Israeli officials are brimming over with pride. The country’s military exports are recovering very well as, despite “intense international challenges and competition,” Tel Aviv has managed to rake in $7.2 billion (Dh26.4 billion) in so-called defence contracts last year alone.
The Export & Defense Cooperation Division of Israel’s Defence Ministry, known as SIBAT, celebrated the news with a big media fanfare. For Israel, 2019 has been a weapons’ sale bonanza.
“Israeli companies exported radars and electronic warfare systems (17 per cent), missiles, rockets and air defence systems (15 per cent), manned aircraft and avionics (13 per cent), observation and optronics (12 per cent), weapon stations and launchers (10 per cent), drone systems and UAVs (8 per cent), intelligence, information and cyber systems (7 per cent) ..,” the Israeli Jerusalem Post reported on June 22. The list goes on.
Israel’s arms exporters are particularly pleased that they are, somewhat, recovering from the disappointing performance of their killing technology since 2017, when the country’s military exports peaked at $9.36 billion.
A major selling point for Israel’s missiles, rockets, and drones is the fact that they are ‘combat-proven’ or ‘field-tested’. In fact, this is not a marketing gimmick. Thousands of Palestinians were killed in Israel’s massive wars on Gaza, since the so-called ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in 2008-09, for Israel to earn that ominous trademark.
Yet, there is another side to Israel’s ‘security exports’. While Israeli officials at SIBAT are raising their champagne glasses to celebrate the happy occasion, millions of innocent people around the world are paying the price for Israel’s death technology. Israel has exported to many countries around the world — mainly in North America, Europe, and Asia — military hardware.
US and Israel rapport
For example, while an urgent conversation is already under way in American cities regarding the need to reimagine public safety, or even to defund the police altogether, little is being said about the American elites’ fascination with the ‘Israeli example’ in its dealing with war-stricken Gaza and the occupied West Bank. “The Israeli example (could serve as) a possible basis for arguing ... that ‘torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm’,” the CIA General Counsel report of September 2001 read, as quoted by Slate magazine.
It is critical that we do not reduce our understanding of this troubling rapport between the US and Israel to military hardware and intelligence sharing. The American infatuation with Israel is essentially an intellectual one, as the US began viewing itself as inferior to Israel in terms of the latter’s supposed ability to navigate between sustaining its own democracy while successfully defeating Palestinian and Arab ‘terrorism’.
The aptly named ‘Palestinian Chair’, a staple American torture technique, is perhaps the most obvious of this sinister linkage. Writing in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, in 2016, Rachel Stroumsa argued that the ‘Palestinian Chair’ is “but one of many examples of ties and seepages between the security practices of Israel and America,” adding that “the CIA explicitly justified its use of torture in depositions to the Senate Intelligence Committee by citing High Court of Justice rulings.”
The political, military, and intelligence marriage between the US and Israel in Iraq quickly spread to include the US global ‘war on terror’, where Israeli weapon manufacturers cater to every American need, playing on the country’s growing sense of insecurity, offering products that range from airport security, the building of watchtowers, the erection of walls and fences, to spying and surveillance technology.
Of course, the US is not the only client, as many European countries have also jumped on board, signing lucrative contracts with Israeli companies in the name of fighting terrorism, or keeping desperate refugees at bay.
Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest military company, made a fortune from building surveillance towers and sensors, in addition to many other products, across the US-Mexico border — and elsewhere. For Elbit, too, the tag ‘combat-proven’ demonstrates its potency as a major selling point.
The fact that thousands of American police officers have been trained by Israelis, thus the burgeoning of violent militarylike tactics used against ordinary Americans, is only one link in a long chain of ‘deadly exchanges’ between the US and Israel, and between the latter and many countries around the world.
Almost immediately after the September 11 attacks, “the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs have paid for police chiefs, assistant chiefs and captains to train in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” Amnesty International said in a recent report.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg, for the Israeli army manual, which holds little respect for internationally-recognised rules of conduct, infiltrated numerous police departments across the US. Even the typical look of the American police officers began changing to resemble that of combat soldiers in full gear.
SIBAT is keen to reclaim an even higher position in the world’s top ten military exporters. For this to happen, more wars would be necessary, for killing Palestinians has become Israel’s greatest selling point. But with the rising exports of Israeli weapons, the identity of the victims will no longer be confined to Palestinians in the West Bank or besieged Gaza, but will spread to the marginalised and oppressed classes all over the world.
—Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net
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