Why is the EU suddenly worried about Israeli “democracy”?

Israel’s police force plays a central role in the colonization of East Jerusalem. 

Saeed Qaq APA images

I had a flashback upon hearing that the European Parliament will voice grave concern this week about how Israeli “democracy” is deteriorating.

Suddenly, I found myself transported back to that distant month of January 2023. Visions of the same European Parliament flooded my mind.

Immaculately dressed, its top representatives were queuing up to have their photographs taken with a visiting Israeli president.

Just a few hours earlier Israel had committed a massacre in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

That did not perturb the great and the good in Brussels. They were completely fixated on celebrating how the European Union and Israel are entwined by history and values.

Welcome to a world of myths and illusions.

Until quite recently, the EU elite was complacent about Israeli “democracy.” The regularity of elections was considered proof that freedom reigned in that little oasis.

It was only when a crude coalition began its assault on the judiciary that the EU began to treat Israeli “democracy” as an endangered species.

In this world of myth and illusions, nobody acknowledges that Israel was set up to prevent Palestinians having any democratic rights.

Israel’s police force has played an essential role in strangling democracy. Long before the far-right pyromaniac Itamar Ben-Gvir became the minister in charge of that force, its officers were attacking Palestinian gatherings – even funerals – and carrying out extrajudicial executions.

Enabling cybercrime

Despite – or possibly because of – that brutality, the European Union has stepped up its cooperation with Israel’s police force.

Documents obtained following a freedom of information request show that Israel’s police participated in at least 16 joint exercises or other events with the EU Agency for Law Enforcement Training over the past decade. Most took place within the last three years.

The agendas for the exercises indicate that the training agency – known by the acronym CEPOL – shares the European Parliament’s penchant for spreading myths and illusions.

One of these exercises – see below – took place in Budapest during March 2022. It was focused on “cybercrime investigations.”

Far from investigating cybercrime, Israel enables it. Previous governments led by Benjamin Netanyahu – Israel’s prime minister for life (or so it seems) – have given the notorious NSO Group carte blanche to supply repressive regimes with spyware.

Journalists and political activists in numerous countries – several of them within the EU – have reportedly been targeted through espionage approved by the Israeli state. CEPOL has nonetheless deemed Israel a suitable partner for its work on fighting cybercrime.

On at least two occasions, CEPOL representatives have made trips to Israel’s National Police Academy headquarters in Beit Shemesh, a city near Jerusalem.

And in November last year, a delegation from Israel’s cops hooked up with CEPOL for a tour of Amsterdam. The program for that outing – see below – states that among the topics studied was the use of drones in The Netherlands “to secure public order.”

The program does not say if the EU side had a chance to ask their Israeli guests about how drones have been tested in Gaza. More than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed with these pilotless warplanes since the beginning of the century, according to the human rights group Al Mezan.

Israel Aerospace Industries is one of the main manufacturers of those drones.

The same Israel Aerospace Industries is involved in at least six projects under Horizon Europe, the EU’s latest science and research scheme.

They include a project with the arty name Matisse, which, if the EU’s claims prove accurate, will help develop technology for the “next generation” of “climate neutral” aircraft.

Why is the EU, in effect, greenwashing Israel’s merchants of death?

While the idea is repugnant, there is a logic behind it.

In a world of myths and illusions, it becomes normal to pretend that a weapons company would like to protect the environment.

It is a bit like pretending that Israel is a model democracy, only now starting to deteriorate.