Israeli - U.S. Terror

excerpted from the book

Covert Action

the Roots of Terrorism

edited by Ellen Ray and William H. Schaap

Ocean Press, 2003, paper

Israeli - U.S. Terror
Introduction by Ellen Ray and William H. Schaap


For more than 35 years, the violent and bitter history of the Palestinian-lsraeli conflicts have centered around a history of collaboration between U.S. and Israeli military and intelligence services and their coincidence of interests. Israeli covert operations have backed up U.S. clandestine schemes, especially in the Middle East, but also in Central America, southern Africa and elsewhere in a global conquest in which U.S. domination has reached its apex under George W. Bush.

Ever since the discovery of vast, almost unimaginable oil reserves in the region, the overriding strategic objective of the United States in the Middle East has been access to and eventual control over that resource. And since its 1967 victory in the six-day war, when Israel established itself as the regional military superpower capable of aiding in this primary U.S. objective, massive U.S. foreign aid and subsidized weapons of war have ensured an Israeli-U.S. alliance with mutually expansionist agendas. Both want unfettered access to Arab oil and more.

The second U.S. imperative is its strategic partnership with Israel, a function of the power of the pro-lsrael lobby in the United States, exemplified by the ability of the American-lsrael Political Action Committee to influence congressional and even presidential elections. And the White House, State Department and Pentagon are riddled with insiders with dual loyalties, the belief that U.S. and Israeli interests are and should be, identical.

The quid pro quo for Israel, an extension of this objective, is the relative free play given to its own designs in the Middle East as a military force and an ever-expanding Zionist state.

The United States has given Israel virtually every sophisticated weapon system it has to offer, more than $18 billion in the last decade, with more than $2 billion in military aid slated for the next fiscal year (2003-4). As a further reward for cooperation in covert activities around the globe, the U.S. remained silent, if not actually assisted, Israel's development and testing of its own nuclear weapons.

Just how cooperative the Israelis have been and how some U.S. power brokers view its role in Washington's overall strategy was expressed by Senator Jesse Helms when he boasted in 1995 that "Israel is at least the equivalent of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Middle East."

Although no significant policies of the Israeli Government could be implemented without the tacit concurrence of its U.S. benefactor, when it suits Washington's rapacious oil policies, arrangements of convenience with Israel's enemies were not precluded in the past. The United States (and Britain) supplied chemical and other weapons to Iraq during the Iraq-lran war, while covertly working with Israel to supply Iran.

And Israel has also conducted its own military intelligence operations against U.S. targets, such as the seemingly inexplicable Israeli bombing of the U.S.S. Liberty during the 1967 war, a deliberate act apparently to prevent the U.S. communications ship from monitoring, perhaps disrupting its invasion and occupation of the Golan Heights. And, of course, each nation spies on the other; while Jonathan Pollard was caught and jailed, both countries have active operatives, collaborators and media assets in each other's territory.

But no matter which regime may be in power in either country, both Israeli and U.S. campaigns plot the elimination of any viable, sovereign, Palestinian state. Together, their machinations of incremental negotiations followed by betrayal, assassination and invasion have imposed upon the Palestinians what Noam Chomsky called "a system of permanent neocolonial dependency."

Brutal attacks on Palestinian civilians, collective punishment, obliteration of entire villages, mass forced expulsions, illegal settlement of occupied land including East Jerusalem, torture, terrorism, starvation and murder have been used by successive Israeli governments with U.S. approval. They have reached new heights under the Sharon Government, with the approval of the current Bush Administration. Indeed, the Israel lobby has been jubilant over the nearly identical policies of Sharon's Likud and Bush's Republicans, dominated as it is by Likudniks.

Universal military conscription of Israeli youth thrusts young draftees into endless confrontations with Palestinians in Israel and in the occupied territories, ensuring an existential racial hatred in deliberately provocative "strategies of tension" and expansion, all in the name of a "fragile" Israeli state security. This while Israel has one of the most powerful and best-equipped armed forces in the world, the only nuclear power in the region.

Sharon defended his unilateral military carnage as his country's "best path to security." What he described as antiterror tactics, including stepping up assassinations of Palestinian military and civilian leaders, led to the predictable increase in acts of terrorism against Israeli citizens themselves, most notably indiscriminate suicide bombings. While Sharon claimed he was "making every effort to prevent" escalation, his military actions suggested precisely the opposite: Each deadly suicide bombing that followed Israeli military assassinations became the justification for the next Israeli atrocity.

War crime charges leveled against Sharon are legion, from his demolishing of a Jordanian village in 1953, to his complicity in the Sabra and Shatila massacres in Lebanon in 1982, to his Central American adventures involving arms and drugs, to his multiple invasions and reoccupation of most of the West Bank and Gaza in 2002. The U.S. role in this mayhem cannot be overemphasized. U.S. F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopter gun ships were employed daily. Washington vacillated as the military assault was consolidated, trying all the while to appease its Arab critics.

Sharon's deliberate and systematic rampage through every Palestinian town and village has been conducted with personal hatred and revenge, in furtherance of the Israeli Government's intention of destroying the Palestinian people's social and physical will for self-government. Jewish religious graffiti splashed on walls of occupied Palestinian Authority offices were stark evidence of domination, symbols of Israel's goal of killing, imprisoning, or transporting Palestinian militants and their families from their homeland.

Despite Israel's control through the ClA-approved, Oslo-directed Palestinian Authority, the PA was locked in an endless cycle of repression and corruption through enforced collaboration with security committees run by the CIA and Israeli intelligence against the Palestinian people. Sharon's campaign against its institutional infrastructure also included intentional killings of large numbers of Palestinian civilians through saturation bombings of refugee camps and villages and the homes of suspected terrorists (with no regard for the lives of innocent neighbors), aided by computerized targeting and the rounding up of thousands of Palestinian men and women and their families for planned expulsion.

