RESEARCH – For 53 years, the Palestinian territories have suffered from Israeli occupation and colonization. Although systematically condemned as illegal by the UN, the EU and the Netherlands, there are no sanctions. Worse, the Netherlands is contributing to the colonial project through military cooperation with Israel, according to a new report from the organization Stop Wapenhandel. Benjamin Baars lists the main points.
As the Israeli researcher Shir Hever has shown, the occupation is not only an ideologically driven project, but also an economic project that benefits the Israeli elite in particular. An important industry that thrives is the Israeli arms industry. Israel has a sizable defense industry and is one of the top ten largest arms exporters. Certainly for a relatively small country (over eight million inhabitants), the contribution to the global arms trade is considerable. The Israeli industry makes high-tech weapons.
It is interesting for buyers that the Israeli military equipment has been tested in combat situations, in the occupied Palestinian territory and in particular the Gaza Strip. Most weapons are ‘combat proven’. In The mirror said Avner Benzaken, head of the technology and logistics division of the Israel Defense Forces, “When I develop a product and I want to test it in the field, I only have to go three or ten kilometers from my workplace to see the product at work. I receive immediate feedback, which makes the development process much faster and more efficient. ”
Weapons are adapted and improved on the basis of feedback from the armed forces. The same is true in the development of surveillance technology, a sector in which Israel plays a leading role thanks to its experience of controlling the Palestinian population in the occupied territories. The global trend of increasing control over populations makes Israeli products highly sought after. Weapons are sold to anyone who wants them, there is no arms export policy. For example, in the past Israel sold weapons to Rwandan militias.
It is very worrying that the Netherlands is still cooperating with the Israeli arms industry and purchasing large amounts of defense equipment. For example, the Dutch government, together with Belgium and Luxembourg, decided in 2011 to purchase Israeli baby vests with rucksack and radio as part of the Improved Operational Soldier System (VOSS) project. The order to the Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems involved 135 million euros. In December 2019, Elbit signed a follow-up contract that expanded the order by $ 65 million. Elbit is promoting parts of the Smart Vest with the slogan ‘combat proven’.
Another example is the Gill anti-tank system of the Israeli defense company Rafael, which the Netherlands purchased in 2001. Eight months before the deal, the Gill was used by Israel for the first time: shelling the Palestinian city of Beit Jala.
European and Dutch exports
Conversely, Dutch and European weaponry is finding its way to Israel. Since 2012, EU member states have sold an average of 680 million euros per year in weapons to Israel. Although the Dutch government says it has a “very restrictive arms policy with regard to Israel”, it does export weapons to Israel and thus contributes directly to the military occupation of Palestinian territory.
The most notable Dutch deliveries are F-16 and F-35 aircraft parts, parts of corvettes and test equipment for tank turrets. Dutch parts for the F-16 and F-35 are directly exported to Israel. In addition, it is plausible that Dutch parts end up in Israel via the US, because the country of final destination is not always stated when exporting to the US. Israeli fighters are regularly deployed in the occupied areas (Gaza) and Syria.
In addition, several licenses were issued in the period 2015-2020 for the export of military maritime products, including parts for corvettes of the Israeli navy. Probably it concerns the Sa’ar 5 or Sa’ar 6 corvettes. These heavily armed corvettes are multi-deployable, including for anti-aircraft, coastal patrol and special forces support. A Sa’ar 5 corvette was deployed in 2010 in the Israeli attack on the humanitarian Gaza Flotilla, which killed ten activists. In addition, the Israeli navy frequently fires on Gazan fishing boats.
Another notable delivery is the tank turrets test equipment in 2018. There is a lot of uncertainty about the deliveries, but the export of these weapon systems is absolutely not in line with the policy goals of the Dutch government and sends the wrong signal to Israel.
Subsidy for the arms industry
In 2000 the EU / Israel Association Treaty entered into force. The treaty facilitates trade between Israel and EU member states and allows Israel to participate in the EU’s research innovation programs. Since 2014, Israeli companies and organizations have been able to compete for European funds from the EU funding program Horizon2020. From 2014 to 2018, 1,387 applications were approved with a value of € 1.04 billion.
Although funding that Israel receives may only be used for civilian applications, this is lacking any control. In effect, the ‘dual use’ clause in Horizon2020’s funding guidelines provides Israeli companies with access to EU funding for a ‘civilian’ project to be developed later for the military sector. As Isaac Ben-Israel, Chairman of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), stated, “Because we are a small country, for example, when setting up a satellite production line, you will use the product for both military and commercial purposes.”
Israeli society has been highly militarized, and various sectors are intertwined with the occupation. The arms industry is largely state-owned, but science also has close ties with the military. Universities are the largest recipient of grants from the Horizon2020 fund. Even at universities, civil or ‘dual-use’ projects often end up with a military or military-supported application. The distinction between civil and military becomes blurred as societies become more militarized. Through security agendas, social conflicts are turned into ‘security threats’ that justify various tools – threat assessments, mass surveillance, anti-riot measures and deadly violence.
Several Dutch government agencies, companies and universities work together with Israeli partners. For example, the Haaglanden Security Region is working with the Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit on a drone project that uses technology that has been used in bombing Palestinians. Also the National Aerospace Laboratory, the Netherlands Forensic Institute, Europol (location The Hague), the Ministry of Justice and Security, Prorail, Single Quantum BV, Corvers Procurement Services BV, Erasmus University, VU University Amsterdam and Utrecht University work with Israeli partners on programs that may have military or repressive application, such as cockpit technology, surveillance technology and ‘security programs’.
Stop military cooperation with Israel
The international diplomacy of the past few decades has only facilitated Israel’s aggressive colonization policy. Failed peace talks and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority have resulted in Israel being able to turn all the burdens of the occupation over to the Palestinian “representatives” and the international community, while Israel benefited. Since the peace talks in the early 1990s, the number of settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has increased from 110,000 to more than 600,000. In addition, Israel controls virtually all raw materials and 85 percent of the fertile land in the West Bank, and levies taxes on Palestinian imports and exports.
Although the Dutch government and the EU distance themselves from Israeli policy in word, they facilitate the same policy through cooperation in arms production and purchases from the Israeli military industry. Within the EU, the Netherlands has often stood on the brakes when it comes to more critical policy towards Israel. It is time for the Netherlands to take the lead and no longer contribute in any way to – and at the same time profit from – the occupation. The breaking of all military relations between the Netherlands and Israel is a logical first step. Because Israeli society is highly militarized and the economy intertwined with the colonized areas, the Netherlands and the EU should ultimately boycott Israel and its subcontractor the Palestinian Authority as a whole economically.
This article was taken from Peace magazine (2020/4). It was written in response to the report published by Stop Wapenhandel Technology and oppression. Collaboration between the Netherlands and Israel in arms trade and security research. For more information: www.stopwapenhandel.org.
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