I’ve long assumed the U.S., with its mammoth military-industrial complex, was the world leader in drone technology.
Well, you know what they say about assuming too much. Check this out: Sixty Percent of Global Drone Exports Come From Israel – New Data. The title may be a bit misleading. Being the largest exporter does not necessarily make Israel the largest producer of drones, since the U.S. presumably uses a large part of its drone production for its own military and other purposes.
But the larger point of the piece — that Israel is at the cutting edge of drone technology — is unassailable. So much so that it would be a mistake to consider U.S. policy towards Israel without constantly keeping this in mind, which I suspect many of us fail to do. I certainly have.
I say this for several reasons. First, Israel’s leadership in this technology provides it with obvious leverage. For example, if the U.S. stops using its veto power at the U.N. to protect Israel, well, Israel might sell drones to a country the U.S. would rather not have access to them.
Second, it might explain the absurd tolerance of the U.S. for Israel’s murderous actions in Gaza, which the author, Rania Khalek, identifies as the testing ground for Israel’s drone technology:
Over the last decade, Israel’s use of robotic warfare against Palestinians has escalated dramatically, with each new military assault on Gaza relying more heavily on drones than the last.
Last summer, Israel’s 51-day bombing campaign against Gaza killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, including more than 500 children.
Based on data collected by the Al Mezan Center for Human rights, a Corporate Watch investigation found that at least 37 percent of those killed, or 840 people, died in drone strikes alone.
Easy access to a captive Palestinian population to experiment on allows Israeli arms producers to market their products as “combat proven,” a coveted seal of approval that gives Israel a competitive edge in the international arms trade. Israel’s repression technology is then exported to regimes that are similarly invested in subjugating the poor and marginalized.
Third, and most chilling, drone technology is in its infancy, and Israel may be increasing its lead over other nations. Consider the following:
Today, Gaza is surrounded with Israeli drones by air, land and sea.
In addition to the surveillance drones that hover overhead, the walls of the Gaza cage will soon be reinforced by Border Patroller, an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV), or land drone, armed with remote-controlled weapons. Designed by the Israeli company G-NIUS, a joint venture between Elbit Systems and IAI, the Border Patroller, like the walls it fortifies, will prevent the Palestinian refugees of Gaza from escaping their cage.
The Protector, produced by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, is an unmanned sea vehicle (USV), or boat drone, that roams Gaza’s coast to obstruct Palestinian fishermen from making a living.
If the proliferation of Israel’s aerial drones is any indication, it won’t be long before land and sea drones spread to all corners of the globe.
How long will it be before those UGV’s the author discusses appear on our Southern border?
I attended a talk recently by someone, whose name I frankly forget, who made the point that the American Jewish community is not the lead group lobbying for Israel in Washington. That distinction goes to the American arms industry. It made sense to me at the time, but it makes even more sense now.
In my worldview, I consider the U.S. an empire well past its zenith. I’ve viewed Israel as a client state under that worldview. Now, I’m not so sure. Is it a client state, or a junior partner? Time will tell.