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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Israel's future weapons unveiled in Paris

For the past few years, Ehud Barak has generally visited arms fairs in Paris during June to help drum up business for Israel’s weapons-makers. The exception was 2010, when the international outcry over the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla prompted the defence minister to cancel his trip.

Barak’s annual routine has now been restored. He was in France once again this week to cut the opening ribbon for the Israeli pavilion at this year’s Paris Air Show. His trip follows the announcement that Israel’s weapons exports were worth $7.2 billion in 2010, a growth of $300 million over the previous year.

Predictably, hacks working for the business and “defence” press were happy to regurgitate the promotional material pumped out by Israeli exhibitors in Paris.

Rafael, a Haifa-based firm, must be especially pleased with the attention devoted to it. In a fawning feature published by Aviation International News, Rafael signalled it is adapting well to these times of austerity. Ilan Biran, the Rafael chairman, said he is running a “boutique” firm, which is hoping to benefit from the increased willingness of countries to share military technology, rather than to rely on domestic suppliers, in order to lower their defence spending.

Like the state of Israel itself, Biran has been able to depict his firm as both tiny and terrifying. The “boutique” Rafael has teamed up with the American behemoth Raytheon to develop David’s Sling. This “air defence missile system” – likely to replace Hawk missiles already in Israel’s arsenal – is making its debut in Paris. Rafael is also being lauded as the innovator of the Iron Dome system. Reportedly capable of intercepting rockets such as those fired by Hamas into southern Israel, Iron Dome has become a useful tool in Israel’s never-ending propaganda war.

Another big draw in Paris is the new medium-weight laser-guided bomb (MLGB) from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Though only 253 pounds in weight, these sound obese compared to the 22 pound nano-satellites that IAI is working on.

It is surely obscene that the display of weapons that may well be used to kill Palestinians and attack other countries in the future elicits no criticism in the press. How can journalists specialising in “defence” really know so little about the realities of war that they faithfully regurgitate the canard that Israel’s weapons are designed to minimise “collateral damage”? When was avoiding harm to civilians ever on Israel’s agenda?

·First published by Mondoweiss (www.mondoweiss.net), 23 June 2011

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