Case 03: Israel (Full version)

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GN-STAT Case 03: High-Tech for Authoritarians – how human rights are violated with Israeli weapons


By Shir Hever and Wolfgang Landgraeber


Table of contents


Chapter 1: Israel's Arms Industry: An Overview

Chapter 1.1: Beginning

Chapter 1.2: The War of 1967 and the Occupation

Chapter 1.3: Relations with the US Arms Industry

Chapter 1.4: The Crisis

Chapter 1.5: From Public to Private

Chapter 1.6: The Niche

Chapter 1.7: The Companies

Chapter 2: Weapons deals and human rights - a critical view of Israel's arms export policy

Chapter 2.1: Israeli weapons in "Frozen Conflicts"

Chapter 2.2: Israeli weapons for India

Chapter 2.3: Israeli weapons for Azerbaijan

Chapter 2.4: The intractable Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Chapter 2.5: Human rights in Azerbaijan

Chapter 2.6: More cases of Israeli weapons exports to Asian conflict zones

Chapter 2.7: Israel's weapons partnership with African countries

Chapter 2.8: Israeli weapons in African civil wars and genocides

Chapter 2.8.1: Angola

Chapter 2.8.2: Rwanda

Chapter 2.8.3: Ivory Coast

Chapter 2.8.4: Nigeria

Chapter 2.8.5: Kenya

Chapter 2.8.6: South Sudan

Chapter 3: The Laboratory

Chapter 3.1: Origin of the Concept

Chapter 3.2: War on Terror and Homeland Security

Chapter 3.3: Implementation of Israeli Security Practices

Chapter 3.4: Science of Security

Chapter 3.5: Critique on the Laboratory Concept

Chapter 4: Drones: Israel's Flagship Weapon

Chapter 4.1: Introduction

Chapter 4.2: Capital-intensive warfare

Chapter 4.3: Armed drones

Chapter 4.4: Suicide drones

Chapter 5: Summary and Future Prospects

Chapter 6: Appendix: Prominent Israeli Arms Dealers

Chapter 6.1: Officers/Arms Dealers

Chapter 6.2: Politicians

Chapter 7: About the Authors



1. Israel’s Arms Industry: An Overview

The Israeli arms industry is a very small part of the global arms industry, but it occupies a niche of great importance, and is well-known in the world for the specific technologies in which it specializes.


1.1 Beginning

The history of the Israeli arms industry began before the State of Israel was founded. The older Israeli arms company is IMI: Israeli Military Industry, founded in 1933.[1] The first factories were built in Palestine under the British mandate, and without consent from the British Empire.


Although there was no state to take possession of these factories, they were not built as private companies with the intention of selling arms for profit, but rather as supporting industries for the unofficial Zionist militias which were established as proto-military organizations with the aim of taking over as much land as possible in Palestine. Weapons were needed to secure Jewish colonies in Palestine and expand them.[2]


The nature of colonial warfare, which culminated in the war of 1948 – known as the “Israeli War of Independence” to Israelis and as the “Nakba” (the “catastrophe”) to Palestinians – called for specific kinds of weaponry. The Zionist militia relied on the use of imported arms (mainly from Czechoslovakia), small arms, light armored vehicles and explosives.


Perhaps the most famous military invention of the pre-state arms industry was the “Davidka,” named after its designer David Leibowitch and also indirectly after the Biblical King David. The 3-inch mortar was deployed in the early stages of the 1948 war. Lacking in accuracy and penetrating power, the mortar was nevertheless very effective at causing loud explosions and scaring away civilians and untrained Arab fighters who fled before it. It was therefore a highly effective weapon for a colonialist movement in the process of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.[3]


When the State of Israel had been established, its first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, packed extensive authority into the Ministry of Defense, which proceeded to establish research, development and production centers under various names. Originally those were classified as departments of the Ministry of Defense. The workers in those departments were state employees, and their job was to develop arms to fill the needs of the newly established Israeli military. The Weimar-born arms designer Uziel Gal designed one of the most famous Israeli weapons of all times, the Uzi submachine gun. The Uzi was quickly adopted by the Israeli military in 1951, and Uziel Gal received decorations for his weapons but retired from the service of the Israeli military forces and moved to the USA where he participated in the development of other weapons.


According to Israeli senior member of the Ministry of Finance Ya’akov Lifshitz, the Israeli arms industry in the first two decades did not prioritize making profits, but supporting the Israeli military efforts. When production outstripped the demand by the Israeli military or when older systems were no longer desired by the Israeli military, those items were sold and the income was funneled back to the arms industry (still mostly affiliated with the Ministry of Defense) for the purpose of funding more advanced arms research.[4]


1.2 The War of 1967 and the Occupation

Following the war of June, 1964, the State of Israel expanded it’s territory threefold. The victory over the Arab armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria fostered a sense of euphoria and a confidence in the Israeli military superiority in the Middle East.[5] Although international pressure called on the Israeli government to withdraw, the government chose to entrench the occupation deeper. It expected that importing weapons would become politically difficult, and indeed Israel’s largest arms provider at the time, France, embraced an arms embargo against Israel. The Israeli government responded by increasing public investment in the arms industry and by attempting to establish production lines for a wide array of arms and equipment to be used by all branches of the Israeli military.[6]


Arms development and production led to a rapid industrialization of the Israeli economy, although the new products from the quickly expanding Israeli arms industry proved insufficient for the needs of the Israeli military, when the post-67 euphoria was dashed during the war of October 1973.


1.3 Relations with the US Arms Industry

Contrary to the common myth that the US government does the bidding of the Israeli government, the relations of the US government with the State of Israel are best described as a proxy relationship, in which the State of Israel promoting US interests in the Middle East.[7] Nowhere is this clearer than in the arms industry. US support and aid for the State of Israel has been carefully tailored to advance the needs of the interests of the US arms industry, and in cases in which Israeli arms companies attempted to develop systems potentially competetive with US-made systems, the US government was quick to promote policies to shut down the Israeli projects.[8] The most well-known story happened in the 1980s, when the Israeli state-owned Aerospace Industries (IAI) attempted to develop a fighter plane called “Lavi” to compete with the Lockheed-Martin F16. US pressure caused the cancellation of the project after billions had already been invested.[9]


In recent years, Israeli arms companies have learned to specialize in filling niches created by US arms companies, in selling to customers which US arms companies are reluctant to sell to, or in developing components working in symbiosis with US military systems. In a recent interview, the CEO of IAI Harel Locker said that sometimes there are “political problems” in selling Israeli weapons to certain countries. He added that “…if the American can use our capabilities and abilities, and we as junior partners can join them, it will be for our benefit.”[10]


1.4 The Crisis

The Israeli security elite comprised senior military and police officers, officials at the Ministry of Defense and senior management at the arms companies. In the first decades of the State of Israel this group was the most dominant elite group, holding significant influence over political and economic policies of the government and of many state institutions.[11]


This group is in a gradual process of losing its grip on Israeli society. Its power depends on its prestige, as war heroes, but the Israeli security elite has not fought in a conventional war since 1973. In the past five decades, they have mainly engaged in the policing of an occupied civilian population. In their role as colonial enforcers they do not receive the admiration of the general public, and as a result the chances of retired senior officers to rise to the top of the Israeli business sector or political leadership have declined over the years.[12]


1.5 From Public to Private

Since the early 1990s, the Israeli government has begun a rapid process of privatization of its security operations. The privatization took three forms: sale of arms companies, outsourcing of security operations and privatization by default. The sale of the arms companies is proceeding slowly, mainly through the sale of specific factories to private arms companies and through reforming the management structure of state-owned companies to resemble private corporations in preparation for a stock issue. Elbit Systems, which was founded as a private company with cooperation of the Israeli Ministry of Defense in 1966 has grown by merging with small arms companies (some of them departments of state-owned companies) and winning tenders with the Israeli Ministry of Defense.[13]


In 2013, the Israeli government decided to sell the giant state-owned IMI (Israeli Military Industries), and Elbit Systems remained the only contender for purchasing it. The sale is currently on hold because of irregularities, but once it goes through, Elbit Systems will become the largest Israeli arms company, supplying 80% of the procurement budget of the Israeli land forces.[14]


1.6 The Niche

Because the Israeli arms companies cannot compete with the US arms industry, it must seek its own niche in which to specialize. Israeli generals have understood that the advantage of the Israeli arms industry is the “experience” brand.[15] The next chapter will discuss the concept of the “laboratory,” how Israeli companies boast that their weapons have been tested on real people and therefore can attract customers who seek to imitate the Israeli security forces.


