For the second time within the space of a few weeks, Hungary’s man in Brussels has been prevented from harming Palestinians as much as he wanted.
First, the European Union decided to resume financial assistance for hospitals and other vital services in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Those payments had been frozen by Olivér Varhélyi, an EU commissioner.
Next, the human rights watchdog Al-Haq succeeded in pushing the EU to unblock funding the organization had been allocated. The funding was halted by Varhélyi after smear campaigns by Israel and its lobbying network.
Varhélyi was nominated to the European Commission by Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister. While both men are reactionaries, it would be a mistake to think EU policy on the Middle East would be dramatically different if a more liberal government took office in Budapest.
Israel enjoyed a cozy relationship with the EU elite long before Varhélyi began his current job. One consequence of the coziness is arrangements that are morally repugnant go largely unnoticed.
Two years ago, I wrote about how a firm founded by Tamir Pardo, former head of the spying and assassination agency Mossad, was taking part in an EU-funded science project.
Using freedom of information rules, I have now obtained copies of the screening to which the project in question was subjected.
Known as Impetus, the $9.5 million project focuses on the use of surveillance technology in cities.
Ethics are supposed to be at the core of the whole initiative. Yet the screening documents say absolutely nothing about whether it can be considered ethical for a firm set up by a former Israeli spy to be involved in such work.
The Impetus project has been implemented amid a series of revelations about the Israeli-made Pegasus software, which has been used to snoop on journalists, activists and politicians around the world.
Although there is no reference to Pegasus in the screening documents for Impetus, it is possible that the surrounding controversy had a bearing on the project.
An initial “ethics summary report” on Impetus – dating from 2019 – states that “massive public personal data protection will take place” in Norway and Italy as part of it. The same document – see below – indicated that the data would be gathered on an “involuntary” basis and that nobody placed under surveillance would know that their “device” had been accessed.
Yet an “ethics check report” from December last year – see below – noted that clarity on these matters had been requested from the consortium participating in the project. The consortium claimed that “it is not intended to collect any kind of personal data from personal devices such as personal computers or mobile phones by the Impetus platform or any of the tools integrated in it.”
I contacted Joe Gorman, the project’s coordinator, asking him if he had any reservations about XM Cyber, given its founder’s Mossad connections.
“There are no indications of any kind that any of the organizations taking part in the project might, through the nature of their business, promote unethical practices,” he replied.
XM Cyber and another Israeli firm called Sixgill “have very similar roles in the project,” Gorman said.
Their roles are “to develop software that can be used by city authorities to detect potential cyber vulnerabilities in their IT infrastructure, to cooperate with them in learning how to use the software effectively in practical operational scenarios, and to improve the software to better fit their needs,” he added.
“Both companies already have leading products in this area, and it is for this technical and market expertise that they were selected to join the consortium.”
According to Gorman, XM Cyber is “in the process of leaving the consortium.”
The reason for the firm’s departure, he said, “is not related to ethical issues.”
“It is based on an assessment that their participation in the project proved itself not to fulfill their expectations at the start of the project.”
So that makes everything ok?
Tamir Pardo once called Mossad a “crime syndicate with a license.”
This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of a particularly heinous crime. On 8 July 1972, the Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani and his niece were killed by a Mossad bomb attack in Beirut.
The killing may have occurred decades before Pardo joined Mossad yet such behavior continued under his leadership.
When people confess to running a crime syndicate and display no remorse for doing so, you would think that they would be deemed ineligible for funding from “respectable” outfits like the European Union.
Then again, Mossad is not just any crime syndicate. It is a crime syndicate approved by a nuclear-armed apartheid state constantly mollycoddled by the “international community.”
For Brussels bureaucrats and beneficiaries of their largesse, raising eyebrows is effectively forbidden.