June 2010

Article by David Cronin from IPS news, reproduced in full here

EU Considering Aid to Israeli Military

BRUSSELS, Jun 18, 2010 (IPS) – A leading Israeli supplier of warplanes used to kill and maim civilians in Gaza is in the running for two new scientific research grants from the European Union.

Israel’s attacks on Gaza in late 2008 and 2009 provided its air force with an opportunity to experiment with state-of-the-art pilotless drones such as the Heron. Although human rights groups have calculated that the Heron and other drones killed at least 87 civilians during that three-week war, EU officials have tentatively approved the release of fresh finance to the Heron’s manufacturer, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

Two projects involving IAI have recently passed the evaluation stages of a call for proposals under the EU’s multi-annual programme for research, which has been allocated 53 billion euros (65.4 billion dollars) for the 2007-13 period.

The Union’s executive arm, the European Commission, has confirmed that IAI is one of 34 Israeli “partners” involved in 26 EU-funded projects for information technology which are under preparation.

Among the other Israeli firms being considered for such funding are 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.

Mark English, a Commission spokesman, said that the procedures relating to the projects have not yet been completed. But the Israeli business publication Globes reported last month that Israeli firms stand to gain 17 million euros from the latest batch of EU grants for information technology. According to Globes, this will bring the amount that Israel has drawn from the EU’s research programme since 2007 to 290 million euros.

Israel is the main foreign participant in the EU’s science programme. Officials in Tel Aviv say they expect Israeli firms and research institutes will have received around 500 million euros from the programme by the time of its conclusion.

Chris Davies, a British Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament (MEP), expressed anger at how the Commission’s research department appears willing to rubber-stamp new grants for Israeli companies. Such a “business-as-usual” approach is at odds with tacit assurances from officials handling the EU’s more general relations with Israel, he said.

In late 2008, the EU’s 27 governments agreed to an Israeli request that the relationship should be “upgraded” so that Israel could have a deeper involvement in a wide range of the Union’s activities. But work on giving formal effect to that agreement has stalled because of the subsequent invasion of Gaza.

Approving EU finance for Israel Aerospace Industries “should be regarded as utterly unacceptable, incoherent and outrageously naive,” Davies told IPS. He argued that there appears to be “no communication” between different sets of EU representatives on how Israel should be handled. “Where’s the joined-up thinking?” he asked.

While the European Commission claims that all of its scientific research cooperation with Israel is civilian in nature, the Israeli government has been eager to publicise the almost umbilical links between the country’s thriving technology sector and its military. A brochure titled ‘Communications in Israel’ published by its industry ministry earlier this year refers to a “symbiosis” between the security and technology sectors in Israel. Several technology breakthroughs – such as the invention of voice recognition devices for computers by the Israeli army in the 1980s – have resulted from this “convergence”, the brochure claims.

Other likely Israeli beneficiaries of the new round of EU funding do not conceal how they have benefited from this convergence either. The Israeli subsidiary of SAP, the software manufacturer, has issued publications about how it has provided specialist equipment for the Israeli army. And both Emza and LiveU, two “start-up” companies, are examples of the numerous makers of surveillance equipment in Israel that have seen their order books fill up since the country tried to position itself as an indispensable part of the “war on terror” declared by former U.S. president George W. Bush.

Marcel Shaton, head of the Israel-Europe Research and Development Directorate (ISERD) in Tel Aviv, said that EU citizens should not have any qualms about financing Israeli arms companies. “All research supports the arms industry,” he said. “Non-military technology is used for military purposes all over the world.”

But Yasmin Khan, a specialist on the arms trade with the anti-poverty group War on Want, said that the EU has been complicit in the occupation of Palestine through its support for Israel’s military industry.

She noted that drones made by IAI and other Israeli companies have been bought by several European countries taking part in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. “The military industry is a central point of the Israeli economy,” she said. “The equipment it makes is sold as ‘battle-tested’, which is a dark way of describing its use in the occupied (Palestinian) territories.” (END)

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Updated and amended 18 June

Following allegations in the Wall Street Journal last June, Nokia-Siemens Networks has admitted that it sold surveillance technology to Iranian mobile phone operators. The technology was used by the regime in Tehran to track down dissidents during the widespread protests that followed last year’s contested re-election of Mahmud Ahmadinejad. At least 36 people were killed in a brutal crackdown by the authorities.

