Instead of signing a new agreement with Israeli apartheid, the EU would do better to support Palestinian civil society

_ Mr. Josep Borrell Fontelles High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice-President of the European Commission Ms. Mariya Gabriel European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture,….

_ Mr. Josep Borrell Fontelles
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice-President of the European Commission

Ms. Mariya Gabriel
European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth

The European Commission and Israel have finalized an agreement for Israel’s accession to the EU’s Horizon Research & Development programme on October 9, 2021. The signing of the agreement is expected to take place on December 9.

This event will take place at the end of a year that will go down in history as the year of Israeli apartheid. It began on January 12 with the publication of B’Tselem’s report “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.” Three months later, on April 27, Human Rights Watch drove the point home by publishing its report “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution.” These reports were preceded by other reports from the United Nations (ECSWA and the Human Rights Council) and the Israeli and Palestinian NGOs Yesh Din and Adalah, which all establish that Israel is an apartheid-practicing state. However apartheid is a crime. It has been internationally recognised as such since November 30, 1973, when the UN General Assembly adopted the “International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.”  In the Rome Statute of 2002 which established the international criminal court, apartheid figures specifically on the list of crimes against humanity. Nevertheless, the European Commission has decided to continue and strengthen its collaboration with Israel through a new agreement on the Horizon Europe program.

The signing of this agreement comes at a time when Israel has intensified its attacks on Palestinian civil society. On October 19, the Israeli government placed six Palestinian human rights NGOs on a list of ‘terrorist organizations’. These NGOs are Al-Haq, Addameer, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), the Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. To call such NGOs terrorists is absolute nonsense. These associations are recognized for their professionalism and competence in the field of human rights through research, exchange, advocacy and training activities. Their work frequently inspires the work of United Nations experts and large international NGOs, and are widely recognized for their impartiality: for example, Al-Haq received the French Republic’s Human Rights Prize in 2018, along with the Israeli organization B’Tselem. The only fault of these six organizations is that they document human rights violations committed by the Israeli army and Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories, which could be used to support prosecutions before the International Criminal Court. On November 3 Israel took an alarming additional step:  the Israeli military commander signed an order that outlaws the six Palestinian civil society organizations in the West Bank.

The signing of the agreement also comes at a time when Israel has stepped up its crackdown on its own citizens who challenge or even simply criticize its colonial and apartheid policies. The latest victim of this repression is Professor Oded Goldreich from the Weizmann Institute of Science. On November 18, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton affirmed her predecessor’s decision to withhold the prestigious Israel Prize from Prof. Goldreich because he signed a letter calling on the European Union to cease cooperating with Ariel University, located in an Israeli settlement. This letter referred to the EU legislation and its implementing rules to “ensure the respect of positions and commitments in conformity with international law on the non-recognition by the EU of Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967.”

According to Haaretz, the israeli Education Minister said “I cannot award the Israel Prize for academic achievements, impressive as they are, [to someone] who calls for boycotting academic institutions in Israel.” She was referring to Ariel University, whose presence in a settlement is a violation of international law and is incompatible with the position of the EU, which does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Palestinian territories. This speaks volumes about the Israeli authorities’ compliance with European regulations.

In this worrying context, we urge you to suspend the signature of the agreement for the association of Israel to Horizon Europe, and to continue the political, diplomatic, financial and technical support by the European authorities for the six Palestinian civil society organizations engaged in the defense of human rights.

Ivar Ekeland,

President of the French Association of Academics for the Respect of International Law in Palestine (AURDIP)

Former President, the University of Paris-Dauphine