War, or rather maintaining an ongoing conflict, is for Israel a lucrative business. The label “combat proven” translates directly into “healthy global sales” of firearms, drones and rockets.
GAZA — A recent photo that was posted online from the Great Return March in Gaza read “Apartheid Israel is ‘Field-Testing’ Weapons Here!” suggesting that Israel is using Gaza as a testing ground for new weapons, which it then markets and sells as “battle proven.” This was not the first time that disturbing allegations of “testing” have been made against Israel and its weapons manufacturers.
According to an article by independent journalist Rania Khalek, less than one month after Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza dubbed Operation Protective Edge– in which more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, including more than 500 children — Israel hosted an annual drone conference.
Organized in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, “Israel Unmanned Systems 2014” offered Israeli weapons’ manufacturers an opportunity to show their products, many of which were tested on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip earlier that year. One of the sponsors of that conference, according to the article was G-NIUS, which was formed as a joint venture between Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), two of Israel’s most prominent arms manufacturers.
Because of its use during the assault on Gaza, G-NIUS was able to present its product as “combat-proven.” The unmanned Armored Personnel Carrier that was deployed in Gaza in the summer of 2014 marked the first time a remote-controlled, unmanned armored personnel carrier participated in combat.
It so happened that Elbit’s stock jumped to its highest level since 2010 during the 2014 Gaza attack. A piece in Bloomberg Businessweek explained, “the conflict between Israel and Hamas is fueling speculation that Elbit Systems Ltd., the nation’s biggest listed developer of military technology, will see more government orders for its defense products.”
One product that was deployed operationally for the first time during Operation Protective Edge is Elbit’s Hermes 900, an advanced aerial attack and surveillance drone. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, the Israeli army used this drone to deliberately target civilians during the 2008-2009 attack on Gaza.
Test-range for the world
According to an article in the Electronic Intifada Israel also uses Palestinians as test subjects for foreign arms companies. “In East Jerusalem, the Americans give Israel sponge bullets,” Eitay Mack, a Jerusalem-based human rights lawyer and activist, said, adding:
First, they started with a blue sponge bullet but then they decided – this is their statement – that because the Palestinians wore a lot of clothes, it was not very effective so then they changed it to a [more powerful] black sponge bullet, which caused huge damage and there are dozens of Palestinians that have lost their eyes and other organs of their body.”
The black sponge bullets are manufactured by Combined Tactical Systems, a Pennsylvania-based firm that also supplies Israel with tear gas. The company’s brochure for these bullets contains a note marked “Caution.” It reads: “Shots to the head, neck, thorax, heart or spine can result in fatal or serious injury.”
Hey look, it worked! The marketing value of “operational use”
The article also mentions an interview with Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli brigadier general, who works at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel-Aviv. Brom was asked whether it’s true that Israeli arms companies use the fact that their products have been tested on Palestinians to gain international business. “Of course,” he replied. “Why not? Marketing [professionals] try to use any advantage and if they can use the advantage that this system was tested operationally and it worked, they will, of course, use it for marketing.”
Another article that alleges Israel uses Palestinians as targets to test its weapons systems was published in the German publication, Spiegel Online. In 2012, it claims, Israel exported $2.4 billion in military equipment — and with a per-capita value of around $300 in exports for each resident, Israel is at the top of the list. Even the United States, by far the world’s largest arms exporter, has per capita weapons’ sales of only $90. Israel’s exports are growing rapidly, too. Data from the Stockholm peace research institute SIPRI shows that Israeli weapons’ exports more than doubled between 2001 and 2012.
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The decades-long conflict between Israel and its neighbors has certainly contributed to Israel’s weapons’ sales success. “’Proven combat performance’ is still one of Israel’s strongest military technology sales promotions,” said Dan Peled, a business professor at the University of Haifa. Over the decades, there has been a close interlinking of the army with the civilian science, industrial and political sectors. War, or rather maintaining an ongoing conflict, is for Israel a lucrative business. The label “combat proven” translates directly into “healthy global sales of firearms, drones and rockets” said professor Peled. One wonders how the sale of products that are meant to cruelly kill and maim living creatures can be considered “healthy.”
“Our experience bring brings billions of dollars to Israel.” This comment was made by the late Israeli general and defense minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. Ben-Eliezer was saying this in reply to a direct question by a reporter, as is shown in Yotam Feldman’s film, The Lab. The film generated controversy with its assertion that Gaza and the West Bank serve as Israel’s weapons lab, and that the Palestinians are guinea pigs in a war that is not a burden but rather a profitable business for Israel.
In a paper written in 2007, Michael Brzoska, director of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, estimated that 30 percent of all research and development in Israel has a military focus. By comparison, only 2 percent of German R&D is of a military nature.
Plenty of bang for your DIME
In a horrifying report, Electronic Intifada quotes one of the few foreigners who actually worked in Gaza during the Israeli attacks there, Dr. Mads Gilbert. Dr. Gilbert, a Norwegian specialist in emergency medicine who worked at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, reported that many of the injuries they see are consistent with the use of DIME, or Dense Inert Metal Explosive. It was at first thought that Israel was receiving this from U.S. manufacturers but now it seems that Israel is producing and using it locally against Palestinians.
DIME causes severed or melted limbs, or internal ruptures, especially to soft tissue such as the abdomen, that often lead to death. There is said to be no shrapnel apart from a fine “dusting” of minute metal particles on damaged organs visible when autopsies are carried out.
“The power of the explosion dissipates very quickly and the strength does not travel long, maybe 10 meters, but,” said Dr. Gilbert, “those humans who are hit by this explosion, this pressure wave, are cut in pieces.” This is not the first time concerns about Israel’s use of DIME have surfaced in Gaza. Doctors there reported strange injuries they could not treat, and from which patients died unexpectedly days later, during a prolonged wave of Israeli air strikes in 2006.
A growth curve dependent on demos and death
An article in the Hebrew online magazine Mekomit reports that, over the last five years, Israeli arms sales have seen the largest increase of any arms manufacturer in the world. The article quotes from a report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) that collects data on the sale and purchase of arms worldwide. According to the SIPRI report, Israel weapons sales grew by 55 percent between 2012 and 2017. The article quotes Eli Gold, an executive in Israeli Military Industries (IMI), who said in 2014 during Israel’s assault on Gaza that, “after each operation like the one taking place now in Gaza, we see an increase in international clientele.”
There can be no denying that Israel profits from the prolonged conflict, particularly with the Palestinians — be it via fines collected from prisoners, fees for permits, or from what is the most terrifying aspect of this profit-making oppression: the testing of arms on the population Israel occupies and then the marketing and sales of these weapons as “combat proven.”
Top Photo | Former Israeli President Shimon Peres holds a “non-lethal” crowd dispersing weapon presented to him by police officers during a visit to the police headquarters in Jerusalem, March 17, 2009. (AP/David Vaaknin)
Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”