Brussels NGO outlawed by Israel as Hamas mouthpiece
The article by Chaim Levinson, Ha’aretz is followed by one from Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam.
Moshe ‘Bogie’ Ya’alon, Israel’s Minister of Defence and former chief of staff of the IDF, here speaking at the Summit on Counter-Terrorism at Hertzliya
Ya’alon declares the Council for European Palestinian Relations an ‘illicit association.’ European MPs in the group’s directorship could be arrested if they land at Ben Gurion airport.
By Chaim Levinson, Ha’aretz
December 31, 2013
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has outlawed the Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR) – a Belgian non-profit organization that serves as Hamas’ representative in Europe. Members of the organization include four European MPs, who are now in danger of arrest if they land at Ben Gurion International Airport.
The director of the NGO is Dr. Arafat Shoukri, a resident of London who has been active for many years in various organizations working against the State of Israel, and was one of the leaders of the campaign calling for the lifting of the siege against Gaza.
Arafat Shoukri, above, told the French palestine-solidarite.org that “The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza was established in late 2007 to mobilize the largest European community as possible against the siege of Gaza. Even then, for over three years, the siege has strangled the production and culture of the population [of Gaza]. The situation worsened with the Israeli attack of 2008/2009 . Our mission is to work with thirty NGOs that constitute our coalition, as well as those who support us individually to break the Israeli siege by intervening with the European legislators, through the media, and providing humanitarian assistance to the population of Gaza.
The organization [CEPR] is registered in Belgium and acts as a lobby for the Gaza government in the European Union. It is also registered in the EU offices in the framework of the convention to increase transparency. On its website the organization claims that it “is working to improve the dialogue between Europe and the Arab world, with the objective of restoring Palestinian rights in accordance with international law, as part a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
In the past three years the CEPR has organized six delegations of European MPs, who visited Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. In 2010 Shoukri met with the then-chairman of the EU Parliament.
Two weeks ago Ya’alon declared the group “an outlawed organization,” based on the emergency defense regulations. That means that Israel can confiscate money related to the organization and try its members or those who provide them with services. In the past Israel has declared isolated European groups illegal, but still this is an unusual declaration.
Also outlawed was a Norwegian NGO called European Empowerment Services and the European Campaign to Remove the Siege Against the Gaza Strip, which as far as we know is a media name only, without any real organization behind it.
The leadership of the CEPR includes four members of parliament from Europe. British representative Richard Howitt, German representative Alexandra Thein, Swiss MP Geri Müller and British MP Norman Warner. The four are now in danger of arrest and trial if they visit Israel or try to reach the West Bank via Israel.
Shoukri was not available for comment.
The Shin Bet security services replied that CEPR has in fact recently been declared an illegal organization, in light of the fact that it is Hamas’ leading organization in Europe, which carries out its activity under cover of being a pro-Palestinian organization. The organization is headed by senior Hamas activists, including Arafat Shoukri and Rami Abdo.” In reply to the question as to whether the Shin Bet intends to take steps against the four MPs if they arrive in Israel, they said that “The Shin Bet does not usually discuss activities in which it engages for the purpose of fulfilling its mission.”
Dr. Shoukri told The Independent the CEPR will take legal action.
“The decision of the Israel defense minister is based on false accusations and has no shred of truth and we will challenge it through the legal means,” he said.
“The CEPR is a non-profit organisation and is not affiliated to any political party whether inside or outside Palestine.
“Our main aim is to achieve peace and justice in the Middle East according to international law.”We also believe that the international community should respect the democratic and transparent elections that took place in Palestine 2006 and engage with all representatives of the Palestinian people.”
By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam
January 01, 2014
Israel’s Defense Minister, Bogie Yaalon is ticked off (in Hebrew it’s called b’rogez). And when an IDF ex-chief of staff is ticked, look out. It’s those damn delegitimizers again! Making trouble for Israel.
Bogie’s got their number. He’s going to fight fire with fire. If those Europeans want to slap labels on our West Bank products and punish us for our settlements by preventing us from participating in prestigious projects like Horizon 2020–well then, we’ll show ‘em!
Bogie would prefer to go after real European terrorists if he could. But after Madrid and London, Al Qaeda is pretty much cleaned out of Europe. So now he’s going after the low-hanging fruit. Those he views as the terrorist sympathizers. Groups like the Council for European Palestinian Relations. It goes without saying that it’s a Hamas front. If not Hamas, then Hezbollah for sure. You say Hezbollah isn’t Palestinian? Who cares, they’re pretty much all the same anyway. Arabs, and they want to kill us. Right?
So if you’re Bogie Yaalon and looking to send a message to European leaders, what better choice than a European NGO dedicated to promoting Palestinian rights and which is spearheaded by no less than four members of the European Parliament. The Israeli defense ministry has declared the group a criminal enterprise just as Hamas, Hezbollah or other Arab militant groups are. Membership in CEPR if you enter Israel’s jurisdiction could land you in jail. Even donating money could be construed by Israel’s security services as financing terrorism.
It means that should former Blair government minister Clare Short ever set foot in Israel, she’d be arrested. In fact, Bogie would likely show up at Ben Gurion to have his picture taken next to her handcuffed. It would make a great photo-op for the nightly Israeli news.
In his own mind, Yaalon is something like Captain Israel (except in his case we should give the ex-general a promotion and call him General Israel), that magnificent Jewish superhero standing up for his people and staring down evildoers. POW! But does Israel really need superheroes? Or does it need level-headed pragmatists? If it wants comic book heroes it will end up with a comic book plot filled with blood and guts. Only the ending won’t necessarily result in the hero knocking off the villain, saving the world and getting the girl. It could end up much, much worse.
So hold on a minute: is this a wise policy? Is this the way a democratic government behaves? Does it threaten to throw members of foreign governments into prison merely because of their political views? There is a wonderful term for this in Yiddish: auf tsu l’achuss (from the Hebrew word for ‘anger’). It’s impossible to translate perfectly, but roughly it means cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. It means engaging in provocative, even self-destructive behavior, because you’re goddamn ticked off.
Since the last two posts I wrote contained strong criticism of the journalistic standards of Haaretz, tonight’s will no different. This is how Chaim Levinson described CEPR in his article:
…A Belgian non-profit organization that serves as Hamas’ representative in Europe…The organization is registered in Belgium and acts as a lobby for the Gaza government in the European Union.
A review of the group’s website contains no such statement. In fact, Hamas is hardly mentioned at all in its entire website (though CEPR does engage in work in Gaza). Though it is undoubtedly registered in Belgium, nowhere on its website does it claim to lobby on behalf of any particular Palestinian faction. Here is how it describes its “political engagements:”
In the Middle East, the CEPR engages with all Palestinian political factions, as well as holding talks with key regional actors, such as the League of Arab States, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Jordan, and the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament in Lebanon, as well as the transitional government in Tunisia and political actors in Egypt.
In other words, CEPR is not Hamas’ representative in Europe. It is an NGO seeking to build bridges between Palestinian leaders and those in Europe. Of course, the group does take positions that Hamas, and most other Palestinians, would support like calling for lifting of Israel’s illegal siege of Gaza. But that does not constitute representing or advocating for Hamas.
Invoking the term “Hamas” is one of those red-meat/red flag terms that elicits a Pavlovian response inside Israel and parts of the rest of the world. The Islamist movement is listed as a terror group in the U.S. and other countries and tying CEPR to it is as good as proving the NGO is a supporter of terror. It doesn’t matter that none of this is true. Yaalon is one of those vile politicians who throws feces on his opponents in the hopes that some of it will stick and then he can turn around and scream about how disgusting the bad guy is. Yaalon, as I’ve written here regarding his alarmism about Iran, never lets truth or facts get in the way of his doomsaying.
The Shin Bet has been willingly co-opted into this travesty spouting the following nonsense in the guise of intelligence analysis:
The Shin Bet security services replied that CEPR has in fact recently been declared an illegal organization, in light of the fact that it is Hamas’ leading organization in Europe, which carries out its activity under cover of being a pro-Palestinian organization.
Levinson, in his role as dutiful Likudist stenographer, manages to insert yet another bit of unsupported propaganda into his supposedly objective news report:
The director of the NGO is Dr. Arafat Shoukri, a resident of London who has been active for many years in various organizations working against the State of Israel
I would challenge the pro-Israel social activists monitoring this site (you know who you are) to offer us examples of this “anti-Israel” propaganda of which Shoukri is guilty. Keep in mind, that criticizing Israeli policy or the State which prosecutes those policies is not “anti-Israel.”
So what is the real problem with CEPR? Not that it supports Hamas, but that it supports Palestine. But even more–it doesn’t even make a pretense of supporting Israeli interests. If it did, it might be harder to attack. But CEPR’s goal is to promote Palestinian interests inside and outside Europe. And that, for ‘General Israel’ is enough.
