Foreign Ministry rebukes EU ambassador over ‘support for terrorism’
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Foreign Ministry rebukes EU ambassador over ‘support for terrorism’

Harsh dressing down follows EU official in West Bank and Gaza saying even Palestinians affiliated with blacklisted groups remain eligible to participate in EU-funded projects

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

EU ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret at the president's residence in Jerusalem on October 23, 2017. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
EU ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret at the president's residence in Jerusalem on October 23, 2017. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

The Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned the European Union’s ambassador to Israel for an unusually harsh rebuke over the bloc’s alleged support of terrorism, warning him that backing terrorist groups will only lead to more bloodshed.

Israel summoned envoy Emanuele Giaufret after a letter emerged Wednesday in which a senior EU official stationed in East Jerusalem assured the Palestinians that membership in or affinity to a terrorist organization does not automatically prevent a person from being eligible to participate in EU-funded programs.

“Israel utterly condemns and categorically objects to the Union’s policy on the funding of terrorist organisations. The policy essentially grants permission for incitement, support, and involvement with terrorism,” the ministry said in a statement released shortly after Giaufret was dressed down by Anna Azari, Jerusalem’s deputy director-general for Europe.

While the European Union insists that no money goes to individuals pursuing terror activities, Israel is protesting the fact that Brussels says funds can still go to projects or programs that will benefit supporters of an outlawed group, such as a grant to a researcher who is also affiliated with Hamas.

“We demand that the EU immediately end all support, financial or otherwise, for any entities that support terrorism whether directly or indirectly,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Thursday. “As past experience teaches us, terrorism is terrorism, and any assistance provided it will only bring about additional terrorism.”

Bedouin children stand on the rubble of two EU-funded classrooms destroyed by the Israeli army in the village of Abu Nuwar in the West Bank, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018. (AP/Mahmoud Illean)

On Wednesday a spokesperson for the ministry told The Times of Israel that the letter, signed by the East Jerusalem-based head of the EU’s mission to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Sven Kuehn von Burgsdorff, constituted a “violation of all our agreements with the European Union.”

The Strategic Affairs Ministry, which is charged with countering the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, slammed the bloc as well. In a response sent to The Times of Israel on Wednesday, a ministry spokesperson cited its longstanding claim that the EU funds pro-Palestinian NGOs that promote BDS and in some cases have ties to terrorist organizations.

“Over several meetings with EU officials it was made clear that any funding for these NGOs must be stopped immediately and scrutinized carefully to ensure no funds are transferred to terrorists or terrorist related activities,” the official said.

Illustrative: EU representative to the Palestinians Sven Kuehn von Burgsdorff, right, hands more than 800 food packages to the PA’s social development minister to be distributed to poor Palestinian families, April 30, 2020 (Facebook)

In the letter, dated March 30, Von Burgsdorff had sought to address concerns from Palestinians that projects would lose out on funding because of a stipulation that no person or entity listed on the EU’s terrorism blacklist could benefit from EU programs or funds. It was impossible to check the personal background and political affiliation of every single applicant, Palestinian groups complained.

In a three-page response to the Ramallah-based Palestinian NGO Network, Von Burgsdorff wrote that “it is understood that a natural person affiliated to, sympathizing with, or supporting any of the groups mentioned in the EU restrictive lists is not excluded from benefiting from EU-funded activities, unless his/her exact name and surname… corresponds to any of the natural persons on the EU restrictive lists.”

A copy of the letter was obtained by The Times of Israel.

While several Palestinian groups — including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — are listed by the EU as terrorist entities, no individual Palestinians are mentioned by name.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists attend the funeral of a fellow fighter in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip November 14, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The EU rejected the Israeli officials’ statements, insisting that it does not support terrorist in any way.

“Allegations of the EU supporting incitement or terror are unfounded and unacceptable and we strongly object to any such suggestion,” a spokesperson for the union’s delegation in Ramat Gan told The Times of Israel on Thursday evening.

“The EU has strict rules to screen and vet the beneficiaries of EU funds,” she went on, stressing that all recipients of EU funding must ensure that these funds “are not made available, either directly or indirectly, to entities, individuals or groups” that are listed on the bloc’s terrorism blacklist.

“This includes ensuring that there is no detection of subcontractors, natural persons, participants in workshops and/or trainings or recipients of financial support made to third parties subject to EU restrictive measures,” the spokesperson said. “We confirm these rules make the participation of entities, individuals or groups affiliated with terrorist organizations incompatible with any EU funding.”

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