Specifically, however, the Israeli technologies are defined not as warfighting technologies but mostly as homeland security equipment. Israeli companies develop sophisticated data-mining software to predict human behavior and algorithms which are intended to catch terrorists before they have committed any crime.[16] They develop electronic equipment to be installed on walls, fences and barriers in order to track any attempt to touch or come near them.[17] Israeli companies develop a wide array of surveillance equipment (mostly cameras), and biometric scanning machines in order to keep civilian populations under control.[18] Most well-known, however, are the unmanned or autonomous combat vehicles, the drones. The Israeli arms industry has become one of the world’s largest producers of drones (mostly aerial, but also water-based and land-based), because the drones proved to be a major element of the Israeli practice of control of the Palestinian population, while limiting contact between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians to a minimum.[19]


1.7 The Companies

The four largest and most well-known Israeli arms companies, and the only ones which made it to the SIPRI list of the biggest-100 arms companies of the world are:

  • IAI (Israeli Aerospace Industries), the largest state-owned Israeli arms company which also has a (failing) civilian department for building and repairing executive jets. IAI is known for its UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and missiles.
  • Elbit Systems, the largest privately-owned Israeli arms company which is strongly connected to senior politicians, and specializes in a wide array of technologies from artillery, combat vests, “sterile zones” around sensitive facilities, command and control centers, to various modules which are combined with USA-made weaponry (helmets, cameras, batteries).
  • Rafael is state-owned and is known for the “Iron Dome” missile defense system which it produces with the USA company Raytheon. It also produces unmanned vehicles and protective systems for armored vehicles.
  • IMI (Israeli Military Industries) is largely considered to be a failing state-owned company, although it is also the oldest Israeli arms company. IMI produces ammunition, shells, missiles and engines, among other things, and is in the process of being sold to Elbit Systems.

In addition, two companies which deserve mention are IWI (Israeli Weapons Industries), a privately-owned company which is among the companies most boldly using the Israeli military in order to promote its products, selling small arms which it does not produce itself,[20] and Aeronautics, a privately-owned company which became notorious for selling military equipment to customers with shady human-rights records. Rafael is currently attempting to buy Aeronautics alongside a private investor.[21]


Each of the six companies mentioned has a department for homeland security products, blurring the line between the Israeli military industry and its homeland security industry. The Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry reports that approximately 600 smaller companies are registered as homeland security companies.[22]


2. Weapons deals and human rights – a critical view of Israel's arms export policy


2.1. Israeli weapons in „Frozen Conflicts“

A "frozen conflict," in the definition of political scientists, peace researchers, and historians, is a situation that has arisen between states and state-like entities after an all-out war or a war-like conflict has been halted with a ceasefire, but no peace treaty has been made. There are many examples of such frozen conflicts in the world today. In Europe, several Balkan states are involved in such conflicts (e.g. Serbia/Kosovo), as are eastern Ukraine and Crimea, while in Central Asia there are Armenia and Azerbaijan (the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict), the "secessionist provinces" of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the conflict with Georgia, not to mention the border conflicts between India and China. At any moment, frozen conflicts can thaw and become "hot wars."


One of the countries with the most experience of frozen conflicts is Israel. Since the country's foundation, hot and cold conflicts have taken place both on its territory and in its immediate neighborhood, and Israel's defense is based on finding a military answer to every conflict situation. This is presumably the reason why states similarly affected by frozen conflicts either at home or in their neighborhoods cooperate particularly closely with Israel when it comes to security policy and arms trade. The fact that Israel has now become one of the world's leading countries in military technologies may also contribute to this.


2.2. Israeli weapons for India

India is one of the biggest buyers of weapons in the world. The frozen conflict with China over its Himalayan borders and the asymmetric war with Pakistan around the Kashmir region have only increased India's permanent hunger for weapons. Meanwhile, inconclusive wars with Pakistan in 1971 and China in 1962 still affect the current situation and constantly threaten to flare up again.


In 2016 there were reports of fighting at the Pakistani-Indian border in Kashmir,[23] and in 2017 similar reports from the mountainous 3,225-kilometer border with China in the Himalayas.[24] Beyond this, the deep rivalry between the two huge countries, which each have a population of over a billion, plays an important role in the question of which of the two will take strategic dominance in the Indian Ocean. Both states are arming themselves against the other, which means both states are anxious to build up and develop their own arms industries.


Israel was for some time one of the most important arms exporters to India. In the three years until March 2016, Israel was India's third biggest weapons exporter, reaching a total value of around $1 billion. In fact, it seems Israel is able to fill even the smallest niches available: some of India's special forces in the army, air force, and the navy are equipped with Israeli Tavor and Galil rifles.[25] Meanwhile, when it comes to high-tech weapons technology such as Barak anti-aircraft rockets, Israel has entered billion-dollar joint-venture projects with India. The latest ground- and sea-based missile program, Barak 8, is meant to combat airplanes, cruise missiles, and supersonic guided missiles. The first test of a Barak 8 was completed in 2010. Sea-based Barak 8 systems are due to be delivered to the Indian Navy in 2019 and 2020. Depending on the type of missile, (MR-SAM, LR-SAM and Barak MX), their ranges vary from 70 to 150 kilometers. The cost is reportedly $2.5 billion.[26]


Israel's customers are not always democracies, and Israeli weapons often find their way into conflicts where human rights abuses are rife, or that can be considered wars of aggression. A few examples follow.


2.3. Israeli weapons for Azerbaijan

This small country on the west coast of the Caspian Sea provides more evidence that Israel is not deterred by a questionable human rights reputation when forming diplomatic-military relations. Nor is it deterred when a country is in a "frozen" conflict with one of its neighbors – as Azerbaijan is with Armenia.


Azerbaijan is among the biggest importers of Israeli weapons, in third place after India and Vietnam. In 2016 alone, the country bought $248 million worth.[27] Israel is also building a strategic alliance along with the US and Azerbaijan against Iran, which lies on Azerbaijan's southern border.


Azerbaijan is also an important exporter of oil to Israel. In fact, Israel gets 40 percent of its oil demand from Azerbaijan, which means the two countries are locked in a mutual dependency: Israel needs Azerbaijani oil, Azerbaijan needs Israeli weapons.


For more than 20 years, Israel has been a modernizer and major supplier of the Azerbaijani army. Fighter planes, artillery guns, anti-tank and infantry weapons have been delivered in huge quantities to the Caucasian country, where they have been more than welcome, especially in the fight against Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.


2.4. The intractable Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

The struggle over this strategically important and fertile region stretches back to ancient times, when various empires brought it under their control, as the Mongols did in the 13th century, followed by the Persians. Under Empress Catherine the Great, Nagorno-Karabakh became a Russian protectorate, and its Christian Armenian population won supremacy when it came to trade and administration. In 1805, the region became part of the Russian Empire, and the czars gave Christian Armenians privileged status over Muslim Azerbaijanis. Since then, the two groups have been divided by a deep distrust and a permanent rivalry that have regularly erupted into massacres and violent conflicts. After the foundation of the Soviet Union, Nagorno-Karabakh became an autonomous area of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, a situation the Armenian minority was never satisfied with. Since then, the province has never been at peace. Local massacres broke out between the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis following the collapse of the Soviet Union, before Azerbaijan established its own army and an open war broke out between 1992 and 1994, which claimed between 25,000 and 50,000 lives. The 1994 ceasefire was frequently broken because both sides were willing to renounce their competing territorial claims. The United Nations Security Council has confirmed three times that Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan, while the autonomous region has also declared its independence, but hardly any country in the world has been willing to recognize this declaration. Several recent incidents have shown that the conflict could erupt into a new open war at any time. In 2008, fighting broke out along the ceasefire line – a conflict that was stopped by Russian mediation, only to flare up again in 2014. On both occasions were casualties on both sides.


