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Israel: Arming and Supporting Fascism Around the World since 1948

Cheerfully acting as the cat's paw for Washington's dirty business

by Thomas Fazi
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Israel: arming and supporting fascism around the world since 1948

For decades, Israel has supported many of the world's most brutal dictatorships, contributing to the repression and suppression of democracy and popular movements across the globe

Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla, one of the most important members of Argentina's military juntas which imposed a brutal US-supported anti-communist dictatorship during which an estimated 30,000 people of more were "extra-judicially" killed or "disappeared". The reign of terror of these juntas extended for almost a decade, coming to an end only as a result of the Falkland Islands military defeat.

Most people know that Israel is one of the world’s top weapons producers and exporters, selling weapons to about 130 countries and controlling around 2.5% of the global export of major arms as of 2022 — an impressive feat for such a tiny country.

Yet, as a hyper-militarised society in a state of more or less permanent warfare, it’s not surprising that Israel has emerged as a global leader in cutting-edge military technology. For decades, the Israeli techno-military complex has used the conflict and occupation as testing grounds for new weapons, surveillance technologies and tools of repression that it then exports around the world — and the current war in Gaza is no different. As I wrote in a recent article:

For most of us, being hounded by robot dogs or chased by killer drones is the stuff of nightmares — or dystopian sci-fi films à la Black Mirror. For Gazans, it’s an everyday reality. Over the past five months, the Palestinian enclave hasn’t just been the site of one of the deadliest and most destructive bombing campaigns in history; it has also been a testing ground, a live laboratory, for the next generation of Israeli and Western high-tech weapons and technology — and a window into the disturbing reality of 21st-century warfare.

As the journalist Anthony Loewenstein writes in the award-winning bookThe Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World: “Palestine is Israel’s workshop, where an occupied nation on its doorstep provides millions of subjugated people as a laboratory for the most precise and successful methods of domination. … Israel has developed a world-class weapons industry with equipment conveniently tested on occupied Palestinians, then marketed as ‘battle-tested’”.

The Global South has been controlled and pacified with (principally) Israeli and US weapons. … Israel has worked closely with Washington for decades, often operating in places where the US preferred covert support rather than public backing.

This is particularly evident in region that the US has long considered its backyard, Latin America, home to some of the most savage dictatorships of the Cold War era — virtually all of which were politically and militarily supported by Israel, including at least one government that openly targeted and persecuted Jews.

(All following quotes are from Loewenstein’s book unless otherwise specified).

The Duvalier regime in Haiti

One early example was the Duvalier dynasty in Haiti, a brutally repressive hereditary dictatorship that lasted almost three decades, from 1957 until 1986, spanning the rule of the father-and-son duo François and Jean-Claude Duvalier. The Duvalier regime — which murdered and exiled numerous political opponents, and is estimated to have killed between 30,000 and 60,000 Haitians — received Israel’s Uzi machine guns, armoured vehicles and devices for placing weapons systems on aircraft.

The dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay

In the aftermath of the 1967 war, Israel hatched a deal with Paraguay, then a dictatorship that provided a home to Nazi war criminals, including Dr. Josef Mengele, the so-called “Angel of Death” who experimented on and butchered hundreds of Jews in Auschwitz. 

The proposed deal involved paying sixty thousand Palestinians in Gaza, around 10 percent of its entire population, to move to Paraguay with citizenship assured within five years. A leaked Israeli cabinet document included Mossad chief Zvi Zamir claiming that Paraguay was open to taking “60,000 Muslim Arabs who are not communists, according to their definition”. The plan never materialized and only thirty Palestinians in total emigrated.

There was a reported connection between the botched plan and Israel’s decision in 1969 to stop searching for Nazis in South America, a devil’s pact suggesting that the highest levels of the Israeli government preferred expelling Palestinians to finding killers of Jews.

The Pinochet regime in Chile

Last September marked marks the 50th anniversary of the bloody coup that ousted Salvador Allende, the democratically elected socialist president of Chile, and ushered in a brutal military regime that came to be known for torture, murder, and international terrorism — as well as for imposing a radical free-market economic model. At least 5,000 people were killed and more than 30,000 tortured during Pinochet’s reign of terror between 1973 and 1990.

The US’s role in the overthrow of Allende, and its support for Pinochet’s regime, is well known. Israel’s role, on the other hand, is lesser known — but just as important.

Israel did not just train Chilean personnel to aid the repression of its own people. After a US arms embargo against Chile passed the US Congress in 1976, a cable from the US Embassy in Chile on April 24, 1980, acknowledged that Israel was a major arms supplier to Pinochet [including missiles, tanks, and aircraft].

Another US cable, on April 10, 1984, quoted the American undersecretary of state as saying that Israel was still one of the main weapons suppliers to the regime. This steady stream of defense equipment undercut any potential benefits of the US arms embargo because Israel was not part of the deal.

