Israel and the Arms Trade

By Yossi Schwarz, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT Section in Israel / Occupied Palestine), 2.9.2015

On August 30 we learned that a major industrial union, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers in the US has voted to endorse the (BDS) movement against Israel. “The endorsed resolution points to Israel’s long history of violating the human rights of the Palestinians, starting with the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians in 1947-48 that turned most of Palestine into the State of Israel. It calls for cutting off US aid to Israel, US support for a peace settlement on the basis of self-determination for Palestinians, and the right to return. ….” The resolution also endorses the worldwide BDS– Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – movement to pressure Israel into ending its apartheid over the Palestinians just as similar tactics helped to end the South African apartheid in the 1980s. UE is now the first U.S. national union to endorse BDS”. (1)

Weak and Strong Sides

This resolution has both weak and strong sides. Its strong side includes its beginning the history of the oppression of the Palestinians not in 1967 but with the ethnic cleansing of 1947-8. In addition it calls for the right of the return of the Palestinian refugees (and their descendents) who were expelled during the ethnic cleansing. As Israel will never accept the right of return as it contradicts the main Zionist concept of a Jewish state, a peaceful settlement with Israel on this basis is a total illusion. The right of return for Palestinian refugees and a Jewish state are in total contradiction. Those who sincerely support the right of the return just understand that this means a different state than the Israeli apartheid state. One has to decide on which side to stand: on the side of the oppressed Palestinians or on the side of the Zionist oppressors.

The weak side of this resolution is that it calls upon the US, most powerful imperialist state, to act for a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinian on the basis of self-determination for Palestinians and the right to return. As an imperialist state, the US cannot possibly act as a peace broker but only as an imperialist. Naturally, we will not oppose a policy of ending all aid to Israel or sending military aid to the Palestinians, but we have no illusions that this is going to happen in the near future, as both main political parties of the American ruling class still see Israel as an ally in the Middle East. In addition, it is not in the interest of the Palestinian masses to achieve results similar to those which transpired in South Africa with the end of the apartheid regime in 1994, where a socialist revolution was prevented by a bourgeois democratic counter-revolution.

Finally, the resolution in question is weak in its use of the language of human rights rather than the language of working class struggle. This reflects a reformist outlook. The resolution lacks a working class revolutionary perspective which would call for the replacing of the racist capitalist Israeli state which rules Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea with a workers’ state from the river to the sea, one the national character of which would be Palestinian, but in which Israelis who will accept will enjoy equal civil rights. This goal can only be achieved by a working class socialist revolution fomented mostly by Arab workers, but supported by poor Palestinian peasants and those Israelis who back the Palestinians.

Critical Support

Nevertheless, the adoption of the resolution at this time is an achievement for the struggle of the oppressed Palestinians and deserves our critical supports as it constitutes another step in the isolation of the Zionist apartheid state, another nail in its coffin.

It is more than likely that this resolution was adopted in reaction to Netanyahu’s gross intervention in the US internal politics against Obama. The ancient Greek tragedian Euripides wrote that when the gods want to punish someone they first make him mad. The more disconnected from history the Israeli ruling class becomes the more stupid mistakes they will commit in addition to their crimes.

Following the adoption of this resolution, other major American unions may decide to support BDS. Toward this end, at this time it is necessary to demand from all trade unions in the US that they endorse the fight against Zionist oppression by demanding that the elected union bureaucracy institutes the “hot cargo tactic”: stopping the loading and unloading of Israeli goods from ships, trains, trucks and airplanes; actions focusing in particular on the import and export of Israeli products connected to the Zionist settlers in the West Bank and of the Israeli military industry. This is where such measures will hurt the Israeli ruling class the most.

Israel’s Military Industry

In 2013 a documentary called The Lab, an Israel journalist Yotam Feldman turned the spotlight on Israel’s criminal arms industry. The film argues very forcefully that the four million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have become guinea pigs in military experiments designed to enrich a new elite of arms dealers and former generals.

Following is an excerpt from an interview that was conducted with the film’s producer:

Interviewer: “You talk about two kinds of exports in this film. One of them is the arms exports, actual weapons. And the other is exporting training, of expertise, by Israeli former officers, who train other military forces, police, and so on. What is the Israeli specialization? What differentiates Israeli exports from exports from other countries?

