The EU is funding death, displacement and discrimination in Palestine

“Settlements are illegal under international law and their expansion must stop, as well as demolitions and evictions of Palestinians from their homes. [Israeli] military operations must be proportionate and in line with international humanitarian law.” EU High Representative Josep Borrell, March 14th 2023

“EU-Israel cooperation is strong, and we want to further deepen our relationship.”EU High Representative Josep Borrell, May 2nd 2023

These two conflicting statements highlight the deeply hypocritical nature of the EU’s stance with regard to Israel’s violations of international law and human rights abuses. While frequently expressing “deep concern” and even “condemning” Israel’s most egregious crimes, the EU has actually rendered itself complicit by funding some of the very same companies and institutions that carry out, or otherwise aid and abet, these unlawful activities. 

Indeed, whether through research programs or trade with Israel, the EU is funnelling money -including taxpayers money- to a settler-colonial apartheid regime. The EU’s hypocrisy has been even more blatantly exposed by the reaction following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; political and economic sanctions were swiftly placed on Russia, yet the EU has refused to place a single sanction on Israel despite decades of human rights abuses, apartheid, war crimes and other violations of international law.

EU-Israel collaboration

Though not an EU member state, Israel is linked to the EU through the various bilateral agreements, and these ties are ostensibly governed by the Association Agreement signed in 1995. Israel’s link with the EU is perhaps best summed up in the words of the 2005 ‘EU-Israel Action Plan’ which outlines the development of “an increasingly close relationship, going beyond co-operation, to involve a significant measure of economic integration and a deepening of political co-operation.”

These strong bilateral relations enabled Israel to be integrated into programmes such as Horizon Europe. This has allowed both public and private Israeli entities to participate in the EU’s main publicly funded R&D program -with a budget of €95.5 billion- on equal terms with EU entities, despite Israel not contributing to the EU budget through income tax.

In December 2021, a cross-party group of 60 MEPs sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, expressing their concerns over the formalisation of the Horizon Europe agreement with Israel and EU taxpayers’ money being furnished to Israeli entities.

Through Horizon Europe, EU research subsidies have been a crucial source of funding for Israeli academic institutions, businesses, and government agencies, including many military companies, that are involved, or complicit, in the oppression of Palestiains by Israel’s apartheid regime – including entities operating in, and profiting from, illegal Israeli settlements.

That Israel is practising apartheid is not an opinion, it is a fact. The world’s leading human rights organisations, whether Palestinian (Al-Haq), Israeli (B’Tselem), or international (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International), as well as UN Special Rapporteurs on Palestine (from John Dugard to Francesca Albanese) have clearly and forensically detailed Israel’s commission of the Crime of Apartheid. In addition, Israel has committed, and continues to commit, extensively documented war crimes against the Palestinian people. There is no debate and international law is clear; disproportionate violence, collective punishment, extrajudicial executions, the building of colonial settlements, and the illegal annexation of Palestinian East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights, are all war crimes.

Funding the war crime industry

Horizon Europe has truly been a boon to the war crime industry. For example, €5.11 million was received by IBM Israel Ltd., who have developed technologies of data collection for the Israeli military, thus enabling the intrusive surveillance of Palestinians and the subsequent implementation of discriminatory policies.

€2.5 million has gone to Sightec Ltd, which has provided drone analytics systems to Israel’s racist colonial police force – an institution denounced by Amnesty International for engaging in extra-judicial killings, torture, disproportionate use of force against civilians, and suppression of freedom of association and expression.

Funds have also been allocated to Israel Aerospace Industries, the Technion Institute, Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, all of which are actively involved in aiding Israel’s ongoing system of apartheid, settlement expansion and war crimes. 

In gifting such funds, the EU has rendered itself complicit in Israel’s crimes. This should be of the utmost concern to us all, not least given the EU’s putative stance as a ‘normative actor’ which defends international law, democracy and the rule of law in general.

Beyond funding – problematic projects

The content of some of the projects being funded by Horizon Europe is also deeply troubling. One of the projects involving the Israeli company Sightec, AUTOFLY, is seeking to develop “GPS-free, beyond the visual line of sight, navigation for logistics drones in urban environments”. Although the project description is vague, it is clear that advances made through this project can, and likely will, be used against Palestinians.

Indeed, whether its outputs will be used by the occupation forces to surveil Palestinians or to carry out attacks in ‘remote’ locations, this project’s potential threat to Palestinians renders its funding by the EU highly problematic. 

Elsewhere, the Water4All project, carried out in collaboration with Israel’s Ministry of Energy, purports to address challenges related to water security. The involvement of an Israeli Ministry in the project is beyond hypocritical, due to the very well documented “water apartheid’ that Israel imposes on Palestinians, and the ongoing pillage of Palestinian water and other natural resources. 

Complicity must cease

Horizon Europe funding is, to be sure, merely one aspect of a suite of EU measures that have helped Israel to trample upon the rights of the Palestinian people. But it is an extremely dangerous one; not only is the EU failing in its legal duty to activate third state responsibility to stop repeated human rights violations from taking place, it is actively funding -thus facilitating, and arguably even encouraging- systematic violations of international law and human rights abuses. 

Complicity is conventionally defined as collaboration with others in an activity that is unlawful or morally wrong. Thus, if an actor commits legal and/or ethical violations, then collaborating with them as the EU is doing, is at best immoral, and at worst criminal. The EU’s dangerous complicity with Israel’s crimes should be condemned and immediate action taken to end it.

Read our full briefing about Israel’s participation in Horizon Europe here