Connecting the CANSEC weapons show with “a genocide in the making” against Palestinians

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Activists blockade a Lockheed Martin facility in Ottawa, November 10.

The CANSEC weapons show, scheduled to take place May 29-30, 2024, at the EY Centre in Ottawa, can be connected to that “genocide in the making” as well as the arming of repression against organizations, defenders and communities around the world.

The Associated Press reports: “More than 11,400 Palestinians have been killed [over the past five weeks], two-thirds of them women and minors, according to Palestinian health authorities. The U.N. humanitarian affairs office estimates that about 2,700 people, including 1,500 children, are missing and believed buried in the ruins.”

United Nations special experts, including Mary Lawlor, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, now say: “Grave violations committed by Israel against Palestinians in the aftermath of 7 October, particularly in Gaza, point to a genocide in the making.”

The growing call for an arms embargo

Additionally, the UN special experts have demanded an “arms embargo on all warring parties”.

Amnesty International has also called on the international community to “impose a comprehensive arms embargo on all parties to the conflict given that serious violations amounting to crimes under international law are being committed.”

Amnesty International adds: “States must refrain from supplying Israel with arms and military materiel, including related technologies, parts and components, technical assistance, training, financial or other assistance. They should also call on states supplying arms to Palestinian armed groups to refrain from doing so.”

Numerous organizations – including Just Peace Advocates, Campaign Against Arms Trade, CIVICUS, Fundación Mundubat, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) have also called on “the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and other States that authorise the continued transfer of arms, and other forms of military support to Israel to immediately bring an end to such transfers in accordance with their international law obligations.”

And the NDP in Canada have said: “The NDP is asking for #CeasefireForGaza now, and we are asking for the end of arms sells to Israël.”

Two years ago, the Canadian Labour Congress called on “the Government of Canada to halt all arms sales to Israel.” Last year, the Ontario Federation of Labour passed a resolution that also supports “an end to Canadian arms sales to Israel”.

Where do the weapons come from?

Hamas, that has been described as “guerilla organisation”, “uses fast-moving light vehicles like jeeps, pickup trucks and motorbikes” and “is thought to have around 10,000 rockets” some reportedly manufactured in Iran, others assembled within Gaza. The Associated Press also says that Hamas has received weapons from North Korea.

Israel, the world 18th largest military, has 241 fighter jets and 2,200 tanks, a budget of $23.6 billion in 2023, and primarily receives its weapons from the United States (70.2 per cent), Germany (23.9 per cent), Italy (5.9 per cent) and Canada (0.05 per cent). The Times of Israel has also reported: “Ninety-two percent of Israel’s imports came from the US, mostly F-35 jets and guided bombs, followed by shipments from Germany and Italy.”

CNN has reported: “Israel says Iran supports Hamas to the tune of some $100 million dollars a year.” In contrast, the Associated Press notes that Israel receives “US$3.3 billion in congressionally mandated annual funding, plus another US$500 million toward missile defence technology” from the United States.

The role played by CANSEC

As noted on the CANSEC webpage: “CANSEC showcases leading-edge technology, products and services for land-based, naval, aerospace and joint forces military units. This two-day event is the largest and most important defence industry trade show in Canada.”

That webpage further highlights that “50+ international delegations” are present at CANSEC and that of the “more than 12,000+ registrants from all over the world, including military leaders and government officials” of which 74% “have purchasing power”.

The “List of Exhibitors” at CANSEC include “Israel Representatives” and Elbit Systems Ltd., and its 2024 Sponsors include L3 Harris, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and World Beyond War have provided detailed information on the relationship between these companies and the Israeli military.

Tweet from then-Israeli ambassador to Canada, Ronen Hoffman.

Israel helped arm the genocide in Guatemala

While the immediate concern is the weaponry sold to Israel, the country is also the world’s 10th largest exporter of weapons, including weapons that have been used in the repression of social movements in Latin America.

