The leading Swedish daily newspaper, Aftonbladet, has published a fascinating story about the Nakba and my new book, The Palestine Laboratory. Written by Shora Esmailian, the article assesses the legacy of the Nakba and how Israel now uses the weapons of war to promote itself around the world.
Here’s the PDF: Shora Esmailian om Nakba, 75 år
The English translation (via Google Translate):
The violence against Palestine breeds the arms trade
Today it has been 75 years since the Nakba – the great catastrophe of the Palestinians
Remember the Palestinian General Strike of 1936 and the mass protests of 1939 that challenged the British colonizers’ transformation of the Palestinian Mandate into a national home for Jews.
Remember the 1967 war, when the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights came under Israeli occupation.
Remember the first intifada’s grassroots organizing with mass rallies, neighborhood schools, subsistence farming and feminist awakenings. Also remember the stones that were then thrown at the occupying forces.
Remember the so-called peace talks and Yasser Arafat’s handshake with Yitzhak Rabin.
Remember the armed struggle during the second intifada and also its suicide bombings. Remember the international activists who were run over and killed by Israeli bulldozers and snipers.
Remember the demonstrations in the West Bank against the wall. Remember those protests – both through the ballot and in the streets – against their own political leaders and remember the international calls for boycotts, sanctions and divestment to put pressure on the state of Israel.
Remember the rockets from Gaza and also remember the peaceful mass protests at its borders.
Remember Khader Adnan, the first Palestinian prisoner to die on hunger strike on May 2 this year.
Remember the entire Palestinian struggle on this day, when 75 years have passed since al-Nakba – the great catastrophe for the Palestinians in 1948, when the State of Israel was established and between 750,000 and 800,000 Palestinians out of a population of almost two million were forced to flee. When 531 villages were razed to the ground, 15,000 people were killed and the rest were raped, beaten and captured.
The fight for freedom has been going on for almost a hundred years and is a smorgasbord. It’s just a matter of picking and choosing among fighting organizations, ideologies and tactics. It has been peaceful and bloody but never passive, never extinct.
Because nothing seems to be able to free the Palestinians from the Israeli occupation.
Military violence is fundamental to the survival of the Jewish state. The thesis that the state of Israel is uninterested in peace or solutions to the conflict is not new, but current through the recent book “The palestine laboratory: how Israel exports the technology of occupation around the world” (Verso) by the Australian author and investigative journalist Antony Loewenstein .
Without a deepening of the conflict, Israel cannot survive. It needs both the occupation and the recurring wars to produce and develop the country’s eyesore and biggest export: weapons, surveillance and cyber technology. The central importance of the arms industry to the country’s economic survival cannot be overestimated, writes Loewenstein.
Or as researcher Haim Bresheeth-Žabner says in “An army like no other: how the Israel defense forces made a nation” (Verso): The Israeli economy “abandoned oranges in favor of hand grenades”.
Investments have been ongoing since the 1950s and although the once fully state-owned industry in the era of neoliberalism has transformed into various privately owned companies, and although the industry has moved from producing hardware to software, it is growing explosively.
Israel does not want to reveal any official figures but there are today, writes Loewenstein, over 300 multinational companies and 6,000 start-up companies.
One of the reasons for the sharp increase is attributed to the September 11th attacks. They provided an opportunity the Israeli defense could not miss. And now the fruits are being reaped: In 2020, 22 billion dollars were invested in the defense and surveillance sector. That made it the twelfth largest military supplier in the world with sales of $345 billion.
This success story would not have been possible without first testing and refining the equipment on the occupied and isolated population. It is through the Palestinian laboratory and tons of government support that the Israeli companies have been able to develop a world-class arms industry. With the help of the army’s own experience, the equipment is marketed as “combat-tested”.
This applies to everything from hand grenades and guns to facial recognition technology and phone hacking apps like the infamous Pegasus. The message of Israeli arms manufacturers “reflects the lived experience of brutalizing Palestinians,” writes Loewenstein.
He painstakingly extracts figures, cites civilian and military sources, puts the actions of Israeli politicians in an international context and interviews those who have been affected by the Israeli military complex but also researchers, economists, lawyers and other experts. Bit by bit, he builds his thesis: without the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people – no Jewish state.
This is not something the Israeli state would sign up to. After all, they are the “only democracy in the Middle East” and also have “the most moral army in the world”. Loewenstein brilliantly pulverizes this too. The State of Israel not only has strong ties to the West – the EU is its largest trading partner and ties have deepened during the Netanyahu years, including through the use of Israeli technology in the militarization of the Union’s borders.
For years, Netanyahu has sought support from despots in Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Romania, Hungary, Sri Lanka and Myanmar through arms and tech sales. And in the decades before that, they have sold weapons to and trained various drug lords, anti-communist guerrillas, the Hutu militia in Rwanda as well as military dictatorships in Latin America and the Shah of Iran.
There is neither morality nor compass here, only a so-called democracy that almost never condemns war crimes. Israel was late to say anything critical about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – it simply wasn’t that easy when the Israeli surveillance company Cellebrite sold phone-hacking technology to Putin a few years earlier.
When the rest of the world is clamoring for drones, missiles, surveillance technology and phone hacking – in 2022 the armament reached new record sums – Israel and its weapons complex are ready. Loewenstein does not print any ready-made solutions. But he points out that Israel is paying neither politically nor financially for the status quo. If anything, international reactions to apartheid in South Africa and brand-new Ukraine can guide the rest of the world in how to act to end the occupation and find a just solution.
As for the Palestinians, they have no choice but to continue fighting, just like everyone else who has lived under oppression. As the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish puts it in a few simple lines.
“We are standing here. We are sitting here. We remain here.
We are here forever. We have one, only goal: