Israel’s Dirty Little Secret: Massive Arms Exports to, and Secret Military Exercises with Muslim Nations
Yossi Melman, an eternal scourge of Israeli military censorship, has published yet another harsh critique of the IDF censor and its chilling effect on the Israeli media. He begins by noting that before Israeli Navy’s Commando Force 13 intercepted and commandeered the Karina A, a ship carrying Iranian arms intended for the Palestinians, it rehearsed for the operation in two foreign nations. The only one publicly reported was the United States, where the Israeli navy has maintained a close relationship over several decades. Israeli censorship has prohibited reporting the name of the second country. One presumes that it was named in the course of the rest of Melman’s article, though not in connection with the Karine A operation.
Melman notes that the IDF censor prohibited him from reporting that an Indian military delegation visited Israel in 2011. The ostensible reason given was to protect Israel’s security interests. The real reason was that numerous Israeli weapons makers had been charged with paying bribes to Indian senior officials, up to and including the defense minister. The Indian delegation was investigating the bribery and corruption charges, which ended up securing a ten-year ban on arms sales to Indian for several of the companies. This is yet another example of how the Israeli military abuses the censorship regime in order to protect it, and its industrial partners from embarrassment and exposure. Only days after the censor did the bidding of the military brass, its senior officials admitted they’d made a mistake. By then, the story was far less newsworthy and the damage to press freedom was already done.
Another example of the stifling impact of censorship regards relations with the nation of Singapore, which has a 15% Muslim minority. The IDF and Israeli weapons industry have enjoyed especially close relations with the Asian nation since its independence fifty years ago. Israel helped build its military almost from scratch and thousands of IDF and intelligence veterans have advised the Singaporean military over many decades. Yet hardly a word of this has appeared in the Israeli media. Presumably because it was sensitive to Singaporean sensibilities and Israeli authorities feared undue comment on the relationship might harm the goose that laid a golden egg for so many Israeli generals and ex-generals.
In order to describe the full extent of the impact of censorship, the Israeli security reporter declares that no other democratic nation in the world censors news of its arms deals with foreign nations. The reason for this, he wryly notes, is that there is no other democratic nation in which the military is a state within the state, permitting it to make its own rules and enjoy total impunity. Only in Israel does the military have virtually no civilian oversight.
The defense ministry has a tiny office which oversees military exports and engages in almost no investigations of arms deals with foreign states. Why would it, given the size and importance of such sales to the overall economy? It sees its role as promoting Israeli military trade rather than regulating it. Transparency International ranks Israel extremely low in terms of its oversight of the arms trade.
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Melman notes that Israel’s arms exports amount to $6-billion and that this is between 6-8% of the country’s entire GDP. It is ranked tenth in the world in the size of its military export trade, having fallen from sixth a few years ago. Per capita, its arms exports are the highest of any nation in the world according to Israeli economist, Shir Hever. Close to 100,000 Israeli households earn their livelihood from this economic engine.
To support such a powerhouse, Israel has conducted arms trade not only with well-known nations like the U.S. and western Europe. It has also provided huge amounts of armaments to dictators, corrupt regimes and countries engaged in genocide and ethnic cleansing. Among them, Melman names Azerbaijan, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burma, Milosevic-era Serbia, apartheid-era South Africa, and a number of Central American regimes like the Somoza-era Nicaragua and El Salvador. Historically, Israel has negotiated the neat trick of selling arms to both the Shah of Iran and the succeeding Iranian Islamist regime.
Israel’s military collaboration with Egypt is widely reported. But it’s little known that the IDF’s Unit 8200 provides SIGINT intelligence on intercepted communications from the Islamist terrorists who are the bane of the Egyptian security forces. Israeli drones have even attacked Islamist positions within the Sinai. There will even be joint air maneuvers with Israeli, Egyptian, Cypriot and Greek air forces in the near future.