The “Nazi” military junta of Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina

Jorge R Videla Argentina's Pinochet

Jorge R Videla Argentina's Pinochet. The former dictator refused to apologise for the thousands of murders and mass kidnapping of children.

From 1976 to 1983 Argentina was governed by a military dictatorship led by Jorge Rafael Videla that committed horrendous human rights crimes, including torture, extrajudicial executions and the imprisonment of thousands without trial. The hallmark of political repression in Argentina, however, was the practice of enforced disappearance, in which military task forces in unmarked cars snatched defenseless men and women (sometimes with their children) from their homes or places of work, took them to clandestine camps, tortured them mercilessly, murdered them, and disposed secretly of their bodies. Around 30,000 people are estimated to have been murdered or “disappeared” by the military regime. (Many more were detained and torture in the regime's network of secret prisons.—Ed)


The Argentine junta was somewhat unique in the Latin American landscape in that it specifically targeted Jews. Blatant anti-Semitism was ubiquitous across Argentina, special torture techniques were reserved for Jewish women, and Argentinian concentration camps were filled with pictures of Hitler and Nazi emblems. Accordingto human rights organisations in Argentina, between 1,900 and 3,000 Jews were among the tens of thousands who were targeted by the junta — a disproportionate number, as Jews comprised between 5–12% of those targeted but only 1% of the population. An Israeli academic and independent journalist, John Brown, uncovered documents about how the government was “killing lots of Jews, basically a Nazi regime”. Israel knew about this but “declassified documents show that [it] did not seem to care”, according to Loewenstein:

Israel knew about the repression from the beginning, but did not express any opposition because it viewed its agenda of getting Argentinian support for its West Bank occupation as more important.

The genocidal Guatemalan military regime

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Israel and the US provided military, diplomatic and ideological cover for several military governments in Guatemala that were responsible for widespread human rights violations — and for committing genocide against the indigenous Maya population. According to Wikipedia:

The Guatemalan genocide, also referred to as the Maya genocide, or the Silent Holocaust, was the massacre of Maya civilians during the Guatemalan Civil War (1960–1996) by successive US-backed Guatemalan military governments. Massacres, forced disappearances, torture and summary executions of guerrillas and especially civilians at the hands of security forces had been widespread since 1965, and was a longstanding policy of the military regime, which US officials were aware of. A report from 1984 discussed “the murder of thousands by a military government that maintains its authority by terror”. Human Rights Watch has described “extraordinarily cruel” actions by the armed forces, mostly against unarmed civilians.

An estimated 200,000 Guatemalans were killed during the war, including at least 40,000 persons who “disappeared”. 92% of civilian executions were carried out by government forces. The UN-sponsored Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH) documented 42,275 victims of human rights violations and acts of violence from 7,338 testimonies. 83% of the victims were Maya and 17% Ladino.

Loewenstein describes Israel’s technical-material support for this genocidal campaign:

One of the most effective ways that Israel assisted the Guatemalan regime was the installation of a computer listening center by the private Israeli company Tadiran Israel Electronics Industries. It became operational in late 1979 or early 1980 and housed the names of at least 80 percent of the population. The Israeli media reported that the aim was to “follow up the guerrilla movements in the capital”, and there were allegations that the facility was connected to the US Army’s Southern Command at Fort Gulick in the Panama Canal Zone.

Israel’s marriage with Guatemalan tyranny was cemented with the elevation of President Efrain Ríos Montt, who ruled between 1982 and 1983 and committed mass violence against the indigenous Maya population, possibly killing up to 75,000 people. Israel’s involvement was not hidden. The Israeli media reported when Ríos Montt carried out a coup on March 23, 1982 that Israeli military advisors had assisted in the operation. Ríos Montt told an ABC reporter that the coup was a smashing success “because many of our soldiers were trained by the Israelis”. Declassified documents show that Israel hoped that its strong support for Montt might generate support for its occupation of the West Bank and lead him to move Guatemala’s embassy to Jerusalem. Montt was found guilty of genocide in a Guatemalan court in 2013, the first time a former head of state was tried for these crimes in his own country, and was sentenced to eighty years in jail. After years of legal wrangling, a retrial was underway in 2018 when Montt died at age ninety-one.

The most notorious massacre occurred at the small village of Dos Erres on December 6, 1982, where around 300 people were slaughtered. The brutality was shocking. Skulls were smashed with sledgehammers and bodies were thrown down a well. Israel had played its part in the Dos Erres massacre. The 1999 UN Truth Commission, after visiting the area to exhume the bodies, detailed in its forensics report that “all the ballistic evidence recovered corresponded to bullet fragments from firearms and pods of Galil rifles, made in Israel”.

The military regime in El Salvador

Al Jazeera:

In the case of the Salvadoran conflict — a civil war between the right-wing landowning class supported by a particularly violent military pitted against left-wing popular organisations — the Israelis were present from the beginning. Besides arms sales, they helped train ANSESAL, the secret police who were later to form the framework of the infamous death squads that would kill tens of thousands of mostly civilian activists.