The Palestinians themselves, dispersed and dispossessed and used as pawns by other Arab nations, have never been able to develop a united vision. There are Palestinian nationalists and socialists and there are Palestinian fundamentalists. The fostering of disunity and corruption within these factions-whether in the Occupied Territories or in exile-has been a major element in the U.S.-lsraeli targeting of the Palestinian national struggle by covert manipulation of Palestinian exiles and groups. In what was hardly a coincidence, during the early 1980s, while the United States actively encouraged an Islamic "Holy War" in Afghanistan, the Israelis infiltrated and supported a burgeoning Islamic fundamentalist movement, later allowing Islamic charities, religious schools and training sites to flourish, as their well-financed graduates countered the growing influence of Palestinian nationalists.

The occupation army's control of land, travel, water, food and medicine intensified, even as Palestinians attempted to negotiate an ever-changing "peace process" with Israel. Orchestrated with the United States as a delaying tactic, this effectively prevented an independent Palestinian state. The Oslo accords achieved only greater Israeli control over the territories and the geometric expansion of armed, militant Zionist settlements entrenched in the West Bank and Gaza.

The plan for the gradual creation of an autonomous Palestine was transformed from a blueprint for a contiguous territory into a jigsaw puzzle divided by Jewish settlements, fortified access roads and innumerable security zones. The proposed map of Palestinian areas resembles the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa. Israeli tanks and troops poured into these tiny "cantons," bombing and killing civilians at will. And Bush's minimal support for such a state, conditioned upon "regime change" in the Palestinian Authority, may disappear altogether, as events suggest a Likud push towards a final ethnic cleansing.

At an estimated cost of well over $1 million per mile, Israel has begun construction of a "security fence" that will eventually stretch 225 miles, walling off Palestinians on the West Bank-from Israel, from each other and from Israeli Palestinians. While the implausible rationale is put forth that this wall will inhibit the infiltration of suicide bombers, in fact this physical separation will facilitate the long-standing "transfer policy," discussed below. The psychological and historical implications of such separation cannot be overemphasized. Many informed commentators, including some Israeli journalists, see these developments as inevitably leading to the forced expulsion of all Palestinians from all Israeli-occupied territory.

With this escalation in Israeli terrorism, the devastating retaliatory suicide bombings have turned a war against occupation soldiers and settlers into the targeting of civilians within Israel. And after September 11, Western fears of Islamic extremism conflated the fanaticism of organizations like the Taliban with the genuine national aspirations of the Palestinians. With

the world focused first on George W. Bush's "war against terrorism" and then on his unilateral attack on Iraq, Sharon was free to launch a massive re-invasion of Palestinian-controlled territory. Now both Israel and the United States have brought the jihad of their own creation home to plague their own civilian populations.


Israeli State Terror
by Naseer Aruri
CAQ 1988

Israeli State Terror

In his personal diary, which was published against the wishes of the Israeli establishment, former Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett reveals that Israeli military operations against Arab civilian populations were designed to terrorize them and create fear, tension and instability. Sharett's documentation shows that Israel's territorial expansion (such as in the Suez in 1956) was facilitated by Israeli acts of provocation, which generated Arab hostility and created pretexts for intervention. For example, the attack by Israeli Army Unit 101 led by Ariel Sharon on the Palestinian village of Kibya in October 1953, causing numerous civilian casualties and destruction of homes, was condemned by Sharett. He writes, "[In the cabinet meeting] I condemned the Kibya affair that exposed us in front of the whole world as a gang of blood-suckers, capable of mass massacres regardless it seems, of whether their actions may lead to war.

More recent accounts by Israeli writers show how earlier acts of terrorism provided a historical background to adoption of a policy of state terrorism by Israel. Benny Morris's explanation of the Palestinian exodus in 1948, based on state, military and Zionist archives, refutes the official Israeli version that the Palestinians bear responsibility for their own expulsion. An earlier work by Irish journalist Erskine Childers demonstrated that, contrary to the official Israeli version, there were no Arab radio broadcasts ordering the Palestinians to leave. And Israeli journalist Tom Segev reveals in his book how instrumental was Zionist terrorism in the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. Sixteen months after 250 Arab civilians were massacred in the village of Deir Yassin (April 9, 1948) by the combined forces of ETZEL (known as Menachem Begin's Irgun) and LEHI (known as Yitzhak Shamir's Stern Gang) there was a debate in the Israeli set in which, according to Segev, a member of Begin's Herut Party had boasted: "Thanks to Deir Yassin, we won the war."

Another account by Lenny Brenner reveals that Israeli Prime Minister Shamir was a convert to the pro-Mussolini Betar (Zionist Brownshirts) in the late 1930s and that his Stern Gang had attempted to strike a deal with the Nazi regime in Germany in 1941 in which the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine on a "totalitarian basis" would be bound by a treaty with the German Reich.

Shamir's commitment to right-wing causes and to terrorism was unmistakably revealed in an article he wrote in the LEHI journal Hehazit (The Front) in the summer of 1943. This excerpt stands in contrast to Shamir's constant moralizing and condemnation of what he calls "PLO terrorism:"

Neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat... [T]errorism is for us a part of the political battle being conducted under the present circumstances and it has a great part to play: speaking in a clear voice to the whole world, as well as to our wretched brethren outside this land, it proclaims our war against the occupier.

