The quick and unqualified condemnation of the Palestinian terror attack in Tel Aviv by European officials demonstrates the major improvement that has taken place in relations with Israel. In contrast, a few years ago, Chris Patten and other European officials routinely condemned Jerusalem for acting to prevent terror, and Euro-MPs threatened boycotts.
In parallel, millions of fungible Euros flowed into Yasser Arafat's pockets and to bank accounts. And after the US had broken links with Arafat, European envoy Miguel Moratinos (now the Foreign Minister of Spain) continued to court the head of the PLO. As a result, Europe was frozen out of the diplomatic process.
Since then, European policy on Israel has become both more moral and realistic. The cash transfers to the Palestinian Authority ceased, and the link to corruption was investigated, (albeit, in secret, while the EU preaches transparency to others). Europeans have also begun to take Israeli security requirements more seriously, spurred by the direct experience of mass terrorism in Madrid and London. After Hamas gained power, the EU joined Canada, the America and Israel in halting funding for the Palestinian Authority. And in response, the Israeli government has agreed to greater European involvement in substantive political and security activities, including the (failed) arrangements for securing the crossings into Gaza.
IN THIS CONTEXT, the continued funding that the European Union provides for radical groups that promote the demonization of Israel is totally inconsistent A few months ago, despite the policy changes in other areas, undisclosed EU officials selected some radical non-governmental organizations to participate in its Partnership for Peace Program. These partners include Machsom Watch, the promoters of the now-defunct Geneva scheme, and a small group known as ICAHD (the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions). ICAHD, which has received EU funding in the past, received an additional Euro 472,786 for a project entitled, in pseudo-academic jargon, "Re-Framing: Providing a Coherent Paradigm of Peace to the Israeli Public."
The idea that officials should use money provided by European taxpayers to propagandize citizens in another democracy is, in itself, fundamentally misguided. Would the citizens of France tolerate a huge US-government funded anti-abortion campaign headlined "Re-framing: Providing a Coherent Program Against Infanticide to the French Public"?
Europeans view government subsidies for specially selected, politicized interest groups as part of a "civil society" philosophy. But using such resources to manipulate the public debate in other democratic countries, including Israel, is misguided.
IN THIS CASE, the problem goes far deeper than manipulation via funding for interest groups. Some EU officials still promoting Europe's political war against Israel are using this funding to support radical groups under the guise of the "Partnership for Peace" program. ICAHD is a fringe NGO, whose main figure, Jeff Halper, actively participated in the 2001 Durban conference.
As the Anglican Church in England debates anti-Israel divestment - the latest version of the Durban strategy - Halper is a frequent supporter. He often appears next to Naim Ateek, who runs Sabeel, an extremist Palestinian NGO. As participants in an interfaith dialogue noted, Ateek denies "the legitimate right of the Jewish people to live in their land, and echoed medieval anti-Semitic canards."
With Halper's help, Sabeel is described as "the driving force behind the scenes pushing mainline Protestant denominations to adopt a policy of divestment."
Halperindulges in similar incitement, declaring that "A Jewish state has proven politically and morally untenable," calling the two-state solution "unacceptable" and referring to "Israeli apartheid."
When these extreme statements are made by an Israeli Jew - whose salary and expenses are paid by the European Union - it is easier to claim legitimacy and avoid the label of anti-Semitism.
For these reasons, Israel government officials need to belatedly place European funding for NGOs that promote conflict at the top of the diplomatic agenda. In addition to ICAHD, such funding includes Hamoked, which, as the State Prosecutor's Office has noted, abuses the claim to be "a human rights organization" in order to promote pro-Palestinian positions.
While using the language of the Durban strategy, including references to Israel as an "apartheid state," Hamoked is funded by the European Commission as a "human rights" organization. And there are dozens of additional anti-Israel NGOs supported by European governments, in different and often undisclosed frameworks.
THESE ARE not secondary issues, but go to the heart of the ongoing conflict, incitement and terrorism. Every meeting between Israeli officials and their EU counterparts, whether in Jerusalem at the Foreign Ministry, at EU headquarters in Brussels, or in embassies and consulates across Europe, should press for the immediate end of Europe's support for extremist pressure groups.
If Europe's bureaucrats and politicians are truly interested in providing assistance to civil society in the framework of Israeli democracy, there are many more worthy and far less hostile causes to support.
The writer is the editor of www.ngo-monitor.org and heads the Program on Conflict Management at Bar Ilan University.