15 June 2011

David Cronin over Europa's bijdragen aan de Israëlische bezetting

Drie recente artikelen van de Ierse journalist David Cronin, deskundige op het gebied van Europe's Alliance with Israel - en dus ook die van Nederland.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton

Silence over EU science grants to Israel's war machine

Top European Union officials seem to be in denial about how they are subsidising Israel’s war industry in the name of innovation.

Although it probably won’t send pulses racing in many newsrooms, a vitally important debate is taking place at the moment about the future of Europe’s policy on scientific research. The debate directly concerns Israel because it is the most active non-European participant in the Union’s multi-annual programme for research. Manufacturers of the weapons used to blitz Gaza during Operation Cast Lead have proven especially adept at accessing funds from the programme, which has been allocated 53 billion euros ($37 billion) between 2007 and 2013.

The ethical and legal questions behind handing over taxpayers’ money to Israeli arms companies are being avoided by the Brussels elite. On Friday (10 June), Europe’s science commissioner Máire Geoghegan Quinn will host a conference to discuss what the priorities of the successor programme – beginning in 2014 – should be. If the agenda for the event is anything to go by, the discussion will be dominated by big picture themes like “strengthening competitiveness” and “tackling societal challenges”. Israel is barely mentioned in preparatory documents – or at least in those that have been made public.

The EU’s cowardice towards Israel is in stark contrast to the stance taken by Norway. In 2009, the Oslo government decided that a state-owned pension scheme should withdraw its investment in Elbit because that Israeli company had supplied an electronic surveillance system to the annexation wall in the West Bank. Yet despite how the wall was declared unlawful by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004, Elbit has been deemed eligible to take part in at least four EU-funded science projects for the 2007-13 period.

Both Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) made the pilotless drones or unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) used to bomb Gaza’s civilians in 2008 and 2009. IAI has similarly contributed components to surveillance equipment fitted into the West Bank wall. And IAI is doing nicely, too, out of the EU, taking part in no fewer than 15 of its research projects. Lees verder...

How Europe bankrolls Israel's jails

In these times of austerity, the idea that politicians should go on a long holiday is not something I am inclined to advocate. Yet I will make an exception for Catherine Ashton. The EU’s foreign policy chief urgently needs to take time off from dashing around the world and to study the background to some of the conflicts she is reportedly trying to resolve.

Even though Ashton has made numerous trips to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, she continues to display a spectacular level of ignorance about the political situation there. Like her mentor Tony Blair, she has swallowed the canard that resistance to the occupation amounts to terrorism. Take how she uses almost every available opportunity to call for the release of an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in 2006. “I want to see the people of Gaza with a future and I also want to see Gilad Shalit, captive for years in Gaza, given the chance to go home to his mother and father,” she said last month.

Here are a few facts for Ashton to consider. Shalit is a staff sergeant in an army representing a rogue state that violates international law with impunity. Of course, he should be treated humanely and releasing him would be the decent thing to do, especially given that he has been away from his parents for so long. But the fact remains that he is a military officer trained to kill, maim and oppress, not – as Ashton implies – an innocent victim.

Shalit is the first Israeli soldier to be captured by a Palestinian armed group since 1994. By contrast, 700,000 Palestinians have been detained under Israeli military orders in the occupied territories since 1967. That amounts to one-fifth of the total Palestinian population in those territories. By placing so much emphasis on one Israeli, Ashton is turning a blind eye to the infinitely worse suffering that Palestinians have to endure. She does not even acknowledge – as far as I can tell – that Israel’s response to Shalit’s capture was disproportionate, to use a word that rolls regularly from the tongues of EU representatives. At the moment, there are some 900 prisoners from Gaza in Israeli custody. Following Shalit’s capture, Israel has denied those prisoners visits from their families, thereby breaching its international obligations (the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 says: “Every internee shall be allowed to receive visitors, especially near relatives, at regular intervals and as frequently as possible.”)

If Ashton reads only one book this summer, then I would recommend “Threat: Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israel”, a new collection of essays edited by Abeer Baker and Anat Matar. She should take her time digesting all the valuable information in it, then ask herself why Shalit is more worthy of her concern than this Palestinian portrayed by the Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard: “Hamed hasn’t seen his mother for four years. He hasn’t seen his brothers and sisters ever since his arrest, 24 years ago. He has brothers who were born after his arrest, whom he has never met. But most troubling for Hamed, so he told me when last I met him, is his concern that he will never again see his 75-year-old mother, who is ill.” Lees verder...

London turns into Israel's lab

Is the British press finally waking up to how Israel’s surveillance industry is using London as a laboratory?

The current issue of muckraking journal Private Eye reports that Heathrow Airport will have shiny new equipment for screening passengers installed with the help of several Israeli firms as part of preparations for next year’s Olympic Games. The sporting event affords an opportunity to run a “live test” on the Total Airport Security System (TASS), a 14.5 million euro ($21 million) project mainly financed by the European Union.

As it happens, details of the project were announced almost exactly a year ago. In a June 2010 statement, the consortium behind TASS bragged that it had won formal EU authorisation for the scheme, which uses “real-time sensors” and various other tools to monitor aircraft, people, cargo, and restaurant areas in an airport separately and then blend all the resulting data in a “multisource labyrinth”.

The project is being coordinated by Verint, an Israeli supplier of surveillance equipment (or “actionable intelligence solutions”, according to its own bumph). Another participant in the consortium is Elbit, which made many of the pilotless drones that Israel used to devastate Gaza during 2008 and 2009. Elbit also helped install an electronic spying system into the annexation wall that Israel is building in the West Bank (illegally, according to a 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice).

This is by no means the first indication that Israel’s shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach to security has caught on in London. Metropolitan cops who killed an innocent Brazilian man Jean-Charles de Menezes in 2005 had received specialist training in Israel. One year earlier, the aforementioned Verint won a contract to provide a video system to keep a watchful eye on users of the London Underground. Verint has also been tasked with putting a new closed circuit TV network into Earl’s Court – a world-famous venue for exhibitions and events – ahead of the Olympics.

The Palestinian organisation Stop the Wall, meanwhile, has complained this week about how EU officials appear determined to keep on subsidising Israel’s war industry.

The Union’s executive arm, the European Commission, has recently invited comments on the future of its science policy, as part of a “public consultation exercise” about what priorities it should follow after 2014, when its current multi-annual programme for research expires. Israel is the most active non-European participant in that programme. And while the Commission received numerous pleas to declare Israeli firms such as Verint and Elbit ineligible for further grants, it has omitted any reference to them in the 24-page summary that it compiled of public responses. Lees verder...


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