Feldman: “Yeah. I mean, first of all, although there are two kinds of expert in the film, actually there are more than that, ’cause on top of these, there is Homeland Security experts, which is not even counted in the national figures. I mean, the $7 billion Israel gets from defense exports [annually] is not included – HLS is not included, [nor are…] fences and surveillance and many other measures which are also very successfully exported from Israel.

I think the main product Israelis are selling, especially in the last decade, is experience. When customers – and I’ve seen it – from worldwide come to Israel or meet Israelis overseas, they’re not especially interested in Israeli engineering or the Israeli products. But the testing of the products, the experience is the main thing they are coming to buy. They want the missile that was shot in the last operation in Gaza or the rifle that was used in the last West Bank incursion. This is what they’re interested in…..

In Israel the connection is very close. I mean, many of the politicians who will decide when will the next operation is to begin are actually personally involved in this weapons trade industry and have personal or have people in their very close surroundings gaining from these operations.

I don’t think my argument in the film is that it’s all about money and economic interest and that’s everything and, you know, the main reasons to go to operations in Gaza is greed or profit. It’s not really that way. There is ideology, there are other factors, of course, which have, probably, a heavier influence. I do think it does play a part in the way the operations are managed in their length, in their duration, in the kinds of weapons which are used. There is a very strong influence, I think. And the other factor is that now the Israeli economy is so much dependent on these operations. It’s 20 percent of the exports. It’s 150,000 families – not people – in Israel actually dependent on this industry. And if one day it will stop, if there will be no next operation in Gaza, Israel will have some economic problems…..

The pillars of the Israeli defense industry are still nationalized. The three biggest weapons factories, Rafael, IAI, and IMI, are state-owned. But still there is a very big and very flourishing private sector, private defense sector, which has, as you said, very close cooperation with the government, with the army. They pride themselves in the Israeli reserve system, which allows the same person who is developing the weapon and selling it to actually test it when he’s doing reserve duty in the Israeli army.

The strongest connection is with the Israeli army. I mean, Elbit, which is the most profitable – it’s not the largest, but it’s the most profitable – defense company in Israel, is private, and is owned by Mickey Federmann, very close to Ehud Barak, the former defense minister, and recruits every year dozens of very high army officers to their company. And I think one of the main reasons they take them, besides their expertise and everything, is their current connections in the Israeli army and their ability to sell products to the army so they can later export them.”

New Minister of Public Security as an Arms Dealer?

In light of this information it is not very surprising that, on 25 August 2015, the new Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan (Likud) announced that Brigadier General (res.) Gal Hirsch, has become the new Police Commissioner. The nomination of a former army general rather than a police officer to this position is not surprising. The police have become notorious for corruption, sexual abuse and violence, not only against Palestinians but against Ethiopians as well. Yet there is more to this than meets the eye.

Hirsch is not only an army general (in the reserves) but is also an arms dealer, a very common occupation of former Israeli generals. In 2013, the FBI informed the Israeli Police that Hirsch is suspected of illegal weapons trafficking. The police did nothing. Apparently it was beneficial to the chiefs of police to do nothing and just keep the information close to their chest for the right moment. The information only came to light after the police passed the information on to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein at the end of last week. Weinstein is now set to examine the information, which relates to two separate deals which took place in Georgia and Kazakhstan, in 2008 and 2013.

Sources close to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan say that he continues to support Hirsch’s nomination, but if the materials passed by the Israeli Police to Attorney General Weinstein are as significant as they appear, he will ask former army commander Hirsch – Erdan’s preferred candidate – to withdraw his nomination for the top police post.

Clearly Israel is corrupt to the core and cannot be otherwise. The systematic oppression and looting of the Palestinians has turned Israel into a corrupt apartheid state where life of most people, Palestinians and Jews alike, is cheap and the only thing that counts for the ruling class and the upper middle class is making money by any means possible. The main enemy of the common Israeli, like in any other capitalist state, is the ruling class. However the Israelis, because they are currently in their overwhelming majority a brainwashed part of the apartheid society (paying their taxes, serving in the army and reserves), cannot possibly understand this and are thus are condemned to live not only in a death trap but in ugly corrupted state they cannot oppose.

The only road open to any Israeli who does not want to be a prisoner of this ugly creature named Israel is to break with Zionism and join the Palestinians in the struggle for aFree Red Palestine from the River to the Sea.


(1) Alan Hart: UE Becomes First National U.S. Union to Endorse BDS, Portside, August 28, 2015,

(2) Yotam Feldman: New Film Exposes the Israeli Weapon and Security Industry, October 3, 2014,

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