Israeli militarism and U.S. border imperialism — two crimes, one weapons company

Ariel Gold and Ursula Rozum – January 25, 2019
Two Fridays ago 43-year-old Amal al-Taramsi became the third woman, along with a 14-year-old child and medic Razan al-Najjar, to be killed in Gaza by Israeli snipers since the Great March of Return began over nine months ago.

Israel has just announced they will block Qatari funds from entering Gaza despite the 7-mile-long densely populated enclave already having reached a status of non-livability. Medicine is close to running out, 97% of the water is contaminated by sewage and saline, unfit for consumption, 54% of the labor force (70% of Gaza youth) are unemployed, and 31.5% of households are either severely or moderately food insecure. Since March 30, 2018 over 250 people have been killed as the population desperately risks their lives in the hopes of achieving freedom.
At the U.S.-Mexico border the situation is also desperate: families trying to enter and seek refuge are being tear gassed and separated from their children. The dire circumstances that have caused thousands to flee on foot from their homes in Honduras and Guatemala are not dissimilar from the crises of violence, poverty, and food insecurity in Gaza.
From the suffering both in Gaza and at the U.S.-Mexico border, weapons giant Elbit Systems is reaping profits.
Elbit Systems is Israel’s largest weapons’ company and has helped make Israel the world’s leading exporter of military and surveillance drones. As of 2017, Elbit was the 28th largest weapons manufacturing company in the world, bringing in $3.38 billion in revenue. Elbit subsidiary Israeli Military Industries (IMI) produces cruise missiles, cluster bombs, bullets for Israeli snipers, and many more tools of death.
Elbit helps ensure that the slaughter and repression of Palestinians by the Israeli government is as efficient as possible. Along with ammunition, weaponized drones that carry out direct attacks, and surveillance drones that guide fighter jets and snipers in Gaza, in the West Bank, Elbit provides surveillance technology for Israel’s apartheid wall in the West Bank and the U.S.-Mexico border, in contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
For the past 14 years Elbit has brought their brand of violent border surveillance to the US-Mexico border. In 2004, Hermes drones manufactured by Israel’s Elbit Systems were the first unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles deployed at the US southern border. U.S. Customs and Border protection began contraction with Elbit Systems in 2014 for sensors, cameras, radars and “integrated fixed towers” in the desert along the Arizona border with Mexico. The towers are based on the technology used by Elbit for surveillance along Israel’s apartheid wall in the West Bank which separates Palestinians from their lands and families. The towers in the Arizona borderlands, like the border itself, are built on the lands of the indigenous people of the area, the Tohono O’odam, many of whom have actively organized against the construction of the border wall and towers on their lands.
The Elbit surveillance towers in southeast Arizona are intentionally positioned in the desert, miles away from the border wall, to track and harrass migrants once they have crossed the border. According to testimony from migrants, when Border Patrol locates groups of people who have crossed, they fly their helicopters close to the ground to intentionally kick up dust. This tactic purposely scares and scatters migrants traveling in groups, separating them into the desert and decreasing their chances of survival.
The Elbit towers in the Arizona desert are rooted in a sinister 1994 Clinton-era strategy of “Prevention Through Deterrence” which aimed to prevent illegal immigration by sealing off urban entry points into the US such as those in San Diego and El Paso. The intention was to funnel migrants to cross through dangerous wilderness routes where they knew they would risk injury, dehydration, heat stroke, exhaustion and hypothermia.
The logic of deterring migration by making the journey more dangerous has not only failed to decrease migration, the policy has increased migrant deaths. According to Border Patrol, over 6000 people have died trying to cross the desert since the 1990s. Volunteers from organizations like No More Deaths hike the trails and leave water, food, socks, blankets, and other necessary supplies. In acts of even further cruelty, Border Patrol agents are known to destroy these water pitchers. Volunteers from No More Deaths were just convicted of federal charges for providing aid to undocumented migrants.
Ursula Rozum in front of the Elbit surveillance towers at the AZ border with Mexico (Photo: CodePink)
US and Israeli military contractors are making billions in profits from a system that activists have come to call “border imperialism.” A term coined by anthropologist Harsha Walia, border imperialism conceptualizes how capitalism and racism manifest in the form of militarized border enforcement to control land, maintain inequality and oppression, and reinforce white European cultural dominance (aka white supremacy) around the world. This is the case in Israel where Elbit and US military contractors allow Israel to maintain and expand its occupation of Palestinian lands and in the Americas as politically imposed borders are becoming increasingly militarized and migration is criminalized.
Elbit Systems, like the rest of the weapons manufacturing industry, has is making a fortune from death and repression. They sell their weapons across the world and in the US they donate money to Congressional campaigns every year in order to maintain access to US government contracts.
The movement to divest from war and repression is growing. Swedish and Norwegian pensions funds divested from Elbit in 2009 and over the last decade activists around the world have pushed universities and banks around the world to follow suit. On December 21, 2018, after a successful campaign by UK activists, HSBC bank announced that it would divest from Elbit systems, citing concerns over human rights Elbit’s manufacturing of cluster munitions.
Since CODEPINK launched its Stop Elbit campaign less than a year ago, numerous actions have taken place. Some of the actions have been petitions and meetings asking Senator Janeen Shaheen – the largest Democratic recipient of of Elbit campaign contributions – to stop taking Elbit money and others have been creative protests calling for a consumer boycott of the high-tech cycling glasses produced by Elbit subsidiary Everysight
CODEPINK is actively campaigning to get investment banks – such as Bank of NY Mellon which claims to be committed to socially responsible investment and UN Sustainable Development goals, yet holds shares in Elbit – to divest from Elbit and other corporations that profit from death and repression, such as Lockheed Martin and CoreCivic, the largest for-profit immigrant detention corporation in the country.
Israel is able to maintain its occupation and repression of Palestinian people through technology from companies like Elbit and through military aid and diplomatic support from the United States. We must continue to call for an end to unconditional US military aid to Israel even though a military embargo is unlikely in the near future. In the meantime, divestment from Elbit Systems and other war profiteers will play a major role eroding the institutional and economic support that allows Israel to commit war crimes with impunity and the U.S. to increase border repression.