Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Press Release

2 Jul 2010
Take Action: Ireland's EU envoy aids Israeli war machine

A version of this article written first appeared in the Sunday Tribune, and is republished here with the author's permission.

You can contact Máire Geoghegan-Quinn to protest this move by the EU at CAB-GEOGHEGAN-QUINN-CONTACT@ec.europa.eu - a smaple letter is located below

Ireland's EU envoy aids Israeli war machine

David Cronin, 28th June 2010

Ireland’s EU commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn is set to approve two technology grants for an Israeli company that made some of the most lethal weapons used in last year’s war against Gaza.

Brussels officials are assessing a new series of Israeli applications for funding under the EU’s multi-annual research programme, which Geoghegan-Quinn administers. The probable beneficiaries include Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI),  manufacturer of the Heron, a warplane that terrorised Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants in late 2008 and 2009.

IAI has been deemed eligible for two new EU grants following evaluations carried out in recent months but is awaiting a final decision from Geoghegan-Quinn and her advisers. The grants – part of a series earmarked for Israel worth a total of €17 million – are supposed to help develop a new internet-type system for the telecommunications and financial services industries.

Geoghegan-Quinn’s spokesman Mark English said that while the projects concerned are civilian, there is no guarantee that the fruits of EU-financed research will not eventually be used by the Israeli military. “We don’t fund military projects,” he added. “However, probably the majority of our projects have direct or indirect military applications.”

Although Israel does not formally belong to the EU, it is an active participant in the Union’s “framework programme” for scientific research, which has been allocated €53 billion between 2007 and 2013. The programme is the largest source of funding that Israel receives from the EU, with Tel Aviv  expecting that the total value of the grants it draws over the duration of the programme to exceed €500 million.

Mahmoud Abu Rahma, a campaigner with the Gaza-based human rights group Al Mezan, said it would be “outrageous” for Geoghegan-Quinn to support Israeli arms firms. “The European Union is very well informed about the way these weapons have been used,” he said. “There have been many panels in the EU and its member states looking into cases where weapons have been used in perpetrating war crimes. The least we can expect is that the EU will take a stand on this.”

IAI’s Heron was one of the two pilotless drones – also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – “battle-tested” by Israel in Gaza last year. An investigation by Human Rights Watch found that while these aircraft are equipped with sophisticated cameras and sensors allowing an army to verify whether a target is a combatant or a civilian, they were frequently used against innocent Gazans. Eighty-seven civilians were killed by drones during the three-week offensive.

Despite the widespread revulsion at that war among the European public, IAI’s wares were given much prominence at Eurosatory, an arms exhibition held in Paris earlier this month. The company availed of the occasion to promote a new unmanned weapons system called the Electronic Tethered Observation Platform (ETOP). It has been hailed as the first in a line of “hovering air vehicles” that IAI has designed for future wars.

Israel is predicting that 2010 will be a bumper year for its arms companies, with their sales reaching $8 billion, according to a recent statement from the country’s defence ministry. With a population of only around 7 million, Israel is already the fourth largest arms dealer on the planet.

Among the other Israeli firms likely to have their funding bids rubber-stamped by Geoghegan-Quinn are Afcon, a supplier of metal detectors to military checkpoints in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the Erez crossing between southern Israel and Gaza. Afcon was also awarded a contract in 2008 for installing a security system in a light rail project designed to connect illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem with the city centre. 

Geoghegan-Quinn’s anticipated support for Israeli firms specialising in surveillance follows a raft of EU grants issued to such companies over the past decade, when Israel positioned itself as indispensable to George Bush’s “war on terror”.  Athena GS3, a company run by a former head of the secret service Mossad, has been one of many recipients. It forms part of the Mer Group, a supplier of equipment to settlements and checkpoints in East Jerusalem and the wider West Bank.  

Merav Amir from the Coalition of Women for Peace, a Tel Aviv group opposed to the occupation of Palestine, said that it would be “highly problematic” for the EU to draw a distinction between military and non-military research in the case of Israel. “The military here is used as part of this whole mechanism of control that is much wider than anything that is done at gunpoint,” she said. “There are also a wide range of civilian means used for depriving Palestinians of their basic human rights. Any aspect of the occupation that you look at is done through a wide range of technologies, whether they be biometric means, security cameras, fences, sensors and so on. It is not simply things that are aimed to kill.”

• David Cronin’s book Europe’s Alliance With Israel: Aiding the Occupation will be published later this year by Pluto Press.

Sample letter to Máire Geoghegan-Quinn re: EU grants to Israeli arms manufacturers

Dear Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn,

I am writing to you as I read with dismay David Cronin's article in the Sunday Tribune ('Geoghegan-Quinn to decide on EU grant to makers of Israeli warplane', 27/06/2010) concerning the impending decision by office to grant EU grants to Israeli arms companies including Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Afcon. I write to protest this move in the most forceful manner possible and to ask that these grants not be approved.

Israel is a rogue state, and its arms manufacturers play a shameful role in the maintaining of the military occupation of Palestine. Indeed, its armaments and surveillance technologies are 'field tested' against the Palestinian people. For example, IAI - one of the companies set to benefit from this grant - tested its Heron drone during Israel's brutal assault on Gaza in 2008/09. This assault, which left over 1,400 Palestinians dead, thousands wounded and homeless and destroyed the infrastructure of the tiny coastal strip, was widely condemned at an international level, including by the EU Parliament.

The Goldstone Report - adopted by the UN and the EU Parliament - detailed a litany of Israeli crimes that took place during Operation Cast Lead, and its chief author Richard Goldstone called for an end to Israeli impunity. Unfortunately, it seems that the EU Commission, through the proposed granting of financial assistance to the Israeli war machine, is not only maintaining the impunity Israel enjoys but actively rewarding Israeli war crimes and human rights abuses. This is simply unacceptable to me as a citizen of Europe and a believer in the primacy of human rights. Palestinian human rights have been systematically abused by the Israeli state for over 60 years and the EU should not be a party to these abuses.

No doubt it will be argued that the projects concerned are "civilian" and will not have military applications. However, even according to your own spokesman, Mark English, there is no guarantee that the fruits of EU-financed research will not eventually be used by the Israeli military. As Mr. English is quoted as saying, "we don't fund military projects. However, probably the majority of our projects have direct or indirect military applications."

In fact, in Israel definitions of "military" and "civilian" are sometimes interchangeable. As Merav Amir from the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace said: "The military [in Israel] is used as part of this whole mechanism of control that is much wider than anything that is done at gunpoint. There are also a wide range of civilian means used for depriving Palestinians of their basic human rights. Any aspect of the occupation that you look at is done through a wide range of technologies, whether they be biometric means, security cameras, fences, sensors and so on. It is not simply things that are aimed to kill [that can be classified as having military application]."

If your office approves this grant scheme to Israeli death merchants, then it will be a dark day indeed for Europe. I urge you to cancel this grant scheme as means of applying pressure on the Israeli state to end its occupation of Palestine, to fully comply with its obligations under international law and as a preventative measure against future atrocities such as the 2008/09 massacre in Gaza and the deadly attack on the humanitarian Gaza Freedom Flotilla last month.

Should you ignore this call you will be ignoring wishes of the Palestinian people and will bring shame upon yourself, your office and the European Union as a whole.

Yours sincerely,

 

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