While Nokia’s admission is welcome, the EU and the USA also shoulder some responsibility. As Gus Hosein of Privacy International has pointed out, “everyone got angry at Nokia, while forgetting that they had built those [surveillance capacities because of] demands from our own governments”.

The demands in question, on the “lawful interception of telecommunications”, were drawn-up by the FBI and European governments in the early 1990s and transposed into EU law, placing an obligation on all telecommunications service providers to give law enforcement agencies real-time surveillance capabilities. The result is that all mobile phone networks can easily be fitted with this kind of “backdoor”.

At a hearing in the European Parliament, Barry French, head of marketing and corporate affairs with Nokia-Siemens Networks, told MEPs that the company found itself “in a tricky situation” and that it “needed their help” to “navigate in these challenging times”. Reporters without borders duly called for some kind of “voluntary code of conduct” addressing the supply of surveillance equipment to repressive regimes.

In an era in which the Homeland Security sector is growing so rapidly as to begin to rival the arms industry, this is spectacularly unambitious. As the recent Finmeccanica deal with Libya shows, European defence and security contractors are only to happy to supply repressive regimes with everything from border control and surveillance equipment, detention centres to UAVs.

What is needed is a stringent regulatory regime recognising that a whole host of new security technologies and equipment can result in gross human violations, and one that restricts their supply accordingly. Outlawing the international trade of policing and security equipment designed for torture and ill-treatment is a good start, but it falls far short of what is needed.

Unfortunately the EU is so preoccupied with developing a competitive homeland security industry that can compete in the global marketplace, it has paid no attention whatsoever as to where these products end up.

“SAFIRE” is a €3.6 million project funded under the European Security Research Programme, to which the EC is contributing €3 million. The project promises a “Scientific Approach to Fighting Radical Extremism” and has the goal of “improv[ing] fundamental understanding of radicalization processes and us[ing] this knowledge to develop principles to improve (the implementation) of interventions designed to prevent, halt and reverse radicalization”.

The SAFIRE consortium is led by the Dutch military research institute TNO and includes the RAND Corporation, the Israeli International Counter-Terrorism Academy (ICSA, which promises “to adapt the ‘Israeli Operational Philosophy’ to the most vulnerable of venues and complicated of local problems”), Compagnie Européenne d’Intelligence Stratégique (CEIS, the Strategic Intelligence Company, France), Bridge 129 (an Italian security company), several academics from Utrecht and Amsterdam, and the Instituut voor Multiculturele ontwikkeling (Dutch Institute for Multicultural Affairs).

According to the EC contract:

SAFIRE will develop a process model of radicalization, describing the process from moderation to extremism, based on a non-linear dynamic systems approach and a typology of radical groups. This is an innovative approach that has not been explicitly applied to this area up until now. Principles regarding interventions will be developed in close concert with the models, and will be applied in a longitudinal, empirical study. Important aspects of radicalization that will also be addressed are: the relationship between national culture and radicalization, radicalization on the Internet, and defining observable indicators of the radicalization process…

The results of this project will increase the understanding of both conceptual aspects of radicalization (e.g. the psycho-social dynamics of radical groups and individuals), and practical characteristics and modus operandi of radical groups (e.g. recruitment techniques).

The envisaged end-users are “policy makers, researchers in the field of radicalization and professionals who work with high-risk individuals”.

Leaving aside the wisdom of asking an industry dependent upon an ever-widening circle of threat to look at such a controversial and politically charged topic, several observations can be made about some of the alarming developments in the field of counter-radicalisation to date.

First, substantive research into the UK’s ‘Prevent’ programme, which was endorsed by the Joint UK Parliamentary Committee on Communities and Local Government, has highlighted the way in which the new ‘radicalisation’  agenda has been translated into the old doctrine of mass surveillance of ‘suspect communities’ by establishing “one of the most elaborate systems of surveillance ever seen in Britain”. See “Spooked: How not to prevent violent extremism”.

