EU research funding and Israeli violations of international law


1. Israel and the Seventh Framework Program for Research (FP7)

With a budget of €50.5bn, the Seventh Framework Program for Research (FP7) is the European Union’s main research funding and collaboration vehicle and is due to run until the end of 2013. Research funding is awarded to consortia that are usually made up of institutions and private companies from at least two different countries. Israeli research entities are eligible for FP7 research funding as part of the benefits ascribed to Israel under the EU-Israel Association Agreement. At least 22 Israeli actors participate in the European Security Research Programme theme of FP7 and many more participate in other themes.

Israeli participants in FP7 projects directly contribute to and are complicit accomplices to acts that are illegal under international law (see Annex 1). For example, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, a company located in and partially owned by the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem receives EU funding through its participation in 3 FP7 projects.[1] Elbit Systems, an Israeli military company involved in the ongoing construction of Israel’s Wall, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004, participates in at least 4 FP7 projects.[2]

In addition, Israeli military companies such as Motorola Israel and Elbit Systems are participating in FP7 projects that appear to be furthering the development of technology that they deploy in occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law and Palestinian human rights (see Annex 2). Such technology has been “field tested” against Palestinians and the research outputs are highly likely to be in turn used in further violations of international law.

Treaty commitments oblige the EU to uphold and promote the rule of international law. In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that states must not render aid or assistance to Israeli violations of international law. Legal experts have suggested that the involvement of Israeli companies complicit with Israeli violations of international law in EU research projects calls into question whether the EU is itself violating its own commitments under international law.[3]

According to European Commission officials, participants in FP7 projects have to endorse the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the relevant EU legislation mentions “fundamental ethical principles”. External auditors can investigate allegations of violations. However, much of the relevant guidance mention ethics only in relation to life sciences and it remains unclear whether the projects involving problematic Israeli FP7 participants have been subject to thorough investigations. FP7 will run until the end of 2013.

2. Civil society raise concerns

In May 2011, 15 Palestinian, Israeli and European civil society organisations wrote a joint letter to research Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn to request the suspension of Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries from the FP7 scheme due to their ongoing role in the construction of Israel’s illegal Wall. The letter argued that the involvement of Elbit Systems ran counter to EU legal obligations and stated policies. Organisations from across Europe have written similar letters.

Campaigners for Palestinian rights in the UK have protested the collaboration between Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories and three institutions in London that takes place as part of an FP7 project called Nanoretox. The management of one of the London institutions, King’s College London, has responded to a petition signed by more than 1,000 students and a campaign by the National Union of Students by announcing its intention to develop new policies to screen research collaborators. An open letter about the involvement of Ahava in the EU funded projects was recently published in the Independent newspaper and received coverage in prominent academic magazines Science and Nature and elsewhere.[4] Similar campaigns are underway at universities in Ireland, Sweden, Spain, France, Italy and Denmark.

Responding to concerns raised by their constituents, members of both the European and member state countries have raised questions about the involvement of particular Israeli companies in FP7 projects.[5]

3. Israel and EU research funding policy after 2013

In spring 2011, the European Commission released its Green Paper ‘From challenges to opportunities: towards a common strategic framework for EU research and innovation funding’. This set out the Commissions proposals for the future of EU research after FP7 expires at the end of 2013. The Green Paper did not address the issues arising from the involvement of Israeli organisations.

Trade unions, NGOs, faith groups and other civil society organisations from across Europe and Palestine responded to the consultation on the Green Paper, calling for the rules for participation in future EU research funding programs to take into consideration issues relating to violations of international law and human rights. Many organisations called for the rules for participation to be based on the new EU-endorsed UN Guidelines for Business and Human Rights, which recommend that governments deny “access to public support and services for a business enterprise that is involved with gross human rights abuses and refuses to cooperate in addressing the situation”.[6]

The European Parliament motion passed in response to the Green Paper expressed the view “cooperation with third countries in the domain of research with possible dual use should be avoided with any country that does not respect human rights, UN resolutions and international law”.[7]

In November 2011, the European Commission published its final legislative proposals for the post-2013 research funding mechanism, which will be named Horizon 2020. The proposals regarding rules for participation do include some language that could be interpreted as allowing the Commission to exclude actors from FP7 projects because of their violations of international law and human rights. However, the proposals stop well short of explicitly excluding problematic participants. The concerns raised by civil society and the European Parliament appear to have been ignored.

The proposals will now be scrutinised by the European Parliament and Council.

4. European Union Jerusalem EU Heads of Mission report

The recently leaked 2011 Jerusalem EU Heads of Mission report noted that the drastically deteriorating situation in East Jerusalem “…in particular the systematic increase in settlement activity…increasingly undermines the two-state solution”.

The report went on to note that Israel’s explicit policy to prevent the Palestinian population from becoming more than 30% of the total population in Jerusalem had resulted in a series of settlement, road and light rail construction projects, house demolitions and restrictions on movement and assembly that were undermining the permanent Palestinian presence in the city.

