Monday, October 07, 2013

The UK’s Dirty Secrets: Palestine and The Arms Trade

“Israel’s largest comparative advantage is in military products, because these demand advanced technology on one hand and military experience on the other…no country in the world is as dependent on arms sales as Israel. The Jaffa orange is fast being edged out of the public consciousness by the Uzi submachine gun as Israel’s major export. Israel is the largest per capita arms exporter in the world”
- Moshe Arens, former Israeli Defence Minister [1] (since this was published, Sweden has overtaken Israel as largest per-capita arms exporter) [2]
Picture of Israeli Pavilion 2009.
Israel plans a very large presence at the arms fair, with a national pavilion to exhibit its ‘battle-tested’ weaponry.
Since the ethnic cleansing started in 1948, when 800,000 Palestinians were forcibly removed from their homes, Israel has been at war with its indigenous population. The war continues today, with the bombing of Gaza, destroying of Bedouin villages and detaining of thousands of Palestinians without trial. In September, Israeli arms companies will be coming to London to turn their repression into profits.
Israel today would struggle to survive without the arms trade. Arms companies bring in $3.5 billion [Targeting Israeli Apartheid, p138] and help finance Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights (e.g. Nistec in the Katzrin settlement, Elbit Systems in the Bnei Yehuda settlement).
Israel uses the Occupied Territories as a testing lab for new weaponry. Israeli arms companies benefit from the occupation by achieving credibility for their products. Every military operation acts as an advertisement for the weapons used.
One growing link is in the area of unmanned aerial vehicles, which Israel uses to patrol and attack the  besieged Gaza Strip. Israel is the world’s largest exporter of drones and drone technology [4]. Both Harfang (used by France) and Watchkeeper (used by the US and soon the UK) drones are based on Israeli prototypes used in Gaza (Harfang is based on the Heron drone manufactured by Israeli Aerospace Industries, and Watchkeeper is based on the Elbit Hermes 450.)
For Israel, arms trading is on the up: exports rose 20% in 2012 despite the economic crisis, and they are looking to increase exports to $10 billion annually in the next few years. [5]
When it comes to words, the UK is often happy to denounce Israeli aggression, but when it comes to action it falls down. Despite Israel’s numerous violations of UN resolutions, the UK has been happy to sellcomponents for the Apache attack helicopters and F16s used to bomb Gaza, as well as Israel’s tanks [6]. In 2010, the UK government granted licences to sell £23.7 million worth of arms to Israel – and this figure doesn’t include a lot that’s routed through the USA (which sold $7.5 billion of weapons to Israel in 2011). [Federation of American Scientists] CAAT’s map of the arms tradeshows which companies have supplied weapons to Israel.
On top of this, the UK spends millions of pounds each year on Israeli weapons. Israeli arms company Elbit has been awarded a £44.5 million contract to supply drones for UK use in Afghanistan [8].
Israeli arms are promoted worldwide by the Israeli government department SIBAT, notably at the biannual DSEi arms fair in London.
Israel’s links with the DSEi arms fair go way back. Israel Military Industries Ltd was caught selling cluster bombs in 2003 at the fair, even after organisers banned their sale [9].
A sick truth is that Israel uses its constant ethnic cleansing as a sales tactic. Israeli companies that sell weapons at DSEi use phrases like “battle-tested” to symbolise their use against Palestinian civilians [e.g. F-16s used in Gaza, December 2008].
Resistance to Israeli militarism comes from all sides: conscientious objectors in Israel, hunger strikers in Palestine fighting for dignity, unions across the world offering solidarity with the Palestinian struggle…  and you can do your part from the UK.
At an arms fair in France in 2012, Israel’s two largest arms companies Elbit and IAI pulled out following protests outside the arms fair. [11]
The DSEi arms fair is happening again in the ExCeL centre (Docklands in London) in September 2013. The arms fair allows buyers and sellers to come together, network and make deals. Many of the biggest Israeli arms companies – Elbit Systems, IAI and Rafael – are likely to be there, selling weapons and profiting from the oppression of thousands of Palestinians.
With your help, we could stop it. Direct action gets the goods – it stopped Australia’s arms fair in 2008, and made the National Gallery divest from arms companies in 2012. Together, we can make it happen.

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