and hard working Christian pro-Israel ministries which are teaching the church about our responsibilities towards the Jewish people, helping with social needs in Israel, organising large conferences in Jerusalem etc, we have a different focus.  Our vision is to put our words in to action where we believe they matter the most, in places where decisions are made and opinions are formed. This way we can complement the important work which is already being done by other organisations by giving Christians a voice in the international capitals of the world.

In retrospect we know that it was this crucial function that was missing in the 1930´s, allowing the greatest crime against mankind to come about. Our pledge is simple: Never again.


Priorities

1. Fighting anti-Semitism in Europe

Despite our growing global influence the core mandate of ECI remains in Europe. Never before has the need for a strong Christian voice against anti-Semitism in Europe been more important. This is even more relevant now as the EU is looking for a more active role in reviving the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Europe cannot take on a mediating role in the Middle East if we at the same time harbour anti-Israeli sentiments in our midst. Whereas the EU has been consistent in condemning anti-Semitic violence in Europe it needs to show the same determination in condemning anti-Semitic terrorist attacks also inside Israel.

ECI has for may years stressed the strategic relationship between Europe and Israel and has protested against any acts of double standards, as in the implementation of the new guidelines prohibiting EU funding to projects or recipients outside of the so called 1967 lines, or the new initiative to mark Israeli goods produced in the disputed territories.  These measures are the results of the campaigning of the notorious BDS-movement (Boycotts, divestments and sanctions), which aims to isolate and demonise the state of Israel. As the BDS movement is growing stronger also in Christian circles ECI has a responsibility to stand up and be a clear voice against anti-Semitism inside the church. Perrine Dufoix is our point person for Europe.

2. International Lawfare

Since 2010 ECI has played a central role in re-establishing the historical truth about Israel´s legal foundation, as codified under international law in the international peace conference in San Remo in April 1920 (See link Give Peace a Chance). By commemorating the 90th anniversary of this important conference ECI has been able to bring this long forgotten message to the ends of the earth. This work continues now with the many timely position papers written by ECI Legal Counsel Andrew Tucker and his team. With an eye to a new Palestinian statehood bid at the UN this work is of utmost strategic importance as we can raise an alternative but credible voice based on international law and justice. ECI wish to serve the family of nations as well as the wider church with sound briefings on the legality of the state of Israel. This work, while based in Brussels and The Hague, has of course a global scope as international law transcends national borders.

3. Cultural diplomacy

As of 2013 the international work at the UN, which initially only focused only on legal arguments, has shifted to also include cultural diplomacy. This type of soft diplomacy, where we focus on the many Jewish contributions to mankind, has proven to be an effective way to bring nations together in support for Israel. This work has also come to the attention of the highest level within the UN secretariat, which supports our initiatives. By marking the Jewish holidays at the UN we have managed to present a different side of Israel which evokes the interest and support of many nations. By consistently organising cultural events with a positive message about Israel we have helped facilitate a growing network of nations who wish to draw nearer to Israel. This work, which is today called Forum for Cultural Diplomacy, is being coordinated by Gregory Lafitte. (Picture: Ambassador Karel Kovanda speaking at the Yom Kippur event at the UN in October 2014.)

ECI presented at conferences in Sweden and Finland

Helsinki - During the quiet holiday season of July ECI has been active in speaking in a number of conferences to present the vision and mission of our organisation and encourage Christians to get actively involved in prayer, education and advocacy for Israel.

Many of the meetings have taken place informally whilst others have been public meetings with large audiences. ECI was honoured to have been invited to speak at the Word of Life annual Europe conference in Uppsala, Sweden in the last week of July when Tomas Sandell spoke alongside Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Isaac Bachman and Senior Pastor Joakim Lundqvist. Word of Life has been one of the most influential pro-Israel churches in the last thirty years, teaching hundreds of thousands of Christians about Israel and bringing thousands of pilgrims to Israel. In the 1990´s WOL brought thousands of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union to Israel through its ministry Operation Jabotinsky. After the conference Tomas and Christian Akerhielm from WOL International signed a partnership agreement which further consolidates our cooperation.

In the first week of July Tomas spoke at an Israel conference in Narpes, in the west of Finland. The focus on the Nordic countries is not by chance but because of the important role of the Nordic countries at the EU and the UN.  Some years ago Israel considered the Nordic countries to be the main problems for Israel in Europe. Today the governments in Finland, Norway and Denmark have shifted their policies and are more positive towards Israel.

Due to the extensive travel commitments, ECI staff have limited capacity to attend and speak at Christian conferences. However, Tomas is scheduled to speak in London 10-11 October. More details will follow shortly.

No fixed date yet for annual conference in Brussels

Due to new security regulations inside the European Parliament ECI has not been able to firm up any date for our next annual policy conference. We are still looking at the possibility of organising a seminar and a dinner in mid November, probably week 47 (18-19 November). You can now indicate whether you are interested in receiving an invitation as this conference will be by invitation only. We are sorry for this inconvenience.

7/13/2015

MONTHLY REPORT - JULY 2015


As Israel faces a nuclear threat from Iran, diplomatic lawfare as well as boycotts and sanctions, many friends of Israel have become crippled with fear. At ECI we have chosen to respond to these threats, not just by defending Israel but by celebrating Israel!

This is what we mean by ”cultural diplomacy” and a ”positive agenda.” As EU leaders, such as the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, has noted recently, the Jews have contributed significantly to our civilisation and continue to do so. To quote Mogherini: ’Europe without the Jews would no longer be Europe.’ The same is true for the UN: there would probably be no world organisation today if it were not for the inspiration of the Jewish people and their active contribution to the drafting of the UN Charter.