The report called for a more active and viable implementation of EU policy on East Jerusalem. The report’s recommendations, made “keeping in mind the deterioration on the ground”, made three explicit suggestions regarding withdrawing the support from EU countries for Israel’s ongoing settlement construction:

6) Prevent/discourage financial transactions from EU Member State (MS) actors supporting settlement activity in East Jerusalem.

7) Invite the Commission to consider proposing appropriate EU legislation to prevent/discourage financial transactions in support of settlement activity.

9) Ensure that products manufactured in settlements in East Jerusalem do not benefit from preferential treatment under the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

5. Recommendations

The current situation regarding Israeli participation in EU research programs results in de facto tax payer subsidies to Israeli settlements and other Israeli violations of international law. This undermines EU policy on the illegality of the settlements and the two-state solution.

The following steps would assist in addressing the situation:

a) The relevant bodies of the European Commission to undertake an urgent review of the participation of Israeli companies involved in violations of international law and ensure that all money allocated to such companies is returned.

b) The relevant bodies of the European Commission to ensure that no further funding is allocated to Israeli companies involved in violations of international law for the remaining period during which FP7 will operate.

c) The European Parliament, Commission and Council to ensure that the Rules for Participation legislation for Horizon 2020 explicitly prohibits companies and institutions from third countries involved in violations of international law from participating in EU funded research programs

Annex 1 – Sample of Israeli participants in FP7 and details of their perpetration of and complicity with violations of international law

Many of the Israeli participants in FP7 perpetrate or are complicit accomplices to acts that are illegal under international law, as is shown in the following review of six Israeli participants.

Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories

Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories is a cosmetics manufacturer and retailer partially owned by two illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. The company factory and visitors centre are both located in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the occupied Palestinian West Bank.[8]  In May 2011, Israeli organisation Coalition of Women for Peace uncovered evidence showing that in 2004 Ahava was given a license for excavating minerals by the Israeli Civil Administration, which is the representative of the Israeli government in the occupied West Bank, and that the excavation site on the occupied shores of the Palestinian section of the Dead Sea is currently active.[9] Ahava participates in 3 FP7 projects. [10]

Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are recognised by the European Union as illegal according to international law.[11] Under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” constitutes a war crime in international armed conflicts”.[12]  Experts in international law argue that corporations that have relations with a settlement of a type of conduct that “abets or […] assists” the continued existence of a settlement are complicit with the violation of international law.[13] In addition, Ahava is involved in the direct appropriation of natural resources from occupied Palestinian territory. This is prohibited by Articles 53 and 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Articles 52 and 53 of the Hague regulations.[14]

Elbit Systems

Elbit Systems is an Israeli arms company that is involved in the construction of Israel’s illegal Wall and the supply of equipment and weapons to the Israeli military. According to research compiled by the Norwegian government, Elbit Systems “supplies an electronic surveillance system called ‘Torch’ for the separation barrier. Torch is designed to detect persons attempting to cross the barrier and to provide this information to the staff that guard it”. The system was designed and is manufactured specifically for use on the Wall.[15] Subsidiaries Elbit Electro-Optics and Elbit Security Systems supply additional equipment for the Wall.[16] The Norwegian government report states that the involvement in Elbit Systems in the Wall is likely to be on-going and that “it must be presumed that the company will be involved…after the construction of the barrier has been completed”.[17] In addition, Hermes Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs) supplied by Elbit Systems were used to attack  civilians during the 2008-09 attack on Gaza that were described by Human Rights Watch as indiscriminate and disproportionate in such a way that renders them violations of international humanitarian law.The attacks killed 29 civilians, eight of them children [18] Elbit Systems participates in 4 FP7 projects.[19]

In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled the Wall to be illegal. Elbit Systems has developed and supplies a surveillance system specifically for use in the Wall and is therefore complicit with this unlawful act. The ICJ ruling also stated that “all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction”.[20] By supplying the Israeli military with UAVs used in violations of international law, Elbit Systems is also complicit with that violation.

Israel Aerospace Industries

Similarly to Elbit Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) provides equipment used in Israel’s illegal Wall and supplied drones to Israel that were used in attacks against civilians during the 2008-09 attack on Gaza. IAI’s subsidiary provides observation systems for the Wall.[21] IAI’s Heron UAV systems was used in the attacks on civilians condemned by Human Rights Watch as being in violation of international law.[22] IAI participates in 14 FP7 projects.[23]

As discussed above in relation to Elbit Systems, IAI is complicit with Israeli violations of international law relating to the construction of the Wall and the targeting of civilians during the 2008-09 attack on Gaza.

