Beneath the rubble lie the remains of those who were pulverized by the 6,000 bombs dropped in just less than a month. Whole communities are being flattened, expunging entire families and sparing not even children in the carnage. More than 9,000 Palestinians, most of whom were minors and women, have already been killed by Israeli airstrikes since a surprise attack was launched by the militant group Hamas on October 7.
Israel claims it is merely exacting self-defense. It is protecting its civilians, it says, by subjecting children to massacres and pounding hospitals housing defenseless patients. The disproportionate belligerence exemplified by Israel is a brutality that Palestinians have long been subjected to. After all, the very process that facilitated the establishment of the state of Israel is founded on systems of structural and physical violence.
In the early 20th century, the British colonizers declared their support to the Zionist project of providing a “home for the Jewish people” in Palestine (see sidebar 1). Since then, the Jewish population settling in Palestine has risen at the expense of Palestinians who have long been residing there. These events culminated in what would be known as the Nakba—translating to “catastrophe”—in 1948. Approximately 750,000 Palestinians, constituting nearly 40 percent of the 1.9 million population, were forcibly displaced from their homes. Zionist forces had gained control of over 78 percent of historic Palestine, laying in its wake the destruction of around 530 villages and the evisceration of roughly 15,000 Palestinian lives.
The Nakba marked the inception of Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine. As settlers dispossess indigenous Palestinians of their lands, businesses supplant what used to be agricultural plots and homes of indigenous peoples. While Palestinians suffer from the violence they confront on a daily, Israeli and international arms and intelligence technology corporations bask in the profits derived from increased military spending.
Israel’s occupation of Palestine is a profitable enterprise both for Israel and its colluding superpowers, serving as the persistent justification for the genocide of Palestinians and the motive for further escalating violence among the subjugated people across the globe.
Matrix of Control
The occupation that exploits every aspect of Palestinians’ lives accords Israel with the power to extract profit from the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), underpinning the material basis for the realization of the Zionist project.
“Israel is basically a European settler colonialist project in one of its most unapologetic forms. Colonialism benefits from robbing the land and natural resources of native [or] indigenous peoples,” Ramon Guillermo, director of the UP Center for International Studies, told the Collegian.
In 1994, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed the Oslo Accords, which aimed to start the peace process between the two parties. Concomitant to the accord, the Paris Protocol was signed, laying the economic framework between Palestine and Israel within five years. The protocol was designed for the “strengthening [of] the economic base of the Palestinian side.” However, as the Institute of Palestine Studies noted, this agreement only heightened colonial mechanisms of domination that deprived Palestinians of their self-determination.
Under the protocol, Israel’s policy of trade is foisted upon the Palestinians even though the former’s economy is already far more developed than the latter’s, only reinforcing the dependence of Palestinians before the accord was promulgated. One of its features is the adoption of Israel’s tariff structures, where products from Israel and countries that are in free trade agreements with Israel will be untaxed when imported to OPT. Import taxes from other countries are also collected by Israel, effectively barring Palestinians from controlling their borders and economy.
Fragmented Palestinian enclaves resulting from Israel’s control of Palestine’s borders further isolate OPT areas. Sub-peripheries within Palestine are divided into the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, Southern West Bank, Central West Bank, and Northern West Bank. By separating OPT into enclaves, Israel is able to take hold of the resources scattered in different areas while also controlling the border management of separated OPT regions. For one, Israel’s motive for the annexation of Qalqilya in West Bank lies in the access it will provide to a segment of the area with the richest resources of water and agricultural land.
Thus, throughout the decades of occupation, the Palestinian economy continues to careen into further dependence on Israel through its commerce, employment, and infrastructure services. These conditions underlie why “the Palestinian economy has been eviscerated,” found a 2022 United Nations (UN) study. Palestinians, stolen of their lands, are also robbed of their right to direct their lives’ trajectories and meet their subsistence (see sidebar 2).
Around 90 percent of what used to be Palestine is now beholden to Israel’s exclusive control. Natural resources, borders, telecommunications, and production are subsumed under the domain of the occupier through its aggressive expansion of settlements. The forcible confiscation of lands, lopsided laws on planning, and expropriation of natural resources are all precursors to bolstering settlement businesses. This creates a cycle of dependency, where Palestinians are left to rely on employment and products generated by business settlements, thereby justifying their further expansion to meet the population’s needs, according to a Human Rights Watch report.
