The Palestine Laboratory – How Israel exports the technology of occupation around the world

In his review, Tony Richardson analyses Antony Loewenstein's book "The Palestine Laboratory," which exposes how Israel uses the Palestinian territories as a testing ground for arms and surveillance technology that it then exports globally.

 

This book was written shortly before the October war on Gaza.

But it is extremely apposite in helping to understand the reasoning behind Israel’s actions.

The book cover for "The Palestine Laboratory"

There are other good books on the Israeli arms industry, like that by Jeff Halper entitled ‘War against the People’, which shows how Israel uses this industry to influence the world. It also trains other military forces, especially presidential guards. There is also Haim Bresheeth-Zabner’s book ‘An Army Like No Other’ that shows how central the Israeli army is in the ideology of the state; he calls it an army with a state. I am sure there are many more good books on the subject.

But this book is useful in that it draws together many aspects that arise from the Israeli experience and ‘expertise’ in the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. It is one of the six biggest arms dealers in the world. Israel can draw on its actual employment of weapons to sell arms around the world. Not only weapons are sold, but also techniques for controlling a population through the construction of walls and sophisticated technology.

“Israel can draw on its actual employment of weapons to sell arms around the world. Not only weapons are sold, but also techniques for controlling a population through the construction of walls and sophisticated technology.”

He starts off with Israel’s arms sales; it is willing to sell to anybody that the US does not consider a danger to itself. So basically, any dictator It became South Africa’s main supplier during Apartheid, including the joint development of nuclear weapons. It also studied the Bantustan system and decided to transfer it to the West Bank. It was the main supplier to the Shahs of Iran, and when some of their actions became embarrassing to the West, it still supplied the Burmese dictatorship. It is a major supplier to the Modi regime; it supplied the Contras, and it supplied the dictatorship in Paraguay, as well as trying to get it to accept 60,000 Gaza residents, for which it would pay them money. It tried,unsuccessfully, to negotiate a deal to give Gazans to several Latin American countries.

It continued supplying the Rwandan regime with weapons during the genocide. The list goes on.

The book deals extensively with the control of the Palestinians, particularly with technology. Cameras are all over the West Bank using facial recognition, so through every checkpoint, all movement is monitored. Mobile phone technology is used to hack into all phones. Again, complete control is allied with the fact that the army is told to interview and gather information. The information from phones is used to blackmail and get more information. Already, all births in the West Bank and Gaza are registered with the Israelis.

Then there are the walls and the checkpoints, which control movement. These days, drones are used at checkpoints and throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Israel produces 60% of the world’s drones.

“At every checkpoint, from north to south, facial recognition is used. Of course, torture is also used, but the main selling point is technology.”

So not only are the weapons marketed everywhere battle-tested, Israel is in an almost unique position to test its weapons on a civilian population. But nobody protests much at arms fairs that this is the case. At the Paris Arms Fair, a film of a drone was used, showing a shooting of a family. After analysis, this was shown to have been a family on the West Bank.

It is well known that Israel sells phone hacking tools all over the world, which are massively used by dictatorships to control their opponents. But what Loewenstein shows is how expertise and technology are used to control borders, mostly using drones. This includes huge contracts with Europe for Elbit, including covering the Mediterranean, as well as selling wall technology. Elbit got Trump’s contract for the Mexican border wall, and many Middle Eastern countries use them. It surprised me how widespread these sales were.

These Israeli companies had a big boost during COVID; they used their technology to control populations. The Israelis even used it on the religious Jewish population. This was the first time, so not just the Palestinians are under surveillance.

Most of the Israeli companies are officially private but run by ex-military, and so they get their technology from the state. That way, the Israeli government is able to use deniability, although they have always lied about their contracts anyway.

Antony Loewenstein
Antony Loewenstein

The other thing that Loewenstein shows is how American-owned social media companies censor Palestinians, which is clear to many of us. Having control over the narrative is essential, so Israel won’t let the UN experts look at the October 7th events; no social media company challenges this.

Even though Israel appears isolated, their companies are supported by the US; many of the weapons are US derivatives, and if you ally with the Americans, you can do anything, even genocide.

If you think that Gaza is just about furthering the Israeli regime’s policies, after reading this book, you will realise that the world’s dictators are seeing it as a live arms fair. You watch a Hamas video showing a little dot on a tank, and somebody in a building tries to hit it. This is old school. The Israeli officer points his phone at the building, and a drone instantly fires. At every checkpoint, from north to south, facial recognition is used. Of course, torture is also used, but the main selling point is technology.

The Palestine Laboratory:How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World by Antony Loewenstein from Verso books.


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