Friday, March 30, 2018

EU funds Israel's war industry

Propaganda does not always go according to plan.

The Israeli military opted to remove a video depicting it as a feminist organization from Facebook earlier this month.

Some less than liberal Zionists were upset by the video’s implicit message that women soldiers are just as capable of killing Palestinians as their male counterparts.

Israel is fortunate that its key partners are impervious to such embarrassing squabbles.

Emanuele Giaufret, the European Union’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, is among those partners. He keeps himself busy by backslapping Israeli recipients of EU science grants.

During a recent reception, Giaufret praised Israeli firms and institutions for their “amazing ideas.” He promoted, too, a short film on “collaborative projects” between the EU and Israel.

The film features a representative of Israel Aerospace Industries.

Viewers are not told that Israel Aerospace Industries is a weapons maker. Rather, they are informed that the firm is developing the aircraft of the future.

Israel Aerospace Industries – a state-owned enterprise – has manufactured the Heron drone, which has been used in attacks on Gaza.

The company appears to regard that as a selling point. Brochures for the Heron describe it as “combat proven.”


Bureaucrats in Brussels have not been perturbed by that creepy euphemism. They have approved the participation of Israel Aerospace Industries in Horizon 2020, the EU’s latest research program.

At least one of the grants which the firm has received through that program is for work focused on drone technology.

Other grants are for research on engines and on making planes and helicopters lighter.

The EU’s scientific activities are supposed to be civilian. Yet EU representatives have previously conceded there is nothing to stop the fruits of the research they oversee from being used for other purposes.

That indicates the EU is helping Israel to manufacture more lethal arms than it now possesses.

Israel Aerospace Industries is not a small mom-and-pop firm that needs a dig out from the EU taxpayer. At the end of last year, it had an orders backlog worth more than $11 billion.

One of Israel Aerospace Industries’ most profitable divisions is called Elta Systems.

That firm was recently picked by the Trump administration to build a prototype for the planned wall along the US border with Mexico.

Radar systems developed by Elta got what arms traders call their operational debut during Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza. The radars apparently allow multiple targets to be identified simultaneously.

As the 2014 attack caused massive death and destruction to civilians and civilian infrastructure, that means Elta made a significant contribution to Israel’s crimes against humanity.

That has not prevented the European Union from awarding Elta a number of science grants.

Conniving with cruelty

Israel is adept at accessing EU funds. It has already drawn down more than $530 million from Horizon 2020.

As that seven-year program runs until the end of the decade, the final figure for how much Israel receives will inevitably be far higher.

The EU’s diplomats have dodged some vital issues: The “amazing ideas” that excite Emanuele Giaufret are often shaped or influenced by the Israeli military.

Mellanox, for example, is a lucrative business dedicated to accelerating the transfer of data via the Internet.

Its CEO Eyal Waldman has bragged about his term serving in the “elite” Golani Brigade – a unit of the Israeli military. His training with that brigade enables his firm “to kill with one bullet instead of five or 100 like our competitors,” he has said.

That he was speaking figuratively does not alter how Israel has turned its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza – an occupation in which the Golani Brigade has played a prominent role – to its competitive advantage.

A thriving technology sector has been built up largely because the occupation affords many opportunities for testing innovations.

By handing out subsidies to firms like Mellanox, the EU is encouraging Israeli militarism.

Through its research programs, the EU also gives millions to Elbit Systems, another of Israel’s major weapons firms that manufacturers internationally banned cluster bombs.

Other participants in Horizon 2020 have the Israeli military on their client lists. They include IsraTeam, a consultancy involved in an EU-financed project for research on “terrorism” and organized crime.

Israel uses “terrorism” as an all-encompassing term for resistance to its oppressive behavior. By doing so, it can get away with grotesque human rights abuses, including the routine use of torture.

The suppliers of weapons and services to Israel’s military are conducting cruel experiments against Palestinians.

Inviting those suppliers into its science programs is a major way that the EU connives with cruelty.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 29 March 2018.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Like Trump, EU aids theft of Jerusalem

The West’s policies on Palestine can be divided into two broad categories: the mindless and the misleading.

By deciding to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Donald Trump has behaved in a mindless manner. The most plausible explanation for why the US president did so is that acting like a pyromaniac endears him to his pro-Israel campaign bankroller Sheldon Adelson and to an extremist – mainly Christian – constituency.

Despite his propensity for telling lies, Trump has been more honest on this particular dossier than the European Union and its robotic representatives. They claim to be pursuing peace and a two-state solution, while aiding Israeli authorities that have no interest in either objective.

Scientific research has been accorded a high priority in cooperation between Israel and the EU. Israel is an active participant in Horizon 2020, an EU scheme aimed at encouraging innovation, which has been earmarked almost $100 billion over a seven-year period.