Motorola Israel

Motorola Israel is involved in several different aspects of Israeli occupation of and population transfer into Palestinian territory and provides equipment to the Israeli military. Motorola has created at least four surveillance systems used in at least twenty illegal Jewish-only settlements and military camps throughout the occupied West Bank.[24] In addition, until 2009, Motorola Israel was Israel’s leading company in the design and manufacture of electronic fuses for aircraft bombs and guided munitions, including those used against civilians during the 2008-09 assault on Gaza.[25] Motorola Israel participates in 2 FP7 projects.[26]

As discussed above, Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law and companies that provide assistance to their continued existence are complicit with this violation of international law. In addition, through its irresponsible provision of equipment to the Israeli military, Motorola Israel is implicated in the war crimes reported to have taken place during the 2008-09 assault on Gaza by the UN fact finding mission into the conflict.[27]

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

One of the university’s campuses has expanded on to occupied Palestinian territory in a confiscation of Palestinian land. Some of the university owned student quarters are located in a settlement neighbourhood of occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem.[28] In addition, the Hebrew University maintains close ties with the Israeli military. All Israeli military colleges and training facilities are under the academic auspices and responsibility of the Hebrew University. The university trains soldiers in sciences and technology and hosts a military base on its campus.[29] The Hebrew University of Jerusalem participates in 126 FP7 projects.[30]

The Hebrew University is directly involved in the transfer of civilians into occupied territory which, as described above, is a violation of international law amounting to a war crime. In addition, through its deep links with the Israeli military, the university is directly complicit with violations of international law and abuses of human rights, including those that took place during the 2008-09 assault on Gaza.

Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

Technion is coming under increasing scrutiny from academics concerned with its involvement in and collaboration with the Israeli military and Israeli arms companies. The institute conducts a wide variety of research into technology and weapons used to oppress and attack Palestinians. For example, Technion researchers have developed special unmanned vehicles that aid the Israeli army in destroying Palestinian houses.[31] The institute also provides specially tailored courses and programs for military officials and Israeli arms company executives.[32] Technion has a history of deep collaboration with Elbit Systems, including receiving research grants and opening a joint research centre.[33]  Technion participates in 106 FP7 projects.[34]

House demolitions have been widely condemned by international and non-governmental organisations. Israeli demolitions of Palestinian houses breach international law which allows destruction of property only where it a military necessity.[35] By knowingly developing technology used in house demolitions, Technion is actively and directly complicit in these violations of international law. More broadly, through its deep and on-going relationship with the Israeli military and industry, Technion is complicit with the violations that they commit.

Annex 2 – FP7 projects allowing Israeli actors to develop technology that they have deployed in order to facilitate the violation of international law

We are concerned that Israeli actors are able to participate in FP7 research projects in order to further develop technologies that they have deployed in order to facilitate the violation of Palestinian rights and international law. The following FP7 projects illustrate this problem:

Open Architecture for UAVbased Surveillance Systems (OPARUS), receiving an EU subsidy of €11.88m for the development of Unmanned Ariel Vehicles, despite the fact that their use is illegal above Europe. Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) participates in the project. According to Human Rights Watch, armed Heron drones manufactured by IAI were involved in at least some of the deadly drone attacks on Palestinian civilians during Operation Cast Lead, which in total killed 29 civilians, eight of them children.[36] The UN Goldstone found serious evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated mainly by Israel against the occupied Palestinian population in Gaza.

IDETECT4ALL, receiving an EU subsidy of €2.29m for the development of intruder detection and authentication optical sensing technology. According to the project website, the project is developing technology “to detect the presence of objects inside or in the surrounding area of restricted critical infrastructures”.[37] One of the four Israeli companies in the consortium, Motorola Israel, provides very similar surveillance systems for at least twenty illegal Israeli settlements and the illegal apartheid wall.[38]

[5] For example, see written European Parliament questions E-009280/11 , E-009975/11

[6] Special representative, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the

United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework

[7] European Parliament resolution of 27 September 2011 on the Green Paper: From challenges to opportunities: towards a common strategic framework for EU research and innovation funding (2011/2107(INI))

[8] Ahava, Coalition of Women for Peace

[9] Ahava’s Theft of Occupied Natural Resources Finally Exposed, Codepink and Coalition of Women for Peace

[11] Statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton following the vote in the UN Security Council on the resolution on the settlements (2011)

[12] Rule 130. Transfer of Own Civilian Population into Occupied Territory, International Committee of the Red Cross

[13] Findings of the London Session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine into corporate complicity with Israeli violations of international law

[14] Ibid.

[15]Council on Ethics, Recommendation on the exclusion of the company Elbit Systems Ltd

[16] Coalition of Women for Peace, Elbit Systems

[17] Ibid.

[18] Precisely Wrong, Human Rights Watch (2009)

[20] Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory

Opinion (9 July 2004),

[21] Execution Aspects, Israeli Defence Ministry

[22] Precisely Wrong, Human Rights Watch (2009)

[24]Motorola, Coalition of Women for Peace

[25]Precisely Wrong, Human Rights Watch (2009)

[27] UN mission finds evidence of war crimes by both sides in Gaza conflict, UN News Centre (2009)

[28] Shir Hever, Economy of the Occupation, Socioeconomic Bulletin No 23

[29] Ibid.

[31] Press release, Technion

Shir Hever, Economy of the Occupation, Socioeconomic Bulletin No 23

[33] Ibid.

[36] Precisely Wrong, Human Rights Watch (2009)

[37] iDetecT4ALL (2010) Product description

[38] Coalition of Women for Peace (2011)