The most recent conflict took place from 2nd-5th April 2016, when Armenia claimed that 92 Armenian soldiers and a child were killed by an Azerbaijani attack using tanks, artillery, and combat helicopters. According to Azerbaijan, 31 Azerbaijani soldiers and two civilians were killed by Armenian forces firing on them with artillery and grenade launchers.


Israel sided with Azerbaijan over the conflict in 2016, when Defense Minister Avigdor Liebermann described the country's position as "absolutely justified."[28]


In 2012, the two countries signed a deal agreeing the sale of drones and anti-aircraft and missile systems worth $1.6 billion.[29]


In March 2012, SPIEGEL online, citing the US magazine Foreign Policy, reported that the Israeli air force was preparing to launch attacks on nuclear facilities in Iran from the Azerbaijani military base Sitalchay.[30] Both Israel and Azerbaijan immediately denied the reports. Given that Iran has since announced it will abandon the development of its nuclear program, such attacks should theoretically be redundant, but the option remains open. It should also be mentioned that President Benjamin Netanyahu announced in 2009 that the Israeli firm Aeronautic Defense Systems would build a military drone factory near the Azerbaijani capital Baku.[31] It is reasonable to assume that this facility will produce reconnaissance drones to continue spying on the Iranian nuclear program. But both Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh remain primary spying targets for Azerbaijan.


"In July, renewed hostilities in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh resulted in the death of at least two ethnic Azerbaijani civilians, including a minor, following shelling by the Armenian-backed forces," Amnesty International reported in its 2017/18 report on Azerbaijan.[32] The online news portal Middle East Eye also claimed that Israeli representatives of drone manufacturer Aeronautic Defense Systems wanted to use an attack on an Armenian military post to demonstrate to potential customers the precision of their so-called "suicide drone," the Orbiter 1-K. Unsurprisingly, the firm immediately rejected the report. But an Azerbaijani military video shows that the military does indeed own such "suicide drones." Israeli prosecutors have since opened an investigation into officials at the company on suspicion of fraud and violation of export controls over the incident in Armenia.[33]


2.5. Human rights in Azerbaijan

Israeli human rights activists have criticized the close economic and military ties between Azerbaijan and Israel, not least because of the disastrous human rights situation in the Caucasian country, which for decades has been dominated by the autocratic Aliyev dynasty. Amnesty International's 2017/18 country report said, "Authorities intensified the crackdown on the right to freedom of expression, particularly following revelations of large-scale political corruption. Independent news outlets were blocked and their owners arrested. Critics of the government continued to face politically motivated prosecution and imprisonment following unfair trials. LGBTI individuals were arbitrarily arrested and ill-treated. Suspicious deaths in custody were still not effectively investigated."


It continued: "Azerbaijan received international attention in 2017 following a report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, published in September, which accused members of Azerbaijan’s political elite of operating a large international money laundering scheme. Part of the money was allegedly used to pay European politicians to help whitewash Azerbaijan’s human rights reputation, among other things."[34] Two German former parliamentarians in the Council of Europe were also drawn into the list of suspects.[35] The organization Reporters Without Borders has put Azerbaijan among the lowest ranks of its press freedom index: 163 of 180 countries.[36]


2.6. More cases of Israeli weapons exports to Asian conflict zones

Andrew Feinstein, whose book "The Shadow World" about the worldwide arms trade has set reporting standards, dedicates a whole chapter to Israel's special role in the business, illuminating the darkest corners of the conflict zones in the Caucasus and Central Asia.


"At the time of the Russian invasion in August 2008, the Georgian defense establishment was dominated by Israelis, notwithstanding that a number of Israeli arms companies had simultaneous contracts with the Russians. … Among the Israelis providing some $500m of military equipment to Georgia were an ex-mayor of Tel Aviv, Roni Milo, and his brother Schlomo, a former director general of Israel Military Industries, Brigadier General Gal Hirsch and Major General Yisrael Ziv. … Aeronautics Defense Systems provided equipment to both the Georgian and the Russian security forces prior to the war and, in Russia's case, afterwards."[37]


In 2008, Georgia tried to reconquer the separatist provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which had declared their independence, with the support of weapons and expertise from Israel, among others. Russian troops from the northern Caucasus intervened and drove the Georgian army back.


The Russian-Georgian war, which ended with the ceasefire of August 12, 2008, cost around 850 lives, with between 2,500 and 3,000 wounded. Since then, Georgia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia are now countries with "frozen conflicts."


Feinstein recounts another particularly noteworthy chapter of Israel's arms trade in the Middle East. Israel's business with Iraq and Iran between 1980 and 1988 illustrates particularly clearly how the unbound greed of arms manufacturers and dealers can sometimes harm one's own country. Feinstein: "It is not common knowledge, though, that while the West, and for a time the Soviets, supported Saddam Hussain's Iraq against the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Israeli government and its arms agents, on behalf of the US, transferred hundreds of tons of weapons and equipment to Iran, shoring up a weak Iranian army as it faced defeat at Saddam's hands. A few years after halting sales to Iran, Israel was approached by a French go-between, and agreed to sell arms to Khomeini's regime in a secret operation codenamed “Seashell.” The Israelis believed that such sales would bring them closer to Iran's rulers and weaken both Iran and Iraq. But, as important, the weapons industry wanted to make money. As one key figure in Operation Seashell recalls: 'I do not remember even one discussion about the ethics of the matter. All that interested us was to sell, sell, sell more and more Israeli weapons and let them kill each other with them.'"


Feinstein continues: "The Iranian impresario behind the operation was Dr Sadeq Tabatabai, a distant relative of Khomeini's and one of his confidants in sensitive matters. Ironically his success with Operation Seashell led to Tabatabai being promoted through the ranks until he became a top Iranian representative in Lebanon and one of the midwives of Hezbollah, Israel's bitter foe."[38]


2.7. Israel's weapons partnership with African countries

"Israel is coming back to Africa, Africa is coming back to Israel," Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu said in July 2016 before embarking on a trip to Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya.[39] The visit was intended to re-awaken the good relations that Israel had maintained in the 1960s to many of the new African nations that had just won their independence. Those good relations changed radically after the 1973 war, when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel, before losing the war despite some initial success. In the aftermath, Egypt in particular pressured Muslim African countries into freezing relations with Israel. Though those ties thawed a little following the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in the 1980s, for more than 30 years no Israeli president made a state visit to any sub-Saharan country. Any contact was usually limited to ministerial level.


Both Israel and the East African countries hoped for concrete benefits from Netanyahu's diplomatic offensive in 2016. The Africans had asked for arms technology exports to combat attacks from Islamist terrorist groups like Boko Haram and al-Shabab. Israel needed new allies in the UN, where criticism of its settlement policy in the West Bank and the autonomous areas was getting louder. Israel also needed new markets for its highly-developed weapons and defense technology – sectors in which it has gained a leading role since the 1990s.


These new business areas were already well established before Netanyahu's visit. African leaders had been trying to acquire Israeli weapons for decades, and in most cases had succeeded. They needed them to secure their power, to keep their populations under control, and to arm and "train" their presidential guards.


