Coming Attractions: Prison Populations, Guinea Pigs & Profits — An Israeli Entrepreneurial Success Story
Naomi Klein: Laboratory for a Fortressed World
At a glance, things aren't going well for Israel. But here's a puzzle: why, in the midst of such chaos and carnage, is the Israeli economy booming like it's 1999, with a roaring stock market and growth rates nearing China's?
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...Israel has learned to turn endless war into a brand asset, pitching its uprooting, occupation and containment of the Palestinian people as a half-century head start in the "global war on terror."
...Thirty homeland security companies were launched in Israel in the past six months alone, thanks in large part to lavish government subsidies that have transformed the Israeli army and the country's universities into incubators for security and weapons start-ups (something to keep in mind in the debates about the academic boycott).
Next week, the most established of these companies will travel to Europe for the Paris Air Show, the arms industrys equivalent of Fashion Week. One of the Israeli companies exhibiting is Suspect Detection Systems (SDS), which will be showcasing its Cogito1002, a white, sci-fi-looking security kiosk that asks air travelers to answer a series of computer-generated questions, tailored to their country of origin, while they hold their hand on a "biofeedback" sensor. The device reads the body's reactions to the questions and certain responses flag the passenger as "suspect."
Like hundreds of other Israeli security start-ups, SDS boasts that it was founded by veterans of Israel's secret police and that its products were road-tested on Palestinians. Not only has the company tried out the biofeedback terminals at a West Bank checkpoint, it claims the "concept is supported and enhanced by knowledge acquired and assimilated from the analysis of thousands of case studies related to suicide bombers in Israel."
Another star of the Paris Air Show will be Israeli defense giant Elbit, which plans to showcase its Hermes 450 and 900 unmanned air vehicles. As recently as May, according to press reports, Israel used the drones on bombing missions in Gaza. Once tested in the territories, they are exported abroad: the Hermes has already been used at the Arizona-Mexico border; Cogito1002 terminals are being auditioned at an unnamed US airport; and Elbit, one of the companies behind Israel's "security barrier," has partnered with Boeing to construct the Department of Homeland Security's $2.5 billion "virtual" border fence around the United States.
Since Israel began its policy of sealing off the occupied territories with checkpoints and walls, human rights activists have often compared Gaza and the West Bank to open-air prisons. But in researching the explosion of Israel's homeland security sector...it strikes me that they are something else too: laboratories where the terrifying tools of our security states are being field-tested. Palestinians — whether living in the West Bank or what the Israeli politicians are already calling "Hamasistan" — are no longer just targets. They are guinea pigs.