Briefing Paper July 2007

Palestine’s War of Independence

What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts (Nelson Mandela’s response when offered his freedom in response to renouncing the armed struggle) Sparks 1994

Bushra`s final exam

Gideon Levy Haaretz Magazine, May 03, 2007

Bushra, 17, was killed by a sniper`s bullet aimed at the middle of her forehead as she paced her room, grammar book in hand, memorizing the material for the exam the next day. A direct hit. The lights were on in the room, the shooter must have seen the person at whom he was firing, whose life he was taking with such dreadful ease.

Blood on the hands: Two crimson handprints stain the white wall. The tile floor shines in shades of brown, the walls are painted in white and soft pastels, their new house, after the two previous ones were destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces. The bloody handprints stand as silent testimony on the wall of the staircase that goes up to the second floor. This is where Ruqiya stood, the blood of her dead daughter all over her hands, as she pounded them on the wall in a panic, desperately calling to the neighbors for help. She pounded and pounded, her palms staining the wall, when outside stood a line of terrifying jeeps, on the roof of the building down the street stood the snipers and in the other room Bushra lay dead in a spreading pool of blood, a bullet hole in the center of her forehead.

The blood also spilled on her grammar workbook, staining it. Her green pen was also covered with blood; it`s still there, amid the bloody pages. The grammar book of Bushra Bargis (Al-Wahsh), the study material of a girl who was preparing for the Magen pre-matriculation exam, her last exam. Among the pages of the workbook, which has become a kind of memorial book, the family has inserted the death picture: a twisted smile, eyes half-closed and a small hole in the forehead.

Bushra, 17, was killed by a sniper`s bullet aimed at the middle of her forehead as she paced her room, grammar book in hand, memorizing the material for the exam the next day. A direct hit. The lights were on in the room, the shooter must have seen the person at whom he was firing, whose life he was taking with such dreadful ease.

A sniper`s amusement? One bullet in a teenager`s forehead and two bullets in the door of the refrigerator, which is in the new kitchen off of Bushra`s room, a place where the females of the house hid: Ruqiya, her daughter Suqeina, 23, and Suqeina`s three-year-old daughter, Dareen. Two women, a teenaged girl and a toddler in the house where the soldiers thought Abd al-Rahman Al-Wahsh, a wanted man and Bushra`s brother, was hiding.

In stark contrast to the IDF`s version of events, all the eyewitnesses say the occupants were called to leave the house only after the sniper had killed Bushra in cold blood. Logic says it happened that way, too: No teenager would keep studying if soldiers were calling from below to evacuate the house. Three sniper`s bullets, from a distance of about 150 meters, abruptly halted Bushra`s preparations for her last exam.

The Jenin checkpoint. Two IDF soldiers, military policemen, speaking Arabic to each other, wander about here and there with nothing much to do. A rental car approaches the checkpoint and an elderly British tourist gets out. `Do I need to wait here?,` he asks in surprise, believing he has come to a tollbooth. `Where you going?,` Staff-Sergeant Hikmat asks in broken English. `To Jerusalem,` replies the tourist, proffering his rental agency road map as proof and confidently pointing out the shortest route to the capital – through Jenin – of course. The Green Line is dead in the new maps of the rental agencies, and the Briton is beside himself.

True to form, one week the IDF allows us to enter Jenin in our protected vehicle, while the next week it does not, despite all the prior coordination and assurances. No entry this week. A yellow taxi from Jenin quickly takes us into the refugee camp, its driver stunned by the identity of his Jewish passengers. The only hospital in town is still closed because of a strike by workers who have not been paid, and the new road in the rebuilt camp is already strewn with obstacles and potholes.

The IDF enters the camp every night now, sowing fear in the heart of the residents, especially the children. At

first there was no resistance and the soldiers would bring out dozens of men, half-clothed, into the night chill. In recent weeks, the armed young men of the camp have decided to greet the jeeps with makeshift bombs – cooking gas canisters that they place by the side of the road, in the heart of the camp. Boom after boom, sounds of explosions and gunfire, every night is a nightmare now, a night without sleep, with children wetting their beds and their anxious, helpless parents.

Saturday night two weeks ago was just such a night. In the afternoon, IDF troops had killed three armed men in the city and the mood was agitated. In her room on the second floor of the renovated house near the camp mosque, Bushra was preparing for her Magen grammar exam. Her father died eight years ago. One brother, Abdullah, was sentenced about five years ago to 23 years in prison. Another brother, Abd al-Aziz, had just been released from two years in administrative detention, held without trial. Soldiers who had come in search of the third brother, Islamic Jihad activist Abd al-Rahman, who has been wanted for the past two years, arrested him instead.

For years, Bushra was the only family member permitted to visit Abdullah in prison. In the past five years his

mother has been allowed to visit only six times. Since Bushra was killed, Israel has not allowed Abdullah to even speak on the telephone with his grieving mother. He is in the Ashkelon Prison, where he must have heard about his sister`s killing, and cannot call his mother to comfort her. Abdullah was arrested the same day the IDF killed UNRWA worker Ian Hook, from Britain, in the camp, in November 2002. Four months ago his sister visited him for the last time.

On Saturday morning Bushra took the Magen exam in history. Afterward she went to her old girls` elementary school for an open house, with performances and refreshments. A few days before Bushra received a prize for her academic achievement: a colorful clock shaped like a castle, with a turret and with flowers in front. The clock has stopped.

In the afternoon she returned home, had something to eat and began studying for Sunday`s grammar exam.

The previous Saturday Bushra and some of her classmates took a little excursion. Here is the photo, which turned out to be the last photograph of Bushra: Four teenaged girls in their striped uniforms and headscarves, gently leaning against one another, hesitantly smiling at the camera, against the backdrop of one of the tourist sites in Wadi al-Badin, on the way to Nablus. The sun`s rays shine through the trees and none of the girls knows that, within a week, this photo will become a memorial picture. Bushra wanted to be a lawyer, in a household where no provider was left.

In the afternoon, Bushra asked her brother to buy her some pens, to make sure she was all set for the test the next day. Abd al-Aziz bought her five cheap pens. One is still stuck inside the bloodstained schoolbook. Later, Bushra and her mother recited the evening prayers and the night prayers, and in between Bushra studied. She had a habit of pacing as she studied, walking back and forth in her room as she memorized material. At about 9 P.M. there was a noise from the street. Ruqiya rushed to the window to locate the source: A long line of jeeps, headlights off, approached the house, which was at the edge of the camp. Bushra quickly picked up her niece, Dareen, who was sleeping on a mattress under the window. She took her into the kitchen, in the interior of the house, to move her away from the eye of the approaching storm. She then returned to her room and resumed her studies, in front of the open window. Everyone else went into the kitchen. The soldiers did not shout at them to evacuate, and the women were certain that they were there because of the disturbances in the city on that deadly day.

Ruqiya and Suqeina, crowded into the kitchen, Dareen asleep on the floor, they suddenly heard a strange sound. To their astonishment, they found two bullets stuck in the refrigerator door. Let`s repeat: The kitchen is deep inside the apartment, on the second floor, and gunfire toward it could only have come from the house down the street, about 150 meters as the crow flies. Soldiers and snipers had hidden in the house down the street before.

At the sight of the two bullets stuck in the refrigerator, Ruqiya called to her daughter, in the next room, and when Bushra did not respond the mother hurried in. Bushra was lying on her back on the floor, in a puddle of blood that was pooling under her head, with a hole in her forehead and the workbook in her hand. She was lying far from the window, in the center of the room. You don`t have to be a ballistics expert to see that there is no way the shots could have come from the jeeps parked outside the house.

Ruqiya knew: Her daughter was dead. She began screaming for help and pounding on the wall of the staircase, and then went up on the roof and yelled for help from there, too. According to the women of the house as well G.Z., a very credible witness who was at the neighbors`, it was only after Ruqiya`s shouts were heard that the soldiers called on the women, through a megaphone, to leave the house. This is a key point. The next day, the IDF would claim that the soldiers told the women to come out and that only Bushra remained inside despite the order.