A dissertation that appeared in 2016 demonstrated how comprehensive this military cooperation between the Israelis and some African nations has become.[40]


In her chapter "Military Relations," author Maike Hoffmann lists Israeli arms exports to Angola, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa in detail: handguns and rifles, bombs, grenades, torpedos, mines, rockets, bullets, as well as other ammunition and projectiles. Her source was Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, "Israel's Economy, Foreign Trade"). Her conclusion is this:


"According to the official figures, Angola is the biggest buyer of Israeli weapons in sub-Saharan Africa, with $22.968 million worth of exports … But other sources, like the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, suggest that Nigeria is among the biggest buyers of Israeli arms. These are accounted for by complex systems like drones, patrol boats, and electronic surveillances systems … Alongside Angola, Ethiopia and Kenya are also big customers for Israeli arms companies. Apart from the arms deliveries, Israel also provides training and consultation, which highlights the special significance of relations with those countries ..."


Hoffmann also researched the following on Israel's weapons exports controls:


"The weapons exports control system is less structured than in other countries, which makes it less transparent. The Defense Ministry also includes an Armament Development Authority, which is responsible for the research, development, and design of new weapons systems as well as maintaining qualitative supremacy. Within the ministry, the Defense Sales Office was responsible for the sale and licensing of weapons until 2006." These two areas have since been separated. "Even private Israeli weapons dealers now must own a marketing and sales license, even if the weapons traded don't come from Israel. The aim of Israeli export controls is to prevent the loss of sensitive or modern technology to potential enemies and the sale of weapons into crisis regions. For that reason, the Foreign Ministry is also involved in the licensing process. … Even if these weapons can't be sold into those regions where there is a direct risk that they might be re-sold illegally or could end up in the hands of terrorists or their supporters, there is hardly any discussion in Israel about possible negative consequences or a potential misuse of weapons by an undemocratic regime. … Also, for several years, a legal loophole allowed Israeli citizens to deliver weapons into crisis regions. … The dealers do need a license, but often they are not checked.


"Also, until the beginning of this millennium, the regulation that Israeli weapons are not delivered into crisis regions was ignored or not enforced, which suggests a lack of political will in the Israeli government."[41]


There are a number of examples of this, reaching until today.


2.8. Israeli weapons in African civil wars and genocides

Even before the turn of the millennium there were reports of Israeli weapons exports to African countries caught in civil war. It has already been established that there were exports to apartheid South Africa and civil-war ridden Angola in the 1990s. Israel even helped South Africa develop its own nuclear weapon, a move that South Africa reciprocated by selling uranium to Israel for its own nuclear industry.[42]


2.8.1. Angola

During the Angolan civil war between 1975 and 2002, which cost half a million lives, Israel is believed to have maintained relations with all three civil war parties – the MPLA, the FNLA and UNITA.[43]


Following the FNLA's dissolution, and the escalation of the conflict between the MPLA (supported by the USSR, East Germany, and Cuba), and UNITA (financed by South Africa, the USA, and other western states), Israel declared its willingness to pass on a certain part of this "covert aid" (secret military aid from the USA) to UNITA. Following the Korean War and the Vietnam debacle, the Americans were reluctant to get directly involved in another conflict in what was then called the Third World. This secret military aid made it possible for UNITA to set up a base for guerrilla operations in the remote south-east of Angola.


Whether the MPLA ever found out about this is unknown. In any case, the MPLA and its president, Edouardo dos Santos, who emerged victorious after 30 years of war, had an interest in good relations with Israel. Four years after the end of the civil war, the Angolan and Israeli governments signed a contract for the sale of handguns, rifles, ammunition, artillery, and mortars along with the appropriate grenades as well as drones made by the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the battery and electronics specialists Tadiran. Total value: around $1 billion.[44]


Since then, Angola has been using Israeli drones to protect its borders and its oil production facilities, which are vital to its economy. In addition, Israel Aerospace Industries, along with a Polish company, took on the modernization of the Soviet SU-22 fighter jets in Angola's air force.[45]


2.8.2. Rwanda

"Did Israel supply weapons to Rwanda during the 1994 genocide?" asked Professor Yair Auron, Israeli historian at the Open University of Israel, on January 16, 2015, in the online news outlet Middle East Eye. The academic has been researching Israel's relations to countries where genocide took place for more than 20 years. The Middle East Eye summed up the answer right below the title: "Investigator finds evidence Israel was supplying weapons to Rwanda via Albania after UN embargo was imposed."[46]


This was a serious allegation, since selling weapons into an embargoed country is considered a crime against humanity that must be prosecuted internationally. Indeed, the interviewer pressed the question: "To your knowledge, did the Israeli government know it was selling weapons that could be used in genocide?"


The answer is unambiguous: "There was tension in Rwanda as early as January of 1994. Several of the world's most powerful states imposed international arms control regulations and on May 17 1994 there was a UN embargo. Israel breached the embargo, as did Russia, Belgium, South Africa, France, Spain and others. … Some of the shipments were sent between May and July (during the massacres). According to the documents of the Rwandan Ministry of Defence, seven shipments of light ammunition arrived from Israel via Albania between April and July of 1994 for use of the militias that committed the massacres."[47]


According to the UN, around 800,000 men, women, and children fell victim to the genocide in Rwanda against the Tutsis. Most were killed with machetes, but many others were killed with small arms, such as handguns and rifles.


In 2014, Professor Auron and the Israeli lawyer and human rights activist Eitay Mack tried to force the Israeli Defense Ministry to release its files on arms exports to Rwanda. Their request was denied on the grounds that publication "would harm Israel’s state security and foreign relations."[48]


2.8.3. Ivory Coast

In November 2004 a serious crisis erupted between France and Israel during the civil war in Ivory Coast. Nine French soldiers in the UN's blue helmet mission and an American aid worker were killed in an attack by Ivorian government planes near the demarcation line to the rebel-held area. Their camp had been found by Israeli-made drones, which were exported to Ivory Coast along with other weapons from Israel – some from the Israeli government itself, others from international arms dealers.[49]


"These exports not only violated a 2004 United Nations weapons embargo, but also a voluntary ECOWAS agreement from 1998. According to Amnesty International, Israel sold drones to Ivory Coast that not only had a major influence on the conflict between 2002 and 2007, but which were deployed again during the government crisis of 2010-2011."[50]


2.8.4. Nigeria

According to SIPRI, Nigeria is the biggest importer of Israeli arms south of the Sahara. Maike Hoffmann's analysis of foreign trade statistics concluded that Nigeria bought $500 million worth of Israeli arms between 2006 and 2009, including drones from Aeronautics Ventures, as well as coastal radar systems and coastguard boats. Israel also provided support in the form of training and expertise in the fight against the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.[51]


2.8.5. Kenya

The cooperation between Kenya and Israel in both military policy and intelligence dates back to the middle of the 20th century. This partnership has increased as the terrorist threat by Islamist groups has grown stronger. A major focus has been surveillance and border protection systems to guard against pirates and the al-Shabab militias involved in the 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, in which 67 people were killed. "Kenya's enemies are Israel's enemies. We have similar forces planning to bring us down," Benjamin Nathanyahu said in 2011.[52] And he kept his word: "The fact that Israeli military and intelligence experts were on the ground almost immediately confirms other reports that suggest Mossad has a permanent presence in Nairobi to strengthen cooperation in the security sector."[53]


2.8.6. South Sudan

The conflict between the two civil war belligerents – troops of President Salva Kiir, of the Dinka people, are fighting supporters of his rival Riek Machar, of the Nuer people – has already cost tens of thousands of lives and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes. Both sides have been accused of carrying out massacres and mass rapes and burning women and children in their homes.


Almost nothing was known of the weapons sent from Israel into the South Sudanese civil war region before 2016. But that changed with the publication of a report by the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan from 19th September 2016 (S/2016/963), which cited the serial numbers of three Micro Galil rifles found in the country.[54] The well-spread locations of the finds indicated that many more than these three rifles must have been deployed. The serial numbers also revealed the origin of the weapons: they came from a delivery to the Ugandan Defense Ministry in 2007, means they had made their way to South Sudan illegally.


