Palestinian activist: EU should defund BDS like Trump slashed aid for UNRWA

Bassem Eid claims boycott campaigns ‘would cease to exist within 6 months’ if funding drastically cut; EU maintains it does not support BDS efforts

Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid addresses the European Parliament on September 5, 2018. (screen capture: YouTube)
Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid addresses the European Parliament on September 5, 2018. (screen capture: YouTube)

A Palestinian human rights activist lashed out at the European Union for allegedly supporting programs that boycott Israel, saying it comes at the expense of Palestinian dignity and prosperity.

Addressing a panel at the EU Parliament in Brussels, Jerusalem-based Bassem Eid told lawmakers that Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation was the only way to reach peace.

“The majority of the Palestinians these days are people who are seeking dignity rather than identity. This is one of the most important issues, and dignity can be achieved only via economic prosperity,” he said in a video posted with English subtitles this week by MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute.

Eid, who posted the original footage of his remarks on his own website earlier this month, went on to say the global BDS movement was “us[ing] Palestinians in order to gain power and money.

“BDS will never ever want to achieve any kind of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” he said. “The BDS wants to destroy Israel, and, as a Palestinian, I don’t have time for that.”

He urged the EU to cut funding to BDS-supporting programs, saying that “if Europe tomorrow will cut the funding on the BDS, like Trump cut the funding on UNRWA, no BDS will exist in the coming six months.”

Eid also leveled criticism against the Palestinian Authority, telling EU lawmakers that tens of Palestinian businessmen wanted to attend the panel on economic initiatives at the EU parliament, but that PA had prevented them from participating.

BDS, the global movement calling for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, seeks to isolate the Jewish state over its policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians.

Illustrative: A Palestinian man walks past graffiti calling for a boycott of Israel on a street in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on February 11, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs published a report claiming the EU gave millions of dollars in donations to nonprofit groups that campaign for boycotts of Israel or have ties to terror groups.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini blasted Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan and his ministry for the report, which she said was spreading spread disinformation.

“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 said in a letter to Erdan at the time.

European Union Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini looks on during a meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels, July 16, 2018. (JOHN THYS/AFP)

Mogherini stressed that 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.”

Though the EU officially opposes any boycott of Israel, it has recommended that its member states put special labels on exports from Israeli settlements in the West Bank. It has stopped short of banning settlement products, but they do not receive the same tax exemptions that products made in Israel receive.

In the years since its formation, the BDS movement has seen limited success among progressive audiences, persuading several church organizations to divest themselves of Israel-related investments and garnering support on US college campuses. Recently, pop singer Lana Del Ray joined a number of other artists who canceled performances in Israel amid pressure from BDS activists.

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