EU sponsored Israeli weapons fair on eve of Gaza attacks

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Partners in war crimes: Handshake between EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (source)

(European External Action Service - EEAS)

Haneen was 10 months old; Omar 11 months; Ibrahim one year. For the offense of being reared in Gaza, these infants were killed with the aid of Israel’s “precision-guided” missiles.

A few days before their deaths, the European Commission sponsored the “second international homeland security conference” in Tel Aviv. More of a bazaar than a talking shop, the event featured exhibits by Israel’s top weapons companies. Shimon Peres, the state’s president, gave the closing address, using this august occasion to boast of how, as a youthful arms dealer, he was “part of founding Israel’s defense industries.” Peres said he was “delighted to see the innovative technological developments which are leading the world in homeland security” and expressed pride in heading “a nation with creativity and wisdom, courage and chutzpah.”

As far as I can see, the EU’s involvement in this exhibition went unnoticed by the media. That is deeply disturbing. It suggests that the Commission can endorse firms which profit from dropping bombs on Palestinian babies without anyone batting an eyelid.

The officials who rubber-stamped the EU’s participation in the Tel Aviv fair cannot claim it was unrelated to the latest offensive against Gaza. Both provided an opportunity for the arms industry to advertise its wares: in one case in a conference centre; in the other case on the “battlefield.” DefenseNews, a popular magazine among weapons traders, has reported that Rafael, the Israeli state-owned weapons company, “initiated emergency, round-the-clock operations” to meet rising demand to supply Iron Dome, a missiles “interceptor” system that is a recent addition to Israel’s arsenal.

Subsidies for war

Nor is this an isolated case. EU institutions are regularly represented in fairs where Israeli weapons manufacturers can show off their latest “innovative technological developments,” to quote Peres. In September, for example, the European Defence Agency lent its support to the ILA — an air show near Berlin — at which the aforementioned Rafael had a stall. In June, numerous Israeli firms took part in Eurosatory, an arms fair in Paris; so did delegations from the EU and NATO.

Rubbing shoulders with war profiteers is not in itself reprehensible. But awarding subsidies to the same profiteers amounts to acquiescence in the human rights abuses on which their bottom line depends. At present, Israel is taking part in some 800 EU-sponsored scientific research projects, with a total value of €4.3 billion ($5.6 billion). Israel is eyeing an even bigger share of Horizon 2020, the Union’s next pot of research money.

It is interesting that the Tel Aviv fair earlier this month focused on how surveillance equipment can be used for major sporting events like the Olympics. When London hosted the games during the summer, the EU financed the trial of a new security system in Heathrow airport. Elbit, a maker of drones that have been heavily used over Gaza’s skies in recent days, was one of the “partners” in this trial.

Sordid irony

There is a sordid irony behind how the EU is turning to Israel for advice on how to make our airports safer. In 2001, Israel destroyed Gaza’s only airport. It had been constructed with €9.5 million worth of EU aid. Yet Chris Patten, the Union’s external relations commissioner at time, refused to sue Israel for this damage. He tried to justify his inaction by contending that once cheques were handed over to the Palestinian Authority, the EU no longer owned them.

Around this time last year, the Commission published a list of 82 EU-funded facilities that had been destroyed by Israel. Officials estimated that the loss incurred to the Union as a result was almost 30 million euros. Still, the Brussels bureaucracy would not take legal action in order to hold Israel accountable; when Israel last conducted a major offensive against Gaza in 2008 and 2009, the EU released emergency funds to repair harm inflicted by Israel, with the help of American and European weapons and components.

Why is the EU so eager to court Israel’s war machine? One clue can be found in the “action plan” for a “competitive security industry” that Antonio Tajani, the EU’s enterprise commissioner, published in July. It noted that the “global security market” was worth €100 billion per year in 2011 — a tenfold increase on its value in 2001.

Brussels officials know that Israel is the world’s sixth largest exporter of “security” goods. Cooperating with Israel is necessary, they say, in order to develop Europe’s own “security” industry. By sucking up to Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, they can help win lucrative contracts for European firms. Italy’s Finmeccanica, for example, bagged a $1 billion deal to supply training jets to Israel earlier this year.

And when Europe lacks weapons it calls on Israel. Frontex, the EU’s border agency, has been toying with the idea of buying Israeli drones to monitor asylum-seekers. Denmark is reported to have bought Israeli bombs as its own stockpile became depleted while taking part in NATO’s war against Libya.

Next month the EU will be formally awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. We will be told of the Union’s commitment to human rights and other “values.” The spectacle will surely be nauseating. The EU’s unerring support for Israel proves that the “values” that are truly cherished can be quantified in monetary terms. Why else would the Union court those who stand to gain from putting Haneen, Omar and Ibrahim in tiny graves?

This article was first published by New Europe, Brussels.

Comments

In the last paragraph you claim that the EU provides 'unerring' support for Israel. However, as you mention earlier, the EU has also sponsored projects in Gaza such as the construction of the airport among other projects included in the list of 82 facilities destroyed by Israel. Surely this would mean that the EU also supports Palestine.

To say that the firms profit from dropping bombs on Palestinian babies is a stretch of the truth. In fact, the bombs are purchased by the government, and monetarily, the government does not profit from dropping the bombs because they cost money. Whether the bombs are used to kill babies or militants is irrelevant for the company. Please stop the exaggeration.

What is your issue with Rafael exactly? You write that it supported Iron Dome, a DEFENSIVE system to protect Israel from rockets. Last time I checked, a system to destroy rockets aimed at civilians is well within the bounds of international law.

Your account of the Gaza offensive is biased. You failed to mention another war profiteer, the one who has been supplying Fajr rockets to Hamas, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran has put up a large billboard with a picture of its Fajr rockets headed toward Tel Aviv in central Tehran. That the omission was made is not surprising, as this is less of an academic article than a one-sided polemic. If you want anyone to take you seriously please consider exploring the other side of the issue, namely the other side fighting this battle. Not all is as black and white as you portray.

I love maps but I hate what the lines represent. I seems to me that emotionally and developmentally the Israelis and the Palestinians are where the Scots and the English were 500 or 300 hundred years ago. Thankfully the biggest weapon that existed at the time was 'Mons Meg, a super cannon of it's day. Of course history has provided much opportunity for maneuvering and 'advancement' since then. The world should not be holding Israel's and Palestinian's coats and going through their pockets while they engage in this deadly game that could ultimately destroy us all.

"Rubbing shoulders with war profiteers is not in itself reprehensible."

All contact with war profiteers IS indeed in itself reprehensible. Peace will never have a chance as long as war profiteering of any kind is respected as permissible anywhere in the world.

I don't know how any person of sound and fair mind can support Israel's policies against the Palestinian people. And i also wonder how the Israeli's themselves can justify what their country is doing. In my view it's only a matter of time before Israel is forced to give justice to the people of Palestine, unfortunately in the meantime many more people will have to die and live horrible lives because of the inhumanity of Israel.