A petition by 54 Israeli citizens to the High Court of Justice, under the legal direction of human rights lawyer Eitay Mack, was filed in the hope of forcing a investigative committee to find out whether any criminal activity lay behind the finds. The petition had been triggered by a surprising discovery: it emerged that, five years earlier, Israel had sent Galil ACE rifles to a militia tied to the South Sudanese government, who used these weapons during an attack on members of the Nuer tribe in 2013. That attack has often been considered the spark for the civil war.


But the petition, and the investigation that precipitated it, produced the same result as many similar cases before had: the Israeli government found that no criminal activity was involved in the exports. In fact, the government concluded they were legal government acts.[55] The petition was rejected.


Nevertheless, after years of unsuccessful attempts to force a weapons embargo against South Sudan, there has now been a breakthrough. By the incredibly narrow majority of one vote, the UN voted in favor of an embargo in mid-July 2018. It remains to be seen whether either the state or private arms dealers in Israel stick to it


Richard Silverstein, an Israeli journalist and blogger, and Eitay Mack, a human rights activist and lawyer, have found more severe offences against human rights executed with weapons from Israel:

- Sri Lanka´s Sinhalese Forces

- The Philippines: When Duterte Came Shopping for Israeli Guns

- Arming Serbian and Rwandan War Criminals

- Myanmar´s Ethnic Cleansing of Rohinya, Aided by Irsraeli Naval Warships


Israel´s Genocidal Arms Customers by Richard Silverstein


3. The Laboratory

Has the State of Israel turned the Occupied Palestinian Territory into a laboratory for testing its weapons on Palestinian civilians, and then selling the “battle-tested” products to international customers?


3.1. Origin of the Concept

This idea was coined by Naomi Klein in 2007 in her famous article in The Nation “Laboratory for a Fortress World,”[56] and quickly acquired widespread use by critics of the Israeli arms industry as well as by the Israeli arms industry itself. Klein also incorporated this argument into her bestselling book The Shock Doctrine.[57] Klein argues that the Israeli “fortress state” allows Israelis to live in oblivion and enjoy a normal lifestyle while Palestinians live under military occupation nearby, but cannot reach the Israelis. In 2008 a documentary in Israeli television by journalist Oshrat Kotler studied the Israeli arms industry through a series of interviews with senior managers from the Israeli arms companies. The interviewees all agreed “the first question that we are asked about our products is this: has the Israeli military used it already?”[58]


Klein’s article has started drawing attention to the fact that Israeli arms companies openly and repeatedly market their products as “battle-tested,” and show videos and images at arms fairs in which Israeli weapons and other security systems are deployed on actual human beings. This marketing strategy is consciously used by Israeli arms companies to gain an advantage over their competitors from other countries.[59]


In 2013, the movie “The Lab” was premiered by filmmaker and journalist Yotam Feldman.[60] The movie, just like Klein’s article and a growing number of scholars laid out the “laboratory” argument clearly: normally a state of conflict is bad for the economy, discourages investment and consumption and entails high costs. In the case of the State of Israel, however, the conflict itself has become a source of profit because of the opportunity to improve the exports of Israeli arms companies by marketing the Israeli experience and expertise in repressing Palestinian resistance. In the movie, Brigadier-General Shimon Naveh who runs his private training company says “what is a laboratory? A laboratory is an opportunity to learn.”


It should be said, however, that even at the peak of the Israeli arms sales, when Israel was ranked the 7th largest arms exporter in the world in the year 2009, arms exports did not account for more than 11% of the total Israeli exports, and the arms sector did not become the largest industrial sector of the Israeli economy. Even as Israeli arms companies were selling arms to 130[61] countries around the world, the security costs associated with controlling the Palestinian population under military occupation were higher than the income from arms sales.[62]


3.2. War on Terror and Homeland Security

The Israeli policies of occupation have drastically transformed over the decades. The first two decades after 1967 were known by Israeli officials as the “open bridge policy” or the “enlightened occupation,” a complex array of mechanisms of control, recruitment and persuasion intended to keep the Palestinian population divided and docile, and to make sure that resistance is kept to a minimum, because Palestinians always have “something to lose,” to quote from the first Israeli military governor of the West Bank, Major General Shlomo Gazit[63].


As economic exploitation and political humiliation increased, so did Palestinian resistance, and the Israeli response became less nuanced and more aggressive. The process which scholars call “securitization” – the framing of social problems in the language of security prevalent since the 1980s [64] – has coincided with the first Intifada of 1987, and the Israeli military was quickly transformed into a colonial police force.


Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a former general himself, was alarmed by this and attempted to halt the process by forming the Palestinian Authority,[65] but other than in the occupation of a civilian population, Israeli soldiers and officers had no opportunities to engage in any kind of conflict. The military expertise of the Israeli military, which became famous at the 1967 war, was replaced with another kind of expertise: the repression of resistance.


The September 11th attacks against the U.S. in 2001 happened when Israel/Palestine was engaged in the second Intifada, a massive Palestinian uprising crushed with unprecedented Israeli brutality. The Al-Qaeda attacks against the U.S. prompted interest in the Israeli experience in “counter-terrorism” and “counter-insurgency,” and Israeli military and security companies quickly learned that in order to maximize their profits, they must combine technology with a human element. They began using soldiers and officers to promote their products to foreign customers, and offered packages which included both weapons and trainers with experience in the Israeli security forces who will come alongside the weapons and help foreign armies and police forces train with these new weapons and integrate them into their tactics.[66]


The establishment of the Department of Homeland Security in the US by President Bush was a direct response to the 9/11 attacks, but homeland security quickly became a growing global sector. Israeli scholar Neve Gordon crowned Tel-Aviv the “world capital” of the homeland security sector, because trade fairs were held in the city at least once per year (and still are), where customers from around the world come to observe and purchase Israeli security products.[67]


3.3. Implementation of Israeli Security Practices

The laboratory argument only works if the “experiments” conducted in Israel/Palestine, the use of new security equipment and techniques against Palestinians, is not only marketed to international customers, but also implemented by those customers based on the experience accumulated by Israeli security forces.


The reliance of the U.S military forces and intelligence on Israeli security experts, especially their knowledge of how to fight “Islamic terrorists” has been extensively documented, although officially it has never been acknowledged by the U.S Department of Defense.[68] More commonly known are the training programs of U.S police departments and more recently of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in Israel/Palestine or by Israeli security companies.[69] Indeed, the tendency of militarization of police and the use of deadly police violence in the U.S against unarmed civilians has been linked by several scholars to the Israeli security procedures which include racial profiling, constant vigilance and suspicion, and framing civilians as potential “targets.”[70]


Israeli security equipment and training are used by many countries around the world. Following an appeal by Israeli lawyer Etay Mack, the Israeli Ministry of Defense acknowledged that arms exports reach 163 countries around the world. India and Brazil are among the largest customers of Israeli arms and training. Indian forces use Israeli equipment in Kashmir[71] and security forces in Rio De Jenairo in Brazil have gone so far as to give one of the “favelas” (the impoverished neighborhoods of the city) the nickname “The Gaza Strip.”[72]


3.4. Science of Security

In order to make the most of the laboratory image of the occupation, Israeli security forces and arms companies work closely with Israeli academic institutions. Arms companies and the Ministry of Defense provide Israeli universities with billions of Euros worth of research funds, scholarship for students studying topics important for arms development and for developing special academic programs for Israeli officers.[73] In exchange, the Israeli academic institutions bestow a scholarly and scientific aura to Israeli arms companies and their products.