Aljazeera reports: “During the Cold War, the US backed military dictatorships in Latin America that suppressed leftist movements, [says] Jehad Jusef, the vice president of the Palestinian Union of Latin America, an association of Palestinian diaspora groups.”

The article adds that Israel served “as a major arms dealer to the US-backed military dictatorships in places like Guatemala and Argentina.”

Spring Magazine further notes: “The US suspended military aid to Guatemala in 1977—their human rights abuses were a bad look, so Israel stepped in for them. Israeli president Ephrain Katzir signed an agreement supplying the Guatemalan military with $38 million worth of arms during the civil war period, including rifles, helicopters, equipment for surveillance, and training. The Guatemalan civil war began in 1960 and ended in 1996. In the late 1970s, when Israel signed this arms agreement, the Guatemalan civil war was entering its genocidal peak—approximately 200,000 were killed, many of those being the Indigenous Mayan population who were revolting against their oppressive government.”

Holocaust Museum Houston has noted that the United Nations-organized Commission of Historical Clarification (CEH) concluded in February 1999 that the Guatemalan army “committed genocide against four specific groups: the Ixil Mayas; the Q’anjob’al and Chuj Mayas; the K’iche’ Mayas of Joyabaj, Zacualpa and Chiché; and the Achi Mayas.”

Another article in Aljazeera adds: “Israel sold weapons to the South African apartheid government in 1975… Napalm and other weapons were supplied to El Salvador during its counterinsurgency wars between 1980-1992 that killed more than 75,000 civilians.”

As recently as May 2019, Amnesty International Israel produced a report on how “Israeli companies export weapons to countries that systematically violate human rights”. Haaretz says that includes Mexico, South Sudan, Myanmar and the United Arab Emirates.

Land defenders connect pipeline with white phosphorous

On October 16, Ojibwe land defender Tara Houska was arrested after she locked herself to construction equipment at a Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) construction site in Elliston, Virginia. “Free Gaza” was written on the lock-on tube on her arms.

At the time of this action, Appalachians Against Pipelines highlighted: “The connection between MVP & the genocide unfolding in Gaza. MVP would supply gas to the Pentagon and the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, which is operated by BAE Systems – a corporation that supplies Israel with white phosphorus & other weapons.”

John Ramming Chappell, an Advocacy & Legal Fellow at Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), recently wrote in The Hill: “In its investigation, Amnesty International said it identified U.S. Department of Defense codes on Israel’s phosphorus-based munitions. The munitions may have been exported from the United States.”

BAE Systems is also an exhibitor at CANSEC in Ottawa.

Rafael remote weapon system for Canadian-made LAVs to be sold to Colombia

Last month, The Times of Israel also reported that Israel as “one of the main providers of arms to Colombia’s military” was “halting security exports” to Colombia over President Gustavo Petro’s critical comments about Israel’s assault on Gaza.

This could have implications for the recently announced CAD $418-million contract to sell 55 Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs), to be manufactured by London, Ontario-based General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), to the Colombian Ministry of National Defence.

Those LAVs were to be equipped, according to the defence and security magazine Army Recognition, with a remote weapons system (RWS) including an Orbital ATK type cannon and Browning machine gun, from the Raifa, Israel-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems company.

The Canadian Commercial Corporation that helped facilitate the sale of LAVs to Colombia is also a regular exhibitor at the CANSEC weapons show.

Stop CANSEC, May 29-30, 2024

For more on the annual protests against the CANSEC weapons show in Ottawa, please see this World Beyond War webpage.

Further reading: Rather than calling for a ceasefire in Palestine and Israel, Canadian banks are profiting from holdings in weapons companies (Peace Brigades International-Canada, November 6, 2023) and The Breach barred from weapons show for ‘critical anti-war journalism’ (The Breach, May 31, 2023)

Photo: Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by the Israeli military on May 11, 2022. She was remembered at the June 1, 2022 protest against CANSEC. Visualizing Palestine has tweeted that she was killed by a 5.56 mm bullet likely supplied by Elbit Systems subsidiary IMI Systems.

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