November 22, 2011
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This month the UK based Palestine Solidarity Movement published an excellent briefing paper on military relations with Israel.
What makes the briefing paper interesting is that it not only focuses on arms exports to Israel but also on other forms of military cooperation. It highlights what makes the Israeli arms industry successful in the international marked – Israel being the world’s 5th arms exporter. A quote from the briefing: “In terms of marketing, every military operation acts as an endorsement for the weapons and techniques used.”
Battlefield as a showcase for your military products. In this, Israel is not alone. It is common arms trade marketing to point to battlefield for sales promotion. The use of Rafale fighter jets by France in the bombing of Libya is a recent example. In trying to sell the Rafale to the UAE, French Defense Minister Longuet said Libyan operations did show the plane met the UAE’s requirements.
Israel, however, has the marketing advantage of a constant ‘battlefield’ in Palestine and has therefore a permanent testing ground for its weaponry which it then sells to the rest of the world. As the briefing paper notes, even the Israeli Defense Force itself advertised the use and success of its drones in the ‘Operation Cast Lead’ – the assault on Gaza in 2008/9. It depends, of course, on what is considered a success. According to Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem Cast Lead left 1,385 Palestinians dead, 762 of whom did not take part in the hostilities; 318 of them were minors.
On the defense industry portal EPICOS the advantages of working together with the Israeli military industry are highlighted once more. Israel has a “unmatched pool of highly skilled workers and world-renowned research and academic capabilities” with “operational experience gained from serving its Defense Forces, which explains why the Israeli engineers are close to the operational user, simply because they have the proper experience and knowledge.”
Battlefield tested products and battlefield experienced researchers: the Israeli arms industry definitely has something special to offer. This is one of the reasons why some European institutes are keen on common R&D projects with Israel. In the European Union funded security research program known as FP7, Israel is the biggest non-EU recipient of funds. Not only industries but also many European universities participate in FP7 research with the Israeli arms industry. In a small country like Belgium, already two universities are involved. The Catholic University of Leuven is participating in common research with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a state‐owned manufacturer of drones, and the University of Namur participates in research with Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s largest military technology firms. In this way, European universities are building on Israeli knowledge, gained by repression and tested on Palestinians in Gaza.