Time for outrage over Israel’s meddling in European affairs

Benjamin Netanyahu after hearing this week’s announcement by the International Criminal Court. (Debbie Hill / UPI) 

Lobbying for Israel can be lucrative.

David Siegel heads the organization called Friends of the European Leadership Network. He commands an annual salary exceeding $350,000.

Over the past few days, Siegel has been thanking those Western politicians who are willing to criticize the International Criminal Court after its chief prosecutor sought warrants for the arrest of Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant, Israel’s prime minister and defense minister, as well as leading players in Hamas. Outrage at the ICC’s move is proof of “moral clarity,” Siegel has contended.

Siegel has spent most of his career working for the Israeli government and the lobby which backs it up. Before taking up his current position, he was Israel’s top representative in the southwestern United States (a region that includes California, Arizona, Colorado and Hawaii).

Friends of the European Leadership Network – based in Skokie, a Chicago suburb – helps marshal elite support for Israel.

According to a “transparency register” run by the Brussels bureaucracy, Siegel’s outfit finances almost the entire budget of the European Leadership Network (Elnet), a key pro-Israel group.

It is no accident that Elnet is funded primarily from the US. For years, Elnet has copied the modus operandi of the Israeli lobby across the Atlantic.

A core activity has been buying influence from lawmakers and other establishment figures by bringing them on expenses-paid propaganda trips.

More than 20 such visits to the Middle East have been organized by Elnet since Israel began its genocidal war against Gaza in October.

Feminist war?

In the past week, Elnet has arranged for an all-women delegation from Europe to visit Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.

Predictably, the exercise tried to present Israel as waging a feminist war. Fabricated claims of Hamas committing sexual violence were repeated in an attempt to justify Israel’s barbaric conduct in Gaza, where most Palestinian victims are women and children.

Elnet is especially active in the European Parliament. Elections to that assembly will take place in June and some of the coverage before the vote has involved fear mongering.

Such coverage has involved speculation that the Kremlin is plotting to fill the parliament with its cronies.

While the allegations of Russian meddling are exaggerated, clear evidence that Israel and its lobbying network are corrupting politicians is ignored.

There has hardly been any scrutiny of how the positions taken by the European Parliament lately have copied and pasted talking points prepared by the pro-Israel lobby.

Nor are there any calls for investigations into how Elnet and similar outfits court lawmakers with free propaganda trips. By contrast, it was mandatory to appear horrified when it emerged that Qatar was engaged in similar behavior.

As the European Union’s only directly elected institution, the European Parliament serves as democratic figleaf to a system which is generally opaque and unaccountable. Remove the figleaf and you will see that many lawmakers are beholden to pressure groups.


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