Apartheid Arms: Why Israel Sells Military Equipment to Human Rights Violators

According to Amnesty International, over the past 20 years, Israeli military exports went to at least eight countries that have been known for serious violations of human rights,. (Photo: via MEMO)

Mohamed Mohamed, The Palestine Chronicle, May 21, 2019

An in-depth report released in Hebrew by Amnesty International’s Israeli chapter provides a damning picture of Israeli arms exports to countries that violate human rights. This report provides solid evidence that over the past 20 years, Israeli military exports went to at least eight countries that have been known for serious violations of human rights:

  • Azerbaijan – which has persecuted government critics and LGBTQ people – received Israeli battleships, anti-tank missiles, attack drones, military vehicles, and radar systems
  • Cameroon – implicated in kidnappings, torture, and murder – received Israeli military training and armored vehicles
  • Mexico – undergoing a severe human rights crisis and forced disappearances – received Israeli spyware software that targeted journalists, human rights lawyers, and anti-corruption activists
  • Myanmar – which has engaged in ethnic cleansing, genocide, and crimes against humanity – received armored vehicles and naval ammunition
  • Philippines – which carried out mass extrajudicial executions – received Israeli assault rifles, machine guns, and anti-tank guided missiles
  • South Sudan – implicated in ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity – received Israeli surveillance technology and assault rifles
  • Sri Lanka – which was engaged in a brutal civil war – received Israeli drones and battleships
  • United Arab Emirates – which has imprisoned government critics and human rights activists – received Israeli spyware software, including the infamous “Pegasus” spyware (just days ago, NSO, the Israeli company behind Pegasus, was linked to a security exploit targeting WhatsApp that allowed Pegasus to be installed)

What is worse is that some of these countries were under international sanctions and weapons sales embargoes, yet Israel continued to sell arms to them.

For example, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan due to its acts of ethnic cleansing, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even using mass rape as a method of war. Yet South Sudan still ended up acquiring Israeli-made assault rifles. Part of this is due to the fact that Israeli weapons reach such countries after a chain of transactions, which helps to avoid international monitoring and decrease transparency.

Israeli authorities claim that they “carefully examine the state of human rights in each country before approving export licenses for selling them weapons,” but the fact that Israeli weapons made it to the countries mentioned above proves that this statement is far from the truth.

But this information is neither new nor shocking. As Jonathan Cook wrote in 2013, “despite having a population smaller than New York City, Israel has emerged in the last few years as one of the world’s largest exporters of weapons.”

At the time, analysts placed Israel as the sixth top producer of weapons, ahead of China and Italy. When accounting for covert weapons deals, Israel was even considered to be the fourth top producer, ahead of Britain and Germany.

Of course, much of these military sales were made possible at the expense and lives of Palestinians. A significant reason why Israeli weapons are so marketable is because they are presented as “battle-proven.” In other words, they were tested on Palestinians.

As Miko Peled wrote last year, an Israeli weapons manufacturer marketed its unmanned armored personnel carrier as “combat-proven” at the “Israel Unmanned Systems 2014” conference, since the 2014 war on Gaza was the first time that such a remote-controlled carrier had been successfully deployed.

And as Rania Khalek has mentioned, “Palestine has long served as a laboratory for Israel’s ballooning ‘homeland security’ industry to test and perfect weapons of domination and control, with disenfranchised and stateless Palestinians serving as their lab rats.”

And as Bloomberg noted, the price of stock of Elbit Systems, one of the largest manufacturers of Israeli military technology, surged to its highest level since 2010 during the 2014 war on Gaza. This was surely no coincidence. It is also uncoincidental that the 2010 high peak of Elbit’s stock was not long after the end of the 2009 war on Gaza.

Clearly, waging war on Palestinians is a huge money-maker for the state of Israel, its corporations, and even its citizens (Cook cites data that around 6,800 Israelis are actively engaged in exporting arms, and former defense minister Ehud Barak admitted that 150,000 Israeli households – around 10 percent of the population – depend on the weapons industry).

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Why We, Palestinians and Israelis, Insist on Mourning Our Dead Together

Alternative Memorial Day, a binational tradition since 2005, is a sign that we are capable of taking down the walls of fear.

Alternative Memorial Day
Mourners and supporters at the Alternative Memorial Day ceremony in Israel on May 7, 2019. (Photo by Tatyana Gitlits)

Avigail Corry and Sulaiman Khatib, May 22, 2019

Mourning is a personal matter. When it comes to mourning victims of war, terror, and state-sponsored suppression, mourning is also a political matter—especially in Israel and Palestine. We, a Palestinian man from the West Bank who served 10 years in an Israeli prison and an Israeli woman who served in the Israeli army, are not supposed to care about each other’s dead. We are taught this constantly. But, out of a commitment that is both concretely political and inherently human, we have decided to reject this logic and fight for a public space in which we can feel pain for the dead on all sides.

