Palestinian academics are urging their European counterparts to end their cooperation with a European Union project that funds Israeli torturers.
The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees and PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, are calling on Belgium’s KU Leuven university and Portugal’s INESC-ID research institute to pull out of the EU-funded LAW-TRAIN program.
They also urge three British academics listed as advisors – Portsmouth University’s Claire Nee and Jo Taylor and William Finn, both of the College of Policing – to end their roles in the project.
LAW-TRAIN began in May 2015 with the ostensible aim of “harmonizing and sharing interrogation techniques between the countries involved in order to face the new challenges in transnational criminality.”
It is a joint project with the Israeli public security ministry, police and Israel’s Bar-Ilan University.
But international legal experts said in June that LAW-TRAIN violates EU regulations and international law because Israel’s public security ministry “is responsible for or complicit in torture, other crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
Funding war crimes
Israel’s police and Bar-Ilan University are also directly involved in numerous transgressions, including extrajudicial executions, torture, war crimes and collusion with Israel’s secret police, the Palestinian academics say.
“Cooperation with these institutions through LAW-TRAIN not only disregards Palestinians’ human rights,” they add, “it provides a green light for these torture methods to continue, and worse yet, presents them as an example to follow in Europe.”
EU officials claim that LAW-TRAIN passed an ethical review and evaluation, but according to the legal experts, the process was flawed and ignored key EU regulations that prohibit funding to individuals and entities engaged in grave misconduct.
LAW-TRAIN is funded under Horizon 2020, an EU program that provides millions of dollars to Israeli arms makers and human rights violators under the guise of supporting “research.”
Earlier this year EU science commissioner Carlos Moedas visited Israel to celebrate Israel’s role in Horizon 2020.
European appeasement policy
The official logic of the EU’s unconditional support for Israel seems to be that by engaging in “dialogue” and reassuring Israel, that Israel will feel safe enough to take steps towards “peace” and the mythical two-state solution.
But EU appeasement has had precisely the opposite effect, merely emboldening Israel to commit more crimes. In 2014, for instance, the EU launched a “dialogue” aimed at convincing Israel to freeze demolitions of Palestinian homes and structures in the occupied West Bank.
According to one analysis, Israel responded by accelerating its demolition of EU-funded structures.
In recent years, Israel has destroyed at least $74 million worth of EU-funded projects with total impunity.
Last month, Israel demolished several European taxpayer-funded schools and projects in the West Bank. The EU’s response was a weakly worded statement, followed by more rewards for Israel.
Ironically, one of the most sharply worded – though still toothless – protests against the demolitions came from the government of Belgium, which is deeply complicit in LAW-TRAIN: several Belgian judicial officials are involved in the program.
But the most spectacular failure of the EU’s appeasement policy came in the form of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent vow that Israel will never remove any settlements from the occupied West Bank – demolishing the cover of even the most naive and complicit EU officials that Israel is interested in a two-state solution.
All of Israel’s settlements are illegal under international law, and even the EU claims to oppose them.
But it’s hardly surprising that Israel is accelerating its theft and colonization of West Bank land: the EU ambassador to Tel Aviv publicly stated last year that goods made in Israel’s settlements are “welcome” in European markets – even as major human rights groups are calling for a total ban on business with settlements.
Acting as if they are oblivious, EU bureaucrats continue to reward Israel this week with the visit of Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the 28-member bloc’s “entrepreneurship” commissioner.
Her goal is to promote further “cooperation” in such fields as science and technology – often code for weapons development and the arms trade.
Bieńkowska’s visit is the latest of a high-profile parade of EU officials to Tel Aviv that included science commissioner Moedas.
Another senior official recently pledged EU support for Israel’s efforts to silence criticism of its policies, under the guise of fighting anti-Semitism.
EU officials also continue to smear the nonviolent boycott, divestment and sanctions movement with claims the EU cannot substantiate, like the assertion that BDS activities have led to a rise in anti-Semitic incidents.
The clear and consistent message from Brussels to Tel Aviv is that the EU not only tolerates Israel’s crimes, but enthusiastically supports them.
That is unlikely to change until European citizens amplify the message that they will no longer allow their money to be misused by EU officials and European academic institutions to support Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.