Tuesday, June 14, 2011

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.

Jamal Juma’a, coordinator with Stop the Wall, described the omission as “deeply disappointing” . He said: “By providing research funding to companies involved in constructing and maintaining Israel’s apartheid wall, the EU is undermining its own stated commitment to international law and a just peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.”

Informed citizens in the US have long been aware that Israel’s military machine is oiled with dollars. It is clear now that the same machine is oiled with euros, too, and that the Brussels bureaucracy is refusing to even acknowledge that this state of affairs is legally and ethically problematic, to say the very least.

·First published by Mondoweiss (www.mondoweiss.net), 14 June 2011

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