Settler “professor” top attraction at EU-Israel science show

A weapons inventor representing an illegal Israeli settlement will participate in an EU-sponsored conference on scientific research later this week.

Yitzhak Ben-Israel, a retired major-general, is among the speakers listed on the programme for Thursday’s event on “technology terrorism” in Brussels. He is a member of the board of trustees in Ariel University, which is located on occupied land in the West Bank. His resumé also states that he has headed the research divisions of both the Israeli military and its Ministry of Defense.

Although Israel is an active participant in the EU’s science programme, the Union says that firms and universities based in the settlements are not eligible for the programme’s research grants. So I asked the European Commission if it had any difficulties with Ben-Israel’s role in this week’s event, considering his links to Ariel. “To the best of our knowledge, Mr Ben-Israel does not have any direct role in the [‘technology terrorism’] project, apart from being a speaker at the workshop,” Carlo Corazza, a Commission spokesman, replied.

That lame response cannot be allowed conceal how the EU is ingratiating itself with Israel’s military and political elite. Ben-Israel is regarded as an important strategist on “defense” issues and has received several awards for his work. He has been credited with developing a “C4 system” (to help commanders manage a range of operations) for the Israeli military, as well as Nautilus, a laser system designed to counteract the crude rockets that Hamas and other resistance groups have fired from Gaza and that Hezbollah have fired from Lebanon. Furthermore, he has served on the board of directors for Israel Aerospace Industries, a maker of warplanes used to slaughter Gaza civilians during Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009. And I almost forgot to add that he has been a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, for Kadima, the party set up by that mass murderer Ariel Sharon.

Selective focus on violence

Thursday’s event marks the culmination of a €1 million ($1.3 million) project called FESTOS (Foresight of Evolving Security Threats Posed by Emerging Technologies). While most of the money for FESTOS comes from the EU taxpayer, the project is being coordinated by Yair Sharan from Tel Aviv University.

In a newsletter published in February, Sharan said the aim of the project is to assess how “terrorists” are availing of technology and to recommend what policy measures should be taken in response. “New technological horizons are opened to individuals and groups who are ready to abuse technology to accomplish their evil purposes,” he wrote.

It is probably superfluous to add that the project is highly selective. It only examines violence perpetrated in response to oppression and not the routine violence of oppressor states like Israel.

Corazzo tried to justify the project by saying that “FESTOS is not about developing weapons.” He added that developing weapons is not allowed by the EU’s scientific research activities as they belong to a “civilian programme.”

Don’t be fooled by that assurance. No matter what EU officials say, the Union is helping to nurture a “security” industry in Israel that is inseparable from that country’s military and its crimes against humanity.

Last week The Financial Times published a feature about Israel’s technology prowess. It was a piece of thinly-veiled propaganda by the paper’s correspondent Tobias Buck, yet it nonetheless underscored how many of the big shots in Israel’s technology sector were trained in Unit 8200, an electronic espionage division of the Israeli military.

Israel is taking part in 800 EU research projects at the moment, with a total value of €4.3 billion. As a European taxpayer, I don’t recall ever being asked for permission to fund a war machine that is an affront to everything I believe in.  

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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).