This year, as every year for the past 14, the organizations Combatants for Peace (CFP), in which both of us writing this article are active (S.K. as a founder and A.C. as an organizer), and the Parents Circle–Families Forum held an Alternative Memorial Day ceremony on Israeli Memorial Day. Proud to take part in this practice, we stood with over 9,000 people who came to support families in mourning from (Green Line) Israel, the West Bank and—over video conference—from Gaza. Each loss is different. Some mourn IDF soldiers killed in battle; others, Palestinians who died at the hands of Israeli forces. But our message is shared: We refuse to allow our bereavement to be manipulated for nationalistic purposes and we insist that, despite all complications of asymmetry and power gaps, we have a right to recognize one another’s losses.

As someone who grew up in the Israeli school system, I, Avigail, have always experienced our national Memorial Day as the annual pinnacle of militaristic culture, an aggressive indoctrination into the idea that we must live by the sword and maintain control over another people in order to survive. Over the years, more and more Israelis have come to share this alienation that I feel. In 2005 one bereaved father named Boma Inbar, who lost his son Yotam in the first Lebanon War, decided to initiate a ceremony in which bereaved parents from both sides would come together. Everything about typical Israeli memorial ceremonies—the music, the choreography, the speeches—serves to entrench the notion of “divide and conquer” into our very emotional anatomy. It was this practice that Inbar wished to oppose, not merely through verbal criticism, but by replacing it with a new ritual practice that Israelis and Palestinians would build together. The first time it took place, the ceremony was small, almost negligible, attracting only 200 participants, but it has grown every year since.

As a Palestinian, I, Sulaiman, have never had a state-sponsored Memorial Day, since I am not a citizen of any state. I do not reject the mourning practices that we do have within our community—martyrs’ funerals, for example. Still, I seek rituals beyond them, ones that help me connect to a larger human story and that have potential to save lives in the future. Having been attracted to violent resistance as a youth, it was not easy for me to join the Alternative Memorial Day ceremony, which my organization CFP did in 2005. Thus, I can empathize with the objections that other Palestinians voice in response to our binational ceremony. Nonetheless, without erasing the difference between occupier and occupied, this binational ceremony is the place where I feel that I am truly honoring the great number of close friends and family members that I lost to the occupation, and where I see that I am being heard.

David Grossman
Israeli author and bereaved father David Grossman at the Alternative Memorial Day ceremony in 2018. (Photo by Tatyana Gitlits)

Beyond an opportunity for authentic bereavement, we both believe in the political power of this ceremony. There is no greater testament to its potency than the scale of government opposition that it has come to provoke—mostly among Israelis, who sometimes compare the ceremony to mourning Holocaust victims alongside dead Nazi soldiers, but also among Palestinians, who accuse us of normalizing relations with an oppressive government. We know that our choice is difficult for some members of both groups to accept and we recognize that there is risk involved. But, as just about anyone who has been to the ceremony can say, it is a transformative experience, one that changes people’s minds about what is possible in this region. It is a way of seizing the tremendous power of public rituals away from self-serving, manipulative government leaders and putting this power into the hands of everyday people, the victims of conflict.

The group that is most vehemently—obsessively—opposed to our ceremony is the Israeli right wing. A few days before the ceremony this year, as happens every year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to shut down the ceremony completely, using any means at his disposal. He personally demanded that the roughly 180 Palestinians from the West Bank planning to take part in the ceremony, most of them mourning personal losses, be denied entry into Israel. Thankfully, the Supreme Court overturned Netanyahu’s orders and allowed 100 Palestinian participants to join us. Yet our troubles didn’t end there. The Netanyahu populist base went into a frenzy, threatening us on social media. Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, had especially choice words to share: “The bereaved parents who participated in the Alternative Memorial Ceremony are psychologically disturbed.” Sadly, Netanyahu’s incitement succeeded in bringing some to the streets, as it does every year. Several hundred right-wing activists showed up at the ceremony to hurl insults at us, and sometimes even rocks.

Despite all of these efforts at suppression, and crass calls for violence around us, on Tuesday, May 7, the ceremony came together and we witnessed that same source of light that carries us from year to year. That evening, we heard 14-year-old Mohammed Darwish, from the ‘Ayda refugee camp in Bethlehem, remember his close friend Abed Elrahaman Shadi Abdallah, who was killed by a stray bullet during a conflict with Israeli forces in the camp. At the time, Abdallah was only 12 years old. At the ceremony, Darwish recalled the details of finding his young friend lying dead on the ground, covered in blood, and said, “My friend, Abed Elrahaman, I know that you know where I am right now and that I am talking about you, and that I am telling the story of your death to thousands of people who believe in humanity. So, you should know, your death will not be meaningless. My young friend, one bullet ended 12 years of friendship, laughter and play…. I choose to eternalize your memory by working for peace.” At another moment in the ceremony, we heard from Yuval Rachamim, whose father, Avraham, was killed in the war of 1967: “Gradually [at Israeli Memorial Day ceremonies], I came to understand that I am a prop in someone else’s play. The combative, self-victimizing rhetoric reinforces and sanctifies a struggle that will never end. Every year, politicians…turn our searing pain into an election campaign and recruitment session for the next unnecessary war.”

