Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Earthquake" over, EU boasts of aiding Israeli boffins

A few weeks ago the European Union was accused of causing an "earthquake" for Israel. This may, however, have been the shortest seismic event recorded in history. For EU officials have already resumed their habitual activity of humoring an apartheid state.

Friday 19 July was an especially busy day for the Union's officials. They attracted a great deal of attention for issuing new guidelines declaring that Israeli firms and institutions based in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem) were not eligible for EU grants. The controversy overshadowed another announcement they made that same day about how they were lending a helping hand to young scientists.

Hoping to prove that it could withstand earthquakes, the EU's embassy in Tel Aviv tried to publicize how 32 of these clever researchers were Israeli.

Interestingly, eight of these boffins were attached to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the main campus of which is in the Mount Scopus area of East Jerusalem.

When news of the "earthquake" guidelines leaked, some commentators predicted that the Hebrew University would be barred from receiving EU science grants. An advice sheet prepared by the Union's diplomats told Israelis not to fret.


Unlike other parts of East Jerusalem, Mount Scopus is not considered to be under Israeli occupation by the EU. This quite pedantic point reflects how Mount Scopus was placed under Israeli control in 1948, whereas Israel occupied the remainder of East Jerusalem in 1967. It overlooks the fact that the university has encroached into the Palestinian village of Issawiyeh.

According to the advice sheet, the Hebrew University will still be able to receive EU subsidies provided they are for activities carried out within what the EU regards as Israel (and that includes Mount Scopus). Nonetheless, the sheet hints that some activities undertaken elsewhere in East Jerusalem and the wider West Bank may be funded if they aim "to promote the Middle East peace process in line with EU policy."

That caveat provides for a huge amount of leeway.

Privately, Brussels officials brag of how some research projects they support foster cooperation between Arabs and Jews. Many Palestinians view such excuses as quite pathetic because they "normalize" a fundamentally unjust situation. But the EU is so determined to support John Kerry's latest charade of "peace" talks that it may well start approving more normalization schemes.

Not surprisingly, the EU's diplomats also glossed over how the beneficiaries of their munificence enjoy strong links to Israel's military industry. Ten of the 32 Israeli researchers recently awarded EU grants work with the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. Michael Federmann, chairperson of the leading Israeli weapons company Elbit, has sat on the boards of both the Weizmann Institute and the Hebrew University.

According to freshly published data, Israel has now drawn down almost €637 million ($845 million) from the EU's current multi-annual program for scientific research (running from 2007 until the end of this year). This figure relates to the amount that Israeli firms and institutions have directly received, not to the total value of joint EU-Israel research. The European Commission has previously stated that the amount spent on EU-Israel research under its current program exceeds €4 billion ($5.3 billion).

Servicing apartheid

As that program is drawing to a close, the Commission has been trying lately to highlight some of its success stories. During May, it held a conference in Madrid focused on the largest scheme it is funding under the heading "security research."

Known by the acronym SECUR-ED, this transport safety project has several Israeli participants. One of them is called MTRS3, which claims to have an "expert knowledge of explosive materials."

After digging a little, I found out that the firm's point man for that project is Gilad Rafaeli, its vice-president. Rafaeli has posted his resumé on LinkedIn; it says that he worked on the "Jerusalem light rail" project between 2006 and 2011.

The entire purpose of that tramway is to provide a link between Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the city's center. It was always intended as an important part of the infrastructure of the Israeli occupation. And because it serves exclusively Jewish colonies, it can clearly be viewed as an apartheid service.

If the EU really wished to halt the expansion of Israeli settlements, it would not give one cent to people like Rafaeli. Yet the Union has had no problem with lavishing subsidies on such profiteers of apartheid in the past. And, if the messages from its diplomats in Tel Aviv are anything to go by, it will have no problem continuing to do so.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 31 July 2013.

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