How war was turned into a brand
Political chaos means Israel is booming like it's 1999 - and the boom is in defence exports field-tested on Palestinians
Saturday June 16, 2007
Read more ... (ht2 RickB)
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.