Occupation profiteer Ahava soaks up EU science grants

Not for the first time, the European Union is in denial about how it is subsidizing Israel’s crimes.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the EU’s commissioner for scientific research, recently acknowledged that the cosmetics-maker Ahava was allocated more than €1 million worth of innovation grants from the Union over a period stretching from 1998 to 2013. Giving even one cent to Ahava involves facilitating breaches of international law because of the firm’s unlawful activities in the West Bank.

As Geoghegan-Quinn doesn’t appear to recognize this problem, she would be well-advised to read a report, issued in May, by the human rights organization B’Tselem. It highlights how Ahava is partly owned by two Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land: Mitzpe Shalem and Qalya. Both of those settlements are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which forbids an occupying power from transferring its civilian population to the territory it occupies.

Responding to a parliamentary question, Geoghegan-Quinn effectively conceded that some of Ahava’s EU-funded research may have been undertaken in the West Bank. While Ahava is “formally established within the borders of the internationally recognized state of Israel”, she said, beneficiaries of EU grants are not required to carry out the related research in the place of establishment.

I would alert Geoghegan-Quinn to two salient facts:

  1. The rules covering EU science grants stipulate that projects which violate “fundamental ethical principles” are ineligible for funding. Carrying out research in one or more illegal settlements must surely violate such principles.
  2. Ahava may be able to give its offices in Holon or Airport City, industrial zones near Tel Aviv, as an address for its headquarters when applying for Euro-lolly. Yet its core manufacturing activities are conducted in Mitzpe Shalem. If Geoghegan-Quinn doesn’t believe me on this, I urge her to take a trip to the settlement, where she will no doubt be given a warm welcome to Ahava’s official visitors’ centre.

There are other questions about why any of my tax euros should be going to a private cosmetics firm. A glance at Cordis, the EU’s database on its science grants, shows that in one of the projects concerned, Ahava has teamed up with the US Department of the Interior. The objective of this scheme is to assess what impact tiny toxins (nanoparticles, as boffins call them) can have on the environment.

Correct me if I’m wrong but I never had the impression that the Department of the Interior spent too much time worrying about trees and dolphins. So what is the real agenda here?

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David Cronin

David Cronin's picture

David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada. His latest book is Corporate Europe: How Big Business Sets Policies on Food, Climate and War (Pluto, 2013). His earlier book is Europe’s Alliance With Israel: Aiding the Occupation (Pluto, 2011).