DAVID CRONIN | 28 JUNE, 2018
When balloons and kites are projected as serious weapons
Journalists in Britain and Ireland often refer to the summer months as the “silly season.” Little of consequence is happening, the media apparently decide, so we can treat trivia as newsworthy.
I’m not sure if hot weather is to blame but much recent coverage of Gaza is quite silly. Perspective has been discarded as kites and balloons have been depicted as major threats.
These are “weapons that are designed to kill,” according to an Israeli military spokesperson quoted in a Financial Times feature. Fixated on these high-flying incendiary devices, the feature omitted a pertinent fact: nobody has actually been killed by them.
Silly reporting of this nature serves Israel well. An aggressive state that has committed a number of massacres this year alone is cast as a victim.
Intentionally or not, the press is offering pretexts for Israel to launch another major offensive against Gaza. Any such attack would then be presented as an act of retaliation – or even of self-defense.
While every form of Palestinian resistance gets maligned, Israel’s weapons industry is treated with the greatest imaginable respect.
Dozens of Israeli firms took part in a Paris fair earlier this month. Eurosatory – as the event is called – was jointly organized by France’s defense ministry and arms lobby.
Some journalists helped out Israel’s exhibitors in Paris by suggesting that their new weapons could be used in Gaza.
Ynet, an Israeli website, claimed that a new drone on display at Eurosatory had been developed “to counter the threat posed by incendiary kites.”
Although the drone is named Firefly, it is impossible to believe that it suddenly materialized following the very recent discovery that the kite is Israel’s most fearsome adversary. Rafael, the Israeli firm behind the Firefly, did not mention kites or balloons in an announcement about its booth at Eurosatory.
Rather, it stated that the drone had been “designed for urban area warfare,” in which the “enemy is behind cover.” How can kites or balloons be considered as “behind cover” if they are flying in a clear blue sky?
Fox News is similarly known to hype up Israel’s weapons.
A puff piece on Fox’s website about a new Israeli armored vehicle – the Mantis – celebrated its aesthetic appeal. The Mantis looks like it has been built of Lego and has been described as “part aircraft cockpit and part sports car” and as a “space buggy,” Fox reports.
Weapons are occasionally portrayed almost as fashion accessories. Army Recognition, an outlet specializing in the arms trade, tells its readers that new Israeli guns are available in four shades, including “flat dark earth” and “sniper gray.”
The maker of these guns, Israel Weapon Industries, supplied rifles used to kill and maim unarmed protesters in Gaza over the past few months. But that fact is nowhere to be found in the aforementioned Army Recognition story.
The color of the weapons has been deemed more significant than the crimes from which their manufacturers seek to profit.
Reporters who fetishize Israeli weapons are failing – perhaps deliberately – to investigate what is really going on. Among the issues that should be probed are Israeli boasts that its weapons are “battle-tested” or “combat proven” – euphemisms for how they have been used to kill and wound Palestinians.
Shir Hever’s latest book The Privatization of Israeli Security sheds light on this sordid reality. Hever demonstrates how Israel has become increasingly reliant on selling its tools of oppression abroad.
A phenomenal 80 percent of all weapons produced by Israel are exported, according to data cited by Hever, a left-wing economist. Relative to population size, Israel is the world’s largest vendor of arms.
Israel’s arms sales rose markedly following Operation Cast Lead, its attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.
Desmond Travers, a retired Irish colonel, was part of a United Nations team which conducted an inquiry into that offensive. He argues that the Israeli arms industry is cynically exploiting the use of its products against Palestinians for marketing purposes.
“Any company known to have tested weapons on non-combatants should be precluded from exhibiting those weapons in open, democratic countries,” Travers told me.
Governments that buy from Israel’s war industry are allowing Israel to convert the suffering it inflicts on Palestinians into shekels. Surely, that warrants more attention than the threats posed by kites and balloons.