EU funds Israel’s spies

A firm founded by Tamir Pardo, the former Mossad chief, has been awarded an EU science grant (Ronen Zvulun - Reuters)

David Cronin

The Electronic Intifada  /  June 26, 2020

Perhaps the most frank description of Mossad is that it is “a crime syndicate with a license.”

The comment was made by Tamir Pardo, who headed Israel’s infamous spy agency between 2011 and 2016.

Far from repenting for running a crime syndicate, Pardo has capitalized on it. Possessing a virtually unique resume – only the select few get to lead Mossad – he has nabbed top-level posts in Israel’s private sector over the past few years.

The European Union is now rewarding his crimes.

XM Cyber – a firm which Pardo founded – is part of an EU-financed project which will kick off in September.

Named Impetus, the $10.5 million project will address the ethics of using surveillance technology in cities.

XM Cyber – a firm that advises clients how to prepare for attacks on computer networks – was set up by Pardo and two other veteran Israeli spies.

Farcical

Tasking a former Mossad chief and his chums to work on questions of ethics is farcical.

Mossad’s activities include carrying out assassinations. Under Pardo’s watch, Mossad was accused of killing a senior nuclear scientist in Iran.

While Mossad does not admit to particular killings, Pardo has asserted that political assassinations are sometimes necessary.

Assassinations violate basic human rights and the rule of law – principles the EU supposedly regards as sacrosanct. Why have EU officials, in effect, deemed a man who has more than likely approved assassinations as an authority on ethics?

I put that question to the European Commission, which oversees Horizon 2020, the research scheme from which Pardo is benefiting.

The Commission declined to answer that question. Instead, it responded with some waffle about how XM Cyber had “been checked and assessed to be compliant with the Horizon 2020 rules and requirements.”

Pardo is in favour of racial discrimination.

He recently signed an opinion piece, arguing that the imminent annexation of a large slice of the West Bank could ultimately undermine Israel’s “Jewish identity.”

He is particularly worried that Israel may face a “dilemma” whereby it would have to choose between granting equal rights to Palestinians in the annexed territory or depriving them of any rights. The idea that all human beings are entitled to equal rights doesn’t figure in his thinking.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is also opposed to annexation, though has cited different reasons for his opposition. Borrell has emphasized that annexation would be “contrary to international law.”

One idea being floated is that the EU will respond to annexation by excluding Israel from its research activities. That would mean firms such as Pardo’s XM Cyber could no longer receive EU grants.

Business as usual

Halting the flow of these grants to Israel would be significant. Israeli firms and institutions have drawn down approximately $1.2 billion from Horizon 2020, the EU’s current research program.

Until now, the EU has adopted a business as usual approach. Business as usual means helping out firms that profit from inflicting pain on Palestinians.

Elbit Systems, a leading Israeli weapons maker, is one such firm. It has manufactured drones used during Israel’s major attacks on Gaza and supplied surveillance equipment for Israel’s massive wall in the occupied West Bank.

That hasn’t stopped the EU from continuously awarding grants to Elbit.

Elbit is part of a consortium behind an $11 million EU-funded railway safety project which will begin in October.

Using weapons from firms such as Elbit, Israel has bombed essential providers of essential transport services – notably ambulance drivers – in Gaza. Turning to Israel’s arms dealers for advice about railway safety is, therefore, just as farcical as asking a former Mossad chief for advice on ethics.

The EU is also lending a hand to a new player in Israel’s ever-expanding war industry.

BGR Robotics claims to have made Israel’s first “autonomous underwater vehicle.” A firm established by staff at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, BGR Robotics appears keen to operate above ground, too.

It has received an EU grant worth more than $56,000 for a project to assess how robots can be used in aviation.

The EU’s website for scientific research depicts the project as civilian by suggesting that robots could help reduce flight delays. Yet BGR Robotics does not try to hide that its products are being designed for military applications.

It is only reasonable to ask, then, if the EU could be making a modest contribution toward developing killer robots for Israel’s future wars.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, meanwhile, offers a relatively new course aimed at training Israeli soldiers how to spy.

That is one of numerous ways in which Hebrew University – which has a campus located in occupied East Jerusalem – supports Israel’s troops, the very same troops that oppress Palestinians every single day.

The EU ignores that reality so that it can shower Hebrew University with subsidies. Hebrew University has recently joined – or will soon undertake – EU-funded projects dealing with such varied topics as the zebrafishanatomy in ancient Greecephotosynthesis and the importance of textiles to the Zionist movement.

All those topics are undoubtedly fascinating. But that doesn’t excuse how European taxpayers’ money is benefiting an institution that was directly complicit in Israel’s crimes long before some of Brussels’ bureaucrats became anxious about annexation.

David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada; his books include Balfour’s Shadow: A Century of British Support for Zionism and Israel and Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation