An experiment site for the military industry
Naomi Benbassat

Haaretz, 14 November 2013

This week will be the one year anniversary for operation “pillar of defense” and in a month it will be five years since operation “cast lead”. As a resident of what is called “Gaza envelope”, it seems as if our lives take place in between operations and towards rounds: closure, siege, rockets, PATZMAR, air bombings, land invasions, targeted killings, grads, tunnels. This is the routine in our region for over a decade.

But in the past year more information was presented to me, that clarified another issue in regards to the reality in our region: it started with a verity of articles about Israel’s military export. For instance while Ehud Barak was still acting minister of defense, his ties with a company that deals in military equipment were made public (Haaretz, 9.3.2013). After operation “Pillar of defense” items about the selling of the “Iron Dome” system to different countries were published . Not long ago, Yotam Feldman’s documentary “The Lab” came out, a film that presents data about the size and girth of arms and military knowledge trade of Israel (Israel is the 6th biggest arms exporter in the world, and the biggest per capita). In the film, the Gaza envelope area, where I live, is presented as a site for experiment and presentation of Israeli inventions. The Major General Yoav Glant says in the film, that during Cast Lead, military personal from around the world came to watch the IDF’s “capabilities” from the hills around the Gaza strip.

On the eve of the operation, as the smell of war was in the air, I wrote Barak, then minister of defense, and asked that he will stop and think for a moment how a mother feels when her two children wake up in the morning to the sound of rockets exploding, and start another day in shelters, anxiety and insecurity. I wandered why they choose to initiate another air strike, another land invasion in the Gaza strip, another closing of crossings – although all of these have been tried hundreds of times.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over again and expecting different results”. Could it be that Einstein’s definition for insanity is actually immorality? Meaning that there is no expectation that the results will differ, on the contrary, the predicted results come to past?

In the first three minutes of operation “Cast Lead” 5 missiles were fired from airplanes towards a police station in Gaza city. According to the UIN fact finding mission and report by judge Richard Goldstone, these were new missiles manufactures by Refael, “Man guided missiles”, by the name of Spyke. As a result of this strike 89 police officers were killed. In an article published two years after the operation, one of the pilots was quoted saying: “Our job is just one component in a larger mechanism. The last component, whose job is limited to bringing a bomb or a missile to the target. After that we go home. And if we read later that 40 people were killed in the strike, that’s a personal issue of each pilot. As pilots we must trust all the responsible elements that gave us the right target and that the mechanism as a whole works as it should” (Haaretz, 23/12/2010). In the three weeks of “Cast Lead” 1391 Palestinians were killed, 344 of them were children.

In a conference held by Dr. Uri Milstein he tried to analyze the reasons for the operation. Milstein found a few main reasons: The first was that the operation was to prevent Netanyahu growing popularity due to the firing of rockets before the operation; The second, to restore the honor of the high ranking commanders that was “humiliated to the dust in the second Lebanon war”. The timeline of events does show Israel initiated the operation: on November 4th 2008, the IDF broke a 6 month cease fire agreement after only four and a half months, with a strike deep in the Gaza strip, in which a Hamas member was killed. The following day a missile was shot at a car, killing 5 Hamas members, and as a result the rocket fire on Israel increased. But until these two strikes, intelligence estimates were that Hamas is willing to prolong the cease fire.

Operation “Pillar of Defense” began with the killing of Ahmad Jaabari, commander of the armed branch of the Hamas. According to Gershon Baskin, just hours before he was killed, Jaabari received a draft agreement for a permanent cease fire with Israel. Both operations took place a month and a half – two months before the national elections.

I still reside in this violent and voice less area, waiting for the next round, that even though it is so certain and expected, will catch us, as always, by surprise. And when pilots “deliver” another bomb or missile to the target, what will I be able to hold on to? Will it be the sentence from Barak’s response to my letter back then, in which he wrote “Our duty and our right is to engage in proportional preventive measures according to security considerations only… I can guarantee that the best of the best of the state of Israel are working in any way possible, and put a lot of effort into trying to bring quiet and calm to the area”? Maybe in knowing the profits of arms traders will increase? Or maybe in the quote of the pilot mentioned above: “I only know of one incident in this operation in which a pilot doubted the legitimacy of the action”.