Europe’s dirty embrace of Israel’s occupation | Popgen Tech
Does Benjamin Netanyahu’s imminent return as Israel’s prime minister fill the hearts of representatives of the European Union with fear?
It would be naive to think so.
Cappuccino-sipping sophisticates in Brussels would no doubt prefer if the new Israeli coalition did not include a gun-toting fascist like Itamar Ben-Gvir and if the prospect of formally annexing settlement blocs in the West Bank were removed from the agenda.
Yet the fact remains that Netanyahu has been in power for most of the past 13 years. During that time, the EU actually took important steps to strengthen its cooperation with Israel.
Cooperation was intensified in dirty and sneaky ways, even as newspaper headlines gave the impression that the EU and Israel were constantly at odds.
Documents released following a freedom of information request show that delegations from Israel’s police visited Europol, the EU’s “crime-fighting” agency, on at least five occasions between 2017 and 2021.
At least two of those delegations were led by Roni Alsheikh, Israel’s police commissioner at the time.
Alsheikh headed a police force that openly sided with Jewish extremists who want to destroy Islamic holy sites in occupied East Jerusalem.
In tandem with Netanyahu, Alsheikh has been quick to brand Palestinians killed by officers under his command as “terrorists”.
There is enough evidence that Alsheikh followed a strategy of smearing the dead before their bodies became cold. When police attacked Umm al-Hiran, a Palestinian community living inside Israel, and killed Yaqoub Abu al-Qiyan in January 2017 as he tried to drive out of that village, Alsheikh lied by claiming that the victim was the attacked police.
His lies remained the official version of events, even when human rights monitors could prove them to be lies.
The EU rewarded him for his lies.
In 2018, Alsheikh signed a “working arrangement” with Europol. The “arrangement” allows the two sides to cooperate on war crimes and terrorism.
A further agreement on the sharing of personal data between Europol and Israel was concluded in September this year.
The Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz recently reported that the EU told Israel in early December that it was “freezing” that agreement.
The Haaretz story was exaggerated.
An official at the European Commission – the EU’s executive – told me that the agreement reached in September was “tentative” and reached at a “technical level”.
When the agreement was subsequently discussed by the EU’s 27 governments, “concerns were raised” about a “territorial clause” in the agreement, according to the official, who requested anonymity. As a result, the European Commission has “informed Israel that another round of negotiations will be necessary to further clarify elements of the draft agreement,” the official added.
As opposed to what Haaretz claimed, it does not mean that the transaction is frozen. Rather, it indicates that some EU countries want some words to be changed in it.
The agreement reached in September should certainly set alarm bells ringing.
It uses a euphemism when referring to the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights. They are described as “the geographical areas that came under the administration of Israel after June 1967”.
The agreement will allow Israel to use data obtained from Europol in those “geographic areas” for a wide variety of purposes. Such data can be used with Europol’s approval in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan if it is “deemed necessary for the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences”.
While EU governments should indeed object to such open-ended clauses, their “concerns” are apparently insufficient.
Any form of cooperation with Israel’s police involves embracing an occupation.
The police force’s headquarters are located in East Jerusalem. If the EU was truly determined to oppose Israel’s colonization of East Jerusalem, it would avoid Israel’s police altogether.
The Brussels bureaucracy did not categorize Israel as a ‘strategic partner country’ on police cooperation.
Cooperating with Israel’s police does not appear to be the only way the EU cooperates with forces occupying the West Bank and Gaza.
Since 2015, the EU has been conducting “counter-terrorism dialogues” with Israel.
These discussions were highly secretive, but after making freedom of information requests I obtained some documents about them.
The documents – see below – show that the EU was represented at a high level in this “dialogue”.
Among those who have participated in such “dialogues” are Ilkka Salmi, the EU’s counter-terrorism coordinator, and his predecessor Gilles de Kerchove.
Laurent Muschel, a senior official in the European Commission, and Pawel Herczynski, an experienced Polish diplomat, also participated.
The EU has refused to provide a list of Israel’s participants in these discussions or even say which authorities they work for.
Such discussions, according to the EU’s diplomatic service, “take place within a framework of absolute confidentiality.” Providing further details would “seriously damage EU-Israel relations,” the diplomatic service added.
It is striking that the EU has not denied that Israel’s army and police participate in these discussions.
It is impossible to imagine that these forces are not somehow involved.
Almost all talk of “terrorism” in Israel relates to its relentless oppression of Palestinians. Any form of resistance – armed or otherwise – is considered “terrorism” by Israel.
Israel has gone so far as to accuse children and human rights groups of terrorism.
Privately, EU officials may view some of Israel’s rhetoric as absurd. However, by prioritizing the “counter-terrorism dialogues”, the EU legitimizes the absurdity.
Itamar Ben-Gvir will soon become Israel’s minister of national security. His portfolio gives him responsibility for overseeing Israel’s border police – part of the forces that brutally occupy the West Bank.
The Brussels elite may well disapprove of Ben-Gvir’s crude anti-Palestinian racism.
Some members of that elite are no doubt aware that he was convicted by Israel’s court system of supporting a terrorist organization in 2007. Some are probably also aware that the aforementioned Ronnie Alsheikh sees Ben-Gvir’s policies as dangerous.
Nevertheless, the EU now faces the choice of whether to hold “counter-terrorism dialogues” with an Israeli government with a minister convicted of supporting terrorism.
I asked the EU’s diplomatic service whether the formation of a new government would have any impact on the “dialogue”.
“In the interest of protecting EU citizens and [the] fight against terrorism, the intention is to continue such discussions,” the diplomatic service replied.
This response is depraved.
The EU is in effect saying that the safety of its own citizens depends on cooperation with a nuclear apartheid state.
Now pass the sick bucket!