Thursday, March 24, 2016

From Brussels, I reject Israel's solidarity

I have lived in Brussels for 21 years but never considered this city as my home -- until Donald Trump insulted it.

By describing Brussels as a “hellhole” because of its sizeable Muslim population, Trump was attacking my friends and neighbors. Trump was attacking people like the cheerful Syrian I see almost every day; his daughter is in the same class as mine.

As it happens, my Syrian acquaintance was the last person I saw as I left the school on Tuesday morning. A short while later, I received a text message from my wife, telling me about the explosions. She had made it safely to work, thank God. On the way, she had traveled through Maalbeek metro station, just minutes before a bomb went off there.

We don’t yet know the identities of all the people killed. We do know, however, that they belonged to a mixture of ethnicities and nationalities. They spoke different languages. Some were probably religious, others not.

In short, they represented the thing that I like most about my adopted home: its multiculturalism.

Donald Trump’s first reaction to the attacks was to claim vindication for his “hellhole” comments. Once again, he was displaying his bigotry. The wannabe president will use any opportunity to whip up fear.


It shouldn’t be necessary to spell this out but I will. Muslims in Brussels contribute massively to the city’s multicultural spirit. They help to make Brussels vibrant and convivial, the very antithesis of a hellhole. The men who carried out this week’s attacks did not enjoy any mandate from their community. Insisting, as bigots do, that Muslims prove their abhorrence for these crimes is profoundly ignorant.

Unfortunately, the Muslim community is suffering because of that ignorance. When it emerged that the Paris attacks last November had been planned in Brussels, large numbers of police and soldiers were deployed on the streets of this city. I have witnessed incidents where young men have been harassed by the police in recent months. There was no indication that the young men were doing anything illegal. As far as I could see, they were hassled solely for being Muslim.

The usual response to these kind of atrocities is that think tanks publish pamphlets about how to deal with “radicalization.” The think tank analysts rarely grapple with the causes of terror or seek to understand it (and, as Frank Barat writes in a new essay, understanding is never the same as condoning). Accepting that imperialism might be at fault is something of a taboo for such analysts, many of whom have their “research” funded by corporations and Western governments.

Right to anger

The residents of Brussels have every right to be angry about what has happened this week. We should certainly demand that the authorities do everything they can to apprehend the suspects. But we should not accept that Muslims may be bullied and stigmatized.

Let’s direct our anger at the small number of people who have set the Middle East ablaze. The terror of Islamic State is a direct consequence of war declared against Iraq in 2003. If it wasn’t for that illegal invasion, there would not have been an attack on Brussels on Tuesday, or Istanbul on Saturday or Baghdad last month.

Two men were ultimately responsible for the invasion and destruction of Iraq: George W. Bush, then the US president, and Tony Blair, then the British prime minister. Why are they still at large?

Most of the messages sent to the people of Brussels this week were heartfelt and appreciated. A few, however, were cynical. One was contemptible; it came from Israel.

The Israeli government claimed it “stands with Brussels.” As a resident of Brussels, I refuse that solidarity.

Ofir Akunis, the Israeli science minister, tried to play politics. He suggested the attacks occurred because, rather than fighting terrorism, Europe was too busy placing labels on goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

His comments are too inane to merit a detailed rebuttal. And besides, the labeling idea is an initiative taken by the political elite. Many ordinary Europeans have gone beyond demanding labels: they are too busy boycotting all Israeli goods and campaigning against companies who seek to profit from the occupation.

We shall remain busy. The most fitting tribute to victims of violence is to tackle its root causes. That means fighting imperialism, bigotry and inequality. It means defending multiculturalism, a beautiful idea that Israel has rejected.

·First published by The Electronic Intifada, 23 March 2016.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Israel lobbyist doubles up as adviser to European Parliament

A pro-Israel lobbyist is playing a direct role in organizing some of the European Parliament's key activities on the Middle East.

