European Think Tank in Double-Think on Israel

YERUSHALAYIM -

An influential European think tank has been found practicing a double standard regarding Israel, advocating sanctions on companies over the Green Line while accepting donations from countries in comparable situations elsewhere in the world.

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) is a driving force behind the current European Union move to label products from Yehudah and Shomron, while at the same time accepting funding from several corporations who do active business in the occupied territories of Western Sahara and Northern Cyprus, according to a report by the Kohelet Policy Forum, an Israeli think tank.

The ECFR is also promoting a more aggressive policy by which every agreement between a European country and Israel would have to contain a clause excluding the areas it views as occupied.

In recent years, the ECFR has pushed for a range of sanctions, including on Israeli banks with financial activities in Yehudah and Shomron, and targeted sanctions on persons or entities providing support to or benefiting from Israel’s unlawful practices in the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories], aimed at creating “real financial consequences for average Israelis who remain ambivalent about Israel’s settlement project.”

To date, the E.U. has not adopted those proposals.

The think tank’s reports also called for “imposing targeted sanctions upon persons or entities providing support to or benefiting from Israel’s unlawful practices in the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories], including its illegal annexation of Palestinian territory” and creating “real financial consequences for average Israelis who remain ambivalent about Israel’s settlement project.”

In both Western Sahara and Northern Cyprus, over 50 percent of the population is made up of settlers, private property has been confiscated on a large scale and great numbers of refugees are not permitted to return.

Among the major corporate donors to ECFR with investments in those areas are: Allianz SE, the world’s largest insurance and financial services company, headquartered in Germany; Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, S.A. (BBVA), a leading financial institution in Spain; the German electronics and engineering company Bosch; Daimler AG and Santander, according to the KPF.

ECFR has argued that business operations in those areas should not be compared to Israel because, unlike Israel, the E.U. has no established policy on the legality of the Western Sahara occupation, and the E.U. has agreements with the PLO but not with the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in Western Sahara.

Eugene Kontorovich, a director of the Kohelet Policy Forum and a constitutional and international law professor at George Mason University, charged “that the ECFR is funded by occupation businesses fundamentally discredits – and explains – their obsessive push for ‘differentiation’ against Israel and only Israel.

“The ECFR is not wrong to accept this money,” Kontorovich added. “International law does not restrict companies from doing business in occupied territories. They are wrong to publish policy analysis recommended punitive measures against Israel that they clearly do not believe are legally required when it comes to themselves. Indeed, we now see they have a conflict of interest.”

The ECFR responded that “recommendations [appearing in its publications] represent only the views of their authors.”

However, the think tank said it will “explore these issues with our existing donors to double check that they are following all applicable laws and guidelines.”