Weapons Suppliers and the Israeli State: Complicity in war crimes

Weapons Suppliers and the Israeli State: Complicity in war crimes
White phosphorous hangs over Gaza, the third most densely populated place on earth. Use on civilians is a war crime.

The unfolding tragedy, now rightly recognised as an instance of ethnic cleansing, in occupied Palestine is intrinsically linked to weapons producers, particularly Elbit Systems, the US Department of Defence (DoD) and the Israeli State. Elbit itself is renowned for its extensive portfolio that encompasses a wide range of cutting-edge technologies, including drones and other electronic systems, often used in the surveillance and the oppression of the Palestinian people. Of course, the United States has long been an ally of the Israeli state. Their close relationship and the proximity of this partnership can be seen by the vast amounts of ‘aid’ in the form of munitions and military technologies.Whilst, it must be noted that this relationship can be seen as strategic, due to Israel’s geographical position in relation to the United States and allies ideological opposites, such as Iran, much of the weaponry and technology is used in occupied territories. 


Delving into the alliance between Elbit, the DoD and the Israeli state, it is clear that both parties are complicit in the states violations of basic human rights, ongoing war crimes, and maintenance of an apartheid state. It is of the opinion of impACT International, that our wider understanding of complicity in these contexts is severely limited, which negates a real understanding about how such abhorrent crimes continue to be committed. The supply of weaponry is a vital component in carrying out such abhorrent crimes, if we are to prevent future instances of ethnic cleansing, we must be clear about the relationships that allow for it to occur.


Suppliers: Elbit and the DoD


Both Elbit and the DoD’s complicity in these ongoing tragedies, lies in their primary role as the Israeli Military of Defence’s (IMOD) largest suppliers of military technology. 




Elbit itself draws 18% of it’s revenues from this lucrative partnership, translating to around US$915.5 million, as reported by the Who Profits Research Centre. In January 2023, Elbit disclosed that it had secured the following contracts: $107 million from the IMOD to furnish advanced training centres; $180 million to establish a new mission training centre for the IMOD’s F-16 fleet; $95 million to supply and maintain advanced electro-optical systems to the IMOD. The relationship emphasises Israel’s commitment to becoming one of the world’s most militarily capable states, though the implications of this for many in occupied Palestine is the expression of highly imbalanced expressions of power. Particularly when used in order to further subjugate Palestinians. 


US Department of Defense


The DoD also exists as one of the states primary suppliers of advanced military technology, though through ‘aid’. According to Congressional reports, “almost all current US aid to Israel is military assistance” and “Israel is the largest recipient of foreign military financing and arms sales”. This is the result of various contracts at the nexus of DoD and private companies, largely handed to US defense companies. An important part of this is the ‘Memorandum of Understanding’, a regularly renewed 10-year agreement on trading military aid, allows for the free flow of various multifaceted military products to enter both nations. With historical and more recent instances of both war crimes and human rights abuses levelled at the Israeli state, the United States DoD continues to supply the state with various and highly technological, military equipment. 


Hermes 450 Drone


The gravity of Elbit’s complicity in the ongoing tragedies is evident in it’s description of many of their goods. The Hermes 450 drone, a cornerstone of Elbit’s success, described on their site as “combat proven” and the “primary platform of the IDF in counter-terror operations” has claimed the lives of hundreds of Palestinians, unrelated to Hamas, since it’s roll out in 2006. The use of these drones has concerned human rights agencies for some time. These assertions, particularly considering their use in Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on the face of the Earth, relay an alarming reality for many civilians. 


It is important to note that the Hermes 450 drone is internationally recognised by military experts as possessing pinpoint accuracy, which supposedly minimises civilian casualties. Whilst certainly, the accuracy of the initial missile may be ‘pin-point’ we at impACT argue that dropping high explosives in densely populated areas negate any actual accuracy when it comes to acting on specific and individual targets. In their comprehensive report “Precisely Wrong: Gaza Civilians Killed by Israeli Drone-Launched Missiles”, Human Rights Watch details six instances in the 2008/09 War on Gaza in which Israeli forces killed 29 civilians, 8 of which children whilst supposedly targeting ‘terror’ operatives. 


The highly capable equipment sold by Elbit, is designed to enable operators to view objects on the ground in detail, at both day and night. Moreover, the missiles are equipped with individual cameras to follow targets after deployment and up to its impact. This implies that operators have the means to distinguish between civilians, including children, and their intended targets: a disturbing reality given the number of civilian deaths. 


