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June 13, 2022 10:32 am

Renewed EU Aid to Palestinian Authority Will Compromise Fight Against Antisemitism in Europe, Dutch Parliamentarian Says

avatar by Ben Cohen

Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, speaks at a news conference. Photo: Reuters/Juan Medina

The fight against resurgent antisemitism in Europe will be dangerously compromised when the EU resumes funding to the Palestinian Authority, a Dutch member of the European parliament has warned.

As the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, arrived in Israel on Monday on the first leg of a tour of Middle Eastern states, Bert-Jan Ruissen — vice-chair of the European Parliament’s committee for relations with the Jewish state — counseled against the resumption of aid to the PA. EU funding has been frozen for nearly two years over objections to the presence of antisemitic images and themes in school textbooks authorized by the PA. In March of this year, the EU withheld more than $220 million in aid, citing the same concerns. The bloc has historically been a major donor to the PA, contributing about $265 million annually, most of which is used to pay the salaries of the PA’s civil servants.

Von der Leyen will visit PA leaders in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday bearing a message about the resumption of funding. At a press briefing on Monday, Ana Pisonero — the European Commission’s spokesperson on Neighbourhood and Enlargement — confirmed that the move to restore the flow of aid was being “finalized.” Once this was achieved, EU funds would be prioritized towards East Jerusalem hospitals and vulnerable Palestinian families, she said.

Ruissen argued that the resumption of aid would result in the further “poisoning” of the minds of Palestinian children. “In this way, we also make the fight against antisemitism here in Europe an empty shell,” he told the Dutch newspaper Trouw on Monday.

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Another European parliamentarian, Anna Michelle Asimakopoulou, similarly criticized the decision. “Zero tolerance cannot just be a slogan,” the Greek MEP told Politico. “It needs to be reflected in our actions. This is a missed opportunity to effect much-needed change when it comes to the content of Palestinian textbooks.” Last March, Asimakopoulou and 31 of her European parliament colleagues wrote to von der Leyen expressing “great dismay that textbooks issued by the Palestinian Authority incite schoolchildren to hate Jews and emulate terrorists.”

The letter continued: “This situation is simply intolerable, even more so as the EU is paying the salaries of the school teachers using this hateful material. This is a glaring violation of the most basic EU values and contradicts our common goal of working toward peace and the creation of a democratic Palestinian state.”

Pressure has been building for a reversal of the funding policy since May, when 15 member states led by Ireland sent a separate letter to the Commission demanding the restoration of aid to the PA “without delay.” The letter argued that the “introduction of conditionality at a time when the Palestinian Authority is already engaged in an ambitious program of educational reform risks undermining, or even reversing, progress achieved to date and could damage our on-going dialogue with the Palestinians on this and other issues.”

While in Israel, von der Leyen will meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. The focus of her visit is a proposed deal on the supply of natural gas from Israel to Europe via a hub in Egypt. The arrangement is part of a broader attempt by the EU to reduce energy reliance on Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.

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