Nuno Wahnon Martins, a representative of the European Jewish Congress, describes himself as an adviser to Fulvio Martusciello, the Italian right-wing politician who chairs the Parliament's committee for relations with Israel.

Since assuming that "title" in late 2014, Wahnon has been so prominent during the committee's meetings that he appears to be "running the show," a well-placed source told me on condition of anonymity.

His prominence raises fundamental issues about the independence of the committee (or "delegation," as it is officially known).

The European Jewish Congress routinely puts pressure on the EU to adopt positions favorable to Israel. Has it succeeded in parachuting one of its lobbyists into a post within one of the EU's most powerful institutions?

When I emailed Wahnon with some questions, he offered to meet me. Over coffee, he said that he works as a freelance consultant for the European Jewish Congress, even though he is listed as the organization's director of European affairs

Wahnon claimed he does not draw a salary for his work in the Parliament but that he has twice had expenses of around €100 reimbursed. He admitted that he is acting as an adviser without the approval of the parliament's administration.

The Parliament's rules have no provisions on the recruitment of advisers -- as opposed to research assistants or secretarial staff -- by its elected members. "Officially, these positions [advisers to committee chairpersons] do not exist," he said.


He claimed that there is no conflict of interests involved and that he has been open about his activities. A note on his Twitter account, for example, states that he is an adviser to Martusciello.

"It would be much easier not to say anything," Wahnon added. "But it would be much less transparent."

The Parliament's delegation to Israel recently hosted a visit to Brussels for what it described as "young political leaders, mainly from Israel and Palestine." On the program for that visit, Wahnon was named as an "assistant" to Martusciello.

I asked the Parliament's administration if it regard the hiring of a professional pro-Israel lobbyist by its delegation to Israel as a conflict of interests and if it would investigate the matter. Marjory van den Broeke, a spokesperson for the administration replied: "Mr. Martusciello has no assistant on the payroll of the European Parliament called Nuno Wahnon Martins."

I then informed her that Wahnon's own Twitter account describes him as an adviser to Martusciello and enquired if the parliament pays advisers to chairpersons of its committees. "No, it does not," she replied.


Her dismissive attitude is symptomatic of a wider problem. The European Parliament overlooks how lobbyists with destructive agendas shape many of its policies and activities.

In my book Corporate Europe, I documented how members of the Parliament signed and proposed amendments to financial sector regulations that were drafted for them by banks and hedge funds. As many of these amendments were approved by a parliamentary majority, the effect was that proposals supposedly intended to prevent an economic crisis of the type Europe is still enduring were altered by the gamblers who caused the crisis in the first place.

A similar thing is happening with regard to the parliament's relations with Israel.

Because of his position, Fulvio Martusciello commands respect from the Israeli elite. He uses the platforms afforded to him to express views that are at odds with both public opinion in Europe and, on occasion, with EU policy.

According to The Jerusalem Post, he has argued that an EU decision that goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank be labeled as such amounts to "criminal discrimination" against Israel.

"Europe is loud about Israel, but quiet about 200 other conflicts around the world," Martusciello has also said. The opposite is closer to the truth, by the way: last year the EU imposed an arms embargo on Russia but refused to even entertain the idea of halting its weapons trade with Israel.

In a personal capacity, Martusciello should be free to say whatever he wishes. Yet he is not entitled to invite a pro-Israel lobbyist to effectively hijack part of a public institution.

The European Jewish Congress is not the voice of Jews across this continent, despite how it may give that impression. Rather, it is a highly partisan lobby group. By habitually taking a pro-Israel stance, it does a disservice to the numerous Jews horrified by Israel's belligerence.

Wahnon, a qualified attorney from Portugal, has made a career out of promoting Israel in Brussels. He has previously worked for two other pro-Israel groups, B'nai B'rith and European Friends of Israel.

Wahnon confirmed to me that his access badge for the parliament's buildings categorizes him as an intern. This morning, I phoned Martusciello's office asking to speak to Martusciello himself. Instead, my call was transferred to Wahnon.

