Two years ago, Benjamin Netanyahu was heard complaining that the European Union was “crazy” for attaching “political conditions” to its relations with Israel. By the prime minister’s yardstick, matters have become less “crazy” since then: the EU has quietly expanded the financial support it gives to Israeli government bodies directly responsible for oppressing Palestinians.
Israel’s defense ministry has just begun drawing down European Union cash for the first time.
It is among the beneficiaries of a new $9 million research scheme on using drones during disasters. Known as Respondrone, the scheme is being financed under the EU’s science program Horizon 2020.
The “political conditions” of which Netanyahu complained are respect for basic human rights. By providing money to Israel’s defense ministry, the EU is helping out a major human rights abuser.
If the English language was used accurately, the defense ministry would be called the ministry for war crimes and occupation.
It is tasked with strengthening Israel’s army. In other words, the ministry is dedicated to making an extremely aggressive army even more lethal.
Not content with occupying the West Bank and Gaza, Israel’s army has bombed Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Sudan since the beginning of this millennium – when the EU supposedly began applying those “crazy” conditions. Israel has also killed Turkish humanitarian activists in international waters.
Subsidizing the ministry which oversees that army is tantamount to approving its crimes.
The Respondrone project kicked off in May. The following month the EU’s embassy in Tel Aviv held a ceremony to celebrate how Israel’s researchers have received more than $820 million from Horizon 2020.
Curiously, the material for the event posted on the embassy’s website does not mention that the EU is now funding Israel’s defense ministry.
The EU’s representatives have been similarly reticent about the support they offer to Israel’s ministry for “public security.”
That ministry provides guidance to Israel’s police and prison service. During the past few weeks, Israel’s police have conducted daily raids on the West Bank village of Issawiyeh, participated in the demolition of Palestinian buildings in East Jerusalem and evicted a family living near Jerusalem’s Old City so that its home could be handed over to Jewish settlers.
The prison service, meanwhile, runs facilities where torture is routine.
Nassar Taqatqa is the latest Palestinian detainee to die in one such facility. Investigating how he died is impossible as the Israeli authorities are holding on to his body.
If it wished to, the EU could exert pressure on Israel to cease blocking the investigation that is so urgently needed. Israel’s public security ministry is scheduled to take part in an EU-funded project worth almost $8 million, starting from next month.
Named Roxanne, the project will examine how advancements in technology can help identify the members of criminal networks. Its other participants will include police from both the north and south of Ireland, Greece and the Czech Republic and the international law enforcement body Interpol.
As a bare minimum, the EU should tell Israel that it will not be welcome in this scheme so long as it retains Nassar Taqatqa’s body. But Israel’s public security ministry should not be involved in any EU-financed crime-fighting projects, considering that it provides bureaucratic back-up to such war crimes as home demolitions and raids against a people under occupation.
The EU’s embassy in Tel Aviv prides itself on encouraging innovation among Israel’s “start-up” companies. The embassy does not draw attention to how quite a few of these firms have strong connections to the Israeli military.
For example, the EU has awarded a grant to TuneFork, a Jerusalem-based firm. That firm has the laudable aim of helping people with hearing difficulties enjoy listening to music on the Internet as much as possible.
The EU does not confine itself with aiding cottage industries. Israel Aerospace Industries, a manufacturer of drones used during Israel’s offensives against Gaza, is taking part in at least three EU-financed projects at the moment. They include the aforementioned Respondrone scheme, which also involves Israel’s defense ministry, and a separate project on enhancing the safety of “mass market drones.”
Elbit Systems, another leading Israeli warplane maker, belongs to a consortium involved with a $10 million project on “securing the European gas network.”
Among Israel’s colleges milking Horizon 2020 are the Technion in the city of Haifa. A promotional brochure from the Technion boasts of its “exceptionally close ties” to Israel’s military and that it is the “sole source of aerospace engineers in Israel” – a euphemism for tomorrow’s weapons makers.
The EU’s representatives know full well that their support for Israel is loathsome yet they will not admit it. Doing so would spoil the ambience at all those events where they sip champagne and spout platitudes about “innovation.”