— Written by Shahaf Weisbein for the 50 Years of Exporting report in Summer 2017.
The Israeli military Industry is one of the world’s largest, and relative to its GDP the world’s largest. Israel is a security empire, exporting and coordinating deals in arms, technology, and military training to almost 130 countries around the world, without serious supervision from the public or authorities. Some of the exports go to countries Israel does not have diplomatic relation with, and some are in violation of international conventions or UN arms embargos.
One of the main reasons for the success of the Israeli industry, whose annual exports total over US $7 billion, is marketing the products of what is referred to as “asymmetrical warfare,” in which regular militaries fight against irregular guerilla resistance (and terror.) This type of warfare also sees regular militaries face noncombatant populations, in our case an occupied population, in other cases these are often poor communities or national minorities. The same warfare Israel perfected in years of occupying the Palestinian territories and controlling the civilian population is highly relevant for dictatorships, military regimes, armies fighting against civilian resistance, and the international War on Terror (especially “Islamic terror”). The Israeli military industries, private and government-owned alike, have played a crucial role in arming Apartheid South Africa, India in the Kargil War, the Argentinian Junta, Serbia in the Yugoslavia wars, Rwanda’s genocide, and the genocide in South Sudan today. Israel has been involved in countless armed conflicts around the world in the last 50 years.
During the 2014 war on Gaza, in which over 2,000 Palestinians were killed, the companies marketed their products in Israeli and international media under the title “battle proven.” These included the Hermes 900 UAV, first used during that war, as well as “Hatzav” tank shells, small armored vehicles, 550- MPR bombs, the Iron Dome air defense system, and more. War years are years of increasing profits for the Israeli military industries, which routinely sign deals before the fighting is over. Systems for intelligence gathering, cyberwarfare, spying and monitoring by race, as well as checkpoints, separation walls and fences, riot control equipment, are all routinely marketed with the “battle proven” seal. Thousands of law enforcement representatives from all over the world visit Israel every year to learn tactics from local private companies and law enforcement agencies. Their combat expertise is considered to be of high quality and Israel is considered the “Harvard of Anti-Terror,” as a Washington D.C Police Chief once said.
The companies of the Israeli military industry receive substantial tax benefits from the government, and help, support and marketing sponsorships from the ministry of defense. Many times, it is hard to distinguish the private companies from the public servants, when reserve generals find a place in the private companies and sometimes go back and forth between public service and private gain. These factors have a serious impact on the blurred lines between the civil and the military in our society. When a big percentage of the families in Israel profit from war and blood, what values will our society reward?
Shahaf Weisbein is the coordinator of Hamushim, Coalition of Women for Peace.