They went out to the street, at the soldiers` orders. None of the soldiers left their jeeps that were parked near the house. Bushra was left, bleeding in her room, apparently already dead. `You killed my daughter!,` Ruqiya screamed at the soldiers, pounding on the sides of the armored vehicles, but no one came out to help. She told the soldiers the house was unlocked and they could go enter to search for the wanted man or to see the body of his dead sister, but no one went in. `Why didn`t they enter the house? Why didn`t they tell us to come out right away? Had they called us before, we would have come right out,` Ruqiya says. The soldiers asked to see Ruqiya`s identity card but she says she refused. She just pleaded for her and her daughter to be allowed back into the house, to see Bushra, but she says the soldiers wouldn`t let her.

About a half hour later, a Palestinian ambulance arrived. The medics went inside and brought Bushra down to the door on a mattress. Her mother, sister and niece stood there, shaking. This scene lasted for about an hour, maybe more, they say. The body lying on a mattress at the entrance to the house, the women standing barefoot and upset in the street, the frightened Dareen in her mother`s arms and Ruqiya`s hands still stained with her daughter`s blood, while the soldiers remained in their jeeps. Suddenly, the soldiers threw smoke grenades and left the way they had come, leaving the women of the family with the body.

IDF Spokesman`s response: `In the course of operations of an IDF force that traveled near the Jenin refugee camp, a number of explosive devices were thrown and targeted gunfire was directed against the force a number of times. The force returned fire in the direction of the shooting. An investigation of the incident showed that the force definitively confirmed that shots were fired a number of times from the window of the building. At a nearby window a figure was seen holding a weapon and it was fired upon. After the operation the Coordination and Liaison headquarters received a report of the killing of a Palestinian girl.`

The blood-soaked carpet has been rolled up andtaken up to the roof and laid alongside the satellite dish. The house from which the sniper apparently shot and killed Bushra is visible across the way. A picture of Abdullah, the prisoner, hangs on the wall of the room in which his sister was killed. Her picture will be placed next to his. For now, a very large photo of Bushra, the girl who never made it to her exam on Sunday, rests in its frame.

For the first 18 years of Israeli statehood, we, as Israeli citizens, lived under military rule with pass laws that controlled our every movement. We watched Jewish Israeli towns spring up over destroyed Palestinian villages.

Today we make up 20% of Israel’s population. We do not drink at separate water fountains or sit at the back of the bus. We vote and can serve in the parliament. But we face legal, institutional and informal discrimination in all spheres of life.

More than 20 Israeli laws explicitly privilege Jews over non-Jews. The Law of Return, for example, grants automatic citizenship to Jews from anywhere in the world. Yet Palestinian citizens are denied the right to return to the country they were forced to leave in 1948. The Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty – Israel’s “Bill of Rights” – defines the state as “Jewish” rather than a state for all its citizens. Thus Israel is more for Jews living in Los Angeles or Paris than it is for native Palestinians.

Israel acknowledges itself to be a state of one particular religious group. Anyone committed to democracy will readily admit that equal citizenship cannot exist under such circumstnaces

Azmi Bishara (Electronic Intifada)

Member of the Knesset until his resignation in April – when it became apparent that prosecution (with life imprisonment or the death sentence possible) for alleged aiding the enemy during Israel’s failed attack on the Lebanon in July 2006 was imminent.

And now, a foetus

Gideon Levy Ha’aretz 20 May 2007

Memorial posters decorate the walls of the Rafidiya government hospital in Nablus, covering earlier posters of countless young people who have been killed. But this poster is like nothing we have seen before: a foetus covered in its own blood, its tiny head blown up by the bullet that struck its mother, and the caption – “Who gave you the right to steal his life?”

The killing of the unborn child, Daoud, by Israel Defense Forces troops raises a series of moral, legal and philosophical questions. Is the killing of a foetus manslaughter? Is it murder? And how old is the victim? But all these questions are dwarfed by the woman lying stunned and injured in the maternity ward of the hospital in Nablus, in agony, with all kinds of tubes attached to her, refusing to answer a single question.

It is obvious that Maha Katouni is still in a state of trauma. Wounded in the abdomen, she lies in bed, her elderly mother by her side. The tube in her nose makes it hard for her to speak. She is 30 years old and was in the seventh month of pregnancy, a mother who got up in the middle of the night to protect her three small children, sleeping in the other room, from the bullets that were whistling by outside. As soon as she got out of bed, the bullet struck her. Bleeding, she fell on the nightstand by her bed. Maha survived, but Daoud – as she and her husband planned to name their son – was removed from her womb with a bullet wound to the head.

“And babies?” a reporter once asked an American soldier who had taken part in the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam

War. His succinct answer was just as chilling as the question. “Babies.” And now, a foetus

The day before, I had been in Soweto, near Johannesburg, South Africa, accompanied by the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, comparing the horrors of apartheid to the Israeli occupation in the territories. The next afternoon I was here, in the Rafidiya maternity ward, standing before the bed of the wounded Maha, who had lost her baby.

The biggest hospital in the territories is practically deserted, barely functioning. It has been this way for two months now. Like the other hospitals in the West Bank, Rafidiya accepts only emergency cases, because of the economic boycott of the Palestinian Authority, which also prevents the workers here from being paid. Only 20 of the hospital’s 168 beds are currently occupied, and only about a third of the hospital’s 380 staff members show up for work. In the emergency room we saw just one patient, who had arrived that morning. The rest of the beds were empty. In the past two and a half months, the workers have received just NIS 1,500 per person, from funds provided by the European Union.

Hospital director Dr. Khaled Salah says that the staff and patients don’t come to the hospital because of the

difficulties in getting to Nablus and the cost of the trip, which has risen significantly because of the checkpoints. The Hawara checkpoint and the Beit Iba checkpoint, the two checkpoints on the city’s outskirts, are relatively deserted, because of the difficulty in getting past them.

Maha lies in bed, her eyes closed. A green headscarf covers her head. Her skin is ashen. Every once in a while she opens her eyes but then quickly closes them again. Once in a while she also murmurs a few words in a feeble voice and then goes quiet again. How are you? Silence. Maha is a resident of the Ein Beit Ilma refugee camp on the outskirts of Nablus. She is married to Rifat, a 36-year-old school janitor, and the couple have three children: Jihad, 10; Jawad, 7; and Jad, 3. Two uncles and her mother watch over her, not budging from her bedside. For the father of the family, it’s too hard to be here. He’s still in shock.

The pain is written all over Maha’s face. One of her brothers had somehow managed to cross the line of fire and get to her house; he tried to stanch the gaping wound in her stomach with a towel. Her husband, Rifat, was paralyzed with shock. Umm Ibrahim says that her son, who tended to Maha, could see through the hole in her abdomen that the foetus had been wounded in the head and was dead.

The gunfire finally subsided at around three in the morning and they were able to take Maha out to the street, carried by her brother and the paramedic from the ambulance that had parked in the nearby alley. The brother says that on the way to the hospital they were stopped twice by soldiers, who wanted to check the wounded woman’s identity and to make sure there were no wanted men hiding in the ambulance. Maha was barely conscious when she reached the hospital, but her mother says she understood right away that she had lost the baby. The family says the IDF enters the camp nearly every night and that there is almost always gunfire. Umm Ibrahim managed to get to the hospital at four in the morning, when her daughter was in the operating room and the dead foetus had already been removed.

Dr. Ihab Shareideh was the surgeon who was summoned to the hospital in the middle of the night to operate on Maha. He says that her recovery has been more difficult and slower than usual, not only because of her injuries, but because of her traumatized mental state. Fortunately, not many blood vessels were injured, so the delay in getting her to the hospital did not cause further damage. It is too soon to gauge the extent of the damage to her digestive system, or to say whether she will be able to get pregnant again. The foetus died as a result of the bullet that penetrated its brain on the way to the mother’s intestines.

The anesthesiologist, Dr. Iyad Salim, a resident of nearby Hawara, roams the hospital corridors. On his cell phone camera is a video of the operation and the removal of the fetus. So close to being a fully developed baby, with a bullet wound to the head. The memorial poster shows the foetus bleeding from the head. The image is unbearable. At press time, no response had been received from the IDF Spokesperson’s Office.

