Gaza: A Cruel Testing Ground for Israel’s Weapons-Marketing Campaign

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by Miko Peled, reposted from Mintpress, May 2018

A recent photo that was posted online from the Great Return March in Gaza read “Apartheid Israel is ‘Field-Testing’ Weapons Here!” suggesting that Israel is using Gaza as a testing ground for new weapons, which it then markets and sells as “battle proven.” This was not the first time that disturbing allegations of “testing” have been made against Israel and its weapons manufacturers.

According to an article by independent journalist Rania Khalek, less than one month after Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza dubbed Operation Protective Edge– in which more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, including more than 500 children — Israel hosted an annual drone conference.

Organized in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, “Israel Unmanned Systems 2014” offered Israeli weapons’ manufacturers an opportunity to show their products, many of which were tested on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip earlier that year. One of the sponsors of that conference, according to the article was G-NIUS, which was formed as a joint venture between Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), two of Israel’s most prominent arms manufacturers.

Because of its use during the assault on Gaza, G-NIUS was able to present its product as “combat-proven.” The unmanned Armored Personnel Carrier that was deployed in Gaza in the summer of 2014 marked the first time a remote-controlled, unmanned armored personnel carrier participated in combat.

It so happened that Elbit’s stock jumped to its highest level since 2010 during the 2014 Gaza attack. A piece in Bloomberg Businessweek explained, “the conflict between Israel and Hamas is fueling speculation that Elbit Systems Ltd., the nation’s biggest listed developer of military technology, will see more government orders for its defense products.”

One product that was deployed operationally for the first time during Operation Protective Edge is Elbit’s Hermes 900, an advanced aerial attack and surveillance drone. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, the Israeli army used this drone to deliberately target civilians during the 2008-2009 attack on Gaza. 

Test-range for the world

According to an article in the Electronic Intifada Israel also uses Palestinians as test subjects for foreign arms companies. “In East Jerusalem, the Americans give Israel sponge bullets,” Eitay Mack, a Jerusalem-based human rights lawyer and activist, said, adding:

First, they started with a blue sponge bullet but then they decided – this is their statement – that because the Palestinians wore a lot of clothes, it was not very effective so then they changed it to a [more powerful] black sponge bullet, which caused huge damage and there are dozens of Palestinians that have lost their eyes and other organs of their body.”

The black sponge bullets are manufactured by Combined Tactical Systems, a Pennsylvania-based firm that also supplies Israel with tear gas. The company’s brochure for these bullets contains a note marked “Caution.” It reads: “Shots to the head, neck, thorax, heart or spine can result in fatal or serious injury.”

12 year-old Aseel Muheisen suffered a broken collarbone from a black, sponge-tipped plastic bullet used by Israeli police in Jerusalem. ( © Defense for Children Palestine)

12 year-old Aseel Muheisen suffered a broken collarbone from a black, sponge-tipped plastic bullet used by Israeli police in Jerusalem. ( © Defense for Children Palestine)

Hey look, it worked! The marketing value of “operational use”

The article also mentions an interview with Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli brigadier general, who works at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel-Aviv. Brom was asked whether it’s true that Israeli arms companies use the fact that their products have been tested on Palestinians to gain international business. “Of course,” he replied. “Why not? Marketing [professionals] try to use any advantage and if they can use the advantage that this system was tested operationally and it worked, they will, of course, use it for marketing.”

Another article that alleges Israel uses Palestinians as targets to test its weapons systems was published in the German publication, Spiegel Online. In 2012, it claims, Israel exported $2.4 billion in military equipment — and with a per-capita value of around $300 in exports for each resident, Israel is at the top of the list. Even the United States, by far the world’s largest arms exporter, has per capita weapons’ sales of only $90. Israel’s exports are growing rapidly, too. Data from the Stockholm peace research institute SIPRI shows that Israeli weapons’ exports more than doubled between 2001 and 2012.