Jonathan Cook writes: Over the past decade, Israel has surged up the arms trade’s international rankings. Despite having a population smaller than New York City, Israel has emerged as one of the world’s largest exporters of armaments.
Last month, defence analysts Jane’s put Israel in sixth place, ahead of China and Italy, both major weapons producers. Surveys that include Israel’s growing covert trade put it even higher, in fourth place, ahead of Britain and Germany, and beaten only by the United States, Russia and France.
The extent of Israel’s success in this market can be gauged by a simple mathematical calculation. With record sales last year of $7 billion (Dh25.7 billion), Israel earned nearly $1,000 from the arms trade per capita – up to 10 times the per capita income the US derives from its manufacture of weapons.
The Israeli economy’s reliance on arms dealing was highlighted this month when local courts forced officials to reveal data showing that some 6,800 Israelis are actively engaged in the business of arms exports. Separately, Ehud Barak, the defence minister in the last government, has revealed that 150,000 Israeli households – or about one in 10 of the population – depend economically on the weapons industry.
These disclosures aside, Israel has been loath to lift the shroud of secrecy that envelopes much of its arms trade, arguing further revelations would harm “national security and foreign relations”.
But a new documentary lifts the lid on the nature and scope of its arms business.
The Lab, which won a recent award at DocAviv, Israel’s documentary Oscars, is due to premiere in the US early next month. Directed by Yotam Feldman, the film presents the first close-up view of Israel’s arms industry and the dealers who have enriched themselves. The title relates to the film’s central argument that Israel has rapidly come to rely on the continuing captivity of Palestinians, in what are effectively the world’s largest open-air prisons. Massive profits are made from testing innovations on the more than four million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
Attacks such as Operation Cast Lead of winter 2008-09 or last year’s Operation Pillar of Defence, the film argues, serve as little more than laboratory-style experiments to evaluate and refine the effectiveness of new military approaches, both strategies and weaponry. Gaza, in particular, has become the shop window for Israel’s military industries, allowing them to develop and market systems for long-term surveillance, control and subjugation of an “enemy” population. [Continue reading…]