I don't believe that he just happened to be in that office. It is much more likely that the pro-Israel lobby is paying him to be there in an effort to buy influence.

This is a squalid case of democracy being undermined by supporters of Israeli apartheid -- and of the powers that be not giving a damn.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 10 December 2015.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Brussels terror expert has applauded Israel's atrocities

These are busy days for the Brussels-based "terrorism expert" Claude Moniquet. Ever since it emerged that a few men from Belgium took part in the recent attacks on Paris, his "analysis" has been much in demand by the media.

Any time I have seen Moniquet on TV lately, he has always been given softball treatment by his interviewers. As a result, he is presented an earnest figure, who has amassed considerable knowledge on extremism both through his past career with the French external intelligence agency and his subsequent research. Viewers are never told that this "terrorism expert" has applauded atrocities perpetrated by the State of Israel.

In 2004, Moniquet described Israel's assassination of Ahmed Yassin, a founding member of Hamas, as "good news." Yassin was 66-years-old and paralyzed from the waist down.

Seven other Palestinians were killed in the Hellfire missile attack on Yassin. According to Amnesty International, Israel's actions violated international law.

Moniquet has worked closely with some of Israel's most dedicated apologists in Brussels.

He has been a long-standing member of the Atlantis Institute, a "think tank" established by Joël Rubinfeld.

A veteran lobbyist, Rubinfeld has strived to bolster Belgium's relationship with Israel.

That relationship was strained in the early years of this century as Ariel Sharon, then Israel's prime minister, was sued in Belgium over massacres in Palestinian refugee camps during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Under pressure from Israel and its supporters, Belgium soon diluted its "universal jurisdiction" law to shield Sharon and other war criminals from prosecution.

Parroting propaganda

Moniquet heads the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center. One of his former employees at this "terrorism" watchdog is Dimitri Dombret, with whom Moniquet has written a paper on the "threat" posed by Iran.

A former secretary-general with the lobby group European Friends of Israel, Dombret now runs his own consultancy firm. The firm's main client in recent years was Teva, an Israeli drugs-maker.

The website for Moniquet's center lists "lobbying" as one of its activities. While I was undertaking a research project about Israel's supporters in Brussels last year, Moniquet told me that neither the Israeli government nor any Israeli company was paying his center for advice.

Nonetheless, Moniquet has been known to parrot Israeli propaganda.

During Operation Cast Lead -- Israel's bombardment of Gaza in late 2008 and 2009 -- he called Palestine solidarity activists "pathetic." In an opinion piece, he accused those who protested against Israel of "selective indignation," asking why they were not so exercised about human rights abuses in Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Congo and Zimbabwe.

Conveniently, he overlooked two salient facts: Israel has much stronger political and commercial ties to the West than the countries he listed and many of the protesters he dubbed "pathetic" were calling out their own governments as accomplices to Israel's crimes.

Defying logic

Moniquet cannot be regarded as an expert on terrorism in any real sense.

A genuine expert would help us understand how Islamic State emerged. He or she would take us through the history of Western meddling in the Middle East that spawned this monstrous organization.

He or she would join the dots between the 1916 Sykes-Picot accord (a secret deal to carve up the Middle East between Britain and France), the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the ongoing civil war in Syria and the deadly machinations of the Saudi elite.

Rather than offering the kind of incisive commentary that is so sorely needed, Moniquet reinforces stereotypes. He has, for example, helped to stigmatize the entire community living in the Brussels district of Molenbeek based on how a small number of extremists have lived there.

In a weekend appearance on France TV, Moniquet distorted the truth. In his warped mind, an effort by the local authority in Molenbeek to make its Muslim inhabitants feel welcome was transformed into a "tacit pact" with "Islamists."

Such rhetoric closely resembles that of right-wing Belgian politicians who are trying to capitalize on the Paris attacks.

Moniquet has also been known to defy logic. Not long before the Paris attacks, he wrote about how those involved in recent acts of extremist violence in Europe were already known to the police. Yet rather than making the case for greater scrutiny of known extremists, he praised France's introduction of "massive digital surveillance."

