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Resisting the export of war by Israel

Acting in Faith  |  By Sahar Vardi, Jun 19, 2017
Photo: AFSC / Sahar Vardi

Four months before the massacre in Srebrenica, where 8,000 Bosniaks were murdered, Israel contacted the Serb forces to offer them 500 sniper rifles and training free of charge. Even after the massacre, Israel continued its arms sales, including a sale of Lau missiles less than a month after the massacre.

250 exhibiting military companies. 48% of exhibitors are international companies. 15,000 visitors from across the globe. 86% of attendees have buying power. These are the highlights of ISDEF, Israel’s biggest arms and military technology exhibit. This year it took place on June 6th-8th, exactly the week of the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Golan Heights.

Shadow conference considering the export of war

Wearing t-shirts reading, “Israeli military industries profit from the occupation" and carrying smartphone cameras and a banner, ten activists crashed the party to remind all the attendees that the Israeli military industry is exporting Israel’s occupation work. This disruption was part of a series of events challenging the Israeli military industry and their development, testing, and marketing of weapons at the expense of Palestinians, and the export of these to over 130 countries where these weapons further oppress people.

The Coalition of Women for Peace and AFSC brought together activists from all over the world to share their experience of being on the receiving end of Israeli arms, tactics, and trainings. In addition to meeting with activists, protesting outside of the ISDEF exhibit, and the disruption, we organized a shadow conference to speak about what the true human cost of these arms industries are to both Palestinians and oppressed peoples around the world.

The Israeli Arava Cargo plane was used by Mexican, Argentinean, and Guatemalan governments during the “Dirty wars” in these countries, to kill and disappear dissidents by dropping them into the ocean in what became known as “death flights." 

An activist from Bosnia spoke about the Israeli sale of arms to the Serb forces during the massacres in the 1995. A researcher from Arizona spoke of Israel’s role in the militarization of the US-Mexico border, and the growing humanitarian crisis there. Black activists from the U.S. spoke about how Israel trains police forces who later attack and criminalize their communities. South Africans spoke about Israel’s sale of arms to Apartheid South Africa, and the current oppression of student protests. A member of the favelas movement in Rio De Janeiro spoke about the Israeli weapons used against those in the favelas by the most deadly police force in the world. A Palestinian human rights advocate from Gaza was video conferenced in to talk about Israeli drones and bombings of Gaza, as well as the surveillance technology used to maintain the siege on Gaza. Many more from Palestine, Argentina, Colombia, the U.S., the U.K., Holland, Israel, and South Korea, added to the conversation about Israel’s military ties to their countries, but more importantly, how they resist it.

The main theme that emerged at the shadow conference was the constant state of war we are all told we live in, and the realization that there’s an entire industry dependent on these never-ending wars. The war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on crime, the war on immigration…None of these are wars. None of these have an end point. This is the time we live in, the time of everlasting, low-key wars against an invisible enemy, against people all around us, against us. This war is fought through control, and those who manufacture methods of control are profiting from it endlessly. When the entire stock market crashed after Trump's election in the U.S., only the arms industry stocks went up – this is not a coincidence. While we lose, there are those who gain. This is what we were protesting, this is what we were talking about, and this is what we will continue to resist. 

About the Author

Sahar Vardi has served three prison sentences for her refusal to be conscripted into Israel's military service. She works with other refusers and serves as Coordinator of AFSC's Israel program in east Jerusalem.

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