In this way, Israel has become both the facilitator and the handmaiden of Egypt’s military junta. Israel could care less how this may be perceived by the average Egyptian. It only cares about pleasing, and keeping in power, the dictators and generals. For their part, Egypt’s military brass look the other way at Israeli war crimes in 1956 and 1967 which involved the massacre of Egyptian prisoners of war in cold blood. When reporting on such crimes happens in Israel itself, the censor steps in and buries these media stories to protect the sensibilities of the Egyptians who might be reminded of how brutal Israel can be when you’re not in its good graces. Out of embarrassment and in order to prevent the world from knowing about its misdeeds, such arms trade and military operations have been barely reported by the Israeli media (though covered extensively here).
Israel has also conducted an expanded arms and security trade with a number of Gulf countries, among them Abu Dhabi. The chief beneficiary of this is the Israeli security titan Mati Kochavi, who I’ve written about here. Israeli planes shuttle to the Gulf and UAE planes land regularly in Israel ferrying military-intelligence-security gear which his company, Aeronautics Defense Systems, supplies to the Gulf emirs to strengthen their grip on their citizens. Israeli technicians and consultants flood the small Gulf state, installing the CCTV cameras and computer data-mining equipment which further embeds the surveillance state and enables it to tighten its claws upon the populace. This amounts an $800-million deal lining Kochavi’s pocket. In order to offer the emir plausible deniability, Kochavi registers his companies outside Israel (while all the business itself is conducted within Israel). This legal fiction permits everyone to maintain a convenient charade that UAE does not trade directly with Israel. Once again, Israelis may not know much of this in order not to harm the security of the state. More likely, the reason is so as not to disrupt the gravy train UAE offers to the IDF, its contractors and the overall Israeli economy.
Calvin Coolidge once said that “what’s good for General Motors is good for America.” For Israel, that statement reads: “What’s good for the army is good for Israel.” There may and should come a point at which this statement is no longer true. Only then will we know that Israel is no longer a garrison state and no longer a national security regime.
Recently the Israeli media reported that the drone manufacturer, Aeronautics, sent a delegation to Azerbaijan to demonstrate a new model in the field. To its surprise, the Azeri military demanded that the Israeli operators actually mount a drone attack on an Armenian military position. When the professionals refused to agree to this unprecedented request, the company officials negotiating the sale attempted to mount the attack themselves. Luckily, the ensuing attack caused nothing worse than light injuries to two Armenian soldiers. But the notion that Israeli civilians were participating in Azerbaijan’s war against Armenia managed to get the attention of a few defense ministry officials. After press reports revealed this mess, the defense ministry belatedly denied the company a license to export this particular model.
Military officials in the Czech Republic and Slovakia are investigating charges that the chassis for their military vehicles sold to Israel have ended up in the frame for mobile cannons which Israeli sold to Azerbaijan. The arms manufacturer, Elbit, responded to Melman that all of its sales are approved by the defense ministry and according to its regulations. Which means, if true, that the worst habits of Israeli arms dealers are facilitated by those tasked with regulating them.
Further evidence of Israeli suppression of its culpability for war crimes abroad can be seen in the recent, secret Supreme Court decision to deny an appeal by an activist group seeking to bar Israeli arms sales to the Burmese junta. Apparently, it’s permissible for Israel to facilitate genocide just as long as those being exterminated are Muslim. The Court itself slapped a gag order on reporting this news and it still hasn’t been published in Israel. But after an Israeli protest provided video footage of one of the activists revealing the decision, I published the news here.
In fact, Melman offers this blog a back-handed compliment when he writes:
The Supreme Court proves the absurdity of its behavior when it decrees gag orders in the age of social and digital media. The Court’s decision was published in the Tikun Olam blog of Richard Silverstein, whose hostility toward Israel and its government he doesn’t even bother to conceal [sic]. However, there are times when it is good to have such people like him because they offer a glimpse into the shadows which the security apparatus, with the backing of the censor and the courts, does not want us to see.
As for the slap he offers, Melman is beset with the same affliction that many other liberal Israels suffer from: they know they are a dissident minority in their own country. So they must prove their patriotism in order to retain some credibility in the eyes of the Israeli populace. They do this by attacking the outsider, the one whose loyalty is easily dismissed. It’s shameful. But one understands why they feel they must do it, despite how tedious the enterprise is.
Returning to the Israeli High Court, it is depressing that it was once known for upholding human rights and democratic values and has now become a rubber stamp for secrecy and the garrison state.