Shamir's cabinet colleague Yitzhak Rabin who, as defense minister in charge of the occupied territories, proclaimed the policy of "might, force and blows" in January 1988 (which has so far resulted in an estimated 281 deaths, more than 50,000 injuries and 30,000 detentions) has also had a consistent record of terrorism for more than 40 years. As the deputy commander of Operation Dani, he, along with the late former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and the late former Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon, were responsible for the expulsion of between 50,000 and 70,000 people from the towns of Lydda and Ramleh in July 1948. The town of Ramleh had surrendered without a fight after the withdrawal of the Jordan Army but the inhabitants were rounded up, expelled and told never to come back. Benny Morris characterized that as the "biggest expulsion operation of the 1948 war." Rabin expressed empathy with "the great suffering inflicted upon" his men who caused the expulsion.

One of those expelled was a 13-year-old boy by the name of Khalil alWazir, later known as Abu Jihad. Yitzhak Rabin, who was responsible for that act as a member of the Zionist militia, was one of the inner cabinet decision-makers who decided, 40 years later, to assassinate al-Wazir far away from his home in Ramleh. The man who headed the inner cabinet, Yitzhak Shamir, told an inquirer who wanted to know who killed Abu Jihad, "I heard about it on the radio."

It was typical of the official response to the killing; claims of ignorance, broad hints that Abu Jihad's responsibility for the Palestinian uprising could only trigger that kind of response and the usual reference to a factional conflict within the Palestinian movement as being responsible for the assassination. In fact, the murder of Abu Jihad is the latest incident in a continuous pattern of Israeli assassinations of Palestinian leaders and intellectuals among whom are Karmal al-Adwan, Ghassan Kanafani, Kamal Nasser, Majid Abu Sharar, Abu Yurif and many others.

In a New York Times article summarizing the official Israeli interpretation of its own policies, Thomas Friedman maintains that Israel endeavors to "turn terror back on the terrorists." This strategy has gone through several different stages. For the period of 1948-56 the strategy was described as "counterterrorism through retaliation or negative feedback" and was employed against Egypt and Jordan to prevent border crossings by Palestinian refugees attempting, in the main, to check on the conditions of their former homes." By 1972, Israel was striking against "the nerve centers and the perpetrators themselves" using letter bombs, exploding cars and telephones and quiet assassinations of Palestinian leaders and intellectuals on the back streets of Europe. Later acts of terrorism including the destruction of entire villages in Lebanon, raids on Beirut, Baghdad and Tunis have become typical of Israeli policy towards Arab nonacceptance of its regional hegemony. Such acts have rarely evoked U.S. condemnation. In fact the Reagan Administration characterized Israel's raid on the PLO headquarters in Tunis as an act of self-defense.

United States and Israel-A "Special" Relationship

Strategic cooperation between Israel and the United States was consummated between 1982 and 1988 and has dramatically elevated Israel's role in U.S. global strategic calculation. By 1983, the Reagan Administration had accepted the Israeli view that the Palestine question was not the principal cause of instability in the Middle East. Henceforth, it would not be allowed to interfere in the "special relationship" between a superpower and its strategic ally.

In the special relationship between the United States and Israel, the latter is considered a "unique strategic asset. In the crucial Middle East, Israel is viewed as the cornerstone of U.S. policy, which is perceived as a bulwark against the Soviet Union and radical revolutionary transformation. Outside the Middle East, Israel has emerged as the most important supplier of the technology of repression, antiguerrilla training and infrastructure to combat revolution, all euphemistically phrased "counterterrorism." Israel ranks as the fifth largest exporter of arms in the world, according to CIA estimates and it has become an essential component of the global counterinsurgency business. "Hit lists" used by the death squads in Guatemala have been computerized with Israeli assistance and the Uzi machine gun is the standard weapon of the death squads. The special relationship between the United States and Israel is a two-way street. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. economic and military aid and in return Israel has much to offer the United States. The Reagan Administration has publicly declared that Israel's substantial experience and "success" in coping with terrorism should provide guidance for the United States. When George Shultz spoke at a New York synagogue in 1984 he said:

No nation has more experience with terrorism than Israel and no nation has made a greater contribution to our understanding of the problem and the best way to confront it. By supporting organizations like the Jonathan Institute, named after the brave Israeli soldier who led and died at Entebbe, the Israeli people have raised international awareness of the global scope of the terrorist threat... [T]he rest of us would do well to follow Israel's example.

The fact that the United States and Israel are so closely allied and use the same criteria for defining who are "terrorists" and who are not, necessarily makes the United States a dubious participant in mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and brings into question the possible results of U.S.-sponsored negotiations with George Shultz behind the wheel.

When Secretary of State Shultz became the Reagan Administration's chief proponent of close strategic cooperation with Israel he went far beyond the initiatives of his predecessor Alexander Haig. Haig's framework for U.S. Middle East policy was the "consensus of strategic concerns," which would bring together a conservative constellation of regional powers that would include Israel. Shultz's framework, however, promoted Israel to the center of U.S. policy and assigned it a global role in addition to its regional duties on behalf of the status quo. Thus with Shultz in power, the United States conducted its Middle East policy on the basis of the "consensus of strategic concern" plus the special relationship with Israel.

With all the attention Shultz received on his five trips to the Middle East in the last six months and with the outcome never in question, it is important to ask: What were the real objectives behind the 'Shultz shuttles'?

Reagan's Commitment to Peace

U.S. involvement in the Middle East since the 1967 war reveals a number of precedents for unimplementable peace plans actually designed to justify U.S. obstruction of the global consensus and to contain Palestinian nationalism. An example was the Reagan plan of September 1,1982, which denied sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza to Israel and the Palestinians. Its territorial and confederal aspects evoked a swift yet predictable rejection from the Israeli cabinet.

The principal spur for the Reagan plan was the siege of Beirut, which tarnished Israel's image and at the same time provided a catalyst in the world community for linking PLO withdrawal to Palestinian statehood. To justify its virtual sole dissent from the international will, the Reagan Administration felt obliged to launch its own initiative based on "the Jordan option," which proved to be a non-option.