Major Israeli universities take pride in participating in projects for developing weapons for the Israeli security forces, which are later exported to the rest of the world.[74] Major General Professor Isaac Ben Israel is both a general and a university professor. He wrote:


“so […] the security system funnels enormous amounts of money every year to the Israeli market for the development of technologies, with an emphasis on information technology (high-tech). The first screening, and often the source of the ideas, comes from the academia. The academia also serves as the main source for training the required person-power for high-tech. The academia trains thousands of graduates in engineering and science every year, and some of them are later conscripted to the IDF (reserves), receives training in the R&D centers of the security system and later return to the civilian market with experience and education for entrepreneurship. The complex relationship between all of the factors named above is the social, economic and cultural infrastructure to what has been recently called “startup nation.”[75]


3.5. Critique on the Laboratory Concept

When discussing the Israeli use of the Occupied Palestinian Territory as a testing ground for technologies of oppression and using the term laboratory, there are two problems that must be addressed. The first problem, pointed out by Rhys Machold in a recent article[76] is that the language of the critics of the Israeli occupation resembles the language of the arms companies themselves. The same policies which horrify human-rights activists are used by the arms companies as proof that their weapons were tested successfully on human beings, and therefore have an advantage over weapons produced by competitors from countries who do not have occupied populations.


The second problem is that the laboratory concept creates the sometimes-false impression that the Israeli arms industry leads the world in technological innovation, that the Israeli military uses scientific methods to perfect its methods and that therefore these methods are effective. In fact, one must remember that the role of the Israeli security forces in Israel/Palestine is to achieve a single goal: to repress the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation and apartheid. This simple task has not been successful, because it is evident that Palestinians continue to resist and their struggle against the Israeli oppressive policies has not slowed down.[77]


Israeli forces have failed to contain the Gaza Strip and keep its population docile. In 2014 the invasion of Gaza has lasted 51 days and still did not break the Palestinian resistance groups. The idea promoted by Naomi Klein of the “fortress state” has also failed, because the Israeli economy is deeply affected by Palestinian resistance through loss of tourism, the high expenditure on defense and the international boycott movement against the State of Israel.[78]


As Israeli arms companies, universities and the Ministry of Defense dedicate their efforts to develop technological means to stop Palestinian makeshift and improvised forms of resistance, such as balloons and kites, customers of Israeli arms have noticed that the experiment conducted by the Israeli laboratory does not produce the desired result. In the last four years a steady decline in Israeli position in the top arms exporters list, down to the 12th place, as potential customers of no longer consider the Israeli experience a model worthy of copying.[79]


4. Drones: Israel’s Flagship Weapon


4.1. Introduction

The days in which the Israeli arms exports comprised Uzi submachine guns only are long gone. Today the flagship product of the Israeli arms industry are drones, land and water patrol vehicles, but especially aerial vehicles.[80]


In dozens of interviews to Israeli media, officers in the Israeli air force and senior managers in drone-manufacturing companies (who are themselves, usually, former airforce officers) express protest against the name UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), and ask that the reporter will use the term “remotely-operated vehicles.”[81] The distinction between the terms highlights the role of drones in modern warfare, the mediation between operator and victim, which makes the killing less direct.


The Israeli arms industry prides itself not on its ability to produce large amounts of firepower, but rather on the “non-lethality” of its technology either through precision strikes to minimize the targeting of innocent bystanders, or through the application of nonlethal force, also known as “riot gear.”[82] Yet the flagship product of the Israeli arms exports, the drone, continues to be used to take the lives of large numbers of unarmed civilians. The drone is presented as a form of “precision” weapon, which supposedly causes less “collateral damage” (the killing of innocent bystanders) than other weapons.


Israeli soldiers have expressed concern that the credit for the kill goes to the drone, rather than the operator, and that as a result their prestigious status as “warfighters” may be harmed. They therefore insist on the term “remotely-controlled vehicles” rather than “unmanned.” For peace activists and human rights activists, the concern is the same: drones can kill without accountability. Witnesses never see the face of the killer, not even an airplane in which the killer sits. They see a robot (if they see anything at all), while the drone operator stays in a remote air-conditioned room, possibly in a different country or even continent, and plays a video game with lethal consequences.[83]


The concept of the occupation as a “laboratory” for Israeli arms has been discussed in section 3, and drones are especially prominent in the “battle-tested” marketing element of Israeli arms companies. CEOs of Elbit Systems and IAI insist that every drone model produced by their company has been used by the Israeli military in Gaza.[84]


Among the main customers of Israeli drones are Azarbeijan, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Poland, Switzerland, the UK and the US.[85]


4.2. Capital-intensive warfare

Drones serve a major role in the transformation of military operations, especially in developed countries. Yagil Levy, an Israeli professor at the Open University, describes the transition from a “labor-intensive” military force to a “capital-intensive” one, which means a higher reliance on technology among modern armies, in order to multiply the impact of a small number of soldiers.[86] This has been a major element in the transformation of the Israeli military, shifting the emphasis from the quality and quantity of the personnel into the equipment which soldiers have access to.


In the Israeli case, the drop in the conscription rate to the military,[87] the increasing unease about occupation-related missions to soldiers and the growing aversion to casualties in Israeli society[88] have led to an “automatization” of the Israeli military, and a heavy reliance on drones. Drones seem to solve all problems of the Israeli military. Shortage of soldiers is solved by the multiplication-factor of drone-mounted firepower. One drone operator can operate multiple drones, or alternatively drone operators can take short shifts on long-term missions, thereby reducing the dependency on durable and highly committed soldiers. Drones can be operated in safety and comfort, and even lend a certain “high-tech” aura to drone operators, who can leverage their experience in future careers in aviation, engineering or the high-tech industry.[89]


4.3. Armed drones

The use of drones in warfare can be classified into three levels of armament of drones. The first level is the use of drones for surveillance and intelligence gathering. At this level, drones can acquire targets for the military, and then the military can use other weapons against these targets (such as missiles or artillery). The drone operator who “paints” the target (to use the military jargon) and then transfers the coordinates to other soldiers who fire at a target without seeing it. In this case, the responsibility for the attack and any damage, injury or death which it causes is shared between the drone operator and the artillery crew.


This is what happened in the Ivory Coast incident, in which Israeli drones were used by rebel forces to target French forces in the UN peacekeeping force, while the company who provided the drones, insisted that there was no violation of the arms embargo, because drones are “communication technology” and not weapons.[90]


The second level of drone armament is a drone carrying a weapon (usually a missile or a bomb). The drone operator not only locates the target, but immediately fires a weapon with deadly capabilities. In this case, the responsibility for the use of deadly violence rests on the shoulders of the drone operator. The German government decided that it does not wish the German military to be equipped with armed drones, but only with surveillance drones. Nevertheless, it has chosen to lease the Heron-TP drones from the Israeli company IAI, which are heavy drones capable of carrying heavy ordnance.[91]


In 2018 The Intercept revealed documents taken from an internal investigation of the Israeli military over the killing of four Palestinian boys on the Gaza beach in August 2014, and the wounding of four others. The boys were playing football and were attacked by two Israeli missiles. The official response from the Israeli military was that the soldiers had mistakenly identified the children as terrorists and had fired at them. It was widely believed that the Israeli forces opened fire from a naval vessel far from the beach, but the newly revealed documents show that the boys were killed by missiles fired from Israeli drones (most likely from the Heron type). Not only has this story revealed how drones can be used to conceal the names and faces of perpetrators of war crimes, but also that referring to drones as “precision weapons” is misleading. The drone operators were not able to realize they were firing at children.[92]


4.4. Suicide drones

The third level of armed drones is suicide drones, when the drone itself is the weapon. The official name of suicide drones is “loitering munitions” and they are in fact remotely-controlled missiles with sensors and the ability to remain for hours in the air. The drone operator uses the suicide drone to select a target, and the drone itself drops on the target and explodes, as a missile.[93]


Two Israeli companies produce these drones: IAI and Aeronautics. Aeronautics is now under investigation over the incident in Azerbaijan from 2017 described in section 2.4 in which company employees fired a suicide drone against an Armenian military installation in order to demonstrate its capabilities.[94] The ethical problems posed by the suicide drone are no different than those of “normal” armed drones, as the operator may take lives with impunity.