The best antidote to hate is love. The best way to counter hatred for the Jews and the modern State of Israel is therefore to express appreciation for the Jewish people and to celebrate Israel!

At ECI we have marked the different Jewish feasts at the UN to illustrate how they each have a universal message with relevance for today. In this issue you can read about how our work, in the course of just one month, has taken us to three continents in support of Israel.

Thank you for supporting our work in prayer and financial giving.  With your help we will continue.


Forum for Cultural Diplomacy moves forward with government-level meetings in Europe, USA and Australia!

Berlin - The Forum for Cultural Diplomacy, ECI’s initiative at the United Nations, is expanding its scope. In the month of June there have been government-level meetings in no less than three different continents!

In early June, Tomas Sandell and Gregory Lafitte were invited to Berlin to meet with the Special Representative of the German Government for Relations with Jewish Organisations, Ambassador Felix Klein. Ambassador Klein first learnt of the work of the Forum at a conference in Brussels in April where he spoke about ”the need for Israel to have a positive agenda.” After hearing of the work of FCD, he invited the directors to Berlin in order to learn more about the work. In Berlin it was confirmed that FCD and the German Government are on the same page when it comes to understanding and recognising the many contributions of the Jewish people to mankind and to the principles and values of the UN Charter.

Separate meetings have also taken place in Canberra, (Australia) and Wellington (New Zealand) under the leadership of ECI Legal Counsel, Andrew Tucker, and in New York through Gregory Lafitte, Tomas Sandell and Rudolf Geigy.  By partnering with national governments who share our concerns and convictions, we can strengthen the pro-Israel voice on the international scene.


Diplomatic luncheon in New York mobilises friends of Israel at the UN

New York -  On June 16th, ECI hosted a diplomatic luncheon at the ONE UN Hotel in New York in connection with the 70th Anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter. Israel became a full member of the UN back in 1949, but to this day there is no formal group at the UN defending the interests of the Jewish state; there is, on the other hand, a sea of organisations which are brought together in their hatred of Israel.

This was again well-illustrated in mid-June as both Saudi Arabia and Iran protested the appointment of an Israeli diplomat to one of the vice-chairs of the Fifth Committee of the UNGA, calling the appointment a ”provocation.” Iran and Saudi Arabia are fierce enemies but are nevertheless united in their animosity towards Israel.

In his speech at the luncheon, Gregory Lafitte asked why there is still no pro-Israel group at the UN? One diplomat answered by saying that such a group has already began to crystallise through the many UN permanent missions which have taken part in FCD luncheons and activities over the last few years.
’What makes FCD unique is that it rallies support for something and not against something’, another diplomat noted. By presenting a positive agenda at the UN, friends of Israel have found a platform where they can unite in a positive spirit to express their support for Israel. Over the last few years, ECI has brought together some 50 UN missions for luncheons celebrating Jewish holidays and their universal messages for mankind.

Since its admission to the UN in 1949, Israel has been mostly isolated in the world organisation. Most friends of Israel have either dismissed the UN or engaged in a negative campaign of criticism instead of trying to be constructive. Although the criticism has often been well- intended the approach has not changed the dynamics at the UN.

ECI believes that we need to be where decisions are made and that by engaging constructively with the decision-makers we can have a positive influence.

Organisations such as the UN or the EU are by no means perfect but they are still political realities which we cannot neglect.  The goal of ECI is to make the EU and the UN a better place for Israel by bringing together and empowering friends of Israel and by providing balanced and well- documented information for the leaders.


ECI in unique mission to Australia and New Zealand

Canberra - Given the extraordinary efforts of our Legal Counsel Andrew Tucker (picture), ECI has been able to reach out and have an impact in the capitals of Australia and New Zealand, the furthest destinations from our headquarters in Brussels! Andrew Tucker was born in Australia and thus has a natural connection and interest in the continent.

New Zealand is currently a member of the UN Security Council and in this capacity is a key player at the UN. In mid- June, Tucker travelled to both capitals to meet with senior government officials to explain the case against a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN as well as the positive agenda of the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy.

The Government of Australia under Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julia Bishop is today one of the strongest supporters of Israel in the international community and the meeting with the government reflected this kinship. The officials expressed a sincere interest in continuing contact with ECI and staying actively involved with the FCD at the UN.

The meetings in Wellington also proved to be successful. Government officials listened to ECI’s message on the dangers of unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN as expressed in the ECI briefing paper which had previously been shared with UN and EU officials.
The NZ Government had previously indicated that it would use its term as President of the UN Security Council in July to present a resolution with France which would impose parameters and conditions for a final peace agreement, however according to the government officials this is no longer the case.

Tucker later commented that the meetings in both capitals were successful mainly because nobody else is presenting our case. ’It is not that anyone would disagree with what we are saying, but they have simply not heard these arguments before, and when they hear them, they realise that they make perfect sense!’

The meeting in New Zealand was coordinated by our long-standing ECI friend Brenda Parshotam (picture), who is launching a new initiative called ”New Zealand for Israel,” which will operate in partnership with ECI. This initiative illustrates the organic and relational nature of ECI as Parshotam was a close friend of ECI for many years before launching the new initiative.

The mission to Australia and New Zealand once more illustrates what makes ECI’s work unique, in that we try to foster respectful personal relationships with government officials and work through a network of committed friends. Those who want to learn more about New Zealand for Israel can contact us on info@ec4i.org