Although Moniquet indicated that the new surveillance rules would be used to keep an eye on suspects, their breadth represents a clear erosion of civil liberties.

Despite the patently dubious quality of his analysis, Moniquet is able to charge money for his services. Last year, he told me that his center's annual budget is between €1 million and €1.5 million and its clients include police agencies and foreign ministries.

Will his recent media appearances help him drum up more business? I fear that they might.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 26 November 2015.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Columnist Melanie Phillips defends Netanyahu's lie about the Holocaust

Few pundits have defended Benjamin Netanyahu's by now infamous claim that a Palestinian leader gave Adolf Hitler the idea of exterminating Europe's Jews. One exception is the right-wing British columnist Melanie Phillips.

Writing in The Jerusalem Post this week, Phillips contends that the Israeli prime minister was "fundamentally correct."

As "support" for her assertion, Phillips refers to a statement made by Dieter Wisliceny, an associate of Adolf Eichmann, the Holocaust's architect. During the 1946 Nuremberg trials, Wisliceny alleged that Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, was "one of the instigators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry."

Phillips neglected to remind her readers that Netanyahu himself had cited Wisliceny last week while the prime minister was trying to "clarify" his accusations about the mufti. That damage limitation exercise had been criticized by historians and even by hawkish media outlets.


The Times of Israel, for example, states: "It is not some, but rather most, serious historians who doubt the veracity of Wisliceny's account." That website quotes "Israel's preeminent Holocaust scholar" Yehuda Bauer, who pointed out that the mass killing of the Jews had already been underway for six months before Hitler met the mufti in 1941 and who called Netanyahu's version of events "entirely baseless."

By coincidence, I found some fascinating papers about the mufti in the UK's national archives a few days ago.

In an October 1936 letter, Arthur Wauchope, then Britain's high commissioner for Palestine, signaled there were differences of opinion between himself and John Dill, the newly-appointed commander of British troops in Palestine, over whether or not the mufti should be deported.

"Children, savages and RAF [Royal Air Force] intelligence officers love creating bogies," Wauchope wrote to the Colonial Office in London. "They are now getting Dill and others to believe that the mufti created, organized and was solely responsible for keeping going the strikes and disorders."

Wauchope was alluding to the Palestinian Arab revolt which kicked off that year. A general strike in April 1936 was called without the mufti's involvement. It was only afterwards that he assumed the presidency of a committee bringing together the various Palestinian Arab political factions.

The administration led by Wauchope behaved in a brutal manner. By ordering the large-scale demolition of Palestinian homes -- notably in Jaffa -- it ushered in a form of collective punishment that Israel still practices in 2015.

Despite how he downplayed the mufti's role in the revolt, Wauchope regarded al-Husseini as a bitter foe. In the same letter, Wauchope complained of the mufti's "hatred of Zionism" and expressed a desire to "clip his wings." Less than a year later, Wauchope relayed to London a request that Britain "took some action against this Frankenstein monster created by Samuel" (Herbert Samuel, the first high commissioner in Palestine, had appointed al-Husseini as mufti).


Yet what struck me about Wauchope's papers was how he recognized as early as 1936 that the mufti had become a bogeyman.

By blaming al-Hussaini for the Holocaust, Netanyahu therefore seems to be following a trend set by British imperialists.

Netanyahu's lies are too much for Israel's scholars to swallow. But that does not negate how the mufti has long been Israel's bogeyman.

I noticed such a distortion of history on my first visit to Palestine in 2001. On that occasion, I accompanied an EU "peace" mission on a trip to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. There, I was astonished to see a whole section devoted to the mufti's brief encounter with Hitler.

Although my knowledge of Middle Eastern politics was superficial at that time, I knew enough about the Holocaust to discern how something that should really be a footnote had been elevated to an event of central importance. The Palestinians were being held responsible for the crimes of Nazi Germany.

