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EU and Israel could share personal data of Palestinians under occupation

A draft data-sharing agreement between Israel and the EU would lead to the EU police mission to Palestine acting as “a sort of informant” for Israel, says Al-Haq.

Jerusalem24 – Yara Alnazer – A new data-sharing agreement between Israel and the European Union’s law enforcement agency Europol which could include data of Palestinians under occupation would cause the agency to become an “informant or start to act as intelligence services”, according to Shawan Jabarin, Director General of Al-Haq.

Jabarin tells Jerusalem24 that the draft agreement “transcends the limits of any political relation [between Israel and the EU] in the political and legal sense.”

“This brings into question the role of the European Union and its institutions, specifically the police institution, the political institution, and its cooperation with the occupying state,” says Jabarin.

Statewatch, a UK-based charity monitoring civil liberties in Europe, speculates that the implementation of any potential agreement would fall to incoming National Security Minister and far-right extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir – a post he has just been appointed to with expanded powers – in the event a final agreement is reached.

“Inconsistent with international law”

Israeli Ambassador to the EU, Haim Regev, met his European counterpart on 14 September to fine-tune a draft agreement on data-sharing between the Israeli government and Europol which has been in the works for several years.

The agreement would allow “the exchange of personal data between the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) and the authorities of Israel responsible for fighting serious crime and terrorism,” with personal data defined as including – but not limited to – “name, identification number, location data or an online identifier or to one or more factors specified to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that person.”

Although a similar agreement was concluded in 2018, the current draft potentially includes access to the personal data of anyone in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem – both Israeli settlers and Palestinians under occupation. Europol would be meant to pre-authorize any use Israel makes of such data, but Israel would retain the right to bypass consent in case of “emergency”.

The current draft agreement “is inconsistent with international law,” says Jabarin, “and is also inconsistent with statements and stance of the EU which has not yet recognized Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem or recognized the legitimacy of the illegal settlements.”

As per a 2014 agreement allowing Israel to participate in the EU’s research funding program – the first non-EU country to be invited to do so – no bilateral agreements shall apply “to the geographic areas that came under the administration of the State of Israel after 5 June 1967.”

“Act as a sort of informant”

Jabarin points out that as the occupying power, Israel “has no legal sovereignty” over the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem.

“When the EU engages with the occupying power as a sovereign body and negotiates agreements pertaining to the occupied territories concerning security and other non-security data information, this implies, politically, that Israel is the sovereign over the occupied territories,” explains Jabarin.

He also raises the question of whether an occupying power “which commits war crimes and crimes against humanity” can be trusted to offer “correct and accurate information” about the people under occupation, and suggests the EU cooperate with local organizations instead.

Jabarin is also concerned that in light of such a data-exchange “the European police mission to Palestine would become a sort of an informant or start to act as an intelligence service, working based on arbitrary rules,” rather than functioning in an auxiliary capacity. Since 2006, the EU has run a police mission to Palestine (EUPOL COPPS), by which they provide support to the Palestinian Police to build its technical capacity.

One of Lapid’s goals

Israeli Ambassador to the EU Haim Regev celebrated on his twitter account the September meeting, calling the agreement a “milestone in strengthening the cooperation between Israel and the EU”.

According to the Jerusalem Post, increasing cooperation with the EU had been one “one of the targets set by Prime Minister Yair Lapid when the outgoing government was formed last year”.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki criticized the draft and described it as an “attack on international law” and “beyond outrageous”. Al-Maliki also criticized EC President Ursula von der Leyen for “accepting to negotiate under such parameters [in] flagrant violation of international law”, and stated that her actions imply “international complicity”.

No consensus

Despite the fact that Israeli media reported in September that the Israeli Police had “concluded” the agreement, with outgoing Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev saying it was “important to finalize the drawn-out negotiations” as his tenure comes to an end, the current text is only a draft and has not been ratified.

13 countries within the EU are opposed to the agreement in its current form.

Given that the EU adopts its decisions by consensus and not by majority, the chances of the current draft being approved are low. However, “the fact that this clause is already prepared in this direction, is a scandal for the European Commission,” says Jabarin.

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