Palestine Monitor | 23 February 2011
The European Union and Israel
Or how Brussels learned to love the occupation
Editor Palestine Monitor
When David Cronin tried to arrest Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, he was quickly carted away by Brussel security agents.
“If apartheid is a crime, there is only one way to treat its practitioners: arrest them,” the journalist and author wrote on Electronic Intifada. Cronin is quickly becoming a forceful and meticulous critic of the Israeli regime and its connections to the European Union (EU).
Under the leadership of Tony Blair and Catherine Ashton, the EU has increased its connection to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, said Cronin at The Friend’s Meeting House in Ramallah. This Valentine’s Day, Cronin stood before packed pews and spoke about the research that leading his new book Europe’s Alliance With Israel.
“[Italian prime minister Silvio] Burlesconi’s good dream is to have Israel as a full member of the EU,” Cronin said. “It is comical on one level but absolutely despicable on another.”
Led by the Netherlands, Czechloslovakia and Bulgaria, the 27 member-states of the EU have in the past decade opened up trade barriers with Israel. Currently the EU imports 8.8 billion euros annually of Israeli products — making the EU Israel’s largest trading partner at 26 percent of total exports — according to the EU Trade Commission.
“There is almost a competition between some of the countries and even prime ministers to see who is the better friend of Israel’s,” Cronin said.
ALMOST A MEMBER STATE
Israeli goods permeate EU markets, without distinction of whether its from settlements on land illegally appropriated under international law recognized by the EU.
“Most food exports from Israel could enter EU without having to pay import duties,” Cronin said, explaining that in at the end of 2007 the EU upgraded Israel’s trade status and dropped tariff barriers. When first upgraded to “privileged partner” status, products would be distinguished by whether they originated on land the EU recognizes as stolen, but Cronin stated that businesses like Globes magazine have figured out how to circumvent these laws. “The system is being abused left, right and center.”
The courtship of the EU originated under Tzipi Livni’s leadership of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. In 2006, Israeli diplomats figured Israel’s “two pillars” — strong bilateral relations with the US and a crack military — were insufficient. Their resultant political drive through the EU garnered the upgrade of economic ties between Europe and Israel’s agricultural, hi-tech and security industries. It has also meant a courtship with the EU’s unified militaries: Livni, Lieberman and former army chief abi Ashkenazi have visited NATO’s Brussels headquarters.
ISRAELI GUNS AND PALESTINIAN BUTTER
The high-tech industry based in Israel is a laboratory for the occupation, Cronin said, and ultimately funded by EU taxes. Eight hundred scientific programs funded by the EU currently exist, valued at 4.3 billion euros, some spent on developing weapons systems used to police the Gaza Strip and the West Bank like the Heron unmanned aerial vehicles. In 2013, Cronin said Israel expects 500 million euros in additional research grants.
“The main beneficiaries are guns and arms companies — ones directly involved in the occupation,” Cronin said. In Europe’s Alliance with Israel, he states eleven of Israel’s top twenty weapons dealers are EU member states, and provides joint venture examples in the fields of nano, satellite, unmanned aerial vehicle techonology like the Galileo global positioning system, Germany’s Dolphin submarines, and the European Security Research and Innovation Forum.
“[The EU] needs to have a closer relationship with Israel because they know many important innovations, particularly with the Internet, have been developed by Israel,” Cronin said in Ramallah.
Cronin quotes a 2009 Haaretz article in his book, where former EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana stated: “"There is no country outside the European continent that has this type of relationship that Israel has with the European Union. Israel, allow me to say, is member of the European Union without being a member of the institution. It’s a member of all the programs, it participates in all the programs. And I’d like to emphasize and underline, with a very big, thick line [that Israel participates] in [helping us deal] with all the problems of research and technology, which are very important."
As current EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Solana now guides the EU Police Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support [EUCOPPS] — a prime example of the hypocritical nature of Europe’s aid to Israel. EUCOPPS have trained PA security forces, modernize the PA bomb squad, have donated over 10 million euros worth of police vehicles, and given them 1,500 riot-control kits.
But according to the Arab Organization for Human Rights, 95 percent of Palestinians detained by PA forces — trained by EUCOPPS — are tortured with brutal methods like “crossification,” “a slaughtered animal,” “back breaker” and “hanging from hands using a pulley.”
The EU has not condemned — nor commented — on these actions carried out by teams trained with European tax dollars, but they should, according to Human Rights Watch.
“Countries that provide direct support to the Palestinian Authority (PA) security agencies, notably the UK and US, should suspend aid to these agencies until officials are held accountable for human rights abuses,” according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.
"Is acquitting officers so clearly implicated in torture and murder the kind of ‘state building’ we should look forward to from the Palestinian Authority?" said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The PA’s foreign supporters should suspend funding to its security forces until it can show that officials who torture and kill people are being prosecuted and punished."
“This silence is shameful,” Cronin said.
“The EU is training Palestinians to police people in their own occupation,” Cronin said, believing this makes the PA fulfill the requirements of Israel as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention,“ Cronin said. “What [EU foreign minister] Ashton fails to say is that the EU is relieving Israel of it’s responsibility under international law to pay for the occupation.”
THE EUROPEAN AND KAZAKH FRIENDS OF ISRAEL
After Israel decided to diplomatically target the EU, a new organization sprung up on the continent. Modeling itself on the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the European Friends of Israe l have spearheaded Israel’s European expansion and boasts parliamentarians from all of the Union’s 27 member-states. Scant information is available about EFI’s main donors — a Kazakh “mining baron” named Alexander Machkevitch is the only known one.
While Ireland and Spain have moved in the past to support Palestinian rights, Cronin said “when push comes to shove no one is really standing up to the Israelis.”
With EU political and economic powers embracing an Israel recently Europhilic, only one thing threatens the occupation’s Old World profits.
“The Israelis are completely petrified by the Boycotts and Divestment Campaign,” Cronin said, nodding to a Friend’s House audience member and BDS leader Omar Barghouthi.