The demolition policy that Britain introduced has been invoked by Israel as part of its mythmaking over the Holocaust.

In 2009, Avigdor Lieberman, then Israel's foreign minister, tried to "justify" the construction of a Jewish-only settlement on the site of the Shepherd's Hotel in occupied East Jerusalem by pointing out that it once hosted the mufti's headquarters. Lieberman went so far as to instruct diplomats to circulate a photograph of Hitler's meeting with al-Husseini.

It was a typically crude attempt to manipulate the past so Israel could get away with ethnic cleansing.

Melanie Phillips last year urged Israel to think seriously about its propaganda. While visiting Jerusalem, she said that Israel was hampered by a "strategic failure on the battleground of the mind."

Her willingness to applaud Netanyahu suggests that the truth has no place on whatever battleground she was talking about.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 30 October 2015.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Cameron breaks clean politics pledge with honor for Israel lobbyist

Before he became the UK's prime minister, David Cameron vowed to "come clean about who is buying power and influence" in Westminster.

Cameron broke that promise when he recently appointed Stuart Polak, a veteran lobbyist for Israel and the arms industry, to the House of Lords.

For the past 26 years, Polak has been a director with Conservative Friends of Israel, a pressure group inside the current ruling party. He has combined that post with running a consultancy that puts corporations in touch with law-makers.

Rules applying to the House of Lords state that its members will "declare all relevant interests in order to make clear what are the interests that might reasonably be thought to influence their parliamentary actions." The rules add that "information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for doing so."

Polak is not living up to these requirements.

His entry in the Lords' register states that he is a director of TWC Associates yet does not list that consultancy's clients.

The website of TWC Associates (formerly The Westminster Connection) says that references for its clients are available on request. Last week I contacted the firm asking for such references. I did not receive a reply.

That lack of transparency wouldn't be serious if Polak was planning to spend his time in the Lords concentrating on a topic such as wetlands conservation. Yet Polak has stated that he will use his new platform "to continue to advocate for Israel."

The website of TWC Associates says that it represents clients in the defense sector -- a euphemism for the weapons industry. Elbit, a provider of drones to the Israeli military, has been among its clients, according to The Sunday Times.

Most, if not all, of the West's large arms manufacturers have business connections to Israel. So there is no excuse for Polak to hide the identities of his clients. Each time he defends Israel, it should be emphasized that he has a vested interest in supporting that state.


Polak has been gloating about the effectiveness of his pro-Israel work. Earlier this month, he celebrated how CFI had moved from being "a reasonably active organization to one somewhat feared" in Westminster.

His role in TWC Associates is not the sole example of an overlap between his business and political pursuits. He is also named as a director of Cedars Oak, a firm providing the administration of a cross-party alliance for Israel in the Houses of Parliament.

That group's chairperson -- Louise Ellman from the Labour Party -- has been televised telling lies in the service of Israeli propaganda. In 2011, she claimed -- in the present tense -- that Hamas was using children for suicide bombings. The BBC upheld a complaint against that broadcast -- on its current affairs program Newsnight -- on the grounds that nobody under 18 had undertaken a suicide bombing for Hamas since 2003.

Ellman has also described Israel's use of extrajudicial executions as "legitimate" despite how they violate due process.

Polak's pro-Israel activities are not confined to London. He founded European Friends of Israel, a group headquartered in Brussels that has played an important role in integrating Israel into the EU's single market for goods and services.

A seat in the Lords (a "peerage" in Westminster parlance) is the second honor that the British establishment has bestowed on Polak in as many years. In early 2014, he was given the title commandant of the British Empire by the queen of England.

CFI's cheerleading for Israel's attacks on Gaza later that year did not damage its reputation among the elite. Attending a recent CFI event, Philip Hammond, the British foreign secretary, said he was "proud" to have supported the 2014 offensive.

Israel killed more than 551 children during that attack.