Second, the European Union has already adopted a far-reaching ‘radicalisation and recruitment programme’, including a detailed Action Plan, which it has kept secret. In the absence of precise information about how the EU intends to combat radicalisation, and in light of the experience of the Prevent programme, it is very difficult for civil society (which the UN has recognised as a vital actor in terms of counter-radicalisation) to have any confidence in its actions.

Third, as reported in last week’s Guardian, the EU has now tacitly extended its radicalisation programme to include political activists labelled as “Extreme right/left, Islamist, nationalist or anti-globalisation”, prompting outrage from MEPs. See Intensive surveillance of “violent radicalisation” extended to embrace suspected “radicals” from across the political spectrum.

Fourth, the premise of countering radicalisation on the internet has already led to widespread and entirely unregulated police surveillance of internet users, such as the EUROPOL “Check the web” programme.

As the Institute of Race Relations’ ‘Spooked’ report suggests, approaching radicalisation as a process in which people pass through some kind of prism from ‘liberal’ to ‘extremist’ (or indeed back the other way) is inherently problematic because:

the terms ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ are at times defined in practice by the degree  to which [people] support or oppose central government”.

And as the report concludes:

“in democratic societies, genuine trust can only come from the bottom up. So long as the government persists in a programme of imposing on its own citizens an ideological war over ‘values’ that is backed up with an elaborate web of surveillance, that trust will not be forthcoming. And those on the receiving end of such a programme will remain ‘spooked’ by fear, alienation and suspicion”.

Public spending is being slashed across Europe in what is being heralded as a new “age of austerity”, yet defence and homeland security spending continues to break records with every passing year. At the same time, the overwhelming majority of Europeans are safer now than they’ve ever been.

With so few people challenging the bankruptcy of the “politics of fear”, the Guardian’s Simon Jenkins has written several refreshing articles on needless defence spending and the growing power of the security lobby in the UK.

Jenkins’ arguments are no less relevant to a European Union now committed to increases in military and security expenditure in perpetuity. Here’s a snapshot of what he says:

On Homeland Security…

Events such as the G8, the Olympics and the World Cup offer massive paydays for the security industry. Charles Hill, formerly of Scotland Yard’s art and antiquities squad, was this week quoted complaining that “virtually nothing” was being spent on security for Britain’s museums “during the Olympics”, leaving the door wide open to criminals. This is despite the police budget for just two weeks of games having risen to £800m, reputedly dwarfing what even Beijing spent in 2008. The new security minister, Lady Neville-Jones, is said to be “conducting a review” of Olympic security. Might she reduce it?

There appears to be no attempt to assess value for money from an industry that has vastly expanded since 9/11. If an incident occurs, it is a reason for spending more on security. If no incident occurs, it justifies what is already being spent. Britain has little by way of a libertarian tradition to resist the onward creep of the risk-aversion agencies dealing with safety, surveillance and security, all manifestations of a rising public paranoia…

The public should be invited to reject the politics of fear, that sees life as a perpetual terror of what might happen and a perpetual investigation of what has. It should not be asked to regard every child as a victim and every adult a paedophile, a terrorist or a mass murderer. The government should stop spending stupid amounts of money on a security lobby now running amok through the public sector.

Read the full article here

On defence…

Labour lacked the guts to admit that it was crazy to plan for another Falklands war. It dared not admit that the procurement executive was fit for nothing but appeasing weapons manufacturers. No armies were massing on the continent poised to attack. No navies were plotting to throttle our islands and starve us into submission. No missiles were fizzing in bunkers across Asia with Birmingham or Leeds in their sights. As for the colonies, if it costs £45bn to protect the Falklands, Gibraltar and the Caymans, it must be the most ridiculous empire in history. It would be cheaper to give each colony independence and a billion a year.

Lobbyists reply that all defence expenditure is precautionary. You cannot predict every threat and it takes time to rearm should one emerge. That argument might have held during the cold war and, strictly up to a point, today. But at the present scale it is wholly implausible…

Whenever I ask a defence pundit against whom he is defending me, the answer is a wink and a smile: “You never know.” The world is a messy place. Better safe than sorry. It is like demanding crash barriers along every pavement in case cars go out of control, or examining school children for diseases every day. You never know. The truth is, we are now spending £45bn on heebie-jeebies.

