Shunning Russia, EU snuggles up to Israel’s killer cops

Israel's Border Police force is brutal towards Palestinians as a matter of routine (Oren Ziv - ActiveStills)

David Cronin

The Electronic Intifada  /  March 9, 2022 

Sometimes I wonder if there is a guidebook circulated among European Union officials titled How to be a hypocrite without anyone noticing (or something similar).

Unchallenged by the mainstream media, the Brussels elite has taken double standards to a new extreme lately.

EU governments and institutions had made considerable preparations before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Once the invasion began, they were ready to impose a variety of sanctions.

One of these measures that has received less attention than others should nonetheless be highlighted. I am referring to how Russia has been deemed ineligible for EU scientific research funding.

That decision was taken because the EU’s research activities are based on respect for freedom and rights, it was announced, and “Russia’s heinous military aggression against Ukraine is an attack against those same values.”

Over the past few days, Israel’s police have been directly responsible for killing two young Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem. The men were shot dead on the pretext that they had stabbed police officers.

Extrajudicial executions – such as those carried out by Israel’s police – violate human rights and the rule of law. They are attacks on the values to which the European Union is nominally wedded.

Despite its long record of violence against Palestinians, Israel’s police have been admitted into at least 10 projects financed under the EU’s Horizon 2020 research scheme. Far from kicking Israel out of its activities, the EU has signaled that it wants to increase joint research with Israeli firms and authorities.

Box-ticking

Documents I obtained under freedom of information rules illustrate how EU cooperation with Israel’s police is inherently problematic.

They summarize “ethics checks” conducted on Andromeda, a border management project worth $6.5 million.

The project, which ran from 2019 until last year, may have involved exchanging data between the EU and Israel’s police, according to one of these documents. The research involved, it adds, “has a potential impact on human rights and fundamental freedoms as the project will enhance [the] surveillance capabilities of states.”

The documents – see below – show how “ethics checks” are no more than box-ticking exercises as far as the European Union is concerned.

Border surveillance has become a euphemism for turning away refugees. A serious “ethics check” would have posed uncomfortable questions about why Israel’s police – a force that detains children arbitrarily and demolishes homes in the middle of the night – had been welcomed into such a project.

Instead of asking those questions, one of the “ethics check” documents says that “self-declarations” that participants respect data protection laws are acceptable. Israel’s data protection policies have also been viewed as adequate by the European Commission, the document adds.

I contacted the European Commission – the EU’s executive – seeking further information.

The “adequacy decision” for Israel, the European Commission replied, was actually taken in 2011. Apparently, it is still considered valid despite the revelations that Israeli-made malware called Pegasus has been used to spy on journalists and campaigners in many countries.

The European Commission told me that an “evaluation” of all “adequacy decisions” relating to data protection – not just the one for Israel – will be undertaken later this year.

The nonchalant tone of the reply I received is troubling. Even though there are credible reports that Emmanuel Macron, the French president, may have been among the targets in the Pegasus affair, the EU is in no hurry to take action.

Ignorance

It is not unprecedented for the EU to impose sanctions on Russia. An arms embargo was introduced in 2014 after Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea.

Israel formally annexed East Jerusalem as far back as 1980.

On paper, the EU has consistently opposed that annexation. On the ground, the EU accommodates it.

The headquarters of Israel’s police are located in East Jerusalem. By treating that force as a partner in scientific research, the EU has stealthily endorsed the theft of Palestinian land and the ethnic cleansing which accompanies that theft.

The role which the police force plays in Israel’s occupation is evidently not studied as part of the EU’s aforementioned “ethics checks.”

Recently I was in contact with Petr Motlicek, a computer scientist coordinating another EU-funded research project called Roxanne.

Israel’s police are taking part in that project too. Yet when I asked Motlicek if he knew that Israel’s police are based in East Jerusalem, he said: “No, we are not aware of this.”

His ignorance is shocking. It is also unsurprising, given how Israel’s participation in EU activities is not subject to proper scrutiny.

By embracing Israel’s police, the EU is helping to turn oppression into a marketable commodity.

The tools of oppression will be on full display at a major weapons and surveillance technology fair in Tel Aviv later this month. Business and government representatives from Europe and the US will attend, according to the fair’s website.

The very idea of capitalizing on military aggression ought to horrify those European diplomats who preach about freedom and rights.

Yet I can’t imagine they will be protesting against the Tel Aviv expo. The prevailing “wisdom” at the moment is that the revulsion of Westerners must be directed exclusively towards Russia.

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