The European Union is pushing back after an Israeli minister accused Brussels of funding boycotts and even terrorism against Israel.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini recently complained to Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, saying a report from his ministry was spreading disinformation in a report accusing the EU of funding anti-Israel groups with ties to terrorists.
EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret also rebuffed the suggestion Tuesday.
“The idea that the EU could support terrorism is entirely unfounded,” he told The Times of Israel on Tuesday. “We’re very determined in our fight against terrorism and remain opposed to the isolation of Israel or the questioning of its legitimacy. That’s why we don’t fund any BDS activity.”
He added that the EU was open to hearing “issues of concern” from Israel.
Mogherini sent a letter on July 5 to Erdan responding to a May report from his ministry that alleged that the EU funds nonprofit groups that campaign for boycotts of Israel or have ties to terror groups.
The content of the letter was first reported Tuesday by the Haaretz newspaper, which obtained a copy of the message.
Erdan responded Tuesday by accusing Mogherini of ignoring the evidence he had presented and of trying to justify supporting the movements even when she knows they promote boycotting Israel.
The Strategic Affairs Ministry report, titled “The Money Trail: The millions given by EU institutions to NGOs with ties to terror and boycotts against Israel,” claimed that in 2016 the EU gave 5 million euros to organizations that “promote anti-Israel delegitimization and boycotts.”
It also raised “the concern that European taxpayers’ money is being used to support ties with terrorist organizations” such as Hamas and the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) after identifying some EU nonprofit beneficiaries as having links with the terror groups.
Erdan sent the report to Mogherini in May along with a letter in which he accused the EU of undermining peace efforts by supporting the anti-Israeli groups.
In her response to Erdan, Mogherini objected to “any suggestion of EU involvement in supporting terror or terrorism” and warned that “vague and unsubstantiated accusations serve only to contribute to disinformation campaigns.”
“Allegations of the EU supporting incitement or terror are unfounded and unacceptable,” Mogherini wrote. “The title of the report itself is also inopportune and misleading; it mixes terrorism with the boycott issue and it creates unacceptable confusion in the public eye regarding these two distinct phenomena.”
“We are confident that EU funding has not been used to support boycott of Israel or BDS activities and certainly not to finance terrorism,” she stressed.
“The EU rejects any attempts to isolate Israel and does not support calls for boycott. The EU does not fund actions that are related to boycott activities. However, simply because an organization or individual is related to the BDS movement does not mean that this entity is involved in incitement to commit illegal acts, nor that it renders itself ineligible for EU funding.”
Mogherini, who claimed Erdan’s report contained errors, invited the minister “to come to Brussels at any point and present evidence you may have to substantiate these allegations.”
“In the meantime, we invite your government to pursue a productive dialogue on civil society issues with us, as foreseen by the EU-Israel Action Plan, in a spirit of open and transparent cooperation rather than through unsubstantiated material being publicized without prior dialogue and engagement.”
Erdan, who is also public security minister, responded to the report by tweeting that Mogherini was ignoring the facts and instead trying to explain her way out of the accusations.
“It is sad that the European Union foreign minister chooses to bury her head in the sand and to disregard the clear proofs that BDS organizations who receive funding from her are tied to or participate in activities with terror organizations,” he wrote. “Mogherini admits that most of the supported organizations appearing in the report are indeed promoting a boycott against Israel but explains why it is all right to support them.”
In a statement provided to The Times of Israel, a spokesperson for the EU mission in Israel declined to comment on leaked material but noted regarding the Strategic Affairs Ministry report that “our headquarters thoroughly examined the report and came to the conclusion that allegations presented in the report were unfounded.”
“The EU has strict rules to screen and vet the beneficiaries of EU funds,” the statement said. “We are therefore confident that EU funds have not been used to finance terrorism. Our fight against terrorism has never been stronger and we have always maintained clear positions on terrorist organisations.”
The spokersperson went on to state that the EU is “confident that our funds have not been used to support boycott of Israel, in particular not BDS activities.”
Rather, the union “rejects any attempt to isolate Israel and does not support calls for a boycott. At the same time, the EU stands firm in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.”