People of conscience everywhere were horrified by Israel's crimes. The UK government was proud to support the criminals.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 26 October 2015.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Outlawing Israel boycott in Europe revealed as key AIPAC goal

At a time when Palestinians are rising up against Israeli apartheid, ranting about a trans-Atlantic trade accord might seem off-topic. Yet a protest camp held in Brussels this week illustrated how to blend a fight against corporate power and the expression of solidarity with an oppressed people.

As well as trying to shut down a European Union summit, participants in the camp joined a demonstration against a football match between Belgium and Israel. Inevitably, that sparked some questions about how a sporting event was relevant to plans for a gigantic EU-US "free trade" zone, the protest camp's main focus.

The connection, as it happens, has been made by the Israel lobby. Its most powerful group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), is following closely the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

In June, President Barack Obama signed a demand by the Israel lobby for how the TTIP negotiations should be conducted into US law. Because of clauses inserted into "fast-track" legislation, the American team in the TTIP talks has been instructed that one of its main objectives is to protect Israel's interests.

The legislation explicitly says that the TTIP negotiators should act to discourage boycotts and other economic measures against Israel. Such measures would include sanctions targeting goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Outlawing solidarity

AIPAC devoted considerable resources to getting this law approved.

According to documents filed with the US Congress, AIPAC had a team of 10 lobbyists working on a handful of trade dossiers during the first six months of this year. TTIP was a key dossier.

AIPAC declared an income of more than $1.6 million related to its lobbying activities in that period.

The documents suggest that TTIP has ranked alongside Iran as top priorities for AIPAC lately. That is significant: while the failure of Israel and its supporters to wreck Obama's nuclear deal with Iran was widely reported, their work on trans-Atlantic trade has assumed a much lower profile.

That low profile belies the anti-democratic nature of this work.

When challenged recently about why she was ignoring the large-scale opposition to TTIP, Cecilia Malmström, the EU's trade commissioner, said: "I do not take my mandate from the European people."

The TTIP negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic have been pursuing an agenda dictated by corporations. Much of the preparatory work for their talks was undertaken by an alliance of banks, oil companies and cigarette manufacturers.

It is now clear that the US negotiators are also required to grovel towards the Israel lobby.

AIPAC's real goal is to make effective gestures of solidarity with the Palestinians illegal. If AIPAC has its way, any restrictions placed on importations of Israeli goods would be viewed as "barriers" to trade.

TTIP is designed to remove such barriers.


The lobbying by AIPAC has taken place at a time when the European Union's governments have been mulling the introduction of mandatory labeling for goods from Israel's settlements in the occupied West Bank.

As the construction and expansion of those settlements amount to war crimes, sticking a label on tomatoes or avocadoes grown there is clearly inadequate. Labeling rules are also easy to break: the occupation monitoring group Who Profits? has already documented how food from the settlements is transported to warehouses and processing plants in present-day Israel, so that regulators can't check its precise origin.

Nonetheless, the labeling idea has caused some jitters among Israel lobbyists. European Friends of Israel -- a Brussels-based organization operating in a similar way to AIPAC -- has warned its supporters that the labeling proposal would likely "gain momentum" and lead to friction between the EU and Israel.

The Israel lobby sees TTIP as an opportunity to nip such initiatives in the bud before the public clamor for tough sanctions against Israel becomes too loud for politicians to dismiss.

By jumping on the TTIP bandwagon, the Israel lobby is allying itself with the world's corporate bullies.
An overriding goal of big business is that TTIP should usher in a court system reserved for corporations to challenge social, health or environmental standards affecting their profits. Because such standards have often been introduced following years of campaigning by public interest advocates, TTIP can be regarded as an enemy of the people.

It is intriguing that the Israel lobby is cozying up with corporate behemoths. The American Jewish Committee, a pro-Israel group, has been trying to drum up support in Congress for the Keystone XL pipeline, intended to bring tar sands from Canada to Texas.

Tar sands extraction is a highly destructive activity. In Alberta, it has befouled First Nations' land and food.