From 1975 to 1979, 83% of El Salvador’s military imports came from Israel, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. By 1981, many of those in the civilian popular political movements who had survived the death squads headed for the hills to become guerrillas. By 1981 there was an open civil war in El Salvador which took over a decade to resolve through negotiations.

Even though the US was openly backing the Salvadoran Army by 1981, as late as November 1983 it was asking for more Israeli “practical assistance” there, according to a declassified secret document obtained recently by Al Jazeera. Among the assistance asked for were helicopters, trucks, rifles, ammunition, and combat infantry advisors to work at both the “company and battalion level of the Salvadoran Army”.

One notable Salvadoran officer trained by the Israelis was Major Roberto D’Aubuisson, who always held a high opinion of the Israelis. It was Major D’Aubuisson who ordered the assassination of El Salvador’s archbishop amongst thousands of other murders. Later he would organise the right-wing National Republican Alliance Party (ARENA) and send his son to study abroad in the relative safety of Israel.

The Contras death squads in Nicaragua

The brutal Somoza family ruled Nicaragua from 1936 until 1979, and Israel armed the regime until the very end. When the Sandinistas assumed control in the 1980s, and US President Ronald Reagan unleashed a campaign of terror in Central America in his war against communism, Israel was asked to take a much larger role in the region and join the US in its campaign against the Sandinistas. American Jewish groups, some with ties to the Somoza era, spread falsehoods about supposed anti- Semitism in Nicaragua that led to even greater US and Israeli backing for the brutal Contras. Some of the AK-47 rifles Israel sent to the Contras in the 1980s had been confiscated from the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon (after the Israeli invasion in 1982). … The CIA was given assistance by Israeli intelligence officers when training the Contras, and the militia was trained by private military firms staffed by reserve and retired Israeli army commandos.

With Reagan’s war on communism, and Washington’s partnering with right-wing death squads from Nicaragua to Honduras and El Salvador to Panama, Israel’s role was viewed as indispensable in providing both weapons and on-the-ground experience. The Jewish state’s role in the Intra-Contra affair, when the US and Israel facilitated weapons sales to Iran to fund the Contras in Nicaragua between 1985 and 1987, was another cynical exercise by both states to fund a nation they knew was repressive but viewed as desirable to support in its war with Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The resulting “Iran-Contra affair” formally severed any further co-operation between Israel and Iran, and today Tehran is the Jewish state’s primary enemy in the Middle East.

Colombian death squads

Both Israel and the US trained and armed death squads in Colombia [between the 1980s and the 2000s]. The former drug trafficker Carlos Castaño, who ran a far-right paramilitary force, explains in his ghost-written autobiography, “I learned an infinite amount of things in Israel [in the 1980s], and to that country I owe part of my essence, my human and military achievements. I copied the concept of paramilitary forces from the Israelis.” He reportedly arrived in Israel in 2004 after fleeing his own country.

Insofar we have limited ourselves to Israel’s support for fascist and genocidal regimes in Latin America, but Israel’s reach extended well below the American continent.

Suharto’s “post-genocide” dictatorship in Indonesia

After a massive purge of communists in Muslim-majority Indonesia in 1965 and 1966, leading to the death of at least half a million people, Israel (along with the US, Australia, and most Western powers) was keen to deepen ties with the regime of General Suharto, which took full power in 1967. 

Within a few months of the slaughter, declassified documents show that Mossad knew what had occurred. Nonetheless, Mossad initiated a closer relationship with the dictatorship on a range of commercial projects including beef, corn, oil, and cotton production. It was an entirely secretive relationship, with Israel keen to bolster the Indonesian generals who led the genocide.

The South African apartheid regime

Of all the repressive regimes supported by Israel, none enjoyed a greater ideological kinship to the latter than apartheid South Africa.

[T]here was no better political, military, diplomatic, and ideological alliance between like-minded nations than Israel and apartheid South Africa. The apartheid regime in Pretoria took power in 1948 and soon put in place Nazi-style restrictions on nonwhites, from forbidding marriage between the races to barring blacks from many jobs.

By the time the South African and Israeli governments cemented a political, ideological, and military relationship in the 1970s, often centered on weapons that had been developed and tested by the Israeli military, many in the ruling Israeli Likud party felt an affinity with South Africa’s worldview. 

The mutually beneficial relationship was not just about the ability to make money from the defense sector. It was an ideological affinity about how to treat unwanted populations. South Africa’s Bantustans, areas where black residents lived without autonomy, inspired many in the Israeli elite as a viable model for Palestine. This was the desire to isolate “undesirable” Palestinians in noncontiguous enclaves, Bantustans cut off from the rest of the country — in other words, like today’s West Bank, where 165 Palestinians “enclaves” are strangulated by Israeli colonies, the IDF, and violent settlers. 

Near the end of South Africa’s apartheid regