Israel’s war against the people - review

War against the people: Israel, the Palestinians and global pacification – Jeff Halper, Pluto Press, 2015.

How does Israel manage to get away with its brutal Occupation of the West Bank and its incessant war on Gaza? Why do imperialist powers continue to support it in its war on the Palestinians? These are the questions that Jeff Halper, the head of the activist NGO the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions (ICAHD), sets out to answer in War against the people: Israel, the Palestinians and global pacification. Through a detailed examination of Israel’s international role in the development of military techniques, high tech weaponry, and security products, Halper exposes how Israel’s war against the Palestinians is a war against all oppressed people.

Since 1948 Israel has occupied Palestinian land, and since 1967 it has maintained its Occupation of the West Bank. This is despite its illegality under international law, widespread opposition to the Occupation from the international solidarity movement, and continuous resistance from Palestinian organisations. Why does Israel continue the Occupation? Halper argues: ‘The Occupation represents a resource for Israel … economically, it provides a testing ground for the development of weapons, security systems, models of population control and tactics without which Israel would be unable to compete in the international arms and security markets … Where would it be without the occupation and the regional conflict it generates?’

Halper argues that Israel has grown to fill particular niches in the international military industry: 1) high-tech weaponry, and 2) repressive security apparatus. Israel has continued its war on, and repression of, the Palestinians to develop and perfect these services. It is through the provision of these services to international powers, Halper argues, that Israel ‘gets away with it’. Israel plays a vital role for the dominant powers in the management of the imperialist world order, by producing destructive and repressive techniques, and by illicitly distributing such products to imperialism’s regional clients, facilitating the smooth extraction of resources and super-exploitation of labour in the oppressed world.

Niche 1 – High Tech Weaponry

Much of Halper’s book is a detailed examination of niche 1 – Israel’s high tech weapons industry. This section is terrifying, if over-technical for the needs of Palestine solidarity activists. Halper reveals how Israel:

  • exported arms worth $7bn in 2012, making it the sixth largest arms exporter in the world. 20% of these were to the US.
  • has more than 1,000 arms companies – one for every 8,000 people.
  • has an extensive network of spy satellites which cover the Middle East more thoroughly than any other. Ofeq 10, its most recent satellite can even detect objects being carried by people on the ground.
  • was the first country to pioneer the use of military drones. The Hermes 900 was expedited from the production line so it could be used in the 2014 assault on Gaza and labelled ‘battle-tested’.
  • is a leader in the sector of arms miniaturisation, including: ‘Nanobots implanted into humans that can cause fundamental physical or psychic distortions’.
  • is developing tiny surveillance and combat drones drawing inspiration from insect behaviour, and even conducting research into how to control insects for military purposes.

Israel is in a perfect position to continually develop such weaponry, as it exists in a state of perpetual war, allowing a consistent disproportionate commitment of resources to military technology, and it has a constant battleground in Gaza to test its products.

Niche 2 – Repressive Apparatus

‘Niche 2’ encompasses the world leading security apparatus Israel has developed for ‘pacifying’ the Palestinians – what Halper calls ‘Israel’s Matrix of Control’. Palestinian lands ‘become a laboratory where the latest techniques of surveillance, control and suppression are perfected and showcased’. These techniques can then be exported to other countries seeking to control internal dissent. The debt owed by the Zionist state to British imperialism is clear –closures, curfews, the building of separation walls and house demolitions were all strategies Israel inherited from the British occupation of Palestine (1917-1948).

The ‘securitisation’ of the Israeli state has meant the merging of the ‘internal’ security and policing sector with the ‘external’ military sector. The Israeli model of paramilitary police units has been fed into policing in the major imperialist countries. The NYPD opened an office in Tel Aviv in 2012. The militarised police who brutally put down the 2014 Ferguson uprising in the US were trained in Israel. The London Metropolitan Police’s strategy for dealing with suicide bombers – Operation Kratos - which led to the police murder of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005, was inspired by Israel. The international securitisation of borders, airports, public spaces and beyond, is also following Israeli experience and techniques.

Israel has extensive experience of dealing with protests. Daily protests in the West Bank have been used as a laboratory for Israel and its security companies to develop highly effective ‘crowd control’ techniques, including gas, sprays and liquids.  The foul-smelling liquid known as ‘Skunk’, which when sprayed on protesters lingers as a sewage-like smell for days, was developed by Israeli company Odortec, through use on Palestinian protests. It is now sold to ‘law enforcement agencies, agriculturalists, and environmental protection organisations in Israel, Europe and South America’.

Imperialism and Zionism

War against the people focuses primarily on Israel’s ‘pacification industry’ as the explanation for its continued support from the imperialist powers, and the reason Israel continues its Occupation. The racist, expansionist ideology of Zionism – on which the whole country and Occupation is founded - is barely mentioned, and occurs only once in the index. Halper barely addresses the role the very existence of Israel itself plays in the Middle East - a creation of the imperialist powers to exercise control over this resource-rich and strategic region – as a crucial reason for the imperialists continued support.  Readers should see our article, ‘Israel: Its role in the Middle East’ for an examination of this.[1] Halper’s book makes it clear however, that Israel’s military and security industry is a major additional factor in the continuation of the Occupation, and its international role. At a time when the regional balance of power is shifting, and a Zionist entity is increasingly problematic for imperialist powers courting Iran, Israel’s ‘pacification industry’ may be of increasing importance to its continued favour.



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