EU admits teaming up with Israel Police allows for mass surveillance
The European Union is funding research involving the Israeli police while admitting that it can be used for espionage.
Over the past few years, a project named Roxanne has looked at how criminals can be identified using speech recognition technology and visual analysis.
The material intended for public consumption presents the EU-funded project – at a cost of $ 8 million – as benign. However, serious ethical issues were raised when it was discussed behind closed doors.
Internal EU documents obtained under freedom of information rules confirm that there is a risk that Roxanne’s findings could be used for mass surveillance.
An “ethics review” on the project carried out in 2020 refers to plans under which personal data will be shared between the EU and Israel. Data collected during the project will incorporate “special categories” such as details on genetic traits, “health, sexual lifestyle, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs” of individuals, according to this article (see below).
The questions surrounding it have become even more relevant since the completion of the “ethics review”. Careful investigations by human rights groups have proven last year that Israeli spyware Pegasus is being used more widely than previously known to monitor activists and journalists in various countries.
The Israel Police and their Ministry of Public Security are among the participants in Roxanne.
A condition of their involvement is that all data they export to the EU is collected legally.
Providing assurances of legal behavior is apparently considered sufficient – for the purposes of EU “ethical checks” – to demonstrate that privacy issues are being treated seriously.
In the real world, Israeli insurance has no value.
The Israel Police are seeking new powers that would allow greater surveillance without the need for warrants. A key proposition is that cameras in public places could be used to match people’s faces with details found in police databases.
Such a recommendation should in itself disqualify the Israeli police from Roxanne, who pretends to respect the principle of “conscience of privacy”.
There are, of course, many other reasons why the Israel Police should not benefit from EU science grants.
One of the main reasons is that the Israel Police are institutionally racist.
A recent Human Rights Watch report on Lydd, a town in Israel also known as Lod, contains a vivid example of police racism.
The report describes how police fired tear gas and stun grenades during a protest by Palestinian citizens of Israel in Lydd last May. Yet in some cases, when Jewish extremists attacked Palestinians in the same town that month, police stayed behind or failed to protect Palestinians from harm.
Both the Israel Police and the Ministry of Public Security are headquartered in East Jerusalem, which has been under military occupation since 1967.
Doing business with them should, by definition, be forbidden for the European Union, which has nominally pledged to avoid any action that would legitimize the capture and colonization of East Jerusalem.
There are strong indications that Israel has not been entirely forthright with the administrators in Brussels.
The Roxanne Project documents give an address inside Israel as the official contact for the Ministry of Public Security. If Brussels officials consulted the ministry’s website, they would learn that its main offices are in reality rue Clermont-Ganneau in East Jerusalem.
I sent an email to the European Commission, which manages Horizon 2020, asking if it will take any action regarding the operations of the Israeli Ministry of Public Security in East Jerusalem.
A spokesperson for the European Commission asserted that research projects undergo “rigorous ethics review” and that “no allegations of abuse” of Horizon 2020 grants “have been substantiated until now. ‘now”.
I followed up on this claim by asking whether the European Commission disputes the claim that Israel’s Ministry of Public Security appears to have been dishonest about how its headquarters are located in East Jerusalem. The spokesperson replied that “this is not a question for the Commission”.
When I expressed my perplexity at this answer – arguing that the question was obviously relevant because the EU has long expressed its view on the status of Jerusalem – the spokesperson admitted that I was right. The spokesperson, however, dodged the question by simply citing the EU guidelines drawn up in 2013.
These directives stipulate that “Israeli entities” receiving EU grants “must have their place of establishment within the borders of pre-1967 Israel”.
âI have nothing to add,â the spokesperson said.
The involvement of the Israel Police and the Ministry of Public Security in Roxanne and another EU-funded project called Law-Train sparked protests from the Palestinian solidarity movement.
More protest is needed. The Israel Police and its Ministry of Public Security have been admitted to at least eight other projects under Horizon 2020, the EU’s current research fund.
Among them, two border surveillance initiatives: Andromeda and SafeShore. As border surveillance has become synonymous with cruelty to refugees, questions must be asked about the precise role played here by Israel’s racist police.
One particularly troubling aspect of all this cooperation is that the bragging rights of the Israel Police are apparently taken at face value.
An EU-funded project called Shuttle is creating a database on blood, bullet residues, hair and saliva. The Israeli police are participating and “will bring their experience as a forensic expert [and] technology leader, âaccording to the Shuttle website.
There is no recognition that Israel is in fact an expert in oppression.
By providing fellowships to the Israeli police, the EU is rewarding a force that detains Palestinian children, terrifies entire families by invading their homes and opens fire on worshipers in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque.
The hypocrisy of the EU seems limitless.
Shortly before Hisham Abu Hawash ended his hunger strike earlier this week, EU diplomats said they were “seriously concerned” about his health.
Diplomats weren’t worried enough to demand that the EU stop cooperating with Israel’s Ministry of Public Security – the government department overseeing prisons, where Abu Hawash and many other Palestinians are held without charge or trial.
In December, an agreement was signed for Israel to benefit from the next EU research fund. Called Horizon Europe, the fund has an overall budget of around $ 110 billion.
As might be expected, the EU promoted the new deal by celebrating how its cooperation with Israel has supposedly brought great advances in medicine and environmental protection. Equally predictably, there was no mention that cooperation is a cash cow for Israel’s racist police.