With Israel escalating its war on Gaza, the Harper government offers Prime Minister Netanyahu much more than trite clichés about solidarity and its unconditional moral support. While Canada’s current Prime Minister constantly repeats, at home and abroad, the mantra that support for Israel has nothing to do with political or economic expediency, the growing arms trade taking place between the two countries as well as the increased integration between their security and intelligence apparatuses would suggest another rather less noble motive, big profits.
The Harper government has not only aided the Israeli bombing campaign and invasion by condoning the killing of Palestinian civilians as being the result of collateral damage in “Israel’s right to self-defence”, it has also facilitated the export of military technology and weapons systems by any number of Canadian companies (including many based right here in my hometown of Montreal) that have contributed to Israel’s undeniable and overwhelming military advantage in Gaza.
Having achieved a security cooperation agreement and the expansion of the original free trade treaty with the Israelis, Harper set about selling Canada’s latest high tech weaponry to Israel on his historic trip there earlier this year. The 200 person delegation that followed Harper included representatives of Canada’s arms sector which is closely associated with the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries which is the biggest lobby for the Canadian military industrial complex (more on the CDA and their merchants of death later). At the same time, Canada is among the top buyers of Israeli military technology according to some reports, making the trade between the two countries, very much the proverbial two way street.
Some of Canada’s most lucrative exports to Israel include such goodies as engines (designed by Pratt & Whitney’s office in Montreal) for Israeli Cobra attack helicopters. Helicopters designed and manufactured by Montreal’s aeronautics giant Bell Helicopter. CAE, a multinational corporation with a major operation in Montreal that specialises in R & D for drone related technology will be providing flight simulators for the Israeli air force.
The arms trade is big business in Canada, and business is booming. One theory about the need to expand foreign markets for Canadian weapons and military technology is that with Canada finally wrapping up its military adventure in Afghanistan last year, the defence ministry and the industry that supported that interminable war have surplus stuff to sell to other countries as well as a greater desire to find new sources of revenue.
In fact, the CDA institute has decried the recent budget of the Harper government for its substantial austerity on military spending claiming that this situation will leave Canada’s defence with “reduced military options, available to the Canadian government, both today and tomorrow.”
But never fear. The arms business will continue to thrive as long as there are wars to fight. And besides, Harper hasn’t exactly turned his back on his corporate friends. On the contrary, according to an internal DND memo, government bureaucrats and policy makers were encouraged to schmooze with arms industry types at their annual weapons showcase (CANSEC), held in Ottawa in May, in a government initiative aimed at increasing contact between the two sides.
And though the Harper government pays lip service to the importance of having dealings with only those countries that meet Canada’s stringent human rights standards, they’re not above doing business with the odd repressive regime. For example, last February, Canadian diplomats negotiated a 10 billion dollar deal with Saudi Arabia on behalf of General Dynamic that will see the multinational build military vehicles for one of the world’s last surviving absolute monarchies.
So the next time you hear the government touting one of its many “ethical” free trade deals with a trusted global partner like Saudi Arabia, remember how much of these deals are simply about creating vital commercial links in the global arms trade that is putting weapons and technology into the same hands that kill women, children and peaceful protesters the world over.
Photo courtesy of Jafria News.
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