The European Union (EU) has been urged by a group of 154 European organizations – which includes political parties, trade unions, human rights organizations, Palestine solidarity groups, and anti-war groups – to exclude Israeli arms manufacturers and military companies from the EU’s research and innovation fund, on account of its grave human rights violations and war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza.
The letter states, “The EU has been funding security-industrial research for many years…. European taxpayers’ money is being channeled to military companies, among them, many Israeli corporations, under the disguise of research and a promise that the technologies and techniques developed will be used solely for civilian purposes…. One of the ways in which arms and military companies have gained access to EU funding is through the current EU Program for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020. This includes many Israeli military companies. Although the EU claims that research funds have gone only to projects with civilian applications, many of the projects approved are of dual-use nature serving military interests as well. Many others serve policies that curb or violate refugees’ rights and militarise our societies.”
The letter calls on the EU:
- To limit EU Framework programs strictly to civilian security and peace research, excluding also research in border surveillance and dual-use technologies, and to avoid any link between Framework Programs and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), in particular the EU Defence Agency (EDA);
- To immediately exclude all Israeli military and security companies from the EU framework programs, given that an analysis of past projects has shown that their participation in these programs inherently involves EU support for the development and legitimisation of and profiting from technology and methodology used by Israel in the context of war crimes and human rights violations;
- To ensure transparency and democratic control over EU research programmes’ annual calls for proposals.
Israel is currently one of the participants in Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and development program. The EU budget for security research nearly tripled from 1.4 billion euros under the previous budget to 3.8 billion from 2014-2020. Israel is allowed to take part in the EU’s research and innovation program on the basis of the EU-Israel association agreement, signed in 2000, which allows unrestricted trade between Israel and the EU, and lets Israel participate in many of the EU’s programs and projects.
As per the Israeli govt., Israel contributed 535 million euros to the EU’s 7th Framework Program research program’s budget between 2007-2013. Israeli companies and institutions in the same period received funding worth 840 million euros. Israel is likely to reap the benefits from the current Horizon 2020 program as well.
The letter notes that Israeli military companies like Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) worked with Bulgaria and Hungary to fortify their borders. They also took part in the EU maritime surveillance and the EU Frontex programmes.
Since 2007, Israeli weapons companies Elbit Systems and IAI have been allowed to participate in EU-funded research projects worth 244 million euros ($313.6 million).
The letter stated that the EU’s ‘border control’ policies were “built on concepts and technologies that violate human rights.” The letter also pointed to an analysis undertaken by the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP) and Stop the Wall Organisation of EU projects involving Israeli companies that essentially translate into European public money being used to “develop, legitimise, and profit from technology that is field tested by Israel in the commission of war crimes and human rights violations.”
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The analysis detailed information about 10 such projects which have seen participation by Israeli military and security companies. It also stated that there was a high probability of dual use (civilian and military) and misuse of the research results.
For instance, a current project called FLYSEC, in which Elbit Systems is participating, has developed technologies on video surveillance, intelligent remote image processing, biometrics, big data analysis, open source intelligence and crowdsourcing. Elbit had developed the Elbit Security Systems (ELSEC), which uses a combination of two types of electro-optic surveillance systems for outdoor and indoor airport and seaport security. It is being used at Israel’s illegal separation wall in its robotics, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs).
The analysis also talked about Elbit systems’ Battle Management System (BMS) used by the IDF, “an essential tool for virtually any combat vehicle mounted sensor or weapon system forming coordinated battle teams that perform their tasks with optimum precision. In addition to its combat networking capabilities, this “super system provides commanders and crewmen with simplified operational interface, enhanced situational awareness and data communication capabilities.”
The analysis pointed to the fact that all of these technologies had already been used by Israel in its military assaults on Gaza and IDF crackdowns in the West Bank. These technologies also help Israel in its discriminatory tactics and procedures against whoever they deem a ‘security threat’, based on behavioural analysis and cognitive algorithms. According to the analysis, they also carry an added privacy concern since these systems capture and merge data of passengers from airports, airlines, and security.
Another previous project between the EU and Israel was the OPARUS project involving IAI. Technology and devices under this project include the MALE remote piloted aircraft (RPA/Drone), datalink technology, thermal image generators and the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR).
It is important to note that this has happened even as the use of drones in Israeli attacks on Gaza has been rapidly increasing. From June 2006 to October 2011, 825 Palestinians were killed by Israeli drones, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. In ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’ that Israel launched on Gaza in November 2012, 201 out of the 255 people killed were by Israeli drones, according to Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights. These attacks have been deemed possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in corresponding UN reports.
Thermal imaging technologies are likely to have been used to identify high occupancy targets. Such high occupancy targets include areas in Gaza considered to be safe where Palestinians would flee to their friends and relatives’ houses. IAI’s Plugin Optronic Payload (POP), originally designed for helicopters, includes a focal plane array thermal imager and is deployed along the illegal wall.
The Synthetic Aperture Radar is used to create images of objects, such as military targets. IAI Heron drones are equipped with this radar.
The letter called on the EU to take note of the war crimes and human rights violations that were being perpetrated using weapons and technology developed by companies utilizing EU funds. It asked the EU to ensure that such companies do not have access to such funds.