Ireland's EU commissioner, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, is considering the allocation of two multi-million-euro 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 telecommunications and financial services.
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 said. "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 Israel expecting 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 EU 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 used 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 seven 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 is 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 series 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 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
International human rights organisations have accused Israel of war crimes following the use of such deadly weapons during the assault on Gaza in 2008/09. 1,400 Palestinians killed, thousands more wounded. To even contemplate granting money to companies such as AIA is obscene.
The EU institutions have a very serious problem of legitimacy vis-à-vis the European citizenry. Do they really want to be regarded as accomplices of Israeli war crimes?
When everything is taken into consideration Israel isn't the worst abuser of human rights in the Middle East region. Since the Israeli state was established it has been under constant attack either by the semi-democratic or autocratic neighbouring countries or the terrorist organizations created, nurtured, supported or funded by those neighbours or powerful elements within them. Israel is the only true democracy in that area and human rights - especially those of women - are well protected under Israeli law. The Israeli constitution protects and guarantees democratic political activity and although the faith of most citizens is Judaism those who practice and promote faiths other than Judaism are not persecuted. These freedoms - those of political activism and the practice and promotion of religions other than Islam - are not protected in the countries surrounding Israel. Where the latter is concerned persecution is the norm. Within these countries females are, at most, second-class citizens. Israel does not send out imperssionable and brainwashed young men, terrorist groups do women and children on suicide/homocide missions. But the anti-Israeli terrorist groups do. Why is it these people are not accused of war crimes because of this? Finally, on the boarding of the flotilla heading for Gaza: There were on board those who wanted to be martyred and when the IDF boarded they were attacked. Had the IDF not responded some of them, if not all, could have been killed. Did the IDF overreact - was it overkill on their part? Probably, but on the other hand those who attacked them on boarding also overreacted. Sadly those who desired martyrdom had their prayers answered and this has been used by anti-Israel, anti-Jewish elements to make propaganda from the IDF overreaction.
Michael O'Byrne - well said.
Do you like propaganda much Michael? Humanitarian aid workers are just martyrs? Even though I think that's nonsense, does that make their deaths ok to you? Even if Israel isn't the worst in the middle east - does that make their behaviour acceptable - do you think we should fund it? If you do, I think you need to re-evaluate your respect for life.
Until there is a full investigation into all of Israel's Zionist-led activities...until the West Bank settlements are dismantled and the land given back to the rightful Palestinian owners..until Palestine is declared a legal self-governing State; Ireland and any other self-respecting Country should not be allocating any grants to the terrorist State of Israel who constantly break International Law by the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland and the cruel illegal Blockade on Gaza, forcing over one million people to effectively live in the largest open-air prison in the world.
The blockade has been recognised by many countries, including USA to be non-sustainable. Such living conditions only force the hand of resistance..have we not seen that here in our own country? Occupation breeds discontent.
If Máire Gheoghegan-Quinn and our Government agree to allocate funds to Israel..It will be a black mark in the history books for us...I say NOT IN MY NAME!
Have we not learned anything from history? I do not want to provide a grant to a country that denies Human Rights to an entire nation...that is in effect ethnically cleansing stolen territory of its rightful occupants.
Any country that applies for funding should be completely honest and open to international scrutiny. And why in these economically bleak times are we considering funding a Non EU country to boost its military might? Why do we not put this money towards improving the economy of this country and EU stability?
The blood of many will be on your conscience....not only that of the Palestinians but in other countries that Israel has it's dirty hands in.
Walsh, Were all on board the flotilla humanitarian aid workers? I don't think so and in fact some, if not all, of those killed had expressed a desire to be martyred. When the IDF boarded they were immediatly attacked with offensive weapons. Are these actions of humanitarian workers? And - no! - the deaths were not acceptable to me as I do not, as a Christian, believe in the use of force. Jesus Christ said if struck on the cheek we should turn the other cheek toward the assailant. Nevertheless, the IDF were violently attacked and responded violently. They were certainly unprepared to handle the violence they faced in a moderate and effective manner. I do not believe in the manufacture, supply or the use of weapons and am utterly opposed to all facets of the philosophy which ensures their existence. That means I am opposed to the firing of rockets blindly into Israel - which in turn means I am opposed to their being manufactured and supplied. I am opposed to the manufacture, supply and the use of the explosives used in the suicide/murder bombings carried out by impressionable young men, women and children against innocent civilians or any others. It is interesting that the leadership who direct such atrocities are usually in places of relative safety when the bombings are carried out. In this country, Ireland, didn't we have enough of murder by shooting and bombings - some of them no-warning bombing in the 1970's by the terrorist nationalists, primarily the IRA. The primary aim of the countries surrounding Israel is its destruction - it has been so from the beginning and continues to be so. It is interesting how others commenting on the question do not acknowledge the facts that Israel's neighbours are either semi-democratic or autocratic, discourage genuine democratic political activism, persecute those who practice and/or promote religions other than Islam and treat women - - females in their entirity - as second-class citizens at best. But within Israel's borders the opposite is the case.
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Miracles!!! After 65 years the Europeans became so human.