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Gaza to Guatemala: Exporting Israeli repression


August 12, 2014

As the world witnesses the latest violence in Gaza and decries the death of civilians, there is another humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. Hundreds of thousands of migrants, many children, mostly from Central America, are fleeing violence and poverty to cross the world’s largest and most dangerous migration route. Despite many distinctions, the parallels between these two crises are apparent. Indeed, protestors at Palestine solidarity rallies in California chant “Emigrantes, Palestinos, Estamos Unidos.” (“Migrants, Palestinians, We Are United”).
 
In fact, Israel plays a direct role in the massive industry of security, detention and deportation on the U.S.-Mexico border. This is merely one instance of the sharing of repressive security and border control tactics that is commonplace between Israel and other imperialist powers.
 
In efforts to support Palestinian calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions, one must not forget that war and “homeland security” is itself a big business. Interests in Israel and abroad are profiting from the status quo. Israel is among the top five global arms exporters, remarkable given the country’s size. Some claim (as in the 2013 documentary The Lab) that Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are merely guinea pigs in the growing Israeli arms export industry. Indeed, a shameless selling point for Israeli arms is that equipment has been tested and proven effective in a real conflict.  
 
In a recent interview Shir Hever, author of Political Economy of Israel's Occupation: Repression Beyond Exploitation explains how Israel’s defense industry has evolved to complement, not compete with, military powers such as the U.S. Hever and other critics explain how Israel’s arms industry has specialized not only in terms of technology and components it sells, but also to whom it sells.
 
This was particularly the case after 1977 when President Carter’s human rights policy stipulated cutting-off of aid to human rights abusers. Israel supplied South Africa’s apartheid regime, the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, Guatemala and El Salvador during bloody civil wars, the Somoza regime in Nicaragua, among many others in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Beyond equipment, Israel supplied intelligence and counterinsurgency training later used to select death squad victims and target civilians. The point is not to blame the Israeli state for these diverse, complex situations, but to highlight the irony of calling Israel “one of the great outposts of democracy in the world." 
 
In more recent years, Israel has specialized in exporting domestic security technology to governments repressing citizens within their own countries or borders. Shir Hever mentions how Israel is now selling surveillance equipment, drones and riot gear – “the sort of technology that governments need in order to control their citizens.” For example, the Israeli military are active in training Mexican police forces to contain the indigenous Zapatista movement in Chiapas. Most recently, Israeli state owned defense companies supplied equipment used to crush World Cup protests in Brazil.  
 
The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network goes further and asserts even Zionist non-profit interest groups are active in surveillance in foreign countries. A 2012 report stated “in addition to the Israeli government, military, and corporations, a network of Zionist organizations provides political and economic support to the state of Israel. For example, in the U.S., these organizations participate in surveillance and facilitate exchanges between the Israeli military and U.S. police forces, federal agents, and armed forces.”
 
As journalist Chris Hedges points out, imperialist tactics of repression and control used abroad eventually creep their way back into the home country---“The tyranny empire imposes on others, it finally imposes on itself.” In an age of mass surveillance, privatized security and eroding civil liberties, this global industry for civilian repression has consequences well beyond Gaza.

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