Brussels is funding an anti-Israel agenda that is unprecedented in its desire to “mitigate the influence of pro-Israel voices,” according to a recent report in which the Foreign Ministry reprimanded Brussels for its shameful behavior. The country has continued to plow funding into anti-Israel causes, often under the guise of legitimate non-governmental organizations that end up moving the money toward more radical activism.
Israeli Ambassador to Belgium Emmanuel Nahshon complained to the Belgian Foreign Ministry about the explicitly anti-Israel agenda. According to a report in The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, the ambassador received an answer from Belgium saying that it does not intervene in the legitimacy of the goals of these organizations. The ministry added that it does not necessarily share the goals of the organizations that it funds, and that it opposes “racism, antisemitism and discrimination.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry was rightly displeased by the answer and decided to reprimand Belgian Ambassador to Israel Jean-Luc Bodson.
While Belgium added the boilerplate claim that it is against antisemitism and discrimination, the fact that its funding appears to target Israel in a manner that is inconsistent with the peaceful tolerant dialogue between nations, undermining pro-Israel voices and potentially leading to incitement or delegitimization, is not helpful.
“In this funding, the government of Belgium is hurting the discourse of understanding and reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians,” an Israeli Foreign Ministry source told the Post’s Lahav Harkov.
Brussels’s funding of the NGOs that claim among their goals “mitigating the influence of pro-Israel voices” appears to be part of a larger blind spot in Belgium that is also, at times, widespread across Europe.
It includes funding for nationalist Palestinian causes under the guise that they are merely critical of Israel. However, Belgium would not fund other similar groups, such as Catalan separatists or Kurdish groups under the same logic. In fact, Belgium has been harsh on Israel in other ways as well, inviting anti-Israel voices to speak at events and leading the charge against assertions that Israel might annex the West Bank.
We hope that Belgium’s decisions reflect not having enough information about where the funding goes and the way in which some Palestinian groups use the money they receive through legitimate charities in Europe to disseminate extreme anti-Israel content produced in Ramallah and spread around the world.
For many years there has been a disturbing trend of funding that is bilked out of the European Union and used for incitement that has set back peace efforts and educated people toward extremism. This is unfortunate because a better use of Europe’s funds could have been to support engagement, peace, tolerance and bridge-building across Israel and the Palestinian territories. That would be a productive way to try to advance reconciliation between two sides that have been embroiled in conflict for too long.
Europe knows too well the results of fueling irredentism and extreme nationalism. Unfortunately, many Palestinian groups, such as the PFLP, have wrapped themselves in a false flag of human rights, and even children and women’s rights, so they can systematically hijack international forums to advance their extreme anti-Israel agenda.
This is not how countries show respect for one another’s sovereignty and claim to want to have a future of fraternal relations. Belgium needs to understand that the goals of these groups are clear: When they use maps that do not show Israel or celebrate “martyrs” who murdered civilians, they are not partners to work with to advance human rights.
In the past, Israel tended to ignore this funding and not challenge it, not seeing the full forest of implications that it had on the education of future generations.
We now know better. Our Foreign Ministry is right to reprimand and hold accountable the funding from Belgium and other states. For many years, groups like NGO Monitor have documented the trees in this forest. Now is the time to shed light on them and also promote engagement and peace through dialogue and understanding.
Belgium has a choice. It can join Israel in being a light unto the nations and help promote tolerance or it can stand on the wrong side of history by funding groups out to silence the Jewish state. Which will it be?