More recently, Reagan has sent his premier ambassador of peace, George Shultz, to the Middle East to again make a public press for a settlement. However, knowing that Israel will not meet even the minimum requirements for a territorial settlement, what then does Mr. Shultz hope to accomplish in view of the fact that his initiative lacks any means of pressuring Israel?

The United States has three objectives:

1. The Shultz plan is an attempt to contain the Palestinian uprising and prevent its extension to U.S. allies and clients in the region. It is also designed to repair Israel's tarnished image in the United States.

2. The United States would like to set the terms before any other actor emerges with a plan for settlement. The Soviet Union, which has been trying to broaden its options in the region, is one such actor. The Arab states or the PLO are also possible sources of peace initiatives. The Shultz plan represents a reaffirmation of U.S. custodianship over the Middle East. It serves as a reminder that the area is U.S. turf and hence it is designed to elbow out or preempt any genuine proposals for a settlement.

3. The plan also attempts to bridge the gap between the requirements of public opinion and those of public policy in the United States. The United States has broken barriers for the first time in the Middle East. The public mood in this country has changed and the people seem ready for a political settlement. Yet Palestine has never been high on the official agenda. There is no sense in Washington that the Palestine question is urgent. Unless it becomes urgent, there will be no movement towards peace.

America's policy objectives in the region center on oil and containment of Soviet influence as well as containment of the natives. As long as Palestine does not interfere with these objectives, the administration feels no compulsion to initiate peace proposals. But given that the public mood has changed in this country, the Shultz plan offers the U.S. public a rejectable plan, which would absolve Washington of responsibility for the impasse.

The Reagan Administration clearly perceives the uprising as a political threat to its hegemony in the region and would like to check its potential for extension beyond the occupied territories into Arab countries ruled by conservative regimes. The administration is also concerned about Israel's repressive image-perhaps more than Israel itself-in the United States. Washington's strategic relationship with Israel must continue to have the blessings of U.S. public opinion.

Hence, Shultz's sudden awakening to the fact that the unresolved Palestine-Israel conflict is a threat to the status quo and his embarking upon a mission to save Israel in spite of itself. The erosion of U.S. public support for Reagan's policy towards Israel is seen as a dangerous strategic step backward and his administration is desperately trying to counter the bad publicity.

Shultz's endeavor turned out to be a series of diplomatic shuttles not only between Arab capitals and Israel but also between the two heads of the Israeli Government. His diplomacy seems to operate on the assumption that the crucial choices are between Likud's preference for functional autonomy (which keeps "Greater Israel" intact as the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are enfranchised in the Jordanian state) and Labor's "territorial" autonomy, which is a diminutive version of the Jordan option. His diplomacy also assumes that the only choices are between Labor's cosmetic international conference and Likud's direct negotiations.

The fact that the Jordan option is dead, that the concept of a Palestinian-Jordanian delegation is unacceptable and that the Camp David formula is discredited throughout the Arab World seems to have escaped Mr. Shultz's attention. The outcome of Shultz's diplomacy has so far worked for the benefit of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. Shamir's visit to the United States in March 1988, ostensibly to discuss peace with the Reagan Administration, enabled him to respond to U.S. critics of Israeli repression in the occupied territories, to raise funds in the U.S. Jewish community and to solidify and upgrade the U.S. strategic alliance. In his visit, Shamir repeated the Israeli position that the Palestinian uprising was not a demonstration of civil disobedience but a war waged "against Israelis, against the existence of the State of Israel"; hence, he declared the media coverage unfair and non-contextual. This theme was dutifully repeated by prominent U.S. Jewish figures such as Morris Abram, chairman of the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and New York Mayor Edward Koch, among others. Henry Kissinger, who had erected the principal barrier to a Palestinian-Israeli settlement back in 1974 and who was willing to bomb Vietnam back to the stone age, was already on record one week prior to Shamir's visit as saying, "Israel should bar the media... accept the short term criticism... and put down the insurrection as quickly as possible-overwhelmingly, brutally and rapidly.''

The recent dramatic ascendancy of the far right in the Israeli body politic and the rampant anti-Arab racism sweeping the country provide a fertile environment for the kind of state terrorism witnessed today on the West Bank and in Gaza.

The orientation of this rapidly growing group toward brute force and its contempt for debate is partly the cause for the sharp increase in repression against Palestinian civilians under occupation. Worse yet is the tendency of members of the political and religious establishment to encourage such acts of terrorism. Given the close and special relationship between the United States and Israel, given that no prominent U.S. politician is willing to condemn Israel publicly for its repression of the Palestinians and given that the United States and Israel share the same understanding of what terrorism is, it seems likely that if peace is to come to the Middle East it will be in spite of what the United States and Israel do.


Israel Shahak on the "Transfer Proposal"
by Ellen Ray
CAQ 1988

Death Squads

... in Israel the use of death squads to murder Palestinians has been discussed in some of the Hebrew press. It was not employed in the occupied territories until about September or October 1987, when we had one very well-documented case in the Gaza Strip. According to the Israeli Hebrew press, three Palestinians were discovered dead, in a car. One of them was a Palestinian guerrilla who had escaped from prison. The two others were collaborators [Palestinians who work with or support the Israelis]-well-known, rich collaborators. One of them had established a branch of the Tel Aviv stock exchange in Gaza. The other was of a similar background. So you can understand that such people are neither guerrillas nor helpers of guerrillas.

Since the families were very rich they could employ very good lawyers -Palestinian lawyers from Israel. And by using such lawyers and with the help of a Hebrew weekly called Koteret Rashit, which is sensitive and courageous about corruption in the intelligence and security services, even if not so good about Palestinian national rights, the case was brought into the open. By now it is completely clear that the two businessmen were murdered simply because they were accidentally eyewitnesses to the murder of the guerrilla.

