Tens of thousands of mostly young Palestinians have participated since the beginning of October in protests against Israel’s intensifying repression, forcible displacement of communities, particularly in Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and Naqab (Negev), and ongoing attempts to colonize occupied East Jerusalem, especially the Old City. The tools of repression, whether drones, vehicles, surveillance systems, teargas, IT systems, bullets, “skunk water” or other creations are all produced or imported from other countries by a vast Israeli military-industrial complex that is at the heart of Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.
The functioning of this system depends on the willingness of governments and companies around the world to cooperate with Israel’s military, weapons industry and military research institutions.
Campaigns aimed at ending all military ties with Israel are vital for ending violence and are a key component of the international, Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. A military embargo on Israel, similar to that imposed on apartheid South Africa, is not just a vital form of solidarity with Palestinian popular resistance; it is a legal obligation. All states and the United Nations are obligated to hold Israel to account by adopting measures that will bring to an end its serious breaches of international law and by counteracting the effects of these breaches.
Military embargo campaigning is gradually starting to take off. Leading Israeli military companies have recently complained of decreasing export figures amid what one industry insider called “less desire for Israeli-made products”.
Military trade at the heart of Israel’s system of oppression
Israel’s military companies, military research facilities and complicit international corporations, such as G4S and HP, are the key enablers and beneficiaries of Israel’s militarism, violence and oppression of the Palestinian people.
Israel’s policy of “disproportionate force”
Israel’s military forces have officially adopted a doctrine of disproportionate force, otherwise known as the “Dahiya Doctrine,” which calls for deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure as the most “effective” means of deterring resistance. The UN and human rights organizations have documented how Israel has carried out war crimes, including during its 2014 assault on Gaza, condemned as a “massacre” by Brazil’s president and France’s foreign minister. More than 2,168 Palestinians, including over 500 children, were killed; entire families were annihilated in their homes, and all what remains of them are the official records documenting that they ever existed.
Israel’s military has been accused by leading human rights organizations of using “excessive” and “arbitrary” force to suppress popular resistance and mass demonstrations. Israel has recently adopted new “rules of engagement” that allow its occupation forces to “shoot to kill” Palestinian child and youth protestors.
The following forms of military technology are particularly important to the ongoing repression of the current mass Palestinian protests by the Israeli police and military:
- Sniper rifles: Since mid-September 2015, Israel has re-introduced sniping methods and rifles to several injure or kill Palestinian youth protesters, including in occupied East Jerusalem.
- Teargas: used to attack and disperse protests and can also be lethal. On October 21, Hashem al Azzah died after inhaling Israeli tear gas.
- UAVs (‘drones’): used over the Old City and other Palestinian neighbourhoods of occupied East Jerusalem to monitor every aspect of Palestinian life.
The infrastructure of apartheid
Israel uses a variety of physical infrastructure and military technologies in order to maintain its system of occupation and apartheid. This includes:
- Walls, watchtowers and checkpoints to enforce racial segregation and deny Palestinians in the OPT access to their most fertile lands and water resources for the benefit of Israel and its illegal settlements and as part of a policy of ethnic cleansing. Examples include the illegal Israeli wall in the occupied West Bank, the “border” wall that enforces the illegal siege on Gaza, the new checkpoints recently created around Jerusalem, (picture) and the temporary walls recently erected in Jabal al Mukaber, a Jerusalem neighbourhood. These walls and checkpoints use high-tech sensors, camera technology and specialized software systems.
- A centralized population database and complex ID card system that enforces racial segregation between Jewish-Israelis and Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the OPT. This segregation system, which resembles the “pass” laws enacted in apartheid South Africa, aims at fragmenting Palestinian communities and enabling the allocation of different rights to different categories of people, identified by their race, religion and place of residence.
- Surveillance technology along the route of Israel’s wall, in and surrounding illegal settlements, and in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem.
- High-tech mass incarceration prisons in which thousands of Palestinians are detained, often without trial, and often subjected to torture, as admitted even by the US Department of State. Since the start of October, 942 Palestinians have been arrested, often simply for taking part in demonstrations against the occupation.
- Cyber intelligence gathering technology used to monitor communication by Palestinians.
Key Israeli military companies
Israel’s largest military companies are key players in the maintenance of the infrastructure of Israel’s regime of oppression against the Palestinian people.
- Supplies and maintains surveillance systems for Israel’s illegal wall and settlements.
- Elbit drones have been extensively used and field tested during each of Israel’s three recent assaults on Gaza.
- Produces white phosphorous ammunition for mortars. Israel’s illegal use of this agent in densely populated civilian areas in Gaza was condemned by Amnesty International as a war crime.
- Has a 20-year contract to provide helicopters to the Israeli police.
- Supplies and maintains computer systems for the Israeli border control system.
- Provides surveillance technology for Israel’s illegal wall.
- Produces the armor for the Caterpillar D9 bulldozer, largely used to demolish Palestinian homes and farms.
- Produces technology for fighter jets and the Heron TP, Israel’s biggest drone that includes strike capacity and was used repeatedly in the attacks on Gaza.
Israeli Military Industries (IMI)
- A state-owned company that is a major supplier of land, air, and naval weapons and combat systems to the Israeli military and other military forces across the world.
- The leading small arms supplier to the Israeli occupation army and producer of cluster munitions.
- Another Israeli state-owned arms company that provides a range of weapons to the Israeli military and for export. Manufactures and exports the Spike missile system, among numerous other weapons and technologies.
- Currently using a contract with the Organizing Olympic Committee for the 2016 Olympic Games to showcase its technology and whitewash its image.
- Widely accused of having trained death squads in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua and allegedly involved in the coups and attempted coups in Honduras and Venezuela
- Founded by former Mossad agents and deeply connected with the Israeli Defense Ministry’s international interests and unofficial operations.
- Provides training for military and police forces from around the world that includes “shooting in the face” and “in the back of the neck”, openly advocating for extrajudicial killings, specially in Brazilian favelas. Watch video here.
Some of the world’s largest corporations act as sub-contractors for Israel’s system of oppression, reaping enormous profits by providing “field tested” technologies that are essential to the ongoing denial of Palestinian rights.
- Provides and maintains cameras, access control systems and control rooms to Israeli prisons in which Palestinian political prisoners are held, often without trial, and subjected to torture and ill-treatment.
- Provides scanners and other security equipment and maintenance services to Israeli checkpoints, illegal settlements and the Erez checkpoint in Gaza.
- Provides various equipment and services to the Israeli military and police, including the construction, operation and maintenance of a new training center for the Israeli police who are at the heart of Israel’s oppression of Palestinian citizens of Israel and in occupied Jerusalem.
- Provides and maintains a biometric access control system installed in many Israeli military checkpoints in the OPT and produces ID cards that form part of Israel’s centralized population database and complex ID card system that denies freedom of movement to Palestinians and enforces racial segregation between them and Israelis.
- Operates various parts of the IT infrastructure of the Israeli military and administers the IT infrastructure of the Israeli navy, which is enforcing the illegal siege of Gaza.
- Supplies and maintains software and hardware to Israeli prisons at which Palestinian political prisoners are held without trial and subjected to torture.
- Provides computer equipment and services to Israeli settlements in the OPT.
International support for Israel’s military system
Trade and joint research with Israel’s military establishment, including the vast military industry and military research at academic institutions, provide Israel with material and political support for its violations of international law.
Military aid to Israel
Over the period 2009-2018, the US is set to provide military aid to Israel worth $30bn. In 2011, the average US taxpayer gave Israel $21 in military aid. This military aid is then used to purchase military equipment predominantly from US companies. Since 2000, the US has licensed the export of nearly 825 million weapons valued at nearly $10.5 billion.
International exports of weapons and military-security services to Israel
Exports of weapons and military equipment to Israel are used to further its oppression of Palestinians and enable it to carry out its war crimes and other violations of international law.
EU countries granted licenses for military totaling €983m for the period 2012-13 (see here and here). In the global south, South African company Cape Gate provides fencing used in the Israel’s illegal wall and settlements, especially in and surrounding East Jerusalem.
Other international companies such as HP and G4S (see above) act as private contractors, taking on key supporting roles in helping Israel to maintain its infrastructure of militarism and racial oppression.
Israel’s exports of “field tested” technology
Military exports from Israel totaled $7.5bn in 2012 but are currently declining and could drop to as low as $4bn in 2015. Israel was the 8th largest arms exporter in 2014 which is especially remarkable given its relative size. Purchases of Israeli weapons and military technology help fund the Israeli military-industrial complex and provide an important revenue stream for the Israeli state, offsetting the cost of Israel’s systematic oppression of and regular military assaults against Palestinians.
Up to 85% of Israel’s military industry production is exported, in particular to India, UK, South Korea, Brazil and Colombia.
Each Israeli military attack on Palestinians is seen as an opportunity to test new technology and to advertise it. During the 2014 Gaza massacre, operational decisions were made on the basis of allowing new weaponry to be tested, according to testimony given at the 2014 Russell Tribunal.
Israeli military companies market their products as “field tested” and “battle tested,” by which they mean that they are tested on the bodies of Palestinians. Israeli arms companies have publicly boasted about the effectiveness of the new technologies trialed for the first time during the 2014 Gaza massacre.