White Phosphorous, M825, M825A1 Artillery Shells and the DoD


The position of White Phosphorous in International Law is highly contentious. Though not directly banned due to their incendiary effects (it is described as tactical equipment), its use on civilian targets is prohibited under Protocol III of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. In 2009, Human Rights Watch implored the Israeli state to stop its deployment of White Phosphorus after confirmation that it was being used deliberately on densely populated areas of Gaza. As the Israeli states continues it’s bombardment of Gaza, more reports of its use have circulated with numerous pictures over Gaza city port, a highly populated area, indicates its deliberate use on civilians. Further, Amnesty International, finding images from the 9th October 2023, has identified a number of M825 and M825A1 shells labelled DODIC in Israeli possession, the US Department of Defense identification code for White Phosphorus rounds. 


Whilst, with the munition not entirely banned under international law, the DoD is clearly aware of it’s deliberate use on civilian populations. Continued sales of such weaponry to a state intent on using against civilians demonstrates a level of complicity in war crimes that must be acknowledged if the deaths and injuring of innocent populations is to be prevented in the future. 



The Ongoing Relationship


In spite of the extensive criticism by human rights organisations for the deliberate killing of civilians in 2008/09, Elbit’s association with IMOD remained completely unaltered. Between 2008 and 2014, Elbit continued to amass large profits and experience a surge in its sales as the Israeli state continued devastating assaults on Gaza throughout this period. Supplemented by the relationship with the DoD, Elbit and other Israeli military tech companies have become a major global player on the international arms market. In March 2022, Ukrainian President Zelensky addressed the Israeli Knesset applauding the various military capabilities of Israeli military companies when asking for assistance. Elbit has experienced a stratospheric rise in prominence, which has also seen an explosion in their value. This is often directly related to assaults on Palestinian Territories as was seen in 2014, when profits increased by 6.1% in light of a successful assault on the Gaza Strip. 


The IMOD has continued its use of Hermes 450 and 900 drones, but also increasingly advanced surveillance gathering equipment, over the imprisoned population. Elbit’s Skylark intelligence-gathering drone has received various commendations from military personnel, particularly after the 2014 Gaza Assault. Roy Riften, Israeli Chief Artillery Officer stated that Elbit’s products added “operational value” and gave the assault a “boost [in] combat effectiveness”. Electro-optical equipment has increasingly become an important tool in continuation of apartheid practices in Israel, and has been readily supplied by Elbit systems and their UK manufacturer Instro Precision Ltd. It is incredibly important to note that, Palestinian Territories act here as a testing ground for military equipment, raising the value of producing companies when used in successful assaults. The financial successes of Elbit and related companies like Instro, are intrinsically linked to the human rights abuses suffered by Palestinians. 


Complicity in Human Rights Violations


As stated, Elbit and the DoD’s contribution to the suffering of Palestinians is not limited to the production of munitions and drones. Elbit has been one of the primary providers of the electronic fence system to the separation wall in occupied West Bank. The walls, whose construction commenced in June 2002, largely as a land grab, cut trough the property of Palestinian communities, farmlands and agricultural areas at the height of the Second Intifada. Deemed an illegal land grab in 2004, breaching International Law, its construction saw the destruction and seizure of vast amounts of Palestinian property and constricted the Palestinian mobility. As described by B’tselem, this has created conditions whereby “dozens of disconnected enclaves, under rigid military rule and without political rights” are solidified. 


Further, in Gaza, Elbit worked with the Israeli government to design and implement a tunnel detection system with the aim increasing surveillance capacities over the 2 million Palestinians and maintaining the blockade. These technologies continue to advance and tighten the grip around Palestinian freedom of movement. Elbit’s so-called ‘border defence systems’ now deploy sophisticated Integrated Fixed Towers, alongside other facial-recognition software deployed in the likes of Hebron, enable “automated apartheid”, controlling everything from movement of foodstuffs, to individuals, in and out of the besieged territory. 




Such a noticeable and enduring pattern highlights the link between weapons suppliers, particularly Elbit and the DoD, IMOD and the relentless suffering of the Palestinian people. Whilst certainly, we must continue in our efforts to denounce the barbaric actions of the Israeli state, we at impACT believe it is vital to understand the wider picture of human rights abuses. If we continue to ignore the successes of the likes of Elbit, consistently creating specialised equipment to brutalise a population, this formalised, unbridled cycle of suffering, with continue to devastate the lives of innocent Palestinians. 


Further, beyond the unimaginable suffering imposed on those inside Palestinian Territories, connections between the violence and the financial successes experience by Elbit serve as a grim reminder that suffering and dying Palestinians are profitable


It is incumbent on Elbit and the DoD to acknowledge, beyond mere colloquial descriptions regarding the ‘successes’ of their weapons, its role in the strategic murder of civilians, continued breaches of international law, and the persistence of conditions that violate basic human rights.


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