For more than a decade, I have been seeking to expose how a European Union police training scheme in Palestine benefits the Israeli occupation.
Keeping tabs on EUPOL COPPS – as the training scheme is known – has not been easy, not least because the whole operation is extremely secretive.
I have now obtained proof that EUPOL COPPS tries to conceal even the most basic details about its activities.
In mid-November, I made an information request asking for a list of discussions between EUPOL COPPS’ top representatives and the US “security coordinator” for Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The request, I have learned, was referred to Katja Dominik, deputy head of EUPOL COPPS.
Dominik, a German judge, delivered a harsh verdict about me.
“This person claims to be a journalist (Irish origin) for the blog ‘electronic intifada’,” she wrote in an email message dated 18 November. “This blog appears to be in general very anti-EU.”
Dominik noted that in the previous 48 hours, I had made “at least three efforts” to get “information from or about EUPOL COPPS.” It is said, she added, that “the journalist has ‘made some trouble’ ” during an investigation into EUPOL COPPS by an anti-fraud body “some years ago.”
She then addressed the request I had made for information about contacts between her “mission” – the term she used for EUPOL COPPS – and the US “security coordinator.”
“I am rather confident,” Dominik wrote, that EUPOL COPPS had no “legal or transparency obligation to disclose any meetings with international partners, let alone the content or frequency of such meetings.”
Dominik’s line of argument indicates that she may not be the world’s most open-minded judge.
She implies that I am not a bona fide journalist because I write for a publication that is critical of the European Union. By that logic, only someone who copies and pastes EU press statements into news articles, never asking awkward questions, can qualify as a journalist.
The “trouble” – Dominik’s word – I had made was that in December 2018, I reported how EUPOL COPPS was being probed for alleged irregularities. The headquarters of the “mission” in the occupied West Bank had just received a visit from OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office, as part of that investigation.
Evidently, I discomfited the EU hierarchy simply by revealing a few facts.
Dominik’s declaration that her “mission” is not under any obligation to release basic details about its activities betrays a contempt for accountability.
It is manifestly in the public interest that details of EUPOL COPPS’ dealings with the US “security coordinator” be made available.
In 2017 – during the presidency of Donald Trump – the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
As a result, the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Among those who have been working out of the new embassy in Jerusalem is Mark Schwartz, the “security coordinator.”
The European Union officially opposed Trump’s announcement. Federica Mogherini, then the EU’s foreign policy chief, stated that “we will continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem as Europeans” until the “final status” of the city is resolved through negotiations.
The international consensus to which she alluded means that no legitimacy should be conferred on Israel’s occupation and subsequent annexation of East Jerusalem.
EUPOL COPPS is known to have worked closely with the US “security coordinator” in the past.
If the “mission” has continued that cooperation since the embassy move, it has completely undermined Mogherini’s commitment. Upholding the international consensus on Jerusalem requires the EU to boycott the new US embassy.
Liaising with the US “security coordinator” would be a stealthy embrace of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Democracy means nothing unless ordinary people – and that should include journalists, even those who contribute to blogs – can scrutinize what the powerful do. Rejecting requests for basic information – as Dominik has effectively done – illustrates how the EU elite behaves in an anti-democratic fashion.
Dominik’s email message was sent to several recipients, including Nicole Miller, a press officer at EUPOL COPPS.
Miller replied by alleging that a recent article I wrote about discontent within the staff at EUPOL COPPS contained “a number of factual errors.”
As she did not provide evidence to back up that allegation, I contacted Miller asking her to point out any such errors. She did not respond.
When replying to Dominik, Miller claimed my recent article “follows his usual style of ‘journalism’ [her quotation marks] which is nothing short of seeking to defame the EU.”
That sentence speaks volumes about the mindset of EUPOL COPPS and its representatives.
Defamation is considered a serious matter across the world; many countries have made it a criminal offense. So here is an EU spokesperson insinuating that adversarial journalism is either a criminal activity or bordering on it.
I will not be deterred by this smear. On the contrary, I am delighted that my work and that of my colleagues is making EU representatives angry.