Of all the troubling consequences of the international embargo the most shocking is its contribution to the silent exodus of Palestinians. . . . [Israel is] prepared to make life so unbearablefor the Palestinians that they would on their own accord resort to “voluntary transfer” . . . . In 2006, 46 000 Palestinian applications were submitted to foreign consulates in the OT for visas to leave.. By keeping the sanctions in place the international community has in effect become complicit in a process of quiet ethnic cleansing.

(Return Review May 2007)

Division among Palestinians

Ali Abunimah (Electronic Intifada) The Irish Times 19 June 2007

Madam, – As a Palestinian, I am appalled that the European Union and the United States have backed Mahmoud Abbas’s so-called “emergency government” in Israeli-occupied Ramallah. The Palestinian Basic Law makes no provision for such a development.

Hamas, no matter what one thinks of it, won the January 2006 election fair and square. On the eve of its victory, it had already observed a one-year unilateral truce with Israel. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, Israel killed almost 700 Palestinians in 2006, of whom half were unarmed civilians, and 141 were children.

By contrast, Palestinians killed 23 Israelis.

On what basis, therefore, did the EU shun the elected representatives of an occupied people, while allowing

their occupiers to continue their depredations – wilful killing of civilians and land theft for Jewish-only settlements – without any response? Hamas tried to enter mainstream politics through the front door – explicitly modelling its policies on those of the IRA in the context of the Irish peace process. The door was slammed shut in its face as the US funded and armed unaccountable and corrupt militias whose job was to undermine the results of a democratic election, and the EU meekly agreed to impose cruel sanctions against an occupied people.

EU officials may comfort themselves that they are supporting a “legitimate” Palestinian government. As a student of

European history, I see a close parallel with the collaborationist second World War regimes of Quisling in Norway and Pétain in France. Has Europe really learned nothing from its own history? Has Ireland learned nothing from its own painful past, as well as the spectacular success of the peace process in the North?

The result of these short-sighted EU policies will be to deepen the split among Palestinians and give Israel a

free hand to continue its violent colonisation of illegallyoccupied lands. – Yours, etc,

As far as the Israeli logic goes the return of the refugees is a concession and not a right. Moreover, no concessions should be made to extremists as this may be seen as a weakness in a region where perception is as important as reality. If this argument is turned around Arabs are well justified to assert that all their concessions to Israel have been interpreted as weakness. Despite the PLO recognition of the state of Israel on 78% of historic Palestine, much more than the UN granted it at the time of partition, Israel is still unwilling to recognise the Palestinian right to a state on the remaining 22%

Return Review April 2007

Letter from Idna – Idna Ladies Centre trashed

14 June 2007

Dear Friends,

Last Tuesday IDF came to Idna village at two in the morning and broke into the ladies center on the ground floor by smashing the steel and glass door. They stole the computer, and trashed the place lightly, destroying unused invoice and receipt books and throwing stock on the floor. They also stole framed photos of the ladies and their friends from the walls and a box of ball pens, plus a large embroidered map of Palestine, smashing its frame and glass. We don’t know if they helped themselves to any of the stock. Upstairs they smashed into a private school on the first floor which coaches children in math, English, computers and the Koran. There they stole all the computers, tore posters illustrating the way to wash hands before praying and how to pray, and threw Korans onto the floor, also trashing things lightly. The teacher is in his mid twenties and therefore suspect. He was arrested a month ago then released without charge. The ladies said he had told IDF they could have the key if they wanted to check his school but it seems they prefer their own methods. I am told IDF wages psychological war in this way by returning to harrass, one knows not when. When one thinks of it the attack on the Idna Womens Centre was a symbolic identity cleansing operation, destroying their photos of themselves, their national identity in the map, their livliehood in the computer and the account books.

One of the ladies, Nuha, phoned early in the morning. So we took advantage of the Ecumenical Accompaniers sent by the World Council of Churches to report on human rights and staying here in the guesthouse. They sent a pleasant young Norwegian lady who speaks fluent Arabic to make a report.


