Thursday, August 14, 2014

How Israel's Assault on Gaza Is One Big Marketing Campaign for Its Weapons Manufacturers

Residents of a neighborhood in Gaza City gather to
put out a fire at a soap factory moments after it was
hit by an Israeli airstrike, on August 10, 2014
Alternet.org | Aug 11, 2014 | Alex Kane

Pummeling Gaza is a sick form of 'product demonstration' for Israel on a civilian population.

Israeli weapons companies are making a killing off the ongoing assault on Gaza, which has caused over 1,900 Palestinian casualties, most of them civilians. Israel’s arms companies are set to increase their sales abroad and to the Israeli military because their weapons were “successful” in Gaza—a “success” that has come at the cost of thousands of Palestinian lives.

Israeli companies are effectively getting global marketing when Palestinians are getting shot at and bombed. In a recent article,  Haaretz reporter Shuki Sadeh quoted Barbara Opall-Rome, Israel-based correspondent for the American magazine Defense News, as saying that “for the defense industries this campaign is like drinking a very strong energy drink — it simply gives them tremendous forward  momentum. Combat is like the highest seal of approval when it comes to the international markets. What has proven itself in battle is much easier to sell.”

This comes as no surprise in a country whose defense industry employs tens of thousands of people and markets itself as a tech “startup nation” — including military technology. Israel is among the world’s leading arms exporters, selling drones, missiles, mortars, and warships to many different nations. Countries that use Israeli-made military equipment include Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Uganda and many others.

While the U.S. is the top exporter of arms in terms of pure numbers, Israel is the world’s top exporter per capita. And they work hand in hand. As Israeli economist Shir Hever, who studies the Israeli arms industry, explained to the Real News Network on July 30, Israeli arms companies “have learned to work in symbiosis with the U.S. arms industry so that they develop their technologies together in order to provide components which are produced in Israel and work with U.S.-manufactured weapons.”

Hever also explained that “every two years or so, the Israeli military attacks Gaza, attacks the Gaza Strip, and causes a lot of destruction. But right after each one of those attacks, there is a trade show in which Israeli weapon companies show their wares, show their technologies, and boast that these are the very technologies that have been used just now against Palestinians in Gaza.”

One of those companies is Meprolight, which makes equipment for sniper rifles and for night-fighting. In the past month, the most intensive fighting in Gaza has taken place at night, with Israeli artillery and fighter jets pounding the coastal strip, leaving Palestinians to wake up to devastated neighborhoods.

“After every campaign of the kind that is now taking place in Gaza, we see an increase in the number of customers from abroad,”  Meprolight chief Eli Gold told Haaretz. “Of course, we [are] marketing abroad aggressively, but IDF operations definitely affect marketing activity.”

Meprolight is hardly the only company that expects a windfall from Israel’s killing spree in Gaza. There’s Israeli Military Industries, the largely state-owned company that has been churning out bullets and shells for the military. And the Israeli weapons companies behind the much-lauded Iron Dome system are also marketing their reported success to other countries.

Iron Dome is the name given to Israel’s anti-missile system, which shoots down the crude rockets shot at Israel by Palestinian fighters with another missile that knocks the rocket out of the sky. (The actual success of Iron Dome is disputed. While Israel says 90% of Palestinian-fired rockets have been shot down, MIT expert Theodore Postol says there is no evidence to support that claim.)

Iron Dome is manufactured by Rafael Defense Systems, an Israeli company, which in turn is assisted by Israeli and U.S. contractors. In the wake of its Israeli government-claimed success, the government of South Korea is reportedly looking into buying the anti-missile systems. South Korea has been locked into a low-boil conflict with its neighbor, North Korea, for the past six decades. “[South Korea] is very worried not only about rockets, but other things as well....You can certainly include them in the club of interested countries,” Rafael’s CEO told Israel’s Army Radio.

Yet another company that has seen its fortunes rise is Elbit, an Israeli company that makes surveillance systems used for Israel’s West Bank separation barrier and Israeli drones that fire missiles.

In late July,Bloomberg News reported that the company’s stock gained because of speculation that the Israeli government would order more of its technology. “U.S.-traded shares of the Haifa, Israel-based company have advanced 6.1 percent to $63.01 since fighting intensified,” Bloombergreported. “Elbit, which received about a quarter of revenue from its home country last year, may benefit as the Israel Defense Forces reevaluate security needs after the current conflict, according to Bank Leumi Le-Israel.”

Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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