By Elham Asaad Buaras
Academics from across Europe have written to EU Foreign Policy Chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, voicing their dismay at reports that the EU is to dilute its guidelines on Israeli eligibility for EU funding to the point where they would become worthless.
In the letter issued on November 5 five Fellows of the Royal Society as well as a member of the French Académie des Sciences expressed their disappointment at the news that Israeli grant applicants will no longer need to guarantee that “the activities for which they seek funds will not take place, in whole or in part, in the Occupied Territories.”
Changes to the guidelines will instead put the onus to identify violations on the EU. “Another change means that any European funds recipient needs only to have its HQ registered at an Israeli postcode to be eligible, even if the bulk of its activities are in the Occupied Territories.”
The academics urge Ashton “to maintain the integrity of the Guidelines, as the first modest step in demonstrating to the Israeli government that their actions have consequences.” It is signed by 28 leading academics from 6 EU countries.
This is not the first time Ashton has been asked not to weaken the principle embodied in the guidelines. In September, 800 academics signed a letter from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) and the Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine (AURDIP) on the eve of negotiations between the EU and Israel on new EU Guidelines concerning the eligibility for funding of Israeli entities that may be operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
In a statement to The Muslim News BRICUP explained the purpose of the guidelines is to guarantee that “EU’s own institutions respect the obligation not to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip as well as the Syrian Golan Heights. ”
Prof Ivar Ekeland of AURDIP said, “This would let companies like Ahava off the hook completely. Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories are based in an illegal West Bank settlement and yet they have participated in and even co-ordinated a number of EU-funded projects worth millions of Euros. Since they have their HQ in Israel, they would still be allowed to continue such activities under this weakening of the guidelines.”
Coordinator in Europe for the Palestinian Boycott National Committee, Michael Deas, said that the guidelines issued in July “….show that grassroots civil society pressure is forcing the European Union to acknowledge its legal responsibility to not recognize Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid against the Palestinian people and to end some aspects of its deep complicity in maintaining this illegal and criminal system.”
Despite the clear support among European academics for the EU guidelines, press reports in Israel indicate that the EU is on the point of conceding to Israel’s major demands. In particular, Israeli organisations will not be required to sign a declaration which endorses the internationally recognised significance of the Green Line; and to be eligible to apply for EU finding, Israeli organisations operating in the Occupied Territories need only maintain ‘headquarters’ with an Israeli post code address