Promoting fossil fuels is a departure from the Israel lobby's traditional activities -- but not a radical one. Groups that try to put a respectable sheen on Israeli apartheid make appropriate allies for the world's polluters.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 16 October 2015.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Has Israeli college in East Jerusalem been deceiving its EU donors?

Has Israel been resorting to deception so that it can benefit from European Union funding?

For the past few years, I've been protesting about how the EU is continuing to subsidize Hebrew University of Jerusalem, even though it has a campus in occupied East Jerusalem. Aiding the university, I have argued, runs counter to "guidelines" published by the Union in 2013, which say that Israeli firms and bodies located in land seized by Israel in 1967 are ineligible for grants or loans.

After making a few complaints to the Brussels bureaucracy, I now believe that Hebrew University is circumventing those guidelines.

Robert-Jan Smits, head of the European Commission's research department, has told me that Hebrew University names its campus at Givat Ram in West Jerusalem as its "place of establishment" when applying for science grants.

That appears misleading: the university's administrative headquarters are actually located on Mount Scopus in East Jerusalem.

In his latest reply to my complaints, Smits acknowledged that Hebrew University is active on Mount Scopus. "We have carefully checked and we can confirm that Mount Scopus is located within the pre-1967 borders" of Israel, he stated.


He has provided an unconvincing "justification" for why the EU supports this institution.

Indeed, his attitude is at odds with the EU's general policy towards Jerusalem. Though riddled with inconsistencies, that policy has been one of avoiding measures that would confer recognition on Israel's ever-tightening grip on Jerusalem.
The most visible manifestation of that policy has been the EU's insistence that its embassy -- and those of its member governments -- for relations with Israel is situated in Tel Aviv, rather than Jerusalem.

While it's correct that Hebrew University was built before 1967, it has supported and sought to exploit the occupation starting that year.

According to the potted history of the university on its website, "studies were discontinued" on Mount Scopus in 1948, the year of Israel's foundation. The reason cited was that "the road to Mount Scopus went through Arab areas and the convoys that camp up to the mount were an easy target for Arab snipers."

The same official history states that "efforts to return the university to Mount Scopus began immediately" after Jerusalem was "reunited" in 1967. "Reunited" is the term Israel uses to describe a brutal occupation.

In 1968, the Israeli government confiscated land belonging to Palestinians on Mount Scopus. Part of that land was sold to Hebrew University the following decade; its Palestinian owners were adamant that the sale was illegal.

In order to expand its facilities, Hebrew University has long been demanding the demolition of Palestinian homes.

Hebrew University is the top Israeli recipient of EU science grants. It took part in a total of 237 projects under a €53 billion ($61 billion) research program that ran from 2007 to 2013.

If the number one beneficiary can skirt around the 2013 guidelines with such ease, doing so shouldn't prove difficult for other Israeli companies and institutions.

Last year, I unearthed evidence showing that senior EU representatives had pledged to interpret the guidelines in a "flexible" manner. So it doesn't surprise me that the Union has shown no desire to halt its aid to Israeli weapons manufacturers.

The drone-maker Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) was also one of the ten leading recipients of EU grants in the 2007-13 period. IAI is involved in joint research with Ariel University -- located in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank -- on using nanotechnology to develop miniature satellites.


Under the aforementioned guidelines, the EU does not (as far as I can tell) directly give money to Ariel. Yet there is a high probability that some of Ariel's activities draw on research which the EU is financing.

An IAI "expert" sat on a panel that advised the EU on what to prioritize in nanotechnology research between 2010 and this year.

IAI has supplied warplanes used to bomb civilians in Gaza and surveillance equipment installed in the apartheid wall in the West Bank.

If the EU was serious about standing up for Palestinian rights, it would refuse to have any dealings with such companies. Instead, the Union is allowing them dictate the agenda for spending programs in which they are participating.

This sordid affair encapsulates how the EU's policies towards Israel are characterized by both confusion and cooperation. The timid guidelines that the EU introduced in 2013 have not reduced either.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 25 August 2015.