For the past 20 years, Britain’s armed forces have encouraged foreign policy into one war after another, none of them remotely to do with the nation’s security. Asked why he was standing in an Afghan desert earlier this year, Brown had to claim absurdly that he was “making London’s streets safer”. Some wars, as in Iraq, have been a sickening waste of money and young lives. Others in Kosovo and Afghanistan honour a Nato commitment that had nothing to do with collective security. Like many armies in history, Nato has become an alliance in search of a purpose…

There are many evils that threaten the British people at present, but I cannot think of one that absolutely demands £45bn to deter it. Soldiers, sailors and air crews are no protection against terrorists, who anyway are not that much of a threat. No country is an aggressor against the British state. No country would attack us were the government to put its troops into reserve and mothball its ships, tanks and planes. Let us get real.

I am all for being defended, but at the present price I am entitled to ask against whom and how. Of all the public services that should justify themselves from ground zero, defence is the first.

Read the full article here

European Commission press release, 10 June 2010

The European Commission has initiated negotiations to sign research contracts worth EUR 324 million with 108 successful space and security research consortia. They represent strategic domains for the EU’s competitiveness and contribute to the implementation of a range of policy objectives, including the fights against terrorism and climate change, and the furthering of sustainable development, industrial renewal, economic recovery, leading to the implementation of the 2020 strategy. As a global actor and major space power, the EU relies on space and security research for strong border protection and enhanced environmental monitoring. Therefore funds also support the continued development of Europe’s Global Monitoring system for Environment and Security (GMES).

European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: “In a time of crisis, strategic investments are essential for sustainable future growth. Security is a pre-requisite for business, and space is full of endless possibilities. This type of research is at the heart of the industrial renewal that Europe needs. It demonstrates the added value of European investments in high-end technology for innovation, and as a means to dealing more effectively with the major challenges that confront us.”

In cooperation with the Research Executive Agency (REA), 108 successful project proposals have been short-listed from amongst 732 proposals received in the third of six planned calls for proposals under the Space and Security themes of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7). They comprise 68 space and 40 security research projects: EUR 114 million for the FP7 space theme, and EUR 210 million for the FP7 security theme.

In the space domain, the short-listed Earth observation projects include support for the EU’s efforts to fight climate change by monitoring deforestation in Africa, whilst in the area of space exploration, research is set to improve the accuracy and robustness of spacecraft when landing on other planets. International cooperation has increased in space research, in particular with the United States, with American Universities and Research Centres, and major public research institutions such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) participating in a total of 15 proposals. The space domain also sees a high participation rate of 20 percent of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), compared to the FP7 average of 16 percent SME participation.

In the security domain, the short-listed projects include two large demonstration projects targeted at urban mass transportation and maritime border security, alongside projects furthering exchange of information to fight organised crime, mitigation of chemical, biological radiological and nuclear threats, and actions against money laundering, and counterfeit medicines. International cooperation is also strong in security research, with 40 project proposals bringing with them a total of 550 partners from 36 countries.

Throughout FP7 (2007-2013), EUR 1.4 billion and EUR 1.35 billion have been reserved for space and security research, respectively. With the third call, the number of space research projects is set to rise to 114, and the number of security projects to reach 130.

In July 2010, the European Commission foresees the publishing of the fourth FP7 space and security calls for proposals. Reflecting the political importance given to strategic R&D investment, a positive funding trend is anticipated.


We’ll do our best to report any dodgy projects on this blog.

Spanish NGOs Nova (Peace-building and active non-violence) and Centre d’Estudis per a la Pau, Justícia i Pau (Centre for Peace Studies, Justice and Peace) have published an 84 page report on military, homeland security and armaments-based relations between Spain and Israel.

The report, written by Alejandro Pozo Marín, contains a critical section on the European Security Research Programme (ESRP).

Read the report here.

For further background on European relations with Israel in the Homeland Security sector, see European Voice: Should the EU subsidise Israeli security?