By Marion Kawas
Two weeks ago, it was revealed that a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Elta North America, would be involved in building the U.S.-Mexico border wall. The immediate connection between the “builders” of oppressive and apartheid walls was not lost on those concerned about social justice, but a look at the history of IAI is even more enlightening. It is just one of many Israeli military defense companies that have intensified their global marketing in the last two decades, but it is also wholly owned by the Israeli government and is part of the historical foundation and fabric of the whole Zionist enterprise.
History of IAI – Pillar of the Israeli State
IAI was founded just a few years after the establishment of the Israeli state, under the tutelage of the late Shimon Peres who was then director general of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. It was setup to accommodate the new Israeli Air Force and assist in the military development of the country. “IAI’s development has paralleled that of the State of Israel and the company has been privileged to play a substantial role in the industrial, technological and economic progress of the country and its national security”, the company history page proudly states.
This was part of Shimon Peres’ contribution and legacy, along with developing Israel’s nuclear capacity; these were the kind of “socialist kibbutzim” Peres and Labour Zionism were busy developing in order to ensure military “superiority” over the indigenous Palestinians and the whole region.
IAI has long been recognized internationally as a leader in drone (zanana) development and technology. Zanana is the term coined by Palestinians in Gaza for the constant buzzing or whizzing sound generated by the omnipresent drones overhead. “A group of young boys and girls gathered in Al-Kattiba Square, west of Gaza City, using large pieces of wood and formed the word ‘LEAVE’, in hopes that the drone hovering over the skies of Gaza will read it. One of the participants said that they wish that they can live without the zanana, so at least they can sleep.
Palestinians in Gaza call the Israeli drones in the sky ‘zanana’, meaning a noise maker or buzz. Sometimes they call it the airplane of death”, according to Dr. Atef Abu Saif, in his 2014 study “Sleepless in Gaza”.
Along with helping to build segregation walls between peoples, IAI has also been in the news this year for its billion-dollar contracts with the Indian government, most of which involve supplying the Indian army and navy with missile defense systems.
Canadian activists have been following IAI’s international exploits with dismay, not only because of its intimate connection with the Israeli military’s crimes against Palestinians, but also because Air Canada, the national carrier, is outsourcing maintenance for its B767 and B787 jets to the very same Israel Aerospace Industries.
As a prior government-owned entity, Air Canada is still regarded as a sort of “national icon” and global ambassador; as such, its direct complicity with Israeli war crimes is a shameful rebuke of any pretense at a Canadian “balanced and objective” foreign policy. Campaigns to have Air Canada stop their outsourcing to Israel Aerospace Industries have been underway for over 2 years now and have received support, both within Canada and globally.
However, Air Canada’s complicity has been matched by its silence; an official letter sent by the Canadian BDS Coalition to Air Canada’s CEO Calin Rovinescu on July 3, 2017 has not received any reply nor even been acknowledged. In a move that further emboldens contempt and disrespect for human rights, Rovinescu was also appointed Chancellor of the University of Ottawa, since November 2015. Nonetheless, activists are planning to step up their actions and refuse to allow Air Canada’s stonewalling to dictate the agenda.
There have been encouraging developments in Canadian civil society recently, with Amnesty Canada embracing a call for a ban on all settlement goods and Canada’s largest private-sector union, Unifor, adopting a pro-BDS resolution. Although both these initiatives focused mainly on the occupied West Bank and Gaza, it is the entire Israeli military complex and state entities like Israel Aerospace Industries that make life for Palestinians in those areas both unbearable and untenable. We must make the connections between Israel’s continued impunity to commit war crimes and what we can do internationally in other countries to take a stand and say: We will not enable Israeli war crimes!
(If your group is interested in signing on to the #AirCanadaComplicity campaign, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.)
– Marion Kawas is a pro-Palestinian writer and activist, and a member of BDS Vancouver-Coast Salish. This article was contributed to PalestineChronicle.com.