By Stuart Reigeluth
Sporadic violence in Gaza is a way for Israel to test its latest military gadgets. As depicted last week in a very real way, Gaza is a large petri dish for Israeli security experiments. The most recent is called ‘Iron Dome’ — like something out of Star Wars.
Iron Dome is a mobile air defence system designed to intercept rockets. Or according to Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, ‘comets’ — which by definition reveals an indifference to what they actually are: small home-made rockets (like firework comets) or large astronomical comets orbiting our solar system. In either case, the supposed threat is coming from ‘out there’, beyond the gates.
Gaza is now so entirely disconnected and disregarded by Israel that rockets or comets might as well as be coming from outer space. To create an impermeable shell against these alien southern or northern threats, Iron Dome was conceived in the aftermath of the 2006 July War.
Throughout July 2006, Israel was not able to rout the Lebanese Hezbollah which sent thousands of Katyusha rockets into the Galilee, reaching the largest northern Israeli city of Haifa. Hezbollah claims to be developing rockets that would reach Tel Aviv — the commercial centre of Israel. The wanton destruction of neighbours, such as the bombs that Israel dropped on Lebanon in 2006 and on Gaza in 2008-2009, does not annul the possibility of rockets being launched, nor has it proven to eliminate the armed resistance of Islamists fighters.
So what to do for Israel? Despite apparent international immunity, even Israel could not get away with an apocalyptic bombardment (though for doomsday affiliates the potential for nuclear war is rising rapidly with Iran becoming increasingly provocative). Israel opted to build a shield.
Iron Dome operates day and night, under any weather conditions, and has three main mobile components: the embedded radars can detect incoming projectiles; the control centre relays the coordinates of the rockets/comets; and the missile firing unit shoots off volleys of Tamir interceptor missiles equipped with electro-optic sensors and several steering fins for high manoeuvrability.
The entire contraption was developed by Rafael Advanced Defence Systems with sub-contracts to Elta, an Israel defence company for the detection radars, and mPrest Systems, an Israeli software company, for the control centre of the Iron Dome.
Israel chose a national defence contractor over other contenders such as Lockheed Martin, for the obvious lucrative business of new security technology. Contracts towards Nato and the US Army are already underway for the wars in Central Asia.
And who funds these new toys? Israel in part, but also the US. In May 2010, President Barack Obama made known that his administration would help ensure the rapid completion and deployment of Iron Dome batteries with $205 million (Dh752 million) from Congress.
On May 20, 2010, the US House of Representatives approved the funding with a resounding 410-4 vote for the US-Israel Missile Defence Cooperation and Support Act (HR 5327). Israel aims to have between 10-15 Iron Dome batteries totalling around $1 billion.
This is big business, and for a country like Israel — that is more military than state — this is a means to perpetuating a state of recurrent war. The tit-for-tat over past week was nothing more than a way for Israel to fine-tune its machines for larger confrontations with Hezbollah and Iran.
Everything in this scenario serves Israel’s military-security industry. Targeting the head of the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC), Zuhair Al Qaisi, was a way of eliminating a leading Palestinian fighter and a sure way of soliciting a rocket response. It’s a win-win situation for Israel. Close to 100 Qassam missiles did get through the Iron Dome, some landed in Beersheba and Ashdod, (hoorah for the Palestinian resistance…) but 37 Palestinian rockets, supposedly heading for populated Jewish areas, were intercepted by the Iron Dome (hoorah for Israeli technology…).
But this means there’s still some fine-tuning and testing to be done. Expect some more spats with the Palestinians of Gaza this spring and some serious Israeli strikes against Iran this summer. Waves of war usually come with the seasons for Israel. In the meantime, the Quartet issued its shortest statement ever calling for an end to hostilities; US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton also piped in to voice their concern about the further escalation of violence. Too late — the machine is in motion. Besides the avant-garde technological gadgets, what this reveals above all is the very essence of the military Zionist mindset. Born of war, made for war, the Zionists see a hostile world around them that consists of barbarians, who are very much the solution to Israel’s survival.
– Stuart Reigeluth is editor of Revolve Magazine and works at the Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR).in Brussels. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. (This article was originally published in Gulf News – www.gulfnews.com – on March 17)