How war was turned into a brand

Guardian 16/06/07

So in a way Friedman is right, Israel has struck oil. But the oil isn’t the imagination of its techie entrepreneurs. The oil is the war on terror, the state of constant fear that creates a bottomless global demand for devices that watch, listen, contain and target “suspects”. And fear, it turns out, is the ultimate renewable resource.

Gaza in the hands of Hamas, with masked militants sitting in the president’s chair; the West Bank on the edge; Israeli army camps hastily assembled in the Golan Heights; a spy satellite over Iran and Syria; war with Hizbullah a hair trigger away; a scandal-plagued political class facing a total loss of public faith. 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?

Thomas Friedman recently offered his theory in the New York Times. Israel “nurtures and rewards individual imagination”, and so its people are constantly spawning ingenious hi-tech start-ups, no matter what messes their politicians are making. After perusing class projects by students in engineering and computer science at Ben-Gurion University, Friedman made one of his famous fake-sense pronouncements. Israel “had discovered oil”. This oil, apparently, is located in the minds of Israel’s “young innovators and venture capitalists”, who are too busy making megadeals with Google to be held back by politics.

Here’s another theory. Israel’s economy isn’t booming despite the political chaos that devours the headlines but because of it. This phase of development dates back to the mid-90s, when the country was in the vanguard of the information revolution – the most tech-dependent economy in the world. After the dotcom bubble burst in 2000, Israel’s economy was devastated, facing its worst year since 1953. Then came 9/11, and suddenly new profit vistas opened up for any company that claimed it could spot terrorists in crowds, seal borders from attack, and extract confessions from closed-mouthed prisoners.

Within three years, large parts of Israel’s tech economy had been radically repurposed. Put in Friedmanesque terms, Israel went from inventing the networking tools of the “flat world” to selling fences to an apartheid planet. Many of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs are using Israel’s status as a fortressed state, surrounded by furious enemies, as a kind of 24-hour-a-day showroom, a living example of how to enjoy relative safety amid constant war. And the reason Israel is now enjoying supergrowth is that those companies are busily exporting that model to the world. Discussions of Israel’s military trade usually focus on the flow of weapons into the country – US-made Caterpillar bulldozers used to destroy homes in the West Bank, and British companies supplying parts for F-16s.

Overlooked is Israel’s huge and expanding export business. Israel now sends $1.2bn in “defence” products to the United States – up dramatically from $270m in 1999. In 2006, Israel exported $3.4bn in defence products – well over a billion more than it received in American military aid. That makes Israel the fourth largest arms dealer in the world, overtaking Britain.

Much of this growth has been in the so-called homeland security sector. Before 9/11 homeland security barely existed as an industry. By the end of this year, Israeli exports in the sector will reach $1.2bn, an increase of 20%. The key products and services are hi-tech fences, unmanned drones, biometric IDs, video and audio surveillance gear, air passenger profiling and prisoner interrogation systems – precisely the tools and technologies Israel has used to lock in the occupied territories.

And that is why the chaos in Gaza and the rest of the region doesn’t threaten the bottom line in Tel Aviv, and may actually boost it. 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”.

It’s no coincidence that the class projects at Ben-Gurion that so impressed Friedman have names like Innovative Covariance Matrix for Point Target Detection in Hyperspectral Images, and Algorithms for Obstacle Detection and Avoidance.

Thirty homeland security companies have been launched in Israel during 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 industry’s 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 travellers 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 defence giant Elbit, which plans to showcase its Hermes 450 and 900 unmanned air vehicles. As recently as last month, 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 American airport; and Elbit – also one of the companies behind Israel’s “security barrier” – has set up a deal with Boeing to construct the Department of Homeland Security’s $2.5bn “virtual” border fence around the US. 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, a topic explored in greater detail in my forthcoming book, 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 Hamastan – are no longer just targets. They are guinea pigs.

So in a way Friedman is right, Israel has struck oil. But the oil isn’t the imagination of its techie entrepreneurs. The oil is the war on terror, the state of constant fear that creates a bottomless global demand for devices that watch, listen, contain and target “suspects”. And fear, it turns out, is the ultimate renewable resource.

  • Naomi Klein’s new book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, will be published later this year by Picador; a version of this article appears in the Nation, and
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