The Israeli state employs various incentives such as subsidies, tax incentives, and preferential access to infrastructure, permits, and export channels to attract businesses in OPT. The hike in settlement enterprises is owed to the expansion of large corporations to export in the global market as well. As a repercussion of these treatments that marginalize Palestinians, the total economic loss in Area C of the occupied West Bank from 2000 to 2020 is estimated to be USD50 billion, more than 2.5 times the gross domestic product (GDP) of the entire Palestinian territory in 2020, according to a 2022 study by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
What OPT loses, Israel gains. The combined contributions of Area C settlements and the occupied East Jerusalem to Israel's economy from 2000 to 2020 amounted to USD30 billion, which is 2.7 times the annual GDP of the Palestinian territories during that period. Without any means to sustain themselves, the Palestinian market is held captive by Israel. Palestine is Israel’s third largest export market, following the superpowers US and China. And for the past years, 70 percent of Palestinian imports come from Israel while 85 percent of items that Palestine exports are channeled to Israel, per a 2016 UNCTAD report.
Palestine’s crippled economy propels the impetus for international and humanitarian aid. The dire conditions in Palestine make 80 percent of citizens in Gaza dependent on humanitarian assistance, UNICEF said in 2022. More than USD40 billion worth of aid was channeled to Palestine from 1994 to 2020, as revealed from the data by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Around 72 percent of this came from only ten donors, namely the European Union, United States, United Kingdom, and World Bank, among others.
Yet not all of this aid ends up being allocated to the needs of Palestinians bereft of access to food, water, and shelter, exacerbated by the bombs dropped by Israel to crush whole villages. Israel gains from the supposed assistance of foreign bodies to Palestine. From 2000 to 2013, 78 percent of the aid that should have gone to Palestinians flowed to the Israeli economy. Israel controls the customs union between itself and Palestine, as part of the Paris Protocol. As such, Israel’s products are exempt from customs, making them the most inexpensive among competitors from different countries.
The money from foreign aid, thus, is used to buy Israeli products as these are the cheaper options permitted to enter the Palestinian borders, functioning as an additional tool that bolsters the occupation that necessitated that aid in the first place. Israel gains from the ruination it befalls its subjects through its economic and military terrorism.
Colonial Supply Chain
The occupation industry that Israel has manufactured makes them a credible exporter of intelligence and weapons across the world, while their partner countries also gain exorbitantly from the military-industrial complex that plays a pivotal role in the maintenance of Israel’s apartheid of Palestine.
Israel not only evades accountability for the crimes against humanity it perpetrates among Palestinians, but it has also enriched itself owing to its galvanized arms and intelligence technology exports. This industry of occupation, as Antony Loewenstein illustrated in his book The Palestine Laboratory, is buttressed by Israel’s success in using Palestine as its testing grounds for its technology meant to control an entire population.
In the first two decades of the 21st century, Israel’s tech boom catapulted the nation into a time of unparalleled economic expansion. Israel has been one of the top 10 global exporters of weapons since at least 2004. During the 2004-2022 period, it was the ninth-largest exporter, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) (see sidebar 3).
Israel-based arms company Meprolight revealed that the number of customers from different countries increases every time a campaign is successfully launched in Gaza. The company’s chief said this during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza which resulted in the killing of 2,131 Palestinians. Loewenstein pointed out that Israel was a prime actor in the European Union’s (EU) efforts to militarize its borders. Drones imported from Israel, tested in Gaza and the West Bank, have figured prominently in controlling the influx of migrants in 2015 through the EU’s border agency Frontex.
In cementing this industry, Israel conducts ISDEF every two years. It is the largest exhibition of defense and security trade in the country, with 12,000 attendees from 250 companies from 36 countries. Most representatives come from private technology corporations and security forces from different nations.
“The United States views Israel as its most reliable ally in West Asia. It is the foremost political and military base from which to project its military power and capability in that region of the world. It also helps that the Israeli army is one of the most technologically advanced and brutally efficient in the world,” Guillermo said.
The conflict necessary to bolster Israel’s occupation industry also benefits other superpowers aiding Israel in their weapons and technology. The occupation is a mutually advantageous enterprise for Israel and its partners.
Israel’s occupation economy is pervaded by multinational corporations. While in other instances businesses contribute software or equipment for the functioning of a larger system, in certain cases businesses are involved in the development of a significant project for the Israeli military. These programs hinge on fortifying Israel’s largely technology-driven methods to evict, exterminate, and control Palestinian subjects. Microsoft, Cisco Systems, IBM, and Dell Technologies are a few of these corporations engaged in aiding the Israeli state.