I have trawled through around 700 projects financed under the scheme and involving Israel. They exemplify how signals given by the EU have been hugely misleading.


Back in 2013, Israel accused the Union of causing an “earthquake,” according to the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz. The Israeli political elite was peeved by guidelines prepared for Horizon 2020, indicating that Israeli firms or institutions based in the occupied West Bank – including East Jerusalem – would not be eligible for its grants.

The publication of those guidelines was not the seismic event that Haaretz hyped it up to be.

They had been drafted after Brussels officials had been informed that some recipients of EU grants were less than transparent – to put it mildly.

The Israel Antiquities Authority took part in the Union’s previous science program, even though its headquarters were located in occupied East Jerusalem. It had supplied a post office box inside Israel as its address, when applying for an EU grant.

The Israel Antiquities Authority has not been punished for that trickery. It is now taking part in a $5 million heritage preservation project under Horizon 2020.

The address given for the authority on the website for that project is the Rockefeller Museum. That building is in East Jerusalem.

A little-noticed loophole in the EU’s 2013 guidelines allow Israeli public bodies to benefit from Horizon 2020 regardless of where they are located.

An announcement by the Israel Antiquities Authority that it is moving offices to West Jerusalem does not atone for its role in dispossessing Palestinians.

The authority has been overseeing excavations as part of plans to develop an archeological park in Silwan, an East Jerusalem neighborhood. While doing so, it has formed a partnership with Elad, an Israeli settler organization that drives Palestinians out of their homes.

The European Commission – which administers Horizon 2020 – tried to justify the way it is bending over backwards to please Israel.

A spokesperson for the Commission stated that it was “constantly making sure every rule is respected,” when I requested a comment. That is a flimsy and formulaic excuse for its complicity in the colonization of Jerusalem.

A number of other Israeli bodies active in East Jerusalem have been awarded grants under Horizon 2020.

Israel’s science ministry – based in East Jerusalem – has signed up to EU projects on diet and gender equality.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, meanwhile, is likely to preserve its status as Israel’s top participant in EU research activities.


Of the 700 projects I examined, Hebrew University was involved in more than 80. Some of the subsidies bestowed on the college amount to almost $2.5 million each.

Hebrew University is run from Mount Scopus in East Jerusalem. The EU regards that as acceptable because Mount Scopus was commandeered by Zionist forces in 1948, rather than during the June 1967 war (when Israel nabbed the remainder of East Jerusalem).

The EU’s spurious stance ignores how Hebrew University has been encroaching into territory seized in 1967 and how it enthusiastically supports Israel’s forces of occupation.

Several Israeli bodies implicated in human rights violations benefit from the EU’s largesse.

The Israeli-controlled Jerusalem municipality has placed something of a chokehold around Palestinian neighborhoods. The procedures it has introduced make Palestinian construction virtually impossible, while favoring colonization by Israelis.

The list of ways in which the municipality contributes to Israeli apartheid has just got longer. It is seeking to block residents of two Palestinian villages – al-Walaja and Battir – from reaching a spring that has provided their communities with water for 3,000 years.

With sordid irony, the EU has approved the municipality’s participation in a sustainable cities initiative, also worth $5 million.

Israel’s public security ministry oversees a prison service which regularly subjects Palestinians to torture.

Gilad Erdan, the current Israeli minister for public security, has given the nod – at least tacitly – to a provocative shift in policing. The result is that police are openly siding with activists wishing to take over and destroy Islamic holy sites at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound so that they can build a Jewish temple.

Erdan’s attempts to tighten Israel’s grip on East Jerusalem have not deterred the EU from embracing him. The public security ministry is involved in EU research projects on border surveillance, interrogation techniques and searching the internet for “terrorist” content.


Israel’s national water company Mekorot is an environmental hooligan. UN investigators have documented how it imperils Palestinians’ right to water by drying up wells and springs in the West Bank.

Shamefully, the EU is enabling Mekorot to cultivate a more responsible image by taking part in Horizon 2020 activities on the protection of water infrastructure and reducing pollution.

Firms that help to impose a siege on Gaza are equally welcome in Horizon 2020.

The state-owned Israel Electric Corporation cut power supplies to Gaza’s hospitals drastically last year, thereby placing the lives of patients in danger. The same corporation is involved in EU projects on information technology.

Israel’s weapons industry also benefits from Horizon 2020.

Elbit, the supplier of drones, white phosphorus and other munitions used during major Israeli assaults on Gaza, has been allocated an EU subsidy worth $860,000 to help it develop new cockpit components for future aircraft. The stated aim of this work is to advance a cuddly-sounding initiative called Clean Sky.

