How the EU Continues to Fund Settlements in Occupied Territory

The EU recently issued guidelines blocking research and other grants to Israeli institutions with activities (archeological digs, etc.) across the Green Line. In the yesterday’s Jerusalem Post I reveal that the EU continues to actively fund settlements in occupied territory, against their own understanding of international law:

Under guidelines prepared earlier this summer, euros would not be allowed to go to Israeli entities located cross the Green Line – or to those that have any operations there. All Israeli entities applying for funding would have to submit a declaration that they do not have such operations.

Europe claims that such a move – unparalleled in its dealings with any other country – is mandated by international law. The EU does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories, and thus has an obligation to keep its money from going there. Those who celebrated the move said that Israel is finally paying the international price for its occupation.

Yet it turns out that despite the guidelines, the EU still knowingly and purposefully provides substantial direct financial assistance to settlements in occupied territory – in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus, that is. So the EU funds the occupation of an EU member state. . . .

Projects include study abroad scholarships for students at the numerous Northern Cyprus universities (imagine such funding for students at Ariel University!); developing and diversifying the private sector through grants to small and medium- sized businesses; various kinds of infrastructure improvements (telecom upgrades, traffic safety, waste disposal); community development grants, funding to upgrade “cultural heritage” sites, and so forth. They even put on a concert.

Amazingly, this information has never been discussed in the debate over the EU action. On the contrary, academic supporters of the EU measure have falsely stated that “There is no significant difference in the way the EU treats northern Cyprus and Israeli settlements in Palestine.” One gets direct and indirect aid; the other doesn’t. A significant difference.

I’ve written here previously about international reactions towards settlements elsewhere, an ongoing scholarly project of mine. The goal is not, as some have uncharitably suggested, to “change the subject,” but to understand it: to learn what international law actually provides, which obviously emerges from the general run of state practice, not any particular example of it. State practice is particularly important in contexts where relevant treaty language is quite vague. Indeed, as I’ve mentioned before, the International Committee of the Red Cross’s exhaustive guide to customary humanitarian law extensively surveys state practice regarding the anti-settlements norm, though oddly all the examples involve Israel.

The EU’s actions in funding settlements are themselves state practice that help establish international custom. With the exception of recent statements about Israel, pretty much all the evidence points to the legality of providing funds to entities of an occupation regime that operate in occupied territory.

Perhaps the action towards Israel is evidence of an attempt to change the customary norm; that remains to be seen.

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