Microsoft Israel, for one, has provided services to the Israeli government and the Israeli Ministry of Defense through its help with the development of applications like Settlement Defense devised to aid Israeli soldiers in guarding their settlements. These moves that fan the flames of the occupation construct the foundation for escalating aggression, which countries such as the US exploit to stimulate their economies through induced military spending.
Since the surge of Israeli violence in the past weeks, the share prices of the top two American arms producers, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, increased by eight and 11 percent, respectively. The rise in Lockheed Martin’s stocks on October 9 was the highest on a non-earnings day since 2020 while Northrop Grumman also experienced the highest increase since the same year.
Israel, after all, is the largest recipient of US foreign military finance. More military finance from the US was allotted to Israel, amounting to 55 percent, compared to any other country being financed, according to the Security Assistance Monitor. The US also accounts for 83 percent of the weapons imported into Israel from 1950 to 2020.
In the pursuit of profit, then, these initiators of war and occupation will spare no religion, race, or ethnicity, so long as this project of subduing will contribute to the insatiable thirst for monetary gain and power consolidation. A coalescence among hegemonic countries reinforces aggression to amp up the demand for arms and surveillance technologies that rely on animosity for their deployment.
Right of Return
Conflicts brewing around the world will only aggravate the subjugated people of different countries as arms conglomerates profit from stoking the flames of geopolitical tensions in our time. Pretext for wars will continue to be fabricated, justifications devised to legitimize the extermination of entire populations.
The Philippines was the third largest importer of Israeli arms from 2018 to 2022 with around PHP15 billion worth of sales, SIPRI revealed. The weapons used to kill tens of thousands during the Duterte regime’s war on drugs were those manufactured in Israel as Duterte cited it provided no restrictions for the arms it can buy from there. He also lauded Israel’s efforts under its “war on terror” and the aid it provided the Philippines in its intelligence operations.
As President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. continues the anti-drug war and counter-insurgency campaigns that make killings persist, ballooning expenditures for the security sector are being justified in the face of domestic and international threats. Under the proposed 2024 budget, P282.7 billion is allocated to the defense sector, which is an increase of 21.6 percent from the P203.4-billion budget in 2023.
This increase is needed, according to House Speaker Martin Romualdez, to cement the country’s “commitment to safeguarding our territorial integrity.” As tensions between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea accelerate, the US positions itself in the conflict to maintain its strategic stronghold in the Philippines. US President Joseph Biden recently declared that it will invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines if China continues to attack Filipino forces.
Though the US postures to be adherent to international laws in its defense of the West Philippine Sea, its position on the Israeli genocide of Palestinians deviates from what humanitarian laws necessitate. It voted against the UN General Assembly Resolution to protect civilians in the conflict and uphold legal and humanitarian obligations.
“The USA is highly selective in its application of the so-called ‘international rules-based order.’ On the one hand, the USA loudly deplores Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea and is apparently intent on using the Philippines as a launchpad for defending its military, economic, and political interests in Asia. On the other hand, it actively encourages Israel when it outrightly violates international law and widely accepted norms of conduct in war,” explained Guillermo.
What this inconsistency demonstrates is the US’s propensity to advance only the agenda that suits its interest to dominate the regions it takes control of. Since its hegemony in the Philippines is being challenged, it must defend the country from any forces that seek to subvert the status quo. And since ceasefires between Palestine and Israel would mean less money barreling towards the pockets of American corporations, humanitarian grounds must be voided.
The emancipation of those subjugated by conniving superpowers will only be realized, then, if they liberate themselves from the same framework of domination used to keep them dependent. For Palestinians, this means the end of occupation and the recognition of their right of return. Beyond the purported two-state solution that only further legitimizes the occupation, the land of Palestinians must be repatriated to them.
If the failure of the Oslo Accords proves anything, it is that any prospect for peaceful coexistence between the occupier and the occupied is not possible. According to the Washington Institute, the two-state option is no longer favored by the Palestinian people. In the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, less than 40 percent of the Palestinian populace prefers it to one-state options. The majority of them state that they would rather recover all of historic Palestine including Israel before 1967—from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
The dust will never settle so long as the settler-colony remains in place, nourished by the inflow of arms by domineering countries imposing neocolonialism. Lives will continue to lie beneath the rubble of a regime built on annihilation and annexation. The obliteration of the colonial machine is a precondition for lasting peace. ●
Nov 27, 2023
“Violence is required to build the new urban world on the wreckage of the old.”
Nov 16, 2023
UP Diliman’s campus publications are running on deficit, calling for a reexamination of what they face and what they fight for.