The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky visit the Tel Aviv Security Week Arms Expo to representatives of companies directly involved in the construction of Israel’s occupation over the Palestinians, whether by building walls, fences, checkpoints, or protest-suppression technologies. She also speaks to attorney Eitay Mack on his appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court to reveal the list of security and weapons exporters.
LIA TARACHANSKY, PRODUCER: Spring is the arms conference season in Israel. While the specialized army-oriented conferences are usually closed to the press, others even invite the cameras to show one Israeli industry that’s been completely immune to the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.
In Tel Aviv last week, dozens of companies involved in the Israeli combat, homeland security, and defense markets demonstrated their technologies to The Real News, such as this company that makes checkpoints for the Israeli Ministry of Defense in the West Bank and on the border with Gaza.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): It’s well known that products made in Israel are good. Very high ranking personnel tested our products and found them very good.
We work mainly with the Defense Ministry, and also electric company, the phone company, and many factories around the country. We export abroad, too.
TARACHANSKY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Which checkpoint is this?
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Erez [Gaza checkpoint].
TARACHANSKY: So how does it really work? Does the government announce the bid?
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The government announces the bid through the Ministry of Defense to fence the whole border with Egypt to prevent infiltrators, to prevent criminal activity. And the main purpose was to prevent the entry of refugees from Sudan and Eritrea.
TARACHANSKY: And you’ve done other projects for the Ministry of Defense?
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Yes, we also did the border with Syria. And if you drive on Road 5 that cuts through [the West Bank], you’ll see this fence.
TARACHANSKY: So your product is an Israeli product?
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): That’s right, totally Israeli, blue and white.
TARACHANSKY: And do you have customers abroad?
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Yes.
TARACHANSKY: So what’s the advantage of being an Israeli company?
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The name.
TARACHANSKY: What do you mean?
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Israel has a reputation as a country where security … high. So whenever we build a fence abroad and they know it’s an Israeli company, it gets a higher value.
TARACHANSKY: I heard that the company that made the fence with Egypt also built the one between the U.S. and Mexico.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): That’s right.
TARACHANSKY: So that’s you? You built that fence?
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): [nods]
TARACHANSKY (ENGLISH VO): Eitay Mack is a Jerusalem-based lawyer who fights to increase transparency of Israel’s massive weapons industry.
EITAY MACK, HUMAN RIGHTS ATTORNEY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Countries love to buy weapons that were tested, and the country that’s been constantly testing is Israel, both because of past wars and its actions in the occupied territories. And we see that many times weapons that Israel’s army used and then we see it at the Paris Air Show and elsewhere. And there’s Yotam Feldman’s film The Lab that shows it well.
[film clips play]
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Good.
TEXT ON SCREEN (SUBTITLED): Directed by Yotam Feldman.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Why is there such a demand for Israeli weapons?
TEXT ON SCREEN:
1999-2000 Deputy Prime Minister
2001-2002 Minister of Defense
2009-2011 Minister of Industry
BINYAMIN BEN-ELIEZER, FMR. ISRAELI MINISTER OF DEFENSE (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): If Israel sells weapons, they’ve been tested, tried out.
INTERVIEWER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Does this experience lead to economic growth? Can you see it in? …
BEN-ELIEZER: It brings Israel billions of dollars.
TARACHANSKY: Everyone we talked to at the arms conference emphasized that their products were made in Israel and exported abroad.
INTERVIEWER: Do you build batteries for drones?
UNIDENTIFIED: Of course. That’s the drones. The UAV is the drones. That’s the idea.
TARACHANSKY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): And your company’s name is Amicell?
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Yes. Ami is from Amit, meaning colleague in Hebrew, a colleague, like two doctors are colleagues. And a cell is one cell [of the battery].
TARACHANSKY (ENGLISH VO): But the atmosphere was not so much of colleagues as an old boys club.
UNIDENTIFIED: Nineteen sixty-six, 1967, which means it’s waterproof and supposed to stand any condition, environment, any–. (Sorry. Too much beer.)
INTERVIEWER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): And the beer? The beer comes with the equipment?
TARACHANSKY: In 2013, the UN passed the Arms Trade Treaty, which today has 118 signatory states. The treaty stipulates that countries must self-regulate and provide a list of all their arms producers to prevent the export of weapons to countries in violation of human rights and international law.
Two weeks ago, Israeli Minister of Defense Bogie Ya’alon announced Israel will not sign the treaty. The announcement came after Eitay Mack won a Supreme Court appeal to reveal the names of those on the Ministry of Defense’s exporter list. But the ministry still agreed to reveal only a small portion of the 6,800 people and 150 companies that export Israeli arms.
MACK: So what happened was that the minister of defense admitted that Israel’s behavior in the [Palestinian] territories may have a heavy price for Israel’s security and for other countries to be able to export arms to Israel. And on top of that, the minister said that the American arms export to Israel may be hurt.
Following my Supreme Court challenge, the government admitted that it exports to countries, according to the UN Register. The UN Register is voluntary where if a state wants to, it can report the import/export of conventional arms to them or from them. If we take for example Chad, in 2008, according to that UN Register, Israel exported there while there was a bloody civil war going on. Israel reported to Rwanda in 2008 at a time when the security forces persecuted the opposition. And according to the UN, Israel also supported and armed militias in the eastern Congo.
Today we know Israel exports arms to 130 states. There are no 130 orderly nations in the world. And so as soon as Israel joins the Arms Treaty, it will be forced to draw back or at least decrease export to some of the countries to which it today exports.
TARACHANSKY: One market in the arms industry in which Israel is unmatched is what’s called, in sterile terms, crowd dispersal, or more accurately, violent methods for breaking up protests used worldwide and tested on the Palestinians.
UNIDENTIFIED: They are full battle proven riot control vehicle for the police, Israeli police.
TARACHANSKY: Do you also make the chemical that is sprayed when [crosstalk]
UNIDENTIFIED: Yes. That’s for the home front command, all the purification.
TARACHANSKY: Is there a benefit to being an Israeli-based company?
UNIDENTIFIED: Look, we are working together with a unit from the scratch in the design, along the engineering and the delivery and life-cycle support. So we are here.
MACK: This is a revolving door. When people leave the army, they go into arms production, and many formerly high-ranking army personnel are involved in the industry in terms of marketing existing products.
TARACHANSKY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): So they use their own brand?
MACK: Exactly, their own name brand and the value of Israel, the nation of any wars. But they’re not inventing patents or producing weapons, but as marketers, as what they have to offer is their and the nation’s brand.
TARACHANSKY (ENGLISH VO): In the second part of this series on the Israeli arms industry, we’ll look at what else Eitay Mack’s Supreme Court appeal revealed about the Israeli arms exports.
UNIDENTIFIED: It has a lot of added value if it’s made in Israel.
TARACHANSKY: Added value commercially.
UNIDENTIFIED: But politically?
TARACHANSKY: Politically? I didn’t think about politically. Maybe not.
TARACHANSKY: For The Real News, I’m Lia Tarachansky at the Security Week Arms Expo.
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