Jamie Allinson wrote about the strategic value of suicide drones. From a military-strategic perspective, the first level of military drones (intended for surveillance and “acquiring targets”) is sufficient, and there is very little strategic advantage in loading explosives on the same platform which carries cameras for surveillance. However, the drones do serve a psychological advantage for the drone operators and for officers, because they make the act of killing easier, involving fewer people and fewer possible witnesses. Suicide drones take the psychological aspect even further, because they copy the only technology which paramilitary groups have, but regular armies do not: the suicide bomber. In contemporary asymmetrical warfare, generals can boast their technological advantage over their opponents in every way, except that small guerrilla forces can muster militants willing to sacrifice themselves for their cause, which regular armies cannot. The suicide bomber has become popular among western generals precisely because it soothes the only source of insecurity which the vastly superior modern armies still face.[95]


Chapter 5: Summary and Future Prospects

As we have seen, Israel's weapons industry, in close partnership with its US counterparts, performs two strategic tasks in the Middle East and other parts of the world:


Israel acts as America's "shop window" (Andrew Feinstein): Israel regularly gets discount prices on large weapons systems (tanks, ships, fighter planes), which it cannot manufacture itself and indeed does not want to, for cost reasons. Many of these are deployed in the regional conflicts around Israel, which helps potential customers for American weapons get a good view of their "quality."[96]


Israel is America's agent in the Middle East, especially where the US can't or doesn't want to intervene, e.g. in the confrontation with Iran. Israel sells reconnaissance technology and weapons for tactical operations (e.g. fighter drones) against Islamist militias, or else it uses them itself in strategic partnership with the USA.


Since developing expensive high-tech weapons just to perform these two roles is not cost-effective, Israel has itself become a powerful arms dealer. Israel sells weapon systems like drones for reconnaissance or to fight insurgencies all over the world, in consultation with the USA. The Israeli approval agencies and manufacturers have few scruples about choosing customers. Anyone who is willing to pay is served, whether they're NATO countries like Germany or dictatorships like Azerbaijan. Countries where civil wars, border conflicts, or genocides are raging (e.g. Rwanda, India/Pakistan and India/China, as well as South Sudan) are and have been enthusiastically supplied with weapons.[97]


In the process, Israel has found a niche in reconnaissance and weapons technology in which it is virtually without competition, and in which it can boast a position as "global market leader": for instance in the area of electronic security and border control technology. That could mean: the defense and sealing-off of territories where Islamist terrorist groups are trying to extend their control, where freedom fighters representing ethnically repressed groups are fighting for autonomy, or where democratic resistance groups are threatening dictatorial regimes.


Israeli companies also openly advertise ethnic or racial profiling capabilities, which the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) defines as follows: "Ethnic profiling is the use by the police, security, immigration or customs officials of generalizations based on race, ethnicity, religion or national origin - rather than individual behavior or objective evidence - as the basis for suspicion in directing discretionary law enforcement actions."[98]


With this form of ethnic profiling, the data is transmitted via reconnaissance drones. They can detect for instance whether a group of people approaching a border fence belong to their own or an enemy ethnic group, using ethnic features like skin color or physiognomy. In the latter case, the group can immediately be attacked from the air – e.g. with armed drones – if police or military believe they pose a threat. This often leads to horrific miscalculations, as happened in April and May 2018 in Gaza, when Israeli security forces near a border fence shot dead more than 60 young Palestinian demonstrators, including children.


Human rights activists have also criticized the fact that in the majority of countries that Israel does business with, the reconnaissance technology and the weapons used to fight insurgents are usually deployed against civilians rather than the military.


Israeli firms earn billions with the sale of electronic border protection technology, reconnaissance and armed drones, as well as with the sale of the attendant expertise and training programs. In addition, the Israeli government has sent intelligence and military personnel to countries that have asked for it, as Kenya did in 2013, the year of the al-Shabab attack on the Westgate Mall.


The fact that Israel is able to "test" many of its weapons systems before the world's eyes in its own country or just beyond its borders has given the state and its companies an advantage in the market. What happens almost daily in Gaza and the West Bank is likely to be watched closely by countries who believe they are under threat from rebel or terrorist groups or whose autocratic rulers are being threatened by resistance movements, which is why it is no wonder that the most commonly asked question at the stands of Israeli firms at international weapons fairs is: "Have you tested your products in war conditions?"[99]


Nevertheless, Israel will struggle to defend its leading position in the surveillance and border protection technology market. Other suppliers are already on the market, for instance companies like Rheinmetall Defence in Canada, which is advertising its "Persistent Surveillance System – PSS" as follows: "Rheinmetall's Persistent Surveillance System (PSS) provides a wide-area, long range observation capability for the detection, identification, and monitoring of potential threats against military installations and other critical infrastructure, such as forward operating bases, forward operating positions, petroleum facilities and power generation stations. … The PSS has a proven record, being in service for the Canadian Forces' Forward Operating Bases in Afghanistan, the Winter Olympic Games 2010 in Vancouver, and the G8 and G20 summits 2010 in Canada."[100]


6. Appendix: Prominent Israeli Arms Dealers


6.1. Officers/Arms Dealers


Doron Almog, retired major general in the Israeli paratroopers, who commanded units in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and in the repression of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000-2003. Almog is suspected of war crimes, and had to escape from Britain in 2005 because there was a warrant for his arrest.[101] Almog used his military experience to found a company called Athlone Global Security in 2007, to manage investments for customers in security-related start-ups. Almog resigned from the company after it lost 86% of its value.[102]


Gal Hirsch, retired major general in the Israeli paratroopers who became the commander of the Israeli 91st Division during the invasion of Lebanon in 2006. After the invasion, Hirsch was disgraced in the Israeli media. He left the military service and founded an arms company which traded with Georgia and other customers, and was investigated by the USA FBI for alleged crimes.[103]


6.2. Politicians


Shimon Peres served as Israeli minister, prime minister and president over a very long political career which started with the founding of the State of Israel. He is considered to be the politician who promoted the establishing of the Israeli nuclear program.[104] Peres negotiated a deal with German Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss to receive weapons instead of Holocaust compensations.[105] He maintained close ties with the South Africa Apartheid regime, which included large-scale arms trade.[106] He played a role in arming militias in Lebanon during the civil war there.[107]


Ariel Sharon served as an Israeli general, minister and prime minister. He was known as an independent thinker who often didn’t follow orders nor tell the truth to his superiors. He was the architect of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the “Wall of Separation” and the siege on the Gaza Strip.[108] Sharon was involved in controversial Israeli arms shipments to Apartheid South Africa,[109] to Latin America[110] and Iran.[111] As minister of defense, he toured several African states, accompanied by Israeli arms dealers in order to open markets for Israeli weapons.[112]


Binyamin Ben Eliezer served as an Israeli general and cabinet minister. He moved from the Ministry of Defense to the Ministry of Industry, Labor and Trade, promoting the arms industry and the arms trade, and admitted that Israeli arms companies have an advantage due to the experience gathered by the Israeli military.[113] He played a major role in establishing the South Lebanese Army which assisted in maintaining the Israeli occupation in Lebanon in the years 1982-2000.[114]


Ehud Barak served as the commander of the Israeli military, as a cabinet minister and as prime minister. He orchestrated the military crackdown against the Palestinian Second Intifada and also the invasion of Gaza in 2008/2009 known as “Cast Lead.”[115] Barak is well connected with the Israeli arms industry, especially with the privately-owned Elbit Systems and uses his connections to arrange meetings to promote deals for the Israeli arms industry.[116] Barak played a major role in promoting Israeli arms exports to India[117] and is accused of receiving millions in bribe money from arms companies in exchange for facilitating arms deals.[118]


7. About the Authors


Dr. Shir Hever is an independent political economist and journalist. He lives in Heidelberg and works with the Real News Network. Hever is a graduate of the Free University of Berlin in political science, and wrote two books: The Political Economy of the Israeli Occupation (2010) and The Privatization of Israeli Security (2017).


