ECI mourns the passing of Shimon Peres

ECI mourns the passing of Shimon Peres
European Parliament pays tribute with one minute of silence

Brussels, September 29th, 2016 – The European Coalition for Israel joins the worldwide Jewish community in mourning the death of Israeli leader Shimon Peres who passed away in the early hours of Wednesday morning, two weeks after suffering a stroke. Shimon Peres was 93 years old. In a statement in Brussels on Wednesday, ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell expressed the sentiments of many Christians throughout the world in saying:

”Israel has lost one of its founding fathers, a pillar of the Jewish state and a visionary leader. Shimon Peres was an Israeli statesman, twice Prime Minister and the country's ninth President. He was admired all over the world because of his sincere quest for peace, which in 1994 won him the Nobel Peace prize. He was a fighter who never gave up. The visionary is gone, but the modern democratic state of Israel that he once could only dream of, but later was part of creating, lives on.”

On Wednesday Vice President Antonio Tajani called for one minute of silence in the European Parliament in remembrance of the deceased Israeli President. The state funeral will take place in Jerusalem on Friday with more than a dozen world leaders in attendance.



ECI attends United Nations General Assembly in New York for the sixth consecutive year
– Israel is now in a stronger position at the UN after the official recognition of Yom Kippur as a UN holiday

New York, September 19th, 2016 – The European Coalition for Israel will join world leaders from 193 nations in attending the high level segment of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, which begins in New York today on Monday, September 19th, with a high-level plenary meeting to address the large movements of refugees and migrants.

ECI has attended every opening session of the UN General Assembly since 2011 when a petition against a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood was submitted to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by a delegation from ECI, urging the international community to keep Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty. The petition was presented with a file of over 60,000 hand-written signatures.

ECI was also present in the chamber of the UN General Assembly the following year on November 29th, 2012, when the nations voted overwhelmingly to accord Non-Member Observer State status to Palestine.

In April 2014, ECI founded the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy (FCD) as an arm of its work at the United Nations. Over the last few years FCD has met with some 80 permanent missions to the UN to campaign for UN recognition of the Jewish religious holiday of Yom Kippur as an official UN holiday. This year will mark the first time since the creation of the UN in 1945 when a Jewish holiday is duly recognized as an official UN holiday and is no longer a working day. This now makes it possible for Israeli delegates to participate fully in the high level meetings.

Since 2012, ECI and FCD have hosted many high level diplomatic events at the UN headquarters in New York to mark the Jewish holidays and to explain their universal message to the international community. Among the Jewish holidays that have already been celebrated are Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana and Pesach (Passover). Last year ECI marked the opening week of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in celebrating the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, by observing the Jewish ceremony of Taschlich. The event was organized and took place in the Rose Garden of the UN, with the active participation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Later, in a written communication to ECI, Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the work of the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy as “very important”.

The visit this year by Founding Director Tomas Sandell and UN Director Gregory Lafittecomes only ten days after the international board of ECI met with the Israeli Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, where he acknowledged the importance of the work of ECI in helping to achieve UN recognition of Yom Kippur. Later this week ECI has been invited to a high level meeting on Israeli technology and innovations hosted by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

During the week ECI will also be attending a meeting of the current EU-Presidency which is held by Slovakia whose President Andrej Kiska is hosting a reception on Tuesday night. In bilateral meetings with Heads of State or Government and UN diplomats, ECI will take the opportunity to thank all the nations who have supported the recognition of Yom Kippur.

“The UN is today a better place for the Jewish people because of these reforms”, said ECI Director for UN Affairs, Gregory Lafitte. Earlier this year Israel’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Danny Danon, was appointed as chairman of the UN Sixth Committee (Legal), and he is the first Israeli ever to lead a major UN committee.

ECI was founded in 2003 to be a Christian voice in support of Israel at the European Union in Brussels. Already in 2011 it was clear that Israel needed a similar voice of support at the United Nations in New York.
“Israel is only one nation among 193 in the United Nations and until 2000 it was not even a member of any of the regional groups. We could not leave Israel to stand alone. We are fully committed to standing for Israel both at the European Union in Brussels and at the United Nations in New York where in the past Israel has so often been isolated. It is not in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, but in the international capitals of Brussels and New York that Israel needs more friends”, said ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell in conclusion as he was explaining the reason for ECI to keep coming back each year to the UN.

The General Debate of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly will conclude on Monday September 26th.



Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomes European Coalition for Israel in Jerusalem  -  there is no better line of defence for Europe against terrorism than the State of Israel

Jerusalem, September 15th, 2016 - The international board of the European Coalition for Israel has had a unique opportunity to meet with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with a delegation of senior Israeli government officials during the week of the ECI annual board meeting in Jerusalem. The meeting took place in the official cabinet room of the government of Israel where the Prime Minister officially welcomed ECI to Jerusalem and thanked the group on behalf of the State of Israel for all the important work which ECI is doing in Europe and around the world. Referring to the evangelical community in Europe and around the world he said: “You are our best friends”.

But he was clearly disappointed with the European Union. “The world has changed in a dramatic way in the last few years, but the only ones who do not seem to understand these changes are the EU-leaders”, he said. This was a strong message for the European Union in Brussels which in recent years has adopted a number of measures aimed at isolating Israel, especially with regard to the disputed territories.

“Israel is Europe’s best line of defence against terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda. Without the State of Israel, the western area of the Middle East would collapse,” he continued. “The Arab world understands this but Europe ignores it.” The Prime Minister acknowledged that there are many friendly governments in Europe who are very supportive of Israel in bilateral meetings, but once they meet in closed meetings in the European Council in Brussels their conclusions automatically seem to be unanimously against Israel.

“But Israel is not alone”, the Prime Minister assured ECI. “From Africa and Latin America to Asia, a growing number of nations are looking to Israel for solutions and cooperation and want to benefit from the many technological innovations from Israel, as well as looking for ways to invest in the dynamic Israeli economy.”

“Practically every day the Prime Minister receives governmental delegations from all corners of the world,” National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel explained. Prior to meeting the ECI board members the Prime Minister had met with the Foreign Minister of Australia,Julie Bishop, and the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, as well as with the opposition leader Anna Kinberg Batra from Sweden. During his state visit to the Netherlands last week he made a personal phone call to Roger van Oordt from Christians for Israel to thank the group for their support. Christians for Israel, based in the Netherlands, is one of the founding members of the European Coalition for Israel.

In the meeting with ECI, the Prime Minister explained the importance of support for Israel by Christians. He went on to thank ECI for all its work in the European Union in Brussels, and also at the United Nations in New York where the ECI Forum for Cultural Diplomacy and the Israeli Permanent Representation to the UN worked together to promote the request for the recognition of a Jewish holiday in the UN. As the 71st session of the UN General Assembly opened on September 13th,  it was the first time since the creation of the UN in 1945 that Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, has been recognised as an official UN holiday and is no longer a working day.

“This recognition has not only benefitted the State of Israel but also some 100 other member states whose religious holidays will now be recognised by the UN, thanks to the initiative to ask for UN recognition of a Jewish holiday," ECI Director for UN affairs,Gregory Lafitte, pointed out.

In his brief statement to the Prime Minister, Founding Director Tomas Sandell gave a short history of ECI saying that it was founded in 2003 as "a coalition of all the others." This expression comes from a speech made by the late Elie Wiesel, who at an EU crisis summit in 2004, observed that he felt that it was only the Jews in Europe who seemed to be reacting to the rise of anti-Semitism. "Where are all the others?”, he asked.

“There may be a small but vocal minority in Europe which has a problem, not only with the policies of the Israeli government but also with the mere existence of Israel, but we believe we represent a silent majority which shares the values and principles of the Jewish State”, Sandell said. “Our goal is to make this silent majority a vocal majority. Our message to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is that Europe needs more of Israel, not less, and that Israel is not the problem but the solution to many of our problems in Europe and the Middle East. We do not simply want to "tolerate" the Jewish people but we want to “celebrate” Israel and the Jewish people who have contributed so much to our European culture and society.”

“We will never forget that it was your people, the Jewish people, who gave us our Holy Scriptures and this is something for which we will be forever grateful”, Sandell concluded. The Prime Minister acknowledged his great appreciation for the Bible. At a cabinet meeting the previous week, in connection with the beginning of the new school year, he had encouraged the students to study the Bible, in order to learn why the Jewish people have returned to Israel.

Joining the Prime Minister at the meeting was National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel, Deputy Minister of the Prime Minister's Office Michael Oren, Deputy Head of Foreign Affairs at the National Security Council Orma Mizrahi, Foreign Policy Adviser Jonathan Schachter, and Foreign Media Adviser David Keyes.

The ECI delegation comprised newly elected ECI Chairman Tor G Gull, outgoing Chairman Rudolf Geigy, his wife Elizabeth Geigy, Founding Director Tomas Sandell, UN Director Gregory Lafitte and board members Bedros NassanianHarald EckertAntti Hämäläinen and Rick Ridings.



From vision to reality in fifteen years!

As I started to write this monthly report on my flight back to Helsinki after spending a whole week in Brussels, I realised that we have just entered the month of September.

