Australia dumps Israeli “crime-fighting” system tested on Palestinians

Activists occupy the roof of an Elbit Systems facility in Melbourne, Australia, 15 August 2014. (via Facebook)

Australia has dumped an expensive – but apparently worthless – “crime-fighting” system bought from an Israeli arms maker.

In 2013, the Australian Federal Police signed a 145 million Australian dollar ($102 million) contract with Elbit Systems to buy a database “used by Israeli security agencies in their battles with Palestinian militants.”

The system was reportedly “developed in the Middle Eastern flashpoints of Gaza and the West Bank.”

But last month, Jane Halton, director general of Australia’s finance ministry, ordered the contract canceled – even though tens of millions of dollars had already been sunk into it.

The Australian Federal Police told the technology industry publication ITNews that the decision was taken because “there would be significant challenges in meeting project objectives in terms of functionality, time for delivery and cost.”

Protests

According to heavily redacted documents obtained by ITNews under Australia’s freedom of information laws, the Elbit project went through a major review in October 2014, just months after Israel’s devastating attack on Gaza.

While there is no indication that human rights concerns played a role in the decision to dump Elbit, activists in Australia have strongly protested dealings with the Israeli weapons maker.

In August 2014, during Israel’s 51-day assault on Gaza that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, activists from the Melbourne Palestine Action Group locked down an Elbit Systems factory in the suburb of Port Melbourne, occupied the building’s roof and displayed a banner reading “Elbit drones kill kids in Gaza.”

“We want to send a message to the world to divest from Israeli companies and not to deal with Elbit Systems,” activist Jacob Grech explained at the time. “We are calling on the Australian government to end its contracts with Elbit Systems which include all army communications and the new [Australian Federal Police] database.”

Tested on Palestinians

Israeli weapons, surveillance and population control systems are often marketed as “battle-tested” – on the captive Palestinian people.

Israel systematically carries out violent night raids on Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank for the sole purpose of collecting information on the entire population.

Such information would almost certainly be stored in, and perhaps used to develop and test, the types of “intelligence” databases Israel sells abroad.

The cancelation of the Australian deal will be a setback to Israeli efforts to market its supposed know-how in these fields.

Costly lemons

After the deal was signed in 2013, Bezalel Machlis, Elbit’s CEO, said “Australia is the most important market for us. We’re proud that the Australian Federal Police chose us to provide them with these unique capabilities.”

This is not the first time a country that has fallen for Israeli marketing has ended up with a costly lemon.

In 2011, the Obama administration canceled a “virtual fence” along part of the Arizona-Mexico border after the US had already spent $1 billion on it. A subsidiary of Elbit was a key contractor in the project.

This expensive failure did not deter the Obama administration from awarding Elbit another $145 million contract for a new “virtual fence” in early 2014.

Border militarization and reinforcement has gone hand in hand with President Barack Obama’s record-breaking mass deportation of more than two million people during his time in office.

Within months, however, US lawmakers and the Government Accountability Office were raising questions about the new Elbit contract, suggesting that it looked a lot like the failed system it was replacing.

Buying Israeli technology field tested in the context of brutal military occupation and colonization is certainly unethical and promotes the abuse of human rights – as Brazil’s Rio del Sul state concluded when it canceled a major deal with Elbit last year.

The experiences of Israel’s closest allies show it is often bad value for taxpayers’ money as well.

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A word to local, state and federal agencies around the world: the Israeli approach to policing and "security" is a simple one: regard the people in your country the way Israel looks at Palestinians. Treat them accordingly, with SWAT teams, night raids, chemical sprays, assassination, theft of resources, imposition of high walls and rolling checkpoints, cultivation of informer networks, while depriving them of economic opportunity, political rights, habeas corpus, freedom of movement, medical aid, education, personal privacy. Then start up the lawnmower. You'll soon have a nation closely resembling the hard-punching little democracy known as Israel.

On the other hand, if you don't want to replicate the Occupation of Palestine, stop buying the technologies and paraphernalia of lawless repression from Israeli companies. The country you save may be your own.

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Except it doesn't work. Which makes it more a taxpayer funded handout to a corporate criminal welfare scam than anything else-- overlooking the."Big Brother" aspect to it.

Sadly it did not happen sooner.

How much money do the grasping Herrs Federmann, Machlis, etal need to add to their "bottom line" in order to feel satisfied? Apparently not enough money

It is way past the time the public pull the plug on all these mafia oligarch corporate fascist parasites. Show them the door, as it were.

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"Buying Israeli technology field tested in the context of brutal military occupation and colonization is certainly unethical and promotes the abuse of human rights". That is for sure. But it not only promotes the abuse of human rights, it IS the abuse of human rights! When will Israel's "technology field testing" and marketing practices be called and seen for what they are, war crimes and crimes against humanity? Any country or group that purchases these systems is supporting these war crimes and becomes complicit in these acts. A reasonable person must assume that they are also planning similar acts of their own. Israel is now spreading these inhumane systems of death throughout the world. Let me get this straight: so the U.S., Australia, Brazil and who knows what other countries are now adopting Israel's terrorist and genocidal tactics and weapons to use against their own populations and those of other countries, instead of condemning Israel and demanding they be brought to justice and tried for their war crimes and crimes against humanity?? What's wrong with this picture?! We are now living, truly, in the upside-down universe! Where is the U.N.? What good is an organization so dreadfully impotent? We are being misruled and misled by the Big Lie - on steroids! End NATO now and bring the Israeli leadership to justice. If not, who will be next after Israel succeeds in annihilating the Palestinians? The Libyans, Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis (in process already, creating the engineered refugee "crisis"), Iranians, Sudanese, Ukrainians, and on and on? Eventually it gets to the populations of the countries tolerating, supporting and/or perpetrating these terrorist acts, war crimes and crimes against humanity. I ask, which side are you/we on? Question: Do you think the corporations-in-charge would deliberately create refugee "crises" in order to undermine workers & labor unions in 'the West', beginning with the EU countries?? It's already happening in U.S.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.