Wolfgang Landgraeber is a renowned german documentary filmmaker, commissioning editor and essayist. For more than 12 years he was working as a reporter for political programmes of public german TV stations like WDR and NDR. Apart from that he produced more than 30 long documentaries on political, social and environmental issues and commissioned about 100 others. For his films and his work as a commissioning editor he was awarded 16 times at national and international film and TV festivals. Before he retired in 2012 he headed the department of cultural, historic and scientific TV documentaries at WDR. Since then he has been working as a free lance filmmaker and lecturer at film schools and universities.


[1] IMI, 2017, “IMI Systems Ltd Company Profile,” February 2017, , accessed August 2018.

[2] Lifshitz, Ya’akov, 2000, Security Economy, the General Theory and the Case of Israel, Jerusalem: Ministry of Defense Publishing and the Jerusalem Center for Israel Studies, pp: 372-373.

[3] Salt, Jeremy, 2008, The Unmaking of the Middle East: a History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands, Berkley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, p. 129.

[4] Lifshitz, op. cit.

[5] Silverstein, Richard, 2017, “1967 War: How a Euphoric Israeli Victory Turned Into a Nightmare,” Middle East Eye, June 5th,, accessed August 2018.

[6] Sadeh, Sharon, 2001, “Israel’s Beleaguered Defense Industry,” Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal, Vol. 5, No. 1, March 2001, pp. 64-77.

[7] Khalidi, Rashid, I., 2009, Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East, Boston: Beacon Press., pp. 29, 122-127, 216.

[8] Sadeh, op. cit.

[9] Haimowitz, Mordechai, 2012, “Why Did the Lavi Project Really Fail?” NRG, September 1st, 2012,, accessed April 2014.

[10] Aitoro, Jill, 2018, “IAI Chief Talks International Security Makes a Bold Prediction for Unmanned Tech,” Defense News, August 13th, 2018,, accessed August 2018.

[11] Peri, Yoram, 2006, Generals in the Cabinet Room: How the Military Shapes Israeli Policy, Washington: United States Institute of Peace Press, p. 81.

[12] Cohen, Stuart, 1995, “The Israel Defense Force (IDF): From a ‘People’s Army’ to a ‘Professional Military’ – Causes and Implications,” Armed Forces & Society, Vol. 21, pp. 237-254.

[13] Hever, Shir, 2011, “Elbit Systems,” in Winstanley, Asa & Barat, Frank (eds.), Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation; Evidence from the London Session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, London: Pluto Press, pp. 148-154.

[14] Hever, Shir, 2016, “Privatising Israel’s Arms Industry,” Middle East Eye, January 27th, 2016,, accessed August 2018.

[15] Gordon, Neve, 2009, “The Political Economy of Israel’s Homeland Security/Surveillance Industry,” The new Transparency, Working Paper, April 28th, p. 6.

[16] Berger, Yotam, 2017, “Israel Arrests Palestinian Because Facebook Translated ‘Good Morning’ to ‘Attack Them,’” Ha’aretz, October 22nd, 2017,, accessed August 2018.

[17] Staff, 2016, “Israeli Firm that Made Gaza Fence Sees Stock Soar After Trump Elections,” Jerusalem Post, November 15th, 2016,, accessed August 2018.

[18] Halper, Jeff, 2015, War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification, London: Pluto Press, pp. 145, 167.

[19] Levy, Yagil, 2012, Israel’s Death Hierarchy: Casualty Aversion in a Militarized Democracy, New York: NYU Press, pp. 28-29, 66-67.

[20] Ly, Dickson, 2016, “Factory Tour: the IWI Factory,” Small Arms Defense Journal, May 11th, 2018,, accessed August 2018.

[21] Reuters Staff, 2018, “Israel's Rafael, Stolero make offer for drone firm Aeronautics,” Reuters, August 9th, 2018, , accessed August 2018.

[22] Gordon, Neve, 2011, “Israel’s Emergence as a Homeland Security Capital,” in Zureik, Elia; Lyon, David; Abu-Laban, Yasmeen (eds.), Surveillance and Control in Israel/Palestine: Population, Territory and Power, New York: Routledge, pp: 163.

[23] ZEIT online, 1.10.2016,

[24] Deutsche Welle, 4.8.2017

[26] Deutsche Welle, 4.7.2017

[27] Azernews, 14.3.2018

[28] Wikipedia: Azerbaijan-Israel relations

[29] "Azerbaijan Makes Massive Israeli Weapons Purchase – But Not Because of Iran" in: Eurasianet, 27.2.2012  

[30] Israel sucht Kampfbasis in Aserbaidschan, SPIEGEL online, 29.3.2012.

[31] Aeronautics to build plant in Azerbaijan, Ha’aretz, 29.6.2009.

[32] Amnesty International Jahresbericht 2018 "Aserbaidschan 2017/18."

[33] "Israeli Company charged with live-testing drone on Armenian Soldiers," Middle East Eye, 29.8.2018.

[34] Amnesty International country report on Azerbaijan 2017/18.

[35] ZEIT online, 22.4.2018.

[37] Andrew Feinstein: Shadow World, Penguin, London 2012, p. 384 ff.

[38] Ibid p. 379 ff.

[39] Israel sucht Verbündete in Afrika ("Israel seeks allies in Africa"), Deutsche Welle 1.7.2016.

[40] Maike Hoffmann, Die außenpolitische Strategie Israels in Subsahara-Afrika - intensives Engagement zwischen Entwicklungshilfe und Rüstungsexporten, ("Israel's foreign policy strategy in sub-Saharan Africa – an intensive engagement between development aid and weapons exports"), Dissertation, Universität zu Köln, 2016.

[41] Maike Hoffmann, Ibid, p.125 ff.

[42] Sasha Polakow-Suransky, The Unspoken Alliance – Israel's Secret Partnership with Apartheid South Africa, Vintage Books, New York 2010.

[43] Andrew Feinstein, Shadow World, p. 454 ff.

[44] Maike Hoffmann, p. 133.

[45] Ibid. p. 134.

[46] Middle East Eye: Did Israel arm Rwanda during the 1994 genocide? - emphasis added.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ibid.

[49] “French Media: Israel Aided Ivory Coast Military in Attacks”; in Ha’aretz, 17 November 2004

[50] Maike Hoffmann ibid. p. 135.

[51] Ibid. p. 144.

[52] Israel-Kenya deal to help fight Somalia's al-Shabab, BBC 14.11.2011.

[53] Maike Hoffmann ibid. p. 143.

[54] European and Israeli Arms fueling South Sudan conflict: UN-report,” Newsweek, 21.10.2016

[55] Israeli prosecutor defends arms export to South Sudan in: Sudan Tribune. 12.8.2017

[56] Klein, Naomi, 2007, “Laboratory for a Fortressed World,” The Nation, July 2nd, 2007, , accessed August 2018.

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[72] Feldman, Op. Cit.

[73] Yacobi Keller, Uri, 2009, “Academic Boycott of Israel and the Complicity of Israeli Academic Institutions in Occupation of Palestinian Territories,” The Alternative Information Center, Socioeconomic Bulletin, No. 23-24, Jerusalem, October 2009,, accessed August 2018.

[74] Ibid.

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[86] Levy, Yagil, 2012, Israel’s Death Hierarchy: Casualty Aversion in a Militarized Democracy, New York: NYU Press, p. 29.

[87] Doron, Assaf, 2010, “IDF: 50% of the Jewish Population Aged 18-40 Do Not Serve in Any Capacity,” Knesset Committee for Foreign Relations and Security, November 9th, 2010,, accessed July 2013.

[88] Levy, Op. Cit.

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[96] Andrew Feinstein, Shadow World, p. 373 ff.

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[98] ENAR Fact Sheet 40, Oktober 2009, p. 3,

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