So there’s a story that has been going around for a few days now about Elbit Systems and their deal to build “Trump’s Border Wall” along the border between the US and Mexico. Now of course this Wall became a rallying cry during the Trump campaign. This Wall is loved by at least 63 million American adults. We now hear how this wall will be a technological marvel of the ages. Trump cannot get enough of praising the Wall. His Wall.
Who is Elbit?
Elbit Systems started life in 1966 as a division of Elron Electronics, a company tied to the Israeli Ministry of Defense. In 1996, Elbit was spun off in its own NASDAQ IPO. Elbit Systems became the military and defense electronics arm of the firm.
In 2000, Elbit merged with El-Op, owned by former IDF Special Forces member Michael Federmann, formerly part of Ehud Barak’s old squad, if an un-cited Wikipedia entry is to be believed. But what is known is that Mr. Federmann took over full control of Elbit Systems.
Over the next few years, Federmann was very aggressive in his acquisitions, bringing in many different communications, satellite, and defense industry contractors under its umbrella.
The bulk of Elbit’s largest contracts are for UAV, or drones, that it sells to the RAF. While drones are great for aerial reconnaissance, they have also been used to kill with indiscriminate efficiency. In fact, the Hermes models were so successful in Afghanistan and Iraq that Federmann was awarded an MBE by the Queen in June 2014.
This year at the Paris Air Show, Elbit introduced its new “loitering munition’ UAV called a “suicide drone” or “kamikaze drone.” Ever more efficient and designed strictly to kill, Elbit has proven again how good they are at military tech.
Mexico Border Wall
“President Trump knows that I’m looking at every variation on the theme—the wall makes sense here, high-tech fencing makes sense over here—I have no doubt he’ll tell me to go and do it,” Kelly said when he was testifying before the Senate Committee to be considered for DHS Secretary.
Lately the President has been touted the technological prowess of the planned wall, an obvious reference to the work that Elbit is doing on the wall.
That’s right, Elbit System has been contracted to help build the wall, adding surveillance systems to the border controls. So despite all assurances made by the Trump campaign that US companies and labor would get more contracts, major portions of the wall-building scheme have gone, and continue to go, to a foreign corporation. Of course, there are many arms of Elbit right here in the USA:
EFW in Ft. Worth manufactures various components for the F-16, V-22, and Bradley Fighting Vehicle, among other programs. Kollsman in New Hampshire is contracted for border wall security systems in partnership with Boeing, L3, Unisys, and Perot Systems (Ross Perot’s old company). Elbit also holds several other US companies under its auspices.
But at the end of the day, Elbit Systems is an Israeli company with a Board filled with Israeli citizens.
So Trump lied, right?
The astute reader has by now seen the flaw in any logic blaming Trump for employing foreign companies to secure American border.
The earliest contract I have found for the wall goes back to 2006 and the Smart Border Initiative (SBI, an obvious play on the old “SDI, Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars”). This is when Elbit joined the above mentioned deal. So that arrangement was made as part of the nascent Department of Homeland Security budget which of course started under the Bush/Cheney administration.
In 2014, under President Obama, Elbit again got a big contract to help build a border wall, this time near Nogales, AZ.
John McCain said: “Arizonans have been waiting more than a decade for the Department of Homeland Security to place the needed technology along our border to support the Border Patrol and fully secure our southern border.
“After many months of delay, the awarding of this contract to Elbit Systems is an important development toward fully securing the border in Arizona. These Integrated Fixed Towers in southern Arizona will give our agents the ability to detect, evaluate and respond to all illegal entries crossing our border.”
In October 2012, Roei Elkabetz, a brigadier general for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was in El Paso describing Israel’s borders with Gaza to DHS officials and other border control types. “We have learned lots from Gaza,” he told the audience. “It’s a great laboratory.”
As new contracts continue to come in for Elbit Systems and the border wall, one has to ask why Trump has allowed all this? Wasn’t the promise to bring work to American companies? I know many will say, “But the jobs!” I hope many Americans are employed, but I suspect that number is lower than many would think. Engineering departments, I know by experience, tend to be ethnically diverse and filled with many non-US citizens, a very wise business decision in most cases.
The real tax revenues would come from the companies themselves though, and using foreign companies has to limit the taxable income severely. I am not a tax professional, nor expert, nor very well versed in taxation law in general, but history has shown us that corporations, especially multi-national corporations, will do anything in their power to shift profits in order to prevent taxation.
In short, Trump may be said to be pro-Israel to a fault, but if true, he isn’t the only one. Recently the US Congress has proposed a bill (S. 720 – Israel Anti-Boycott Act)to limit the right of corporations and organizations (and maybe US citizens, but that point is still up for debate) to support the calls for boycotting, divesting from, or sanctioning Israeli companies that support or fund killing of civilians (like Elbit Systems!). This is the movement known as BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction).
Congress has now also offered up a bill to cut off funding to Palestine (H.R.1164 – Taylor Force Act), another VERY pro-Israel move. Again I say, we cannot allow this entire issue to be dumped on the current President. While he is definitely a valid target for criticism on what can be perceived as an IDF takeover of the US southern border, we must bear in mind that there are MANY who are even more responsible, and they come from both major political parties as well as think tanks on “both sides” of the political spectrum.
The other question is, are Americans ready to fully militarize our borders? Do we want borders like the one with Gaza, where death is commonplace on both sides? Do we want a wall like the one in Berlin? Will it come to be seen as a symbol of oppression as that wall did?
It begs the questions, who are we defending, and who is defending us?
This story will be updated as I learn more.
As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy. – Christopher Dawson
Israeli technology to keep US borders safe (now deleted article)
Why Is an Israeli Defense Contractor Building a ‘Virtual Wall’ in the Arizona Desert? (orig from TomDispatch)