Melman adds that Israel appears to be selling Chinese-manufactured drones to the Burmese generals. In this way, China can say it’s observing the international arms sanctions against Burma while profiting handsomely along with its Israeli partners-in-genocide. After several visits by Bibi Netanyahu to China, it appears bilateral trade, both illicit and above-board, has burgeoned with the Asian nation.
8 thoughts on “Israel’s Dirty Little Secret: Massive Arms Exports to, and Secret Military Exercises with Muslim Nations – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Only some 14% of Singapore residents are Muslims – it is note a Muslim majority nation.
@ lepxii: Already corrected. I confused it with its neighbor, Malaysia. But good to see you’re keeping me on my toes.
Interesting to note that you come forward with a minor correction but don’t respond to any of the moral implications regarding this issue. Shows where your priorities lie.
Not sure why you feel you need to justify yourself of Melman’s criticism. It is clear you stand tall behind every word you write about Israel and clearly your focus is to bring everything which is bad about it (in your eyes) into the light. Your goal may be to create a better Israel but currently you dislike and disapprove any aspect of it.
Bibi could say the same way he isn’t against Iran or Iranians but only against the nuclear program, which he actually just did in the UN. Did you believe him for a second?
“Everything?” I assure you if my goal was to bring every bad thing about Israeli into the light there would be 100 times the number of posts there are now. That is NOT my goal. My goal is the offer my view of Israel, plain and simple. There are many posts here about Israeli culture, music, art, etc. which contradict you. But you don’t have the nuance to understand this–or the mission of this blog. Which isn’t surprising in the least.
False again. You appear to want my site to be an adjunct of Brand Israel. There are hundreds of sites, publications, etc. which already offer you this. You’re gonna find something different here. Admittedly, it will be something you don’t like.
Bibi can & does say anything he wants. He can only claim he isn’t against Iranians because he harbors the false illusion that Iranians hate their leaders and want the sort of regime he would impose on them if he could (thankfully he can’t).
If you are stupid enough to claim my views of Israel are as mendacious and duplicitous & deluded as Bibi’s of Iran, then I’ll bounce you outa here in an instant. I don’t truck with bullshit like that & you know it. So try a trick like that again & you will be gone.
You have bounced me outa here more times than I can count so that isn’t a threat.
Your hypocrisy about your hostility to Israel is amusing and claiming your write “many posts” which aren’t hostile is laughable. But you rather smear Israel on PressTV and smear Orthodox Jews than write about culture, music, art etc’ etc’ and that your choice. Just don’t pretend that isn’t what your focus in life is on.
@Shachar: if you are stupid enough to admit that I’ve already banned you many times before, as you seem to have done here, that earns automatic banning for yr current identity plus any previous iterations that I discover which are not yet banned.
Again, I am not hostile to Israel. I am hostile to the ideas underpinning classical Zionism as expressed in latter-day Israel. But the notion that I could spend four decades studying Israel, living there & learning the language because I hate Israel or am hostile to it is beyond ridiculous. I am equally hostile to many of the more noxious ideas underpinning this country. I’m no more hostile toward America than I am toward Israel. Only in Israel would anyone say because you write critically about it that you hate it. Here in America the only idiots who talk like that are Bibi’s alt right & neocon friends. No one else thinks I or any progressive hates America because we criticize it. That indicates your & their small-minded provincialism.
I don’t smear Orthodox Jews. In fact, they smear themselves. I only write about their behavior. Usually echoing reports from other sites. You should really take up your grievance with those sources rather than with me. THough I presume you hate the fact that I amplify in English these reports in the Hebrew language press which readers outside Israel might not otherwise know about.
As for my focus in life: it is on those values & qualities which make life worth living. And yes, some of them are art, music and culture; and others are justice, spirituality and tolerance. But again, I wouldn’t expect someone like you to understand that.
I’ve tried to block commenters using methods like yours to plague the comment threads. I will continue to do everything possible to make it difficult for bad pennies like you to turn up again & again.
It seems that it could be a good idea to publish your block also in Hebrew. In this way it might reach more Israelis.
@ Reuven: I’d be delighted. Over the yrs a few Israelis have suggested this, but none have followed through.