Why is the EU funding Israeli torturers?

EU research chief Carlos Moedas meets the Israeli prime minister during a May visit to celebrate Israel’s role in Horizon 2020, an EU research program that funds torturers. (via European Union in Israel)

The European Union is illegally funding Israeli torturers and must stop, a group of prominent international legal experts has concluded.

They say that the LAW-TRAIN program violates EU regulations and international law because one of the participants, Israel’s public security ministry, “is responsible for or complicit in torture, other crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

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 funded through an EU research program called Horizon 2020, which has also channeled millions of dollars to Israel’s arms industry.

Extensive use of torture

LAW-TRAIN involves Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, the Israeli public security ministry, Belgium’s Catholic University of Leuven, the Belgian justice ministry, Spain’s Civil Guard paramilitary police and the Romanian police. Its advisory board includes Cornelia Geldermans, a prosecutor in the Netherlands.

Portugal was originally involved, but pulled out last year in the face of mounting public opposition to Israel’s role in the EU program.

LAW-TRAIN is scheduled to run until April 2018 and half of its nearly $6 million budget will go to the Israeli participants.

“The use of torture by Israeli interrogators has been extensively documented in the international and Israeli press and confirmed by international investigators and by Israeli interrogators themselves,” Michel Waelbroeck, the author of the legal opinion and a member of the Institute of International Law, stated. “In June 2016, the UN Committee against Torture denounced Israel’s use of torture and its illegal, abusive techniques during interrogations by its police and prison staff.”

The opinion is endorsed by 25 international legal experts and jurists, including former UN human rights investigators Richard Falk and John Dugard, and Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, a former Dutch deputy prime minister and former director general at the European Commission.

Israel has a well-documented record of torture, including against children, and has systematically failed to investigate complaints of abuse.

Illegal funding

In February, hundreds of Belgian academics and artists urged their government to end its support for LAW-TRAIN, and questions have been raised about the project in the European Parliament.

Human rights organizations from Palestine, Belgium and Spain have also written to EU officials expressing concern about the support for Israeli entities engaged in torture.

As opposition to LAW-TRAIN grew, the European Commission, the EU’s executive bureaucracy, conducted an evaluation by an “independent expert panel” that concluded the program had “Good to excellent compliance” with EU laws, including the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

But the legal experts say that the review ignored key EU regulations that ban funding to individuals or organizations that engage in “grave professional misconduct” such as torture.

The legal experts conclude that because Israel’s public security ministry is “guilty of grave and continuing breaches” of European and international prohibitions on torture, the EU funding is illegal.

But far from taking action to hold Israel accountable for torture, Carlos Moedas, the EU’s head of research, recently visited Israel to celebrate its involvement in Horizon 2020.

Protest in France

While top EU officials tighten their embrace of Israel’s regime of occupation, apartheid and settler-colonialism over Palestinians, European citizens are continuing to urge an end to such complicity.

Activists from BDS France held this protest outside the pavilion of the Israeli arms maker Elbit Systems at the Paris Air Show on Saturday.

The protesters can be seen in the video staging a “die-in” and holding a banner denouncing Israel for testing its weapons on Palestinians.

The protesters called for an arms embargo, an end to military cooperation with Israel and support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.

Elbit is a major manufacturer of drones that Israel has used to kill Palestinian civilians. It was contracted by the Obama administration to provide surveillance technology along the US-Mexico border.

Elbit has also been a big recipient of European Union funds.




Upon reflection, two aspects inherent in this arrangement come to mind. The first is that Israel pursues a policy of eager participation in European matters as a way of strengthening its institutional position globally. Cultivation of close relations with elites throughout the E.U. is a key element of this strategy, bypassing democratic objections to torture, looting, systematic oppression and so on. The second aspect is noted in the network of business affiliations organised around technologies of violent repression, surveillance, demographic control, etc in which Israel markets its expertise (and political outlook) to ostensibly liberal and democratic countries. This is done in the name of those values it aims to suppress, namely openness, equality and adherence to the rule of law.

It may be time for activists to intensively target Elbit Systems for BDS action. This company has become the face of futuristic occupation, and banning its activities abroad will strike a serious blow at Israel's prestige as well as its profits.