Is it possible to have a relaxing holiday if you are being investigated for fraud?
The European Union’s policing operation in the occupied West Bank faces exactly that challenge. A few days before many of its personnel left for a Christmas break, some less than welcome visitors came to see their new Ramallah headquarters.
Representing an anti-fraud office called OLAF, the visitors conducted a search, quizzed some staff and took various documents and electronic equipment away for further inspection.
The investigation has been unreported until now. Yet it is not the first time that the EU’s policing operation has been under suspicion.
In December 2016, the Union’s diplomatic service opened a probe into claims of nepotism and harassment at the operation’s headquarters.
Both OLAF and the management of the policing operation refused to comment about the latest investigation.
While it is correct that accusations of irregularity should be examined, the probe will almost certainly avoid the real scandal behind the EU’s activities in Palestine – how they enable repression.
OLAF is not an independent body by any stretch of the imagination. Based in Brussels, it is very much part of the EU’s bureaucracy.
When OLAF’s staff undertake probes into the EU’s own institutions, they are investigating their own colleagues.
OLAF’s work is confined to addressing allegations of fraud, corruption or serious misconduct.
The term “corruption” is usually applied to dishonest behavior, particularly if someone abuses a position for personal gain. The basic problem with the EU’s policing operation in Palestine is that it has been set up to assist Israel, an oppressive and racist state.
The whole operation, therefore, is criminal, without necessarily being corrupt – at least not in the way OLAF appears to interpret that term.
The extent to which the EU operation is criminal was exposed a decade ago.
In December 2008 and January 2009, Israel bombarded Gaza for three consecutive weeks. Palestinians outside Gaza joined many demonstrations against the attack. The response from the Palestinian Authority’s forces in the West Bank was to beat up protesters.
In Hebron, such protesters were blocked from receiving medical attention after they had been beaten.
None of this thuggery seemed to bother Javier Solana, then the EU’s foreign policy chief. Solana praised the Palestinian Authority forces – many of them trained by the EU – for how they handled the situation.
Solana cited the episode as an example of the “progress” made by the EU’s policing operation since it was established in 2006.
A decade later, PA forces continue to violently repress Palestinians for demanding their rights.
Britain’s malign influence
The EU’s operation was initially financed by Britain and reflects ideas supported by Tony Blair when he was prime minister of that country.
A key idea was that the Palestinian Authority’s forces would act in the interests of the Israeli occupation. That idea has remained central to the EU’s activities.
The operation can be regarded as one of the more malign contributions that Britain has made towards developing the EU’s foreign and “security” policies. To date, most of the operation’s chiefs have been nominated by Britain.
Most have previously worked with the Royal Ulster Constabulary, a Protestant-dominated force which sought to subjugate the Catholic community in the north of Ireland.
As things stand, Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union within the next 100 days.
Once the British are out, some of the harm they have caused ought to be rectified. Winding up the policing operation in Palestine would be a good first step.
Sadly, things do not work like that in the real world. We can, therefore, expect the EU’s operation to continue with its deceptive “public relations.”
In one recent video, the operation suggests it has schooled prison officers working for the Palestinian Authority about how Swedish jails are run.
A Human Rights Watch study offers a less rosy view. Among other things, it documents a case where a journalist who was detained by the Palestinian Authority had his arms tied to a door.
The door was then pulled slowly so that pressure would be applied to his arms as he was interrogated about alleged connections with Hamas. The pain was so much that the prisoner passed out – only to have his feet beaten when he woke up.
The EU has been mentoring the Palestinian Authority’s police and prison officers for a number of years, but torture and ill-treatment have persisted. This begs the questions: Has the EU connived in the abuse of Palestinian prisoners?
Has the EU helped turn the West Bank into a police state?
That is the real scandal.