Book Review: The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel exports the technology of occupation around the world by Antony Loewenstein.

Antony Loewenstein is an Australian Jew who is disturbed by how far Israel has fallen from its aspiration to be ” a light unto the nations.” The book was published before the current war in Gaza. The book`s main argument is that Palestine has become a laboratory for methods of control and separation of populations. Loewenstein claims that Israel has “exported” the occupation, and he explains why it is such an attractive model for states trying to control resentful people.

One of the first regimes with which Israel colluded was the apartheid state in South Africa. Its similarity to Israel was compelling. They were both located in a predominately hostile world inhabited by dark people. South Africa was an object lesson in how to treat unwanted populations, with its Bantustans in which its black residents lived without autonomy in non – contiguous areas.

Another country with which Israel has developed close relations is Narendra Modi`s India. Modi wants to turn India into an enthno-nationalist State: Hindustan. Making it difficult for him are long established Muslim populations – 200 million in India and a majority in India- controlled Kashmir, where India has been accused of a multitude of human rights violations. Israeli made Herons, information gathering drones, fly over Kashmir, just as they fly over Palestine occupied lands.

India has been Israel`s largest arms export market . Between 2015 and 2020, India accounted for 43% of Israel`s arms exports, and in 2020 India was Israel`s largest purchaser of weaponry.

.As well as arms, India has been an enthusiastic buyer of Israeli surveillance technology, especially equipment for hacking into mobile phones. Dozens of Indian journalists and activists have been targeted. Police in the state of Pune have hacked into human rights activists `phones and computers to plant incriminating evidence which they then arrested them for.

In 2021, Israeli arms sales amounted to US $11.3 billion. In 1981, US aid to Israel was equivalent to roughly 10% 0f Israel`s economy, but by 2020, at close to 4 billion annually, it was down to around to 1%. Obviously, Israel has less need of US aid. It is worth noting that Israel`s arms production does not lack sophistication. It produces most of its own missile defence technology, and it sells equipment to counter airborne drones.

Israel`s arms deals with disreputable regimes go back some time. It sold weapons to the Pinochet regime in Chile, a government notorious for murder and torture, and that when the US supported an arms embargo. An astute commentator remarked that Israel offers an entire political model for asymmetric warfare, a conflict between a state and irregular combatants, which is the idea behind the title of the book

Loewenstein excels in bringing to light the astonishing variety of shady deals Israel made in foreign lands. One of the strangest was in Syria in which Israel and Russia teamed up in defence of the Assad regime. Russia supplied the bombers and Israel the guidance systems, often drones. Russia fired more than 39,000 airstrikes in the first three years of its operations in Syria, targeting both Islamic State and “rebels “opposed to Assad. Around 23,000 Syrian civilians were killed by Russian actions between 2015 and 2019. Humanitarian targets like hospitals and civilian ferries were attacked. There is a legal point. The drones did not directly kill anyone, hence they were not legally weapons. But Israel seems to have been a partner in crime.

Many Israeli arms and surveillance sellers doubtless thought of themselves as pragmatists, but the book shows that pragmatism can degenerate into immorality. Loewenstein concludes that as a human being and a Jew, “I knew that equality and justice between Israelis and Palestinians is the only way to resolve this conflict.”

Published by Scribe. Melbourne & London. 2023. pp. 265. $35.00.

ISBN 9781 1 922310 40 8 [Australian Edition]

Reg Naulty, Canberra and District Quakers.



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