electronic intifada

Has Israel benefited from war in Europe?
David Cronin, Electronic Intifada, Sep 27 2022

Are Israel’s weapons dealers trained to be brazen and evasive at the same time? In a recent statement, the Haifa-based firm Rafael boasted that its Spyder missile system had proven its “effectiveness in battle, including in Europe.” As I had no idea what “battle” was being alluded to, I contacted Daniel Tsemach, a representative of the firm. In response, he emailed me a few weblinks about Georgia’s military. None of these links explicitly stated that Spyder missiles had proven their effectiveness in a battle on European soil. So I sent a fresh email message to Tsemach, requesting that he give “a clear answer” to my query. He replied:

Your answer can be easily attained by open sources. That is all I have to provide for you. We don’t speak on behalf of our customers.

A little searching helped clarify matters, at least partly. In 2008, a number of Spyder missiles, then newly-developed, were reportedly delivered to Georgia. Has an Israeli firm now admitted, albeit with a nod and a wink, that Georgia used its weapons in the war against Russia the same year? It is difficult to see what other conclusion can be drawn from Rafael’s boast. Russia is of course now at war with Ukraine. Among the many ugly consequences of the war is that it has created new opportunities for arms dealers. Rather than taking the sensible option, brokering ceasefire talks and seeking to reduce tensions, the EU has increased the flow of weapons to Ukraine, thereby prolonging the war unnecessarily. A dangerous consensus has developed among the political elite in Europe that military budgets should rise. Predictably, Israel wants to get in on the action as much as possible.

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Europe was already the main destination for Israel’s weapons exports. Many new opportunities have arisen since then. Sweden and Finland, nominally neutral until they applied for NATO membership earlier this year, have both bought or moved towards buying weapons from Israel lately. Germany has allocated nearly $100b towards giving its military a refit. Israeli weapons are likely to feature prominently on the shopping list drawn up in Berlin. The aforementioned Rafael inked a $627m contract during 2021 to install the Spyder system in the Czech Republic. The firm is now hoping to drum up business elsewhere in Europe. That explains why it uses euphemisms like “combat proven” to market its weapons.

RT, an Israeli maker of surveillance technology, has been more brazen in promoting its activities. That can be seen in an article published recently by the trade magazine Israel Defense. It reports on how Israel is using “observation balloons” made by RT over Gaza. Data gathered by these high-flying inflatables are relayed back to an operations room, where images of “daily life in the Gaza Strip” appear on screens. Describing the images viewed, the article says:

Two women are working in the field. A large truck is parked near the perimeter fence. A jeep is driving slowly on a dirt road. A little further away there is a village with houses and laundry hanging outside.

Even by Israeli standards, the amount of chutzpah contained in those few lines is extraordinary. Here is a clear admission that privacy has been totally denied to people in Gaza. Every aspect of their lives is being monitored by the Israeli military. It is difficult to imagine that Israel and its supporters would be so off-hand about mass espionage if it was directed at Westerners. They generally kept mum about the Pegasus controversy, the revelations that the phones of activists and journalists in various countries had been infected by Israeli-designed spyware. The European Parliament has called for an investigation into that scandal. While it is vital that the full truth over Pegasus should be established, it is virtually unthinkable that the Brussels institutions would hold such an inquiry if Palestinians were the sole victims.

It is an open secret that Israel tests out new weapons on Palestinians. Israel has won a very lucrative slice of the world market for drones. Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems have described their drones as “combat proven” or “battle tested,” even though the state did not admit to using armed drones in military operations. It was only in July this year that the Israeli censor withdrew a long-standing gag order. Through that order, the country’s media were prevented from reporting on how Palestinians were killed or maimed with armed drones. With this greater transparency, the EU will look even more ridiculous when it poses as a defender of human rights while simultaneously boosting trade with Israel, particularly its arms industry.

After being mothballed for a decade, the EU-Israel Association Council will meet on Oct 6. Reviving this council at any time would be abhorrent. It is inexcusable to do so just a few months after Israel killed the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and launched another major assault on Gaza and amid ongoing horrors like the regular shooting of Palestinian children in Jenin and the threatened expulsions in Masafer Yatta. The Association Council meeting will almost certainly produce some waffle about the search for peace and justice. By buying Israel’s weapons EU countries demonstrate how little they care about those goals.

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