This use of Israeli assaults and military operations to test and market military exports creates a powerful financial incentive for continued oppression and violence. One in ten Israeli families are financially dependent on the Israeli military industry.
Israel’s deadly drones
Israel has supplied 60.7 percent of the world’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), otherwise known as drones, since 1985. Israel regularly uses armeddrones in its attacks on Palestinians in Gaza and have been used to deliberately attack civilians. According to the Al Mezan Center, a Gaza-based human rights organization, more than 1000 Palestinians in Gaza were killed by armed drones in the period 2000-10.
Israel is also increasingly using drones for surveillance in the West Bank, including Jerusalem. Drones have been spotted increasingly frequently during the current wave of popular resistance, according to Palestinian eyewitnesses.
Countries that that have procured UAVs from Elbit Systems include Australia, Canada, Croatia, France, Georgia, Mexico, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, Brazil, Russia and USA.
Research collaboration with Israel
Israeli weapons companies participate in joint research with companies and institutions across the world, providing a valuable source of income and allowing them to market and further develop the technologies used to oppress Palestinians. For example:
- In the period 2007-14, Elbit Systems and Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) participated in EU funded research projects worth €244 million.
- Brazil finances joint military research cooperation with Israeli companies.
- 30 percent of all research and development in Israel has a military focus, involving all major Israeli universities.
How Israel globalises its militarized repression
Israel is not just oppressing Palestinians; it is exporting its ruthless model of securitization and militarized repression to the world. For example:
- Israel is deeply involved in training and arming death squads in Latin America.
- Israeli police and security companies have trained the police force in Fergusson (USA) that killed Michael Brown, Rio’s infamous BOPE special police forces that carry out extrajudicial executions, and police forces across the world, including Los Angles and
- Israeli security and military companies sell military expertise to dictatorships in Asia and Africa, often to both sides of a civil war.
- The EU’s border management agency has been holding discussions with IAI and Elbit Systems about using Israeli drones to further securitize European borders.
- Elbit Systems exports technology originally developed for use on Israel’s wall to the US wall of death against Mexican migrants.
The international campaign for a military embargo on Israel
Campaigns for a comprehensive military embargo on Israel are growing in impact, and they need your support.
The call for military embargo
In 2011, the Palestinian BDS National Committee issued a call for a comprehensive military embargo on Israel.
The call urged: an end to military aid and weapons exports to Israel, ending the transfer of weapons and military technology to and from Israel, and ending all forms of military aid and research cooperation.
Supporters of this call for a military embargo include Naomi Klein, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and 5 other Nobel Prize winners, and a variety of political parties and anti-war movements across the world.
Military embargo campaign successes so far include:
- Israel’s four largest military companies have spoken of a ‘major crisis’ of declining sales, sparked in part by “less desire for Israeli [military] products”.
- More than a dozen banks have divested from Elbit Systems over its role in Israel’s military violence. Elbit factories across the world have been repeatedly blockaded by campaigners.
- In 2014, the Rio Grande do Sul regional government ended a large scale research collaboration project with Elbit Systems.
- G4S has lost millions of dollars in contracts and faced divestment by the Bill Gates Foundation, the United Methodist Church and other key investors as a result of the global campaign against it.
- Israeli participation in arms fairs faces protests, military deals with Israel are targeted across the world, and governments have temporarily withheld arms deals because of public pressure.
- Britain, France and other European states have refused to take part in a military fair in Tel Aviv in 2015
- The governments of Norway and Turkey have announced forms of military embargo on Israel.
Ideas for Action
- Join and share our call for action #SolidarityWaveBDS
- Pressure your government: campaign for an end to military cooperation with Israel. Build pressure on your government to exclude Israeli military companies from contracts.
- Bring the military embargo to your streets: organize mock checkpoints, raise awareness about Israeli repression demanding an immediate military embargo.
- Find out more: present freedom of information requests, ask councilors or representatives to question local or federal governments.
- Investigate banks and pension funds to find out if they have collaboration with Israeli military companies or complicit corporations such as G4S and HP.
- Find out if your local universities conduct joint military research with Israel or with weapons companies that supply the Israeli military.
- Target arms factories that are owned by Israeli companies or export weapons to Israel and the arms fairs at which Israel markets its military technology.
- Organize debates and bring the issue to the media: military and security cooperation is generally off the radar of the public debate. Raise the issue!
- Campaign for local governments to commit to not collaborate with or invest in Israeli military companies or international companies such as G4S or HP and to pressure central government.
- Work with movements, unions and other partners that can pressure investment funds, corporations or governments to stop military ties with Israel. Pass motions calling for mass popular campaigning!
- Please don’t forget to let us know about your actions! We would like to share your experiences with other partners around the world and strengthen your initiatives. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.