Will the House of Commons vote on arms exports to Israel have implications for Elbit Systems at the CANSEC arms show?

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Video still: Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly rises to vote in favour of the motion to “cease the further authorization and transfer of arms exports to Israel”.

Last night, the House of Commons voted 204-118 in favour of a motion that includes a provision on the export of arms to Israel.

The original wording of the motion from NDP Member of Parliament (MP) Heather McPherson was: “suspend all trade in military goods and technology with Israel and increase efforts to stop the illegal trade of arms, including to Hamas.”

MP Heather McPherson

Liberal MP Steven MacKinnon successfully moved to replace that paragraph with these words instead: “cease the further authorization and transfer of arms exports to Israel to ensure compliance with Canada’s arms export regime and increase efforts to stop the illegal trade of arms, including to Hamas.”

MP Steven MacKinnon

By clicking here and scrolling down you can see how MPs voted on this motion. For instance, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly and National Defence Minister Bill Blair voted in favour of it.

Capitulation and disappointment

The CBC reports: “The amended motion calls for ceasing the further transfer of arms to Israel (instead of asking to suspend all sales of military equipment to Israel) and increasing efforts to stop the illegal trade of arms, including to Hamas. The amendments were tabled with the support of the NDP after several discussions behind the scenes.”

The Maple news editor Alex Cosh is pointedly critical in his tweet: “The Trudeau gov has repeatedly claimed it hasn’t authorized permits for ‘arms’, which it arbitrarily distinguishes from other military exports. This language changes nothing on military exports.” Cosh adds: “This is a disgraceful capitulation [by the NDP].”

Instagram post by Palsolidaritycad.

And Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) comment: “The watering down of the NDP resolution weakens the significance of Parliament’s vote, even if it was a major concession forced by the Liberal government to ensure its passage.”

Clear policy promised

While disappointed, the CJPME does note: “With the passage of this motion, the government has effectively promised to adopt a clear policy to restrict exports, including for already-issued permits, not just a temporary pause on approvals. While imperfect, this is a tangible victory on the road to a Canadian two-way arms embargo with Israel.”

Implications for CANSEC

If the Canadian government has now, as the CJPME says, “effectively promised to adopt a clear policy to restrict exports”, what implications might this have on its funding of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) and its organizing of the annual CANSEC arms show in Ottawa?

CADSI (whose membership includes Elbit Systems, the largest Israeli weapons manufacturer) organizes CANSEC that includes as exhibitors Israel representatives, Elbit, the Canadian Commercial Corporation (that helps to facilitate weapons exports), many of the biggest transnational corporations (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Leonardo, L3Harris) that sell weapons to Israel, and will most likely feature Defence Minister Blair as a keynote speaker this coming May 29-30.

Defence Minister Bill Blair

Image: The Government of Canada at CANSEC.

Global Affairs Canada has also given $450,352.00 to CADSI over the past two years and appears willing to fund it again in 2024.

Elbit Systems

Let’s now look at the Haifa, Israel-based arms company Elbit Systems.

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Action Center for Corporate Accountability has noted:

Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer, Elbit Systems is one of the primary suppliers of weapons and surveillance systems to the Israeli military, including Skylark and Hermes military UAV drones, which form the majority of Israel’s fleet of large drones and have been used extensively in Gaza.

Elbit-made MPR 500 multi-purpose bombs are being used by Israel in its attacks on the Gaza Strip. Designed for use in “densely populated urban warfare,” these bombs contain 26,000 controlled fragments for “high kill probability.” Elbit says that these 500-pound bombs are as powerful as U.S.-made 2,000-pound MK-84 bombs. They can be converted into guided bombs using kits such as the Boeing (see above) Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM).

Elbit Systems’ killer Hermes 450 and 900 drones have been used extensively in attacks on and surveillance missions in Gaza, the occupied West Bank, and Lebanon.

Elbit’s Head-Mounted Display helmet technology is integrated into the Israeli Air Force’s fighter jets and helicopters as well as the military’s Merkava 5 (Barak) battle tank. The company is also a subcontractor of Lockheed Martin; it integrates its helmet technology into F-35 fighter jets worldwide.

It also supplies the Israeli military with 155mm artillery shells and many other weapons systems and technologies.
Elbit Systems spearheaded the technological aspects of the “smart” border wall surrounding the Gaza Strip, which failed on Oct. 7. It is also a prime contractor for the militarization of the U.S.– Mexico border.

On Oct. 13, the Israeli military fired 120mm tank rounds at journalists in south Lebanon, killing Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and injuring six others in what could amount to a war crime. The munitions used were most likely M339 rounds made by Elbit Systems, according to Amnesty International.

Image: CANSEC floorplan.

Chilean government bars Elbit from arms show

What are possible implications were the Canadian government to take the motion passed last night seriously? For that we look to Chile.

The Chilean government recently barred Israeli weapons companies from the upcoming International Air and Space Fair (FIDAE). This prohibition includes Elbit Systems, the largest Israeli military manufacturer that produces 85% of its land-based equipment and 85% of the drones used by the Israeli Air Force.

The announcement notes: “By decision of the Government of Chile, the 2024 version of the International Air and Space Fair (FIDAE), to be held between 9 and 14 April, will not have the participation of Israeli companies.”

We will continue to follow this.

World Beyond War tweets on the vote.

For more about the organizing to challenge CANSEC this year, please see this World Beyond War Canada webpage.

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