The Portuguese government has withdrawn from a joint European Union-funded project with the Israeli Ministry of Public Security, the Israeli National Police and Israel’s Bar Ilan university.
The announcement by the Ministry of Justice comes after a campaign by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists, opposition politicians, and other civil society groups.
The LAW TRAIN project, aimed at unifying police interrogation methodologies, generated controversy because of opposition to Israel’s participation in the EU’s Horizon 2020 research framework and the documented human rights abuses perpetrated by the Israeli entities taking part.
According to a statement by the BDS Movement, the campaign was led by “an unprecedented Portuguese coalition of solidarity groups, human rights organisations, and anti-racism campaigners as well as the association representing the officers of the country’s 1974 revolution.”
The Movimento pelos Direitos do Povo Palestino e Pela Paz no Medio Oriente (MPP), initiator of the of civil society coalition against the project, said: “We congratulate the decision of the Ministry of Justice to put an end to the participation of the Portuguese Police in the LAW TRAIN project.”
“The withdrawal of the Portuguese government from the project is a victory of all the forces that in Palestine, in Portugal and in Europe called for an end to this project of cooperation with Israel’s repressive apparatus.”
Responding to the news, Jamal Juma’ coordinator of Stop the Wall, a member organisation of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), said the government’s decision “gives hope to our people and sends a strong message to Israel that there is no business as usual for as long as it continues military aggression against Gaza and repression in the West Bank.”
Riya Hassan, European coordinator for the BNC, commented: “This latest victory is another sign that European governments are waking up to the problematic of having Israel as a partner in projects that risk undermining basic freedoms, democracy and human rights.”
She added: “There is still a long way to go in order to end Europe’s complicity with Israeli apartheid. LAW TRAIN itself continues with the remaining participants and is only one of many military and security projects funded by the EU Commission with taxpayers’ money.”