The first of September marks fifteen years since the ECI vision was first presented in a written form, to be embraced only two days later by an anonymous donor. While this vision was being confirmed in Helsinki, Finland, fifteen years ago in 2001, another chain of events was unfolding in Durban, South Africa, where the United Nations was organising a large world conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The NGO conference that was running parallel to the UN conference described Israel as a racist state and is now considered by many as the launch platform for the “new anti-Semitism” of today. It was at this conference, where so called anti-racists and human rights activists were shouting “death to Israel”, that the strategy to boycott Israel was first presented to an international forum. Only three days after the conference ended on September 11, terror struck in New York and Washington DC, and the world has never been the same since then.

In the midst of all this turmoil we believe the Lord was raising up ECI “for such a time as this” to help Christians stand up against this new resurgence of anti-Semitism. By remembering the ”birth of ECI” in this way, it gives us the opportunity to thank all those who have stood by us faithfully during all these last fifteen years, in prayer, friendship and financial support. As we mark fifteen years since the birth of the vision (ECI was officially launched as an organisation in March 2003) we are entering another volatile season which reminds us of Germany in the 1930´s. This was a time when the hordes of anti-Semites started to expel the Jewish people from Europe by planning boycotts of their businesses and declaring Jews to be second-class citizens. Also today Jewish life is under threat in Europe by the rise of anti-Semitism and potentially by new laws to ban religious circumcision and kosher slaughter which would make Jewish life impossible in Europe. In addition to this, Jewish products from Israel are again targets for boycotting.

But this time the friends of Israel are no longer passive. In this monthly update we are presenting some new developments that will make ECI stronger and even more effective in the future as we invite you to stand with us in prayer and financial support during the next fifteen years!

Singaporean Christians express interest in an Asian Coalition for Israel

Singapore – In mid August ECI Vice-ChairmanTor G Gull and Founding Director Tomas Sandell visited Singapore on a follow up mission after a fruitful ministry trip in the month of May. Just two weeks earlier, during a layover in Singapore on his way to Australia, our Legal Counsel Andrew Tucker had an opportunity to present ECI´s legal work at a gathering of lawyers and Christian lay leaders who had expressed a great interest to become involved in the area of international law.

Singapore is a testimony to an exceptional transformation of a third world country into a leading economy in only one generation. Part of the reason for this remarkable achievement is the close cooperation of Singapore with the state of Israel since its formation in 1965. Today Israel and Singapore are two of the most dynamic economies in the world and Christians in Singapore firmly support the state of Israel along with cultural transformation of their own country.

To learn more about the secret behind this remarkable transformation both Gull and Sandell spent a week attending a “Making disciples of all nations” school, organised by the Full Gospel Business (FGB) Gatekeepers Singapore. While the course was spiritually enriching, it also helped us to create new links to other parts of Asia and solidify the emerging relationships in Singapore.

As a result of the trip, a delegation of seasoned market place leaders and Christian pastors expressed a genuine interest to start up an Asian Coalition for Israel, in close cooperation with the European Coalition for Israel. Having developed an organisational template which has been proven successful in Europe and at the United Nations, groups in other continents are now interested in following the ECI model.

While there is no desire for us in ECI to create a new global super-structure, it does make sense to share our experience and resources with other like-minded groups in the world. In the past ECI has refrained from entering into working relationships with groups in other continents, but given the organic developments over the last two years with leaders in Singapore, the prospect of a fruitful working relationship now seems ripe.

Breaking news – American Friends of ECI receive tax exempt status

Washington DC – As ECI is expanding its influence in Asia, the American Friends of ECI has just received its 501 (c) (3) tax exempt status in the USA. The work in the US capital will now enter a new dimension as a growing network of regional coalitions emerges. The work in Washington DC is headed up by our former Brussels representative Faith Collins-Childress. The official launch of AFECI will take place in Washington DC on October 13.

ECI returns to Brussels with summer aftershock but clear priorities for autumn

Brussels – Members of the European Parliament returned to Brussels in the last week of August after a dramatic summer with the surprise result of the Brexit vote and a new wave of terrorist attacks. On Wednesday, August 31, ECI recorded its first European Report for the autumn (WATCH HERE) to discuss what Europe can learn from Israel to protect its citizens from further terror. Dutch MEP Bas Belder expressed his outrage that the EU still refuses to acknowledge the critical role of radical Islam behind each of the recent attacks. The political leadership along with the media portray a picture of disenfranchised young immigrants who suffer from mental problems, and fail to recognise an underlying culture in Europe which is embedded with anti-Semitism and radical Islam.

Meanwhile, ECI continues its dialogue with the European External Action Service (EEAS - the EU foreign department) concerning the issue of on-going EU financing of Palestinian terrorism in Israel which was presented to the EEAS during an official visit during the month of April. In response to a follow up request, the Director of the Middle East Section writes that: “EU assistance provided to the Palestinian Authority (PA) is subject to strict and continuous monitoring that ensures, inter alia, that European funds are used only for the agreed purposes and are scrupulously audited.” This statement, however, is in clear contrast with the findings of the European Court of Auditors and the European Parliament Budgetary Control Committee which on numerous occasions have raised complaints against the EU for lack of control and oversight. Furthermore, in the most recent update from the Middle East Quartet, the problem of Palestinian incitement to violence is highlighted as a clear obstacle to peace. However, the responsible officials in Brussels continue to refuse to acknowledge any wrong doing.

Apart from the issue of Palestinian incitement to violence, ECI is focusing on the continuing battle concerning Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. ECI is in regular contact with the office of the President of the European Parliament who has expressed his clear criticism of any attempt to boycott or discriminate against Israel. But many EU officials report growing pressure on the European Commission from groups in some member states to apply new boycotts to convince Israel to give in to European demands. Among these groups are many so-called Christian Development NGO’s which, by twisting the language of human rights, religion and international law, seek to label Israel as an international pariah. Last month it was revealed that World Vision, an international Christian charity with a budget of several billions, had secretly been channelling funds to the terrorist organisation Hamas.
ECI will continue to monitor – and if necessary name and shame - these Christians groups which continuously oppose, revile and demonize the Jewish state.

Shalom Festival invades Edinburgh Festival Fringe with message of peace

Edinburgh, Scotland – As well as having an impact at a governmental level through diplomatic activities, it is absolutely essential that friends of Israel are also active in reclaiming  the streets of Europe in support for Israel just as the BDS movement is trying to push Israel, its arts, culture and products out of Europe.

This is exactly what happened in August at the largest arts festival in the world, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, when Scottish pro-Israel organisations, supported by ECI, organised an International Shalom Festival presenting Israeli arts, music and culture in an attempt to build bridges for peace between Scotland and Israel.

The original Shalom Festival in Belgium was an initiative started by, among others, the Belgian Coalition for Israel and our Brussels representative Ruth Isaac and her sisterEugenia Daskapoulous-Tarzilou from Koinonia ministries in Antwerp. Together with Jewish organisations, they have hosted several cultural events in Antwerp and Brussels over the years with a message of peace and co-existence in the Middle East - hence the name: “Shalom (peace) Festival”.

Inspired by the Belgian experience, Scottish Israel activist Nigel Goodrich has now introduced this concept at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where Israeli artists have been boycotted in the past. This year Israel was given great visibility through the Shalom Festival which showcased a different Israel than the one presented by the BDS movement. As friends of Israel were celebrating Israeli culture inside the venue, anti-Israel demonstrators were loudly protesting - but outside.

Kudos to our friend and partner in the UK, Nigel Goodrich, who made all this possible.

ECI Young Adults reach younger generation in their countries

Helsinki, Finland – The future of EU-Israeli relations is in the hands of the younger generation. In the pre-study in 2001, which later led to the creation of the European Coalition for Israel, we noted that Biblical supporters of Israel tended to be people who have had first hand experience of the miracle of the birth of the Jewish state in 1948, the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 and the miraculous survival of Israel in the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
Those who grow up in this day and age have a completely different experience of the State of Israel which through biased media reporting is portrayed as an “occupying power” and a “human rights violator”. Although nothing could be further from the truth, this explains why this new generation needs to be presented with clear facts and the truth about Israel and the conflict in the Middle East.

The ECI Young Adults group (see article from last month) takes this message to the younger generation. It is critical that we reach young people while they are still studying and are at a formative age. In the Netherlands one of our young leaders has started a small project at her college, which we hope can become a pilot study in how to bring our message into the college campuses in Europe.

Another one of our young leaders, Ina Litma, will this autumn be involved in a project supported by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and the Youth section of the Christian Democratic party in Finland to counter the lies of the BDS movement by presenting the facts about Israel through a tour in different key cities in Finland. This is a good example of a pro-active approach in the current information war where small but vocal and well-funded anti-Israel groups are reaching out to students and young people with a message of hate. It is time that those who care for Israel and peace in the Middle East are given a more visible profile. Thank you ECI Young Adults for making a difference!

As we close this month´s report we want to again thank all supporters of ECI, both young and old. If you would like to support the work of ECI financially you will find more information here.

Upcoming events

London 5th November 2016
First National ECI Conference in London.

Speakers: Tomas Sandell, Jacques Gauthier, Ruth Isaac, and more.
Location and full programme to be announced shortly.