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July 17, 2016 6:23 am

If Israel Banned Burqas

avatar by Judith Bergman

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A traditional Muslim burqa. Photo: Wikipedia.

A traditional Muslim burqa. Photo: Wikipedia.

Picture this: Israel donates millions of shekels every year to various NGOs in Europe, e.g., in Germany, ‎France the UK and Scandinavia, on condition that they further Israeli foreign policy agendas on European ‎soil. Now imagine the reaction if that picture were actually true: We would all go deaf from the hysterical ‎squealing and breast-beating that would ensue about Israel being undemocratic, imperialistic and using ‎dirty tricks and manipulation in basically buying — because that is what it is — local NGOs in order to use ‎them to promote its own causes on the European continent. If the Europeans passed laws to stop this ‎from happening, everyone in the world would support them in doing so. ‎

Not so when the roles are reversed.‎

‎”The new NGO law in Israel goes beyond legitimate needs of transparency, risks undermining our shared ‎values” wrote the EU embassy in Israel on Twitter on Monday, after Israel’s new law, requiring the ‎disclosure of foreign government funding of Israeli nongovernmental organizations, also known as the ‎NGO law, was passed by the Knesset. The embassy tweet linked to the official statement of the EU, ‎which went on to say that the law may curtail freedom of expression and association and risks ‎undermining the values of democracy, freedom of speech and a diverse civil society. ‎

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The EU statement is wrong on so many levels.‎

Firstly, the patronizing, arrogant-old-colonialist tone, implying that the EU gets to decide what does and ‎does not go “beyond legitimate needs of transparency” in the sovereign State of Israel is unwarranted. ‎Who died and made the EU the overseer of internal Israeli matters? ‎

Secondly, it is a bit rich for the EU to lament the possibility of an “undermining” of “our shared values,” as ‎the EU and Israel, as it happens, actually share preciously few, if any values, something that becomes ‎apparent once you scratch the thin veneer of appearances.‎

Israel is indeed an extremely vibrant democracy, where free speech reigns supreme and where diversity ‎is an actual fact, not a high-brow theory. The EU? Not so much. ‎

The EU is an undemocratic, largely unelected, bureaucratic nightmare of a supranational entity. Its leaders, such ‎as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald ‎Tusk and foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, are accountable to no one. Free speech has long ago ‎been de facto sacrificed in favor of an all-encompassing political correctness, which includes most recently ‎the ill-concealed attempts at hammering into place those Central European member states that refuse to ‎endorse the EUs migration policies. Last, but most importantly, democracies that share “our values” do ‎not support terrorists, as the EU does by spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer euros on the ‎terrorist-supporting and inciting Palestinian Authority, apparently in contravention of its own ‎rules on aiding and abetting terrorism. ‎

That the EU funds Israeli NGOs with the express aim of furthering a very specific and anti-Israeli EU ‎agenda is beyond doubt. This can be ascertained by simply taking a look at the EU’s “Guidelines on the ‎eligibility of Israeli entities and their activities in the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967 for ‎grants, prizes and financial instruments funded by the EU.” It follows from these guidelines that their ‎‎”aim is to ensure the respect of EU positions and commitments in conformity with international law on ‎the nonrecognition by the EU of Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June ‎‎1967.” Someone please explain what this insidious, anti-Israeli agenda has to do with “our values” such as ‎diversity and democracy? As law professor Eugene Kontorovich has pointed out, Israeli NGOs only ‎get funding from the EU if they declare that their activities promote EU foreign policy, and the EU agrees. ‎This is not democratic and certainly not diverse. It is outrageous.‎

As Kontorovich has also pointed out, the Israeli law is comparable to the American Foreign Agents ‎Registration Act, which only applies, in law and practice, to donations from foreign governmental ‎actors and not, as critics of the Israeli law — groups like J Street and Americans for Peace Now — falsely charge, ‎equally to all sources of foreign funding. ‎