A profiteer from war crimes is thereby helped to masquerade as a savior of the planet. And the EU can keep on kidding itself that everything is fine and dandy.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 17 March 2018.

Perverse arguments from Israel's perverse lobby

Pro-Israel advocates took umbrage lately when an EU lawmaker suggested they belonged to a “perverse lobby.”

Daniel Schwammenthal is a protagonist in that lobby, whose arguments tend to be perverse.

He heads the AJC Transatlantic Institute, the Brussels office of the American Jewish Committee. According to his narrative, Israel is always being picked on by nasty neighbors.

While the turmoil in the Middle East can be difficult to fully comprehend, Schwammenthal and his colleagues see things with an absolute clarity. In their view, Israel is the “fireman,” while the governments in Damascus and Tehran are a joint “arsonist.” Or – as Schwammenthal has put it – Israel is the “victim” and its rivals the “aggressor.”

Schwammenthal’s comment was directed at Carl Bildt, formerly Sweden’s foreign minister.

Bildt had tried to strike a specious balance in a tweet by stating that Iran “obviously” sent a drone into Israeli airspace during February – something the Tehran authorities have denied – though also acknowledging that “Israel regularly violates the airspace of Syria and Lebanon” – something which is irrefutable.


It was by no means the first time that Schwammenthal tried to cast Israel as innocent or altruistic. Writing for The Wall Street Journal in December last year, he claimed that Israel’s intervention in Syria’s war had been limited to “providing medical help” and depriving Hizballah of what he called “strategic weapons.”

Schwammenthal failed to remind his readers that Israel’s “medical help” has been somewhat selective. It has treated wounded fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra, a group affiliated to al-Qaida, so that they can return to the war. Israel, therefore, has been helping terrorists, not running a charity.

Israel has recently ramped up its support for armed groups in Syria. The Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported last month that at least seven “Sunni rebel organizations in the Syrian Golan are now getting arms and ammunition from Israel, along with money to buy additional armaments.”

In the same Wall Street Journal article, Schwammenthal predicted that if a violent situation erupts in Lebanon, “Israeli efforts to avoid civilian deaths” will be ignored by journalists and the United Nations. Such efforts “surpass even NATO standards,” he added.

His reference point is not reassuring – NATO forces have bombed hospitals and weddings in Afghanistan. NATO is not a bunch of peaceniks, as Schwammenthal implied, but a military alliance dominated by that infamous arsonist, the United States.

Nor does Israel have a good record of sparing noncombatants. Most of the 900 civilians killed during the 2006 assault on Lebanon died from “Israel’s indiscriminate airstrikes,” Human Rights Watch has stated.

That assault spawned the Dahiya doctrine, named after a Beirut neighborhood that was destroyed by Israel on the pretext that Hizballah militants lived there. Under the doctrine – subsequently employed in Gaza – Israel treats civilian villages as military bases, thereby giving its troops carte blanche to commit the most heinous war crimes.

Was that what Schwammenthal meant by “Israeli efforts to avoid civilian deaths”?

Not surprisingly, his article drew no attention to how Israel has occupied part of Syria – the Golan Heights – since 1967.

Tweaking injustice

Schwammenthal can be brazenly misleading. In another recent tweet, he suggested that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is not illegal, “only settlements are, according to some.”

Contrary to what Schwammenthal hinted, the settlements and a long list of illegal Israeli policies and practices designed to enforce the occupation – frequent killings, arbitrary detentions, home demolitions and collective punishments – are inseparable from the overall occupation.

Located in a zone that comprises more than 60 percent of the West Bank, the settlements have not been deemed illegal by a few maverick lawyers. Their illegality has been confirmed by multiple UN Security Council resolutions and by the International Court of Justice.

Schwammenthal has suggested that it is extremist to reject a two-state solution for Palestine. An event which he hosted last month gave a glimpse of how that type of “solution” may look in practice. The main guest was Yair Lapid, a party leader with ambitions to be Israel’s prime minister.

Lapid contended that “the best thing” for Israel would be “for us to separate from the Palestinians.” It clearly would not be a separation based on equality, he indicated, as Israel would be stronger militarily than the Palestinians.

Appearing like a recipe for a continuation of Israeli apartheid in some form, that “vision” contradicts Schwammenthal’s attempts to paint Israel as a perpetual victim. Yet if he was offended by his invitee’s remarks, Schwammenthal did not say so.

His reticence on this important point is logical. Schwammenthal smears Palestine solidarity activists yet is silent when Israel’s apologists give the impression that manifest injustices can be tweaked to look moderate or reasonable.

People of conscience would have grave difficulty sleeping at night if they had to swallow such flagrant hypocrisy. The swallowing is probably easier for those who belong to a perverse lobby.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 9 March 2018.