There was also a recent case in which Israeli television, against orders, photographed an Israeli Jewish civilian shooting straight into a crowd of Palestinians. But when it was discovered that the person was a member of the General Security Service, Shabak, there was not even the smallest judicial investigation. It was simply announced that he was reprimanded. And that was it.

It is well known that Israel is involved with death squads in countries like Guatemala and many others, so it is only natural that this matter would come home. I think there is no doubt that the employment of death squads, especially in the Gaza Strip, was one of the sparks which ignited the violence.


Washington's Proxy: Israeli Arms in Central America
by Clarence Lusane
CAQ 1984

The war drums are beating in Central America and Israel is an important player. The State of Israel has emerged as a major and in some cases, principal supplier of arms, advisers and training to the repressive forces in the region. Long denounced for its military ties to South Africa, Chile and the Philippines, the Zionist regime has extended its role as surrogate for the United States to the front line of Central America. Although much of what is happening is held in strict secrecy, the vast extent of Israeli aid has begun to fray the cover under which Reagan Administration policy objectives circumvent congressional obstacles.

Stopping U.S. military aid to Central America also requires stopping U.S. military aid to Israel. By the end of the 1960s Israel had emerged as an arms exporter, but only since the Reagan Administration has it been able to reach its potential as a full junior partner to U.S. imperialism.

The Israeli Arms Industry

Fourteen percent of Israel's industrial labor force is employed in its arms industry. If the armed forces are included, the number rises to 25 percent According to the latest CIA estimates, Israel is the fifth largest exporter of arms in the world, up from its seventh place ranking in 1980. Israel remains the largest supplier of arms to sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

In 1977, Israel's arms exports were valued at $285 million. Despite the loss of two reliable customers, Iran and Nicaragua, by 1981 military exports had risen to $1.3 billion. The Israeli-built Uzi submachine gun... is the shining star of Israeli weaponry. It is the choice of NATO and is used in at least 43 countries, including virtually all the nations of Latin America.

Since 1970, Israel's military budget has consumed more than 30 percent of its national budget. Limited domestic use has made the export of arms essential to its economic survival. Latin American money has become indispensable to the Israeli arms industry. Central America has become a goldmine for Israeli arms sales.


After the Israeli-sanctioned massacres at Sabra and Shatila then Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and the Air Force Chief arrived in Honduras. In his 38-hour visit, Sharon and the Hondurans agreed that Israel would send Honduras 12 Kfir planes, radar equipment, light weapons and spare parts and 50 advisers. Military training was also proposed.

Less than six months later, Israel was sending weapons to Honduras: artillery pieces, mortar rounds, mines, hand grenades and ammunition. Most were to go to U.S.-backed counterrevolutionaries seeking to overthrow the Nicaraguan Government from bases in Honduras.

In the period of 1970-80, Honduras received the following weapons from Israel: 12 Dassault Super Mystere fighters; four Arava (STOL) transports; I Westwind reconnaissance plane; 14 RBY Mk armored cars; five fast patrol boats (unconfirmed); 106-mm mortars; and 106-mm rifles.

The estimated $25 million in weapons promised to Honduras by Sharon is a continuation of past practice. However, Honduras is now playing a new role in Central America, similar to the one Israel plays in the Middle East, strategically important to U.S. interests and goals in the region as a rear base for the contras attacking Nicaragua and as a training ground for Guatemalan and Salvadoran fascists. In addition to aid from the United States and Israel, Honduras has received military aid from Argentina and Chile allowing it to increase its armed forces six-fold since 1970 (from 5,000 to over 30,000). The Honduran Air Force is the most powerful in Central America.

U.S. officials have admitted that Israeli assistance is important in achieving Reagan Administration military and political goals. Worried about potential congressional locks on aid to the Nicaraguan contras, the administration's military aid to Honduras will go toward buying weapons from Israel which have themselves been produced with U.S. military aid.

By its own account, the United States has at least 300 military advisers, technicians and engineers in Honduras. The United States is spending $20 million to construct a modern airport at Comayagua to accommodate U.S. troop transports. Another four airstrips are being expanded to handle military jets.

It is the goal of the United States, with the critical assistance of Israel, to make Honduras the chief gendarme of Central America. There is one central objective in the U.S.-Honduras-Israel connection. If U.S. policy makers launch an all-out invasion of Nicaragua, it will duplicate the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, launched from Honduran soil.

El Salvador

Ronald Reagan pledged to draw the line against communism in El Salvador and any hesitation by the U.S. Congress to send military aid finds a willing substitute in Israeli aid. For example, in 1981 when the administration was scrambling to find more aid to send El Salvador, Israel agreed to "lend" the U.S. $21 million to give to El Salvador, money which came from previous U.S. aid to Israel. In other words, the United States took out a loan on its original funds, thereby violating the expressed will of Congress.

The United States has only recently become a major supplier of military aid to El Salvador. Through the 1970s, Israel was the biggest seller of weapons and aircraft to the country. The arsenal made up more than 80 percent of El Salvador's military imports, supplemented by an estimated 100 Israeli advisers, who, like their U.S. counterparts, are training the Salvadoran military in counterinsurgency strategy and tactics at a secret base near Tegucigalpa. In addition, Israeli pilots are believed to be flying Israeli-made aircraft against the guerrillas. The Gouga Magisters and Dassault Ouragans are actually outmoded French planes which have been overhauled by Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. (IAI), fitted with motors manufactured by the U.S. company, Pratt & Whitney.

Israel has also set up advanced computer systems to gather and analyze intelligence about the citizenry. Similar to the Israeli-installed computers in Guatemala, the network in El Salvador also monitors changes in water and electricity consumption. All Israeli aid to El Salvador comes from U.S. military and economic aid to Israel. The fact is that to cut off U.S. aid to El Salvador also requires cutting or limiting aid to Israel.

Somoza's Nicaragua

After the killing of journalists by Somoza's National Guard in 1978, President Carter cut off all U.S. aid to Nicaragua. Israel picked up the slack and until just before the Sandinista victory, providing 98 percent of Somoza's arms. When questioned about selling arms to Somoza, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin responded, "We have a debt of gratitude with Somoza." In 1948, the UN General Assembly recommended the partition of Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state. The new state of Israel needed weapons and had almost nowhere to turn. Israel struck a deal with Somoza. Somoza appointed Yehuda Arazi as a Nicaraguan ambassador to Europe where he could purchase weapons in the name of Nicaragua. Eventually, all the weapons ended up in Israel. Arazi, it turned out, was a member of the Jewish underground's clandestine army organization, Haganah.


Since 1976, Israel has been the main provider of weapons, aircraft and training to Guatemala. In fact, between 1977 and 1981, after the U.S. cut off aid due to gross human rights violations, Israel was the only nation giving military aid to the regime.

Training of Guatemalan military strongmen by Israel has included education in the use of terror and interrogation techniques, modern intelligence methods and psychological warfare. Israeli advisers are the key link in Guatemalan counterinsurgency operations. From national planning to civilian rural cooperative programs to military maneuvers, Israel is centrally involved. Israeli advisers have trained many of the officers of Guatemala's police intelligence (G-2). The right wing openly calls for the "Palestinianization" of the rebelling Mayan Indians. Some of Israel's most advanced electronic and computer technologies have been installed in Guatemala. Hit lists used by the death squads have been computerized. Technologically sophisticated murder is coordinated by a Regional Telecommunications Center (RTC) built and managed by Israeli Army experts. The RTC is also linked to the U.S. Army's Southern Command at Fort Gulick in the Panama Canal Zone. The RTC is run by the generals from the fourth floor of the National Palace Annex.

The U.S. Agency for International Development has said that the RTC is Guatemala's principal presidential level security agency and works with a high level security network. It links the key officials of the National Police, Treasury Police, Detective Corps, Ministry of Government, the Presidential Palace and the Military Communications Center.

The Tel Aviv newspaper Haolam Hazeh and the London Guardian revealed in December 1982 that Israeli advisers work closely with Guatemala's G-2 police units in the use of interrogation and torture. Computerized death lists are a mainstay of government terror; by 1980, computers already listed 80 percent of the Guatemalan population.

In November 1981, the Israeli-sponsored Army Electronics and Transmission School was opened in Guatemala to teach computer and electronic monitoring of the Guatemalan people. Equipment at the school is capable of doing everything from checks on potential apartment renters to detecting changes in electricity consumption that might indicate that an illegal printing press is in operation.

Israel has also been helpful in developing Guatemala's major military-civilian program, to create Vietnam-style strategic hamlets. The means of implementing these counterinsurgency plans were couched in terms of establishing peasant cooperatives similar to the kibbutzim in Israel. Guatemalan and Israeli agricultural and military officials were exchanged.

Under the Rios Montt regime, the Israeli model was put into full operation. In August 1982, a "Plan of Assistance to Conflict Areas" (PAAC) program was begun, reproducing many of the tactics applied by the Israelis on the West Bank, such as finding mayors willing to accommodate to the status quo.

Rios Montt's strategic relations with Israel began before his March 23, 1982, coup. Tel Aviv newspapers reported that 300 Israeli advisers had helped to execute the takeover. On August 8, 1983, Rios Montt was overthrown in another military coup led by General Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores. Mejia, who was Defense Minister under Rios Montt, is also a fierce anticommunist. While the precise U.S. role in this latest coup is unclear, it has been reported that some of the Israeli-trained officers that brought Rios Montt to power also participated in his overthrow.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica's northern border has become an operational base for attacks by contras on Nicaragua. Former Sandinista turned traitor, Eden Pastora, leads a small army estimated at 5,000 from this border area.

At one point, Pastora claimed that he had to shut down his activities because he had run out of funds. He stated that because of his "anti-U.S." stance, he would not accept funds from the CIA. Within days he was fighting again, reportedly with an infusion of funds from Israel, as well as other countries. In fact, much of this was a propaganda charade, as Pastora has been receiving CIA aid all the time.

Although Costa Rica has no army, Israeli military trainers and arms are beginning to pour into the country. In 1982, President Luis Alberto Monge met with Menachem Begin in Washington. They discussed the possibility of Israeli military aid in building up Costa Rican security forces. The funds would come from Washington.

The United States has been pressuring Costa Rica to consolidate its security forces. This would include a 5,000-member Civil Guard, a 3,000-member Rural Guard, 1,700 prison guards, the 100-member National Security Agency and the Chilean-trained, 500-member Organization of Judicial Investigation. In 1983, the United States will have spent $150,000 to train 103 members of Costa Rica's security forces, three times the amount spent in 1982.

Israel has been chosen by AID to build a $10 million settlement project along the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border. The military squeeze that the contras are currently operating from Honduras and Costa Rica would obviously be enhanced should the U.S. Congress fund this proposal.

The U.S. Role

Has exposure of illegal arms transfers by Israel forced the United States to cut back on aid? Or has the fact that Israel has sent arms to countries which the U.S. Congress and others have designated as flagrant violators of basic human rights made the Reagan Administration voice any criticism of Israel? The answer to both questions is no.

