Why are we in Brussels?

European Coalition for Israel was founded in March 2003 in Brussels where today we have our headquarters next door to the European Parliament. Although this is a fact that we often take for granted, it may be wise from time to time to explain why we have chosen to focus on Brussels.

1. Brussels is the centre of the New Europe which evolved out of the ashes of the Holocaust. This New Europe is built on three principles: “never again” war in Europe, “never again” let down the Jewish people and a commitment to a national home for the Jewish people in Israel. We want to be in Brussels in order to remind the EU of these commitments.

2. The EU has a growing influence in the international arena. It is no coincidence that it is the EU High Representative of Foreign Policy, Federica Mogherini, who is the chief negotiator in the nuclear talks with Iran.

3. Brussels is not only the political capital of the EU. Among the 28 EU-member states you will find three permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely France, Germany and Great Britain.

4. Today, Europe is the largest trade partner with Israel, both for import and export.

There would be no Europe without the Jewish people and there would be no Israel without Europe. The idea of a Jewish state was first introduced in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897 by a European Jew named Theodor Herzl. The idea was later accepted by the British and finally incorporated into international law in 1920 in San Remo, Italy.

Europe and Israel do not only share a common history but also a common future. As the former Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, has said: “If Israel goes down, we all go down.”

This is why we are in Brussels.

Local mayor thanks ECI for helping to raise awareness of San Remo Peace Conference 95 years ago

San Remo - The city of San Remo and the region of Liguria have decided to highlight the significant role of the San Remo Conference of 1920, which paved the way for the creation of the Jewish state and transformed the Middle East into what it is today.

In a letter to ECI on the occasion of the 95th Anniversary of the San Remo Resolution of 25th April, 1920, the Mayor of San Remo, Alberto Biancheri, thanked ECI for all its efforts to raise awareness of the significance of this long-forgotten, but important conference. He continued: “San Remo is deeply engaged in promoting the awareness and the memory of the very special history of the Jewish people, so closely intertwined with the events on our territory.”

This summer the city of La Spezia, also in Liguria, will mark the 70th Anniversary of the first ship carrying Jewish refugees to Palestine after the Second World War. From 1945 to 1948, more than 23,000 Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees managed to leave for Mandate Palestine from La Spezia. The city is known today as the Gateway to Zion.

Since hosting the 90th Anniversary of the San Remo Resolution in 2010, ECI has spearheaded an initiative to raise awareness of the legal relevance of the San Remo Resolution for today. This has included the production of the video ‘Give Peace a Chance’, lectures and conferences in national parliaments around the world, from Tokyo to London, as well as a diplomatic luncheon for Ambassadors of the UN Security Council in New York.

These efforts have also included raising awareness of the conference in Israel itself as well as in the city of San Remo, which, as the letter indicates, is now starting to bear fruit.

In a separate development in Brussels, Tomas Sandell met with the new Chairman of the European Parliament delegation to the Israeli Knesset, Italian MEP Fulvio Martusciello. He learnt about the San Remo Conference through ECI and is now willing to cooperate with us to give the conference more prominence, not only in the Liguria region but also in Europe as a whole, where the legal foundation of Israel is being aggressively contested. You can find more resources on the San Remo Resolution on the following website. http://www.givepeaceachance.info/

ECI protests new push to label Israeli goods
- Questions to be raised in national parliaments

Brussels - 16 Foreign Ministers* have sent a letter to the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, Federica Mogherini, asking her to push forward the process of labelling goods produced in the disputed territories and sold in grocery chains across the continent. (See press release)

The Foreign Ministers’ letter is a direct reaction to the election of Benyamin Netanyahu for a record third term as Israeli Prime Minister.

ECI has sent a press statement to the High Representative as well as the 16 ministers calling their demands misguided. Thanks to the ECI initiative, questions are now also being raised in national parliaments in Europe to bring to account the foreign ministers who wrote the letter.

In a recent meeting with pro-Israel organisations in Brussels, it became clear that whereas there are many Jewish organisations which support closer ties between Israel and Europe, few if any, are willing to become involved in the legal battle concerning the jurisdiction of the disputed territories. As the only non-Jewish, pro-Israel lobby group in Brussels, ECI is proud to take on this challenge, as the message of the anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divest and sanctions) movement is growing stronger.

The tragic fact of the matter is, that among the many groups that make up the BDS movement, a large portion are Christian. These organisations are funded by Christian donations as well as by government subsidies. Their motive seems not only to be concern for the Palestinian people, but also to attack the Jewish state. There were no protests last month when the Islamic terrorist organisation ISIL invaded the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, killing 16 Palestinians and leaving 18,000 civilians, mostly women and children, trapped without food or water.

The important mission for ECI and its supporters in the coming years will be to counter this vicious campaigning from the BDS movement and governments who support it, with facts and figures, starting with the legal relevance of the San Remo Resolution.

Thank you for wanting to be part of this mission. As a Christian NGO which wants to stand on the side of Israel and the Jewish people, we are not entitled to any government funds (!) but will have to continue to rely on the generosity of those who support our work.

If you want to support this work please click here for more information.

* The letter is signed by the foreign ministers of France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Malta, Austria, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia, Hungary, Finland, Denmark, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. Germany is the only one of the five big European states not to sign on to the letter.

70 years since the execution of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer – His legacy lives on.

Berlin - April 9th marked the 70th Anniversary of the public hanging of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who confronted Hitler early on and finally embarked on the dangerous mission to assassinate the Nazi dictator. In a recent biography about Bonhoeffer by American author Eric Metaxas (“Bonhoeffer; Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” ) he explains how his Christian faith made him side with the persecuted Jews, who he called “God’s people”, and confront Hitler by paying the ultimate price only three weeks before the death of Hitler and the end of the war.

Bonhoeffer was jailed for having tried to help seven German Jews flee into neutral Switzerland. It was later discovered by the Nazis that he was also part of a plot to assassinate Hitler.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer leaves a rich legacy behind for all Christians and people of goodwill, who today are faced with the rise of the same evil of anti-Semitism.

One of the intellectual debates in the 1930’s was whether the Jewish people of that time had any connection to God’s chosen people. The German church under the control of the Nazis claimed that there were simply no connections between the Jews in Germany and the Jews of the Bible. 
Today we are faced with the same question ? do the Jewish people of the Bible have any connection to the Jewish people of today and the State of Israel, or are they simply “a colonial people that have stolen the land of Israel from the indigenous Palestinians,” as their critics claim?

A seemingly trivial theological question will eventually lead us in two diametrically opposed positions ? either to turn against Israel and the “evil Jewish people” or to stand up for them as God’s chosen people and defend their right to life and to their own homeland.

May the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer inspire us this month to do what is required of us today.

To quote Bonhoeffer:
“ Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

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

Copyright (c) European Coalition for Israel