Finally, you would be forgiven for asking whether entities that receive so much foreign government ‎funding actually still qualify as nongovernmental organizations. Personally, I find their nongovernmental ‎character rather dubious and their commitment to Israeli civil society highly questionable, when they let ‎themselves be bought by foreign government entities in order to further those entities’ agendas. ‎

Meanwhile, in Switzerland, albeit not a member of the EU but a country just around the corner from it, ‎the burqa has been banned in one of the cantons with fines as high as 10,000 Swiss francs (about $10,200) for contravening the ‎ban. Imagine the outcry if Israel were to ban the burqa: The EU would be all over the place, issuing ‎statements condemning the move and lamenting and eulogizing the end of Israeli democracy. Most ‎likely, the UN Security Council would have to convene for an emergency session to issue a resolution ‎condemning Israeli attacks on cultural diversity.‎

As it is, since it is only Switzerland, neither the EU nor anyone else is showing notable concern. Move on, ‎nothing to see here, Israel is not involved.‎

Judith Bergman is a writer and political analyst living in Israel. Twitter @judithbergman.

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  • Harold P.

    I’m with Switzerland. Ban the burqa. It’s the robe of slaves.

    Burqas offend my American culture. No woman should wear slave robes in the US. Muslims who wear should things should honor our culture, one of freedom for women. Why should American women visiting their countries have to cover themselves just because it offends them. Let them be offended. THEY offend me.

  • nat cheiman

    Burkas should be banned in all western countries

  • Sion ben David ben Avraham Yoreesh Yisrael

    The content of the article is close to the truth, although here and there slightly tendentious. The tone of the article is propagandist. Propagandist polemic is becoming more and more popular on the internet. It is the way of the “hollaback girl”, the lower class girls that yell back at the gangsters yelling at them from their cars.
    That is why this article is not pro-Israeli propaganda, because of the propagandist tone. The EU is not against Israel nor is the state of Israel against the EU. In this case, it would be proper to recomfort the EU that the intentions of the Knesset are not anti-democratic. We cannot write propaganda with our heart, our belly or our noble parts. Propaganda needs to be deliberated. In a position of constant threat this is often forgotten in Israel. The proof is in the pudding: NGO people don’t wear burqas.

  • robert davis

    Israel should do what is BEST for Israel ande not WASTE one second listening what european leftwing cowards who have submitted to arabs say. It’s a waste of time because no matter what Israel says those arabs who have become european leftwing’s MASTERS will take on Israel take away Western Palestine from them. This can be stopped ONLY by expelling those fake “palestinians” so they and the world understand and reconcile with the fact they will never get Palestine. Only eviction can force them to reconcile with it anbd therefore stop the pressures and hackering.

  • I find a parallel situation with respect to India! The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) year after year unleashes a torrent of invective directed at India, which in its strange wisdom, considers to be a country intolerant of religious minorities! These USCIRF Reports are suffused with hypocrisy and double standards that the once the SundayGuardian editorially mocked it that were authors of it to ever get tasked to write a history of the Indian subcontinent, they would affirm that it is not Pakistan but India where the share of minorities in the total population has fallen precipitously since 1947!
    How do we counter portrayal of our countries as dens of fanatics, with the ulterior motive of providing an excuse for the EU/US to threaten sanctions and other punitive measures against us? In the case of India, our Constitutional promise of secularism, liberty, equality, and democracy to minorities apart, it is the assertion of the country’s common culture that hurts the USCIRF, which is mystifyingly blind as not to see that the 3% Christians and the 14% or so Muslims in India, live as full citizens in political, social, cultural and the religious life of India, and enjoy greater rights and freedoms in than similar minorities in the United States! So India and Israel have many common grievances!

  • stevenl

    A core value in the EU is antisemitim.

  • Linda

    Ban the burquas. Bring on freedom for women. Burquas have as much reason as using a churn to turn milk into butter. You can do it but who wants to?

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