The immense scale of continued U.S. military and economic aid to Israel is obscene. Israel remains the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. It receives about one-third of all U.S. foreign aid, which in the last 10 years has amounted to about $25 billion, or roughly $7 million a day. Since 1976 Israel has not spent a penny of its own for military imports. The average U.S. subsidy to Israel for military imports has been 129 percent of the actual cost of those imports.

Israel's Defense Minister, Moshe Arens, was in Washington in late July to discuss more military aid and the right to use U.S. aid to develop weapon systems that are currently only available in the United States The State Department and White House refused to comment on the results of the meeting, but an Israeli official said "this trip was one of the most successful trips ever made by an Israeli minister to Washington."

The above figures shed light on the important and central role that Israel plays in U.S. foreign policy goals. No amount of struggle against U.S. aid to repressive dictatorships and juntas will be complete, or even marginally successful, unless Israel is also taken to task.


Israeli - South African Collaboration
by Jack Calhoun
CAQ 1986

Over the last decade the world community has increasingly ostracized South Africa's white minority regime. Arms embargoes, economic sanctions, bans on the transfer of nuclear and other high technology have been applied to compel South Africa to dismantle its racist system of apartheid. But at the same time a triangular strategic partnership of Israel, South Africa and the United States has developed to cushion the apartheid state from the full force of these sanctions.

To understand the Israeli relationship with South Africa, it is useful to put it in the context of Israel's growing involvement in the Third World. Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, a former professor at the University of Haifa who now teaches at Colombia University, writes, "Consider any Third World area that has been a trouble spot in the past 10 years and you will discover Israeli officers and weapons implicated in the conflict-supporting U.S. interests and helping what they call 'the defense of the West."' Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua under the Somoza dictatorship are examples.

"In South Africa," Beit-Hallahmi observes, "Israel is actively involved in defending what Washington sees as 'a strategic outpost'-with the complicity and encouragement of the United States. In this case, although the United States is committed to the survival of the South African regime, Washington feels that the overt support it can give to South Africa is severely limited by world opinion."

But, Beit-Hallahmi notes, "Israel's role in South Africa is qualitatively different from its role elsewhere." Israel's investments in South Africa, the burgeoning volume of trade between the two countries and their extensive sharing of high technology and military experience has resulted in a unique network of mutual support.

Extensive Trade

In The Unnatural Alliance: Israel and South Africa, James Adams points out "While it is impossible to place an accurate figure on the true total volume [of trade between the two countries], it is probable that when all trade is taken into account, Israel may be South Africa's biggest trading partner." Economic relations between the two countries are shrouded in secrecy, says Adams, an executive of the London Sunday Times.

According to International Monetary Fund statistics for 1983, South African exports to Israel totaled $142 million, while Israeli exports to South Africa amounted to $69 million. But these numbers don't include Israel's secret arms trade with South Africa, or South Africa's export of raw diamonds to Israel.

"South Africa stands out as the single largest customer [of Israeli weapons]," Aaron Klieman, a political scientist at Tel Aviv University concludes in his book Israel's Global Reach: Arms Sales as Diplomacy. "It is thought to have been the purchaser of 35 percent of all sold in the years 1970-79." The Tel Aviv regime doesn't allow much information to reach the public about its weapons sales, especially those to South Africa, which are in defiance of the UN's 1963 and 1977 arms boycotts of the apartheid state.

"It is believed that Israel currently gets 50 percent of its diamonds from South Africa," Adams reveals. "South Africa currently exports in excess of $100 million of uncut gems to Israel each year and it has been a steady and lucrative market for both parties." The diamond polishing industry -s a mainstay of the Israeli economy. Israel's foreign sales of polished diamonds in 1983 totaled $1 billion.

Many Israeli companies have invested extensively in South Africa. Afitra and Koors, corporations owned by Israel's Histadrut labor federation, are big investors in South African commercial agriculture, high technology and power generation industries. Israeli investments are also concentrated in other critical sectors of the apartheid state's economy, such as communications, computers, advanced computer software and electronics.

As writer Jane Hunter explains, "One of Israel's chief attractions, as far as South African industrialists are concerned, is its preferred status with the European Economic Community and the United States." Under the 1984 U.S. Free Trade Agreement, all Israeli exports to the United States will eventually be duty free. "To take advantage of Israel's privileged trade status, South African companies have systematically established manufacturing facilities in Israel, most often joint ventures with Israeli firms. Raw or semifinished materials are shipped from South Africa to Israel where sufficient 'local content'... is added, 'made in Israel' label is attached and the finished merchandise is shipped off to unsuspecting consumers abroad." This practice of "springboarding" is made profitable by the slave wages paid to black South African workers.

The Military Alliance

A military alliance between the two countries evolved gradually in the 1960s as the UN adopted its first arms embargo against South Africa in 1963 and European suppliers of weapons to Israel stopped selling their wares to Israel after Israel's aggressive land grabs in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. But the Israeli-South African military partnership intensified after South African Prime Minister Johannes Vorster visited Israel in 1976 and signed an agreement with the Tel Aviv regime setting up a Ministerial Joint Committee of the two nations' defense ministers. According to the agreement, "the exchange of Israeli arms and advice has three major areas: conventional arms trade, nuclear collaboration and counterinsurgency.''

Israel has exported sophisticated Kfir aircraft and rebuilt Mirage jet warplanes to South Africa. Israel has also supplied the apartheid state with Dabur coastal patrol boats, Reshef-class gunboats armed with Gabriel missiles, self-propelled 105 mm howitzers, antitank missiles, air-to-air missiles, assault rifles, radar bases and surveillance equipment.''

"Beyond outright sales, Israel has enabled South Africa to become almost completely self-sufficient in several types of weaponry and weapons systems," Hunter notes. "The two countries have set up a joint helicopter manufacturing project - Rotoflight of Capetown and Chemavir-Masok in Israel-which supplies the armed forces of both countries with Scorpion helicopters. Without the Israeli-South African alliance, she concludes, Pretoria could not have broken the UN arms embargo.

