By Belen Fernandez
Israel thrives in the security market by taking advantage of the insecurity of some developing nations.
According to the Israeli government and sympathetic entities, Iran poses an apocalyptic threat to the world.
Indeed, since its inception, the Islamic Republic has repeatedly engaged in destructive behaviour confirming its antagonistic role vis-à-vis the global population.
In the 1990s, for example, Iran assisted the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide with arms and training, while continuing to sell weapons to Indonesian dictator Suharto as he presided over the extermination of hundreds of thousands of persons in East Timor.
Drawing on its own expertise in large-scale forced displacement, Iran contributed to the implementation of a scorched-earth policy targeting indigenous communities in Guatemala, one of the highlights of a conflict that culminated with over 200,000 fatalities.
Elsewhere in Latin America, Iran provided the homicidal Chilean dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet with useful methods of popular oppression, while helping spawn the contemporary incarnation of Colombian paramilitarism that has been responsible for an untold quantity of civilian bloodshed and other forms of suffering.
Actually, none of the above is true. The real culprit in all of the items listed in this sample chronology is none other than the state of Israel.
Of course, were these sordid bits of history to belong to Iran rather than Israel, we might expect their full exploitation by global media institutions unconcerned with exposing Israeli crimes.
In a new report entitled “Israel’s Worldwide Role in Repression“, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) endeavours to set the historical record straight by cataloguing “the role of Israel’s government, its military, and related corporations and organisations in a global industry of violence and repression”.
One prominent reference is to late Hebrew University professor Israel Shahak’s book Israel’s Global Role: Weapons for Repression, which illustrates how “from Rhodesia to apartheid South Africa to the Gulf monarchies, Israel ties its interests not with the masses fighting for freedom, but with their jailers”. Among previously affected masses was the population of Nicaragua, where, according to Shahak, Israel supplied 98 percent of the arms used by dictatorAnastasio Somoza during the last year of his reign, when an estimated 50,000 were killed.
Israel also armed South African jailers – the government as well as some of the Bantustan regimes – and offered to sell the country nuclear weapons. As the Guardian pointed out in an exclusive report on the subject, South Africa in turn “provided much of the yellowcake uranium that Israel required to develop its [own] weapons”.
The IJAN report lists other examples of bellicose symbiosis involving the African continent, such as Israel’s efforts to equip Portugal in its battles against national liberation movements in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea-Bissau. Phenomena such as dictatorship and military repression in the Ivory Coast, Central African Republic, Benin, Cameroon, Senegal, Togo, Uganda, Nigeria and Somalia were also enhanced by an influx of Israeli funds and technical instruction.
IJAN’s observation that Israel variously armed all three parties in Angola’s protracted civil war would seem to underscore the opportunistic nature of the Jewish state’s global contributions to violence – as would its collaboration in the state terror unleashed by the Argentine military junta in the 1970s, which incidentally disproportionately targeted Jewish residents of Argentina.
A similar theme was hinted at more recently in reports that an employee of Global CST – an Israeli private security company founded by the former head of the Operations Directorate of the Israeli army and contracted by the Colombian government to assist in the struggle against the anti-government Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other enemies – had sought to sell classified Colombian Defence Ministry documents to the FARC itself.
In 2011, it was alleged that Global CST had also marketed its services to both the armed forces of Georgia as well as to the country’s breakaway republic of Abhkazia.
Dealing in insecurity
It is almost platitudinous to point out that the lucrativeness of the “security industry” necessarily rests on the proliferation of insecurity.
We might ponder what level of individual or general security is possible, for example, in the context of massive Israeli arms sales to places like India, a repressive and racist state disingenuously advertised as a bastion of democracy by free-market sycophants and similar creatures.
In a speech at the Earth at Risk conference, renowned Indian author Arundhati Roy painted an unadulterated picture of domestic conditions:
Poverty and terrorism have been conflated. In the Northeastern states we have laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which allows soldiers to kill on suspicion. In all of India we have the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which basically makes even thinking an anti government thought a criminal offense, for which you can be jailed for up to seven years.
Roy contends that, as the world is currently configured, “[w]eapons are absolutely essential… not just for oil or natural resources, but for the military-industrial complex itself to keep going”. India’s inexhaustible supply of poor people-slash-terrorists will thus presumably prove profitable.
In a December 2012 column for Al Jazeera titled “Israel gets a kick(back) out of conlict“, Charlotte Silver quotes Israeli political economist Shir Hever on the range of global destinations for Israel’s security exports:
Countries with extreme inequality (Brazil, India, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, etc) seem to be the natural market for homeland security products. This is where technology can be used to repress impoverished people.
The IJAN report details Israel’s facilitation of repression in Brazil, where favela residents and other sectors of the population find themselves on the receiving end of Israeli technology and police training.
As Silver addresses in her column, however, the state’s love affair with Israeli security know-how contains an unsettling paradox, given Brazil’s stated support for Palestinian rights and opposition to such Israeli abuses as the blockade of Gaza.
Commenting on the willingness of various countries to court Israel in the security arena while defying it in other venues such as UN votes on Palestinian statehood, Silver quotes Israeli President Shimon Peres’ observation: “We have relations with countries that don’t recognise us, but they want to co-operate with us for security.”
Since Israel’s oppression of Palestinians is fundamentally dependent on its security industry, this sort of cooperation ends up validating the oppression that such states purport to oppose.
As for states less concerned with maintaining principled facades, the US heaves billions of dollars a year at Israel in encouragement of perpetual bellicosity.
IJAN’s indictment of Israel’s “use [of] profits to further repress and displace Palestinians, developing still more deadly weapons in the process” would seem to underscore the implications of this winning homeland security formula for homelands worldwide.
Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, released by Verso in 2011. She is a member of the Jacobin Magazine editorial board, and her articles have appeared in the London Review of Books blog, The Baffler, Al Akhbar English and many other publications.