EU support for Israel makes it complicit in genocide | Opinion

Nine months into Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza, which has killed more than 38,000 Palestinians, injured more than 86,000, and displaced more than 1.9 million, European leaders have issued frequent condemnations but done little to stop the war. To make matters worse, many European countries continue to support Israel economically and militarily.

It is easy to discount European support, as the United States is considered the largest backer of Israel’s military, but a closer look at the extent of European financial and military support for Israel reveals the EU’s complicity in the ongoing massacres in Gaza and various atrocities in the occupied West Bank.

Supplying weapons used in genocide

The EU is Israel’s second-largest arms supplier after the U.S. Between 2018 and 2022, EU member states sold weapons worth 1.76 billion euros ($1.9 billion) to Israel, according to figures from the European External Action Service’s COARM database.

Weapons continue to flow from EU countries to Israel even after the International Court of Justice issued a provisional ruling in January that Israeli forces may be committing genocide. The EU has mechanisms in place to enforce an arms embargo but has refused to apply it to Israel, and member states have implemented measures slowly, under pressure from civil society and with little political will, falling far short of the required standards.

Some EU countries, including Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the Wallonia region of Belgium, announced they would halt arms transfers to Israel, but some of these statements did not translate into concrete action in a timely manner, or only resulted in temporary or partial suspensions of arms transfers, short of a full arms embargo on Israel.

According to SIPRI, Germany is by far the largest European supplier, supplying 30% of weapons to Israel between 2019 and 2023. Exports increased tenfold last year, from 32.3 million euros ($35 million) to 326.5 million euros ($354 million), with the majority of licenses granted after Oct. 7.

Other large European suppliers to Israel between 2018 and 2022 were Romania, which issued export licenses worth €314.9 million, Italy with €90.3 million ($98 million), the Czech Republic with €81.55 million ($88.3 million), and Spain with €62.9 million ($68.1 million), according to EU data. The EU has not yet released arms transfer data for 2023.

In addition to supplying EU arms directly to Israel, EU arms are often exported to Israel indirectly via the United States. Arms exports are subject to end-user contracts, but the United States refuses to comply with these provisions and EU countries do not enforce them. This makes it impossible to fully track the extent to which EU arms and parts exported to the United States are used in weapons systems ultimately shipped to Israel.

Yet known military exports from the EU to Israel may have a direct bearing on the carnage in Gaza. Israeli Merkava tanks, which have been in operation in Gaza since the ground invasion began in late October, use engine parts manufactured by Germany’s MTU (a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce), while the Sa’ar corvette, a warship built by Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, operates in the waters surrounding the besieged Gaza Strip.

British company BAE Systems, together with German company Rheinmetall, manufactures the M109 self-propelled howitzers that are being used to bombard populated areas of Gaza. Amnesty International has found evidence that these artillery weapons also use white phosphorus munitions, which can burn skin down to the bone and cause organ failure. International law restricts their use in civilian areas.

The US-made F-35 fighter jets used to carpet bomb Gaza rely on European parts, with at least 25% of spare parts exported directly from Europe to Israel – only the Netherlands has imposed restrictions on this, following a lawsuit brought by private groups (which was won on appeal).

European public funds Israeli arms

Amid a growing international consensus that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, European countries are not only exporting weapons to Israel, but also spending public money to support the arms manufacturers that produce them.

A new investigation by the Transnational Institute and Stop Wappenhandel has revealed that 426 million euros ($461.7 million) of European taxpayers’ money is currently funding companies supplying arms to Israel.

The German company Rheinmetall, which exports tank shells to Israel, has received more than 169 million euros ($183 million), while the Finnish-Norwegian company Namo, which exports shoulder-fired “bunker buster” rocket artillery to Israel, has received more than 123 million euros ($133 million). Other beneficiaries include Leonardo, ThyssenKrupp, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, and Renk.

European public funds also go towards security and defence projects that benefit Israel’s military. Since 2008, 84 Israeli entities have received a total of 69.39 million euros ($75 million) from 132 security projects. The Ministry of National Security is the largest participant in EU-funded security projects, despite systematically violating Palestinian human rights for decades.

Moreover, much of the knowledge production that has gone into developing Israel’s digital warfare tools currently deployed in Gaza has likely been honed and perfected at universities benefiting from European research funding.

Since Oct. 7, the EU has funded 130 research projects involving Israeli entities to the tune of 126 million euros ($136.5 million). Two of these projects have provided a total of 640,000 euros ($693,000) to arms company Israel Aerospace Industries. In the years leading up to Oct. 7, 2023, Israeli entities have received 503 million euros ($545 million) under Horizon Europe (2021-2023).

Moreover, EU countries have for decades pumped taxpayer money into Israeli arms and supported the country’s military-industrial complex: Israel is one of the world’s top 10 arms exporters, with around 25 percent of its defense exports going to European countries.

Israeli companies regularly market their products as “combat tested,” a strategy that EU countries justify when doing business with Israeli companies. Drones are by far the most popular product, and Frontex, the EU’s border security agency, leases drones from Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for surveillance flights over the Mediterranean.

EU countries have been negotiating with Israeli arms companies since October 7. France tried to ban Israeli companies from the Eurosatory arms fair, but the initial ruling was overturned by a Paris court and Israeli companies were allowed to participate.

The fact that European public funds are flowing to arms companies and other entities involved in the Israeli attack on Gaza means that the EU is essentially funding genocide.

For all its talk about human rights and the rule of law, the EU has failed to defend either against Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza, shattering its credibility and legitimacy. It is not too late to repair some of the damage by imposing an arms embargo on Israel and blocking the flow of US weapons through Europe to genocidal regimes. Failure to do so could make the EU and its member states complicit in genocide, especially given the ICJ’s provisional ruling on the validity of genocide.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect NDMT’s editorial policy.

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