It should not be the job of a journalist (like Levinson) to regurgitate press releases by security officials. It is a good reporter’s job to recapitulate their views, but to do so with a skeptical eye; and with a willingness to offer contrary views and evidence. Levinson doesn’t do this. For “balance,” he quotes a statement by Shoukri that threatens Israel with a lawsuit. He interviews no other independent political or terror experts on the subject. He doesn’t interview any of the four MEPs who will be victims of this disastrous ruling.
Finally, this is yet another example of the overreaching and desperation to which this far-right Israeli government is falling prey. It cannot staunch the elevator-drop in Israel’s credibility on the world stage (because it refuses to modify Israeli nationalist policy). So instead it lashes out petulantly against perceived enemies. But this behavior is seen for what it is by both Israel’s friends (dropping fast) and enemies. It neither wins friends, not influences people to paraphrase Dale Carnegie.
In politics, when you are in a superior position you don’t need to boast about it. When you are in an inferior position, you scream bloody murder. That is what such dumb policies as this indicate. That Israel is reeling from the BDS steamroller. It doesn’t know what to do. So it lashes out ferociously, but ultimately aimlessly.
If there were any sane heads in the current government they’d warn Bibi that what Yaalon is doing is counter-productive. If you threaten to arrest Europe’s elected leaders then you can be damn sure few European leaders will shed a tear when the first Israeli general or minister is arrested on European soil. Is that really what Israel wants? Can it afford to play this sort of tit for tat game? Because there are a helluva lot more Europeans and European leaders than Israelis. Israel only has one defense minister that can be arrested (though perhaps ex-ministers might do). Europe has tens if not a score. And if they do arrest Clare Short at Ben Gurion, how long before they arrest Yaalon (or Barak or Halutz) at Gatwick?
By Paul Gallagher, The Independent
December 31, 2013
Former International Development Secretary Clare Short could be arrested the next time she lands in Tel Aviv after the Palestinian organisation she is a director of was declared an “illicit organisation” by Israel’s Defence Minister on Tuesday.
Moshe Ya’alon, former IDF chief of staff, outlawed the Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR) – a Belgian non-profit organisation that lobbies on behalf of the Hamas-led Gaza Government – using emergency defence regulations.
CEPR Members also include Labour MEP Richard Howitt, a member of the House of Lords and two other European MPs who are now in danger of prosecution if they land at Ben Gurion International Airport.
Ms Short, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said she was unsurprised by the decision. She told The Independent: “As CEPR is Palestinian led, and given Israel’s track record, the Defence Minister’s action is not surprising, but it is yet more evidence that Israel’s claim to be a democracy is eroding very fast.”
Ms Short added: “I’ve never been with CEPR via Israel, been to Gaza a number of times but always via Rafah.”
The Brussels-based NGO, which also has an office in London, describes itself as having been established “to promote dialogue and understanding between European, Palestinian and Arab parliamentarians and policy-makers.”
The CEPR website says: “It seeks a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on justice and the restoration of Palestinian rights in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law.”
The not-for-profit organisation’s director is London-based Dr Arafat Shoukri who Harretz reported on Tuesday “has been active for many years in various organisations working against the State of Israel, and was one of the leaders of the campaign calling for the lifting of the siege against Gaza”.
Ms Short, who was Tony Blair’s International Development Secretary from 1997 until her resignation in protest over the Iraq War in 2003, has been a member of several CEPR delegations in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. In the past three years the CEPR has organized six delegations of European MPs, who visited Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. In 2010 Shoukri met with the then-chairman of the EU Parliament.
Mr Ya’alon had already declared the CEPR “an outlawed organisation” two weeks ago, which means Israel can confiscate money related to the group and try its members or those who provide them with services.
Haaretz reported on Tuesday: “In the past Israel has declared isolated European groups illegal, but still this is an unusual declaration.”
As well as Mr Howitt, who has been an official EU election monitor for both Palestinian presidential and legislative elections, the remaining MEPs are German representative Alexandra Thein, Swiss MP Geri Müller and Lord (Norman) Warner, a health minister under Mr Blair and who now serves on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Palestine in Westminster [?].
The four are now in danger of arrest and trial if they visit Israel or try to reach the West Bank via Israel.
Israel’s Shin Bet security services said that the CEPR was recently declared an illegal organisation “in light of the fact that it is Hamas’ leading organisation in Europe, which carries out its activity under cover of being a pro-Palestinian organisation”, adding that “the organisation is headed by senior Hamas activists, including Arafat Shoukri and Rami Abdo,” Haaretz reported.
