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October 3, 2022 10:34 am

Why Is the European Union Funding Palestinian Propaganda Tours to the West Bank?

avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue


Palestinians attend a protest against Israeli strikes in Gaza, in Ramallah, in the West Bank August 5, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

A group of 11 European journalists was recently invited on a six-day tour of Jerusalem and the West Bank, in a trip that was ostensibly aimed at briefing them on the kind of aid the European Union (EU) and its member states give to the Palestinian people.

Organized by the Office for the European Union Representative in Jerusalem, the EU-funded invitation was only extended to those journalists who were prepared to submit a one-page declaration that explained why they wanted to participate and how they would use the trip to inform their work.

The request, which appeared to be an indirect way of pre-vetting future published news pieces, was an early indicator of what kind of press trip this would turn out to be: a fully-fledged, pro-Palestinian propaganda tour.

Included in the agenda of the six-day trip was a talk at the Al Jazeera offices to discuss “challenges” faced by the press, followed by a visit to the premises of Palestinian NGO Al-Haq in Ramallah, and later a meeting with the controversial Israeli organization Breaking the Silence.

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Notably, all of the aforementioned groups have been guilty of repeatedly spreading anti-Israel libels.

For example, Al Jazeera has most recently spearheaded a smear campaign against Israel following the tragic death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank city of Jenin in May.

In the hours after Abu Akleh was shot during a firefight between the IDF and Palestinian militants — and armed with not a shred of confirmatory evidence — the Qatari-owned outlet abandoned all journalistic integrity when it accused Israel of “blatant murder” in the Palestinian reporter’s death.

Despite an independent investigation by the United States concluding Abu Akleh was accidentally hit, Al Jazeera has continued to conspiratorially insist that she was gunned down in “cold blood,” while calling for the “Israeli government and occupation forces” [sic] to be held accountable for her death.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Al Jazeera has been caught spreading fake news, having been forced into several embarrassing retractions for Israel-related stories in recent years (see here, here, and here).

Meanwhile, representatives from the group Al-Haq were invited to address the group of journalists on the first day of the press tour, despite the NGO being among six Palestinian groups that were designated a terrorist organization by Israel due to their long-standing links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Such ties include a director of Al-Haq, Shawan Jabarin, who served as a senior PFLP member and maintained close links to terrorist operatives. In 2007, a judge summarized Jabarin as a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” explaining that “some of his time is spent in conducting a human rights organization, and some as an operative in an organization which has no qualms regarding murder and attempted murder, which have no relation whatsoever to rights.”

In addition to several other employees having been arrested for involvement in militant activities, Al-Haq has also long been an apologist for other US-designated terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

While the European Union initially cut its funding to Al-Haq following the designations, the EU resumed funding in July in spite of Israel’s assurance that the proscriptions were based on “ironclad” evidence.

Also scheduled on the press tour was a sit-down with another Palestinian NGO, PalVision.

For those who are unfamiliar with PalVision, many of the youth group’s board members, officials, and staff have justified and praised terrorism against Israelis, including a project coordinator who lauded a “hero suicide bomber,” and another who celebrated deadly car-ramming attacks.

On the penultimate day of the press junket, the journalists were taken on a tour of the West Bank city of Hebron by the Israeli organization Breaking the Silence, followed by a briefing with EU Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff.

As HonestReporting has previously detailed at length, the Breaking the Silence tours invariably mischaracterize the situation on the ground in Hebron, and falsely depict the city as a “microcosm of the occupation.” The fact is that Hebron, with its small Jewish population of approximately 800 people surrounded by around 200,000 Palestinians, can only be characterized as a unique situation. Indeed, there is no other city under Israeli control in which a Jewish population is entirely surrounded at close quarters and guarded by hundreds of soldiers.

Finally, it is a mystery that EU diplomat Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff even remains in his job at all, given his antisemitic past. Speaking at a conference this year in Jerusalem, von Burgsdorff claimed people should not be “surprised” that Palestinians are slaughtering Israelis because it should be “expected.”

He also made clear his view that it is the very existence of the world’s only Jewish state that is the root of this murderous hatred: “We need to bring to the fore and to worldwide attention the plight the people of Palestine have been under for the past 74 years.”

When quizzed about the press trip, a spokesman for the Office of the European Union Representative defended it as a chance for journalists to see “EU-funded projects,” adding that “no substantial information was received from Israel that would justify reviewing the policy towards the six Palestinian civil society organizations on the basis of the Israeli decision to designate these NGOs as ‘terrorist organizations.’”

It would be interesting to know whether European taxpayers agree that a pro-Palestinian propaganda junket is a good use of their hard-earned money.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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