Miriam Toukan
The singer Miriam Toukan at the Alternative Memorial Day ceremony in 2018. (Photo by Tatyana Gitlits)

It is worth asking: Why does the prime minister need to personally intervene with military orders, and his followers with violence, in an attempt to prevent these words from being heard on the same stage? Perhaps Netanyahu feels so threatened by our ceremony because he knows what we know: Binational mourning is a sign that Palestinians and Israelis are capable of taking down the walls of fear that he works so hard to erect and maintain, and that we are able to find our own, independent moral compass, even in dark times. We know that the moral insight born of our ceremony is not enough, on its own, to change reality here; but we also know that no real change can happen without it. Continue reading

26 Groups Supporting McCollum Legislation for Palestinian Children

Wisconsin Muslim Journal, May 17, 2019

Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes an estimated 500 to 700 children each year in military courts lacking fundamental fair trial rights. Children within the Israeli military system commonly report physical and verbal abuse from the moment of their arrest, and coercion and threats during interrogations.
— No Way To Treat A Child

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) today announced support from national and international religious and human rights organizations in support of H.R. 2407, the Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, introduced May 1, 2019.

Congresswoman McCollum released the following statement:
“Peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children,” Congresswoman McCollum said. “These organizations are committed to human rights and are working to support another generation of Palestinian children facing cruel and dehumanizing detention at the hands of Mr. Netanyahu’s military. This strong show of support is part of a growing consensus that the Palestinian people deserve justice, equality, human rights, and the right to self-determination. It is also a signal that none of the billions of taxpayer dollars in American foreign aid to Israel should be spent on inhumanely locking up Palestinian children in Israeli military detention facilities.”

The following is a list of organizations in support of H.R. 2407:
Adalah Justice Project
American Friends Service Committee
American Muslims for Palestine
Amnesty International USA
Arab American Institute
Center for Constitutional Rights
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Churches for Middle East Peace
Defense for Children International – Palestine
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA)
Indiana Center for Middle East Peace
Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
Palestine Legal
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Project South
Quaker Palestine Israel Network
The Episcopal Church
Tree of Life Educational Fund
United Church of Christ
United Methodist General Board of Church and Society
United Methodists for Kairos Response (UMKR)
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

More information on H.R. 2407

The five injured Abu Jazar brothers of the Gaza protests

The injured Abu Jazar brothers, with their father and mother in Gaza. Photo By Mohammed Asad

Ahmad Kabariti, Mondoweiss, April 20, 2019

In a dim room in a two-story building in al-Shaboora, Rafah, the poorest refugee camp in the southern Gaza strip, five brothers of the Abu Jazar family recall the details and pains of their multiple injuries by Israeli fire during 55 weeks of the Great March of Return protest.

Despite injuries, the brothers all planned to participate in yesterday’s 56th protest.

Ibrahim Abu Jazar. Photo by Mohammed Asad.

Ibrahim, 30, is determined to walk again. He has wounds in his right leg from live gunfire from Israeli snipers on March 30. The father of two children, he was injured while calling out loudly to protesters to move close to the fence that separates Gaza from Israel. He now considers himself “powerless” since he cannot operate his grocery and was unable to borrow a wheelchair from a double amputee neighbor, because that neighbor also plans to protest this Friday.

Faraj, 28 and the father of a daughter, sees himself as lucky, since he can easily move to the protest despite being injured three times: once when a tear gas canister hit his hand last May, again when a rubber-coated metal bullet struck his thigh last October, and more recently when a bullet struck his upper arm, which is now fitted with a metal frame called a fixator.

“Despite my young age, Israel’s 12-year blockade and nothing positive whatsoever going on are enough to push young people to protest. We have not seen a single delightful day in our lives,” Faraj told Mondoweiss.

Faraj (l) and Ashraf Abu Jazar. Photo by Mohammed Asad.

On February, a UN inquiry concluded that Israeli military had intentionally targeted Palestinians protesting in Gaza over the past year, creating a generation of disabled youth. According to the report, Israeli soldiers have targeted civilians, killing and maiming protesters, among them children, as well as journalists and medics.

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April 23 – 25, 2019
War Over Peace: Israel in the eyes of a Critical Sociologist

Uri Ben-Eliezer, Sociology, University of Haifa

The Havens Center, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    “The Nation and War, Some Reflections from Israel’s History”
    Tuesday, April 23, 4pm, 6191 Helen C. White

    “The Making, Unmaking, Remaking of Israeli Militarism”
    Wednesday, April 24, 4pm, 6191 Helen C. White

    Open seminar for public, students, and faculty
    Thursday, April 25, 12:20pm, 8108 Social Science


URI BEN-ELIEZER is a political sociologist and chair of the department of sociology at the University of Haifa, Israel. His research interests include Israeli democracy, civil society, social movements, state-society relations, army-society relations, and peace and war. He has published numerous articles in such journals as Comparative Politics, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Comparative Political Studies, Theory and Society, Political Geography, Social Politics, Social Movement Studies, and Ethnic and Racial Studies. Ben-Eliezer is also the author of three books in English: The Making of Israeli Militarism (Indiana UP, 1998); Old Conflict, New War: Israel’s Politics Toward the Palestinians (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2012); and War over Peace: One Hundred Years of Israel’s Militaristic Nationalism (University of California Press, 2019 forthcoming).