In 2008, the IDF created a new weapon (Hebrew) in its arsenal and trained a new group of fighters to use it. It was a remote-operated gun mounted on an IDF security tower along the Gaza border. The guns are operated by female IDF soldiers trained, like drone jockeys, to monitor the border area by video feed and shoot to kill pretty much anything that moves there.
While I’m not an expert in military weaponry, this strikes me as a new development in the lethality of the IDF. Now, it doesn’t even need shooters on the ground to patrol the border and kill in face-to-face situations. It can all be done by remote control. It’s drone warfare transitioning to the ground.
This begs the question: how long will it be before Israel can delegate all its fighting to machines? Then it can maintain the Occupation by remote control and even fight its wars against Hezbollah and Hamas from computer screens. No, or hardly any soldiers need be killed at all. It’s a perfect example of taking the fight to the enemy, while suffering no casualties yourself.
In 2010, the IDF released the above “promotional video” which can undoubtedly be used to sell the weapon to suitably dodgy clients like Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Uganda or Azerbaijan (all major Israeli weapons customers with suspect human rights records). It’s a bit queasy to use video of an actual human being killed with actual bullets to sell military products. But not above the IDF I’m sure. You won’t see video of the gun killing Gaza civilians (though this is a common phenomenon along this stretch of border). That wouldn’t provide the needed boost to Israeli morale or its export industry.
This Ynet story tells us that the IDF drone jockey who played such a key role in the ‘kill’ received a letter of commendation from President Shimon Peres himself.
The Haaretz article profiling the remote control weapon (linked above) notes the stress under which the women are placed who operate it, but says they’ve proven up to the task:
The psychic pressure is great, but the IDF claims that all the women chosen for the task have stood the test.
I tell you, it’s one of the measures of feminist liberation that Israel has brought to western civilization that now, not only men can kill by remote control, but women can too. Israel must be proud.
972 Magazine reports that a version of the weapon has been mounted on the Separation Wall in Bethlehem. This weapon will “only” fire toxic Skunk ooze and tear gas at protesters who frequent this portion of the Wall for demonstrations. The IDF reassures us that the gun will not fire live ammunition. To which I would add “yet.”
The reason the drone gun fires live ammunition in Gaza is because the human value of Gazan life is diminished. By choosing Islamists like Hamas to rule them, they’ve become persona non grata with western governments and so their lives may be forfeited with little cost. The West Bank is different since it’s ruled by the PA. Nor are there many terror attacks emanating from there. Lives in the West Bank have slightly more value and there is a somewhat greater cost to Israel for taking them. But it’s only a matter of time before Israel automates every aspect of the Occupation that it possibly can.
H/t to Max Blumenthal for noting the documentary, To See If I’m Smiling, which profiles the IDF’s women warriors, including those portrayed here.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.