The newspaper added: “In reply to the question as to whether the Shin Bet intends to take steps against the (politicians) if they arrive in Israel, they said that ‘The Shin Bet does not usually discuss activities in which it engages for the purpose of fulfilling its mission’.”
Dr Shoukri told The Independent the CEPR will take legal action. He said: “The decision of the Israel defense minister is based on false accusations and has no shred of truth and we will challenge it through the legal means.
“The CEPR is a non profit organisation and is not affiliated to any political party whether inside or outside Palestine.
“Our main aim is to achieve peace and justice in the Middle East according to international law.
“We also believe that the international community should respect the democratic and transparent elections that took place in Palestine 2006 and engage with all representatives of the Palestinian people.”
Notes and links
From their website
The Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR) is an independent not-for-profit organisation which has been established to promote dialogue and understanding between European, Palestinian and Arab parliamentarians and policy-makers. It seeks a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on justice and the restoration of Palestinian rights in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law.
Aims and Values
Peace based on justice and the restitution of Palestinian rights
Respect for international law, the United Nations Charter, UN Resolutions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
A more robust EU foreign policy to the Occupied Palestinian Territories that will promote and defend Palestinian rights and self-determination
Inter-governmental dialogue to facilitate diplomacy and a greater understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
To strengthen European-Palestinian relations and provide greater understanding of Palestinian issues for legislators and policy-makers
Develop Europe’s role in promoting and defending Palestinian rights
Facilitate parliamentary delegations and dialogue between governments and policy-makers across Europe and the Arab world
Produce accurate, up-to-the-minute research and reports to highlight the situation confronting Palestinians.
CEPR’s largest international delegation to Gaza, November 2011.
The CEPR organises delegations of European parliamentarians and policy-makers to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories and neighbouring countries which host Palestinian refugees. This enables delegates to witness at first-hand the situation confronting Palestinians and to gather information so that they can pursue policy changes from an informed and evidence-based perspective.
The CEPR is funded by individual donations from around the world in compliance with Belgian and UK legal requirements. It does not accept funds from any individuals or bodies whose objectives are inimical to the interests of peace and justice.
CEPR Trustees, June 2012
Anouar Gharbi is Foreign Affairs Adviser of the President of Tunisia and President of the NGO Right for All/Droit pour Tous based in Geneva, Switzerland. He founded the assocation Forum for Tunisians/Forum des Tunisiens in 1998 as well as the International Association for Tunisian Expatriots (IATE). Mr. Gharbi also helped found other movements to promote human rights such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza (ECESG).
Richard Howitt, MEP
Richard Howitt is a British Labour politician and Member of the European Parliament with the Socialists and Democrats (S&D). He is S&D spokesperson on human rights and sits on the Committee for Foreign Affairs, the Subcommittee on Human Rights, and also the Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee. Mr. Howitt has been an official EU election monitor for both Palestinian presidential and legislative elections.
Mazen Kahel is a French businessman originally from Gaza and holds a PhD in business management from Versailles University. He is an activist and human rights defender, also engaged in promoting Palestinian rights.
Geri Müller is Member of the Swiss Parliament since 2003 and a member of the committees of foreign affairs and of security politics. He is Board member of PNoWB/IMF (Parlamentarian Network on the World Bank/IMF) and vice-president of the town of Baden, Switzerland. For over 30 years, he has worked on professional and political issues in the Middle East for the self-determination of all individuals.
Alexandra Thein is German Member of the European Parliament (MEP) with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group. Ms. Thein is a member of the Committee on Legal Affairs in the European Parliament and is an active member different Delegations, including for Relations with Israel, for Relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council, for Relations with Mashreq countries, and for Relations with Iraq.
Norman Warner is is a Labour member of the House of Lords. He serves on Select Committees and All-Party Parliamentary Groups including for Palestine [?]. In 2010, Lord Warner was elected Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group. Previously, he was a Health Minister in the Blair government and senior policy adviser to the Home Secretary working on criminal justice and constitutional reform.
Britain-Palestine All-Party Parliamentary Group: Its officers are Richard Burden, Lord Steel of Aikwood, Baroness Morris of Bolton, Stephen Williams, Andy Slaughter. Lord Warner is not mentioned.
In the Register of Lords’ Interests , Lord Warner has deleted mentions of two visits to Gaza in 20010 and 2011.