Adams points out Pretoria's debt to Israel in its counterinsurgency wars against the black African front-line states surrounding it and its repression of South Africa's black majority. Much of the efficiency of the South African security services must be placed at the door of Israel," Adams writes, "for both army experts and specialists in counterintelligence operations and interrogation from Mossad [the Israeli central intelligence agency] have been based in South Africa in a permanent advisory capacity since 1976.''

Israel Aircraft Industries constructed an electrified fence between Angola and Namibia, which South Africa illegally occupies, to block the infiltration into Namibia of SWAPO guerrillas fighting to liberate their homeland. Antipersonnel mines made in Israel are planted by South Africa along the Angolan and Mozambican borders. An Israeli spy drone was shot down in 1983 flying over Mozambique.

Israeli military officers helped South Africa plan its 1975 invasion of Angola. In 1981 Gen. Ariel Sharon, then Israeli Defense Minister, spent 10 days with South African troops in Namibia near the Angolan border. The London Financial Times and the London Observer published reports of Israeli involvement in 1983-84 with Jonas Savimbi's UNITA guerrillas, the South African backed contras fighting against the MPLA government of Angola.

Nuclear Cooperation

Israel and South Africa have also collaborated with regard to nuclear weapons technology since the mid-1960s. Adams states, "For South Africa, Israel had one primary advantage: a relatively advanced nuclear industry that had been working on uranium-enrichment techniques and on the design of a nuclear bomb. For the Israelis, South Africa possessed almost unlimited supplies of uranium that it might be persuaded to part with as part of a uranium-for-technology swap.''

' Despite a curtain of secrecy, it appears that both Israel and South Africa have developed nuclear weapons and could not have done so without each other's help. Israeli nuclear scientists were frequently reported to have been in South Africa in 1977, the same year the apartheid state abruptly canceled what the CIA thought were preparations for an atomic weapons test in the Kalahari desert.

Two years later, the CIA concluded, Israel and South Africa carried out a nuclear bomb test in the south Atlantic Ocean, although the Carter Administration and the regimes in Pretoria and Tel Aviv denied it. CBS News correspondent Dan Raviv reported in 1980 that Israel "had detonated an atomic bomb in a joint nuclear project in the south Atlantic," referring to the 1979 double flash in the south Atlantic, which is characteristic of an atomic explosion.

Sophisticated weapons technology purchased by Israel from the United States also has been diverted to South Africa. Adams reveals how the Israelis helped the racist white-minority regime obtain the 155 mm howitzer, then the world's most advanced artillery piece. Israel bought the weapon from the U.S.-based Space Research Corp. (SRC) and used the big gun with great effectiveness in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

After South African troops were repelled in their 1975 invasion of Angola by MPLA forces with superior artillery, Pretoria turned to Israel. Although the Israelis were willing to sell the 155 mm howitzer technology to South Africa, Tel Aviv didn't own the rights to the weapon. So the Israelis teamed up with some former CIA agents to fashion a clandestine deal. SRC in the end not only sold Pretoria the advanced weaponry but also trained South African technicians, who later reconstructed the howitzer.

"It is possible that another major weapons system-Israel's Lavi aircraft, which incorporates highly advanced U.S. technology and is largely dependent on U.S. financing-is now making its way to Pretoria," Hunter warns. There have been numerous reports in the Israeli and international press that South Africa is covertly financing part of the Lavi project in return for a deal that would eventually allow the South Africans to build the Lavi under license in the apartheid state.

[Jane] Hunter notes that the U.S. corporations may, under pressure from antiapartheid campaigns, stop their operations in South Africa, but use their corporate subsidiaries in Israel to continue doing business with South Africa. Motorola has recently won praise for its announcement that it will stop selling two-way radios to the South African police. However, its subsidiary, Motorola Israel, which produces military communications systems and distributes them in South Africa through Afitra, can offer Pretoria continued access to those radios," she writes.

U.S. Encouragement

The Israeli-South African partnership evolved in part as a relationship between two nations faced increasingly with international isolation because of their destabilizing and oppressive policies in the Middle East and Southern Africa. But this relationship was also encouraged by the United States.

"[Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger in early 1975 secretly asked the Israeli Government to send troops to Angola in order to cooperate with the South African Army in fighting the Cuban-backed MPLA," the British magazine The Economist wrote. "They sent South Africa some military instructors specializing in antiguerrilla warfare plus equipment designed for the same purpose. In return, the Israelis took Kissinger's request as the green light for an Israeli-South African partnership."

The next year the United States turned again to its covert partner in Tel Aviv. "British television (and subsequently the press as well) aired a report referring to the sale of U.S. helicopters to South Africa, in the middle of their notorious invasion of newly liberated Angola. It turns out Kissinger, with reason, expected the U.S. Congress would not confirm the sale of such equipment... so... an 'Israeli solution' was found for this problem by means of a fictitious sale effected by 'unknown Israeli companies,' and the 'copters were transferred to South Africa'," Hebrew University professor Israel Shahak writes.

Jane Hunter sums up: "Israel has become an indispensable covert partner for the United States because this partnership isn't subject to congressional scrutiny or even public debate because of Israel's 'special relationship' with Washington." But, she concludes, "The question for progressive Americans should be simply whether we are doing all that we can to end apartheid. If we find, therefore, that the 'special relationship' between the United States and Israel spills over into South Africa, then issues like the level of U.S. aid to Israel, the role of U.S. firms in three-way trade and U.S. diplomatic attempts to cover up this involvement cannot be ignored."

Covert Action

Index of Website

Home Page