How Israel’s weapons industry thrives on ever-greater conflict

Fascinating and depressing (via 972 magazine) about the radically different view of Israel in the general public globally (never been worse due to racism and occupation against Palestinians) and the elites who see endless financial opportunity. Vulture capitalism brought to you by Zionism:

In his new documentary, ”˜The Lab,’ Yotam Feldman explores how Israel’s weapons industries interact with the country’s politics, economy and military decision-making. Israeli weapons, military technology and know-how become more valuable because they have been field-tested in its wars and combat against Palestinians and neighboring countries. A conversation with Yotam Feldman about his film, arms dealers and Israel’s war economy.

Perhaps we should start with the question of Israel’s international standing. In recent years it is often termed as “growing global isolation.” This isolation may diminish at times, but there is a wall-to-wall consensus about Israel becoming less popular with every war and military operation. You say that in fact the opposite is true. In your film, one can see officers from armies the world over coming to Israel to purchase arms – from Europe, India, Latin America, and of course – the U.S. So is this talk of criticism and isolation a show in which everyone partakes? Or is this criticism another force that we need to take into account?

I think that a view of Israel as an unrestrained savage that resides in a brutal neighborhood and therefore has to exercise excessive/immense albeit necessary force, has taken hold. It follows that this view is usually condescending-forgiving. More importantly, I believe that Israel’s security marketing succeeds where Israeli Hasbara [advocacy] is less fruitful. Many people fail to make the connection between Israel’s hi-tech weapons and the unrestrained military force about which one can read in reports by human rights NGOs. People think of these as two disparate phenomena merely existing in spatial and temporal proximity. If you read the Goldstone Report about the bombing of the ceremony at the police academy in Gaza on the first day of Cast Lead, and then read a marketing brochure of Rafael about the operational experiment involving “Spike 4”³ (the missile used by Israel in that incident), some effort is required in order for you to realize that these are different accounts of one historical event. The same goes for the drones used for assassinations in Gaza. On the other hand, It is possible that the Europeans understand all this and simply don’t care.

In the previous decade, following operation Cast Lead, there was a feeling that this cannot go on, that in this constellation, Israel would have to go to a third, fourth, fifth and sixth Gaza war, and perhaps on other fronts as well – but also that it cannot really be involved in so many wars.

After the disengagement (from Gaza) a process noticed only by a few outside the army occurred. War has stopped being an extraordinary, unexpected and dramatic event in the life of the nation, and has become a periodic activity which is a part of that national life. Thus, at any given time, Israel is either in the midst of a Gaza war or awaiting the next one. Between the 2005 disengagement and “Cast Lead,” we had “Summer Rains”, “Hot Winter” and several other Israeli military operations in Gaza. Yoav Galant, the commander of the southern front between the disengagement and Cast Lead, who can be seen in the film, played a major role in the formulation of this doctrine. He employed the metaphor of a lawn mower to describe it: war as routine, periodic maintenance beyond the borders.

One of the contributing factors has been the massive use of shielded or automatic unmanned vehicles, which allows for wars in which there is no proportion between the risk taken by one side and the risk incurred by the other. This has reshuffled all the moral, political and legal categories which had been applied to warfare. In the past, all these campaigns were based on the assumption that this is a conflict in which two parties accept the possibility of killing or dying, but here, in almost all cases, one party kills and the other dies. The military industries, which develop products for conflicts of the Gazan type, and coax the Israeli army to purchase them, are playing a pivotal role here. The result is disturbing, because it seems to me that the war in Gaza has become inherent to the Israeli political system, possibly a part of our system of government. This was particularly noticeable during operation Pillar of Defense which took place during the election campaign, but support for it unified all the contenders for power.

Do you think that the testing of weapons systems played a part in, say, Ehud Barak’s calculations during the recent wars in Gaza?

It’s hard to rule this out. This connection is much more immediate than the one made by General Dan Halutz between the second Lebanon War and his personal portfolio. There are very close ties between the military industries, on one hand, and the army and the political system on the other. The most profitable military company is Elbit, owned by Mickey Federman, one of Ehud Barak’s confidants and a key player in his electoral campaigns. This company specializes in advanced means of asymmetric warfare, exactly the type of wars conducted by Barak in Gaza in recent years. There are other such personal ties. Furthermore, this is a national economic interest. The Defense Ministry plays a double role as the authority overseeing the military system and a sales promoter for the Israeli military industry abroad. I think it’s inhumane to demand that Barak separate the two issues. I am not saying that they embark on military campaigns in Gaza in order to test systems and make money, but it does play a part.

And in the lower echelons, Israeli military industries invest a great deal of effort in order to make IDF officers purchase their products, and use them to boost their export potential. They do so also by hiring retired senior officers en-masse, as sales promoters and project managers vis-a-vis their former colleagues in the IDF. A prominent case is Elbit and General (Ret.) Yiftach Ron-Tal.

This approach bears fruit. A key player in the military industries told me that the operational testing in Gaza of Elbit’s BMS (Battle Management System – a special internet-like system for ground forces), a huge project worth $1 billion, has allowed Elbit to raise its price in a deal signed a year later with Australia. The same goes for Rafael. The company stated openly that it would capitalize on the escalation that preceded operation Pillar of Defense – with the first operational use of Iron Dome – to raise around half a billion shekels (rougly $135 million) through the issuance of bonds. A salesman for the IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) told me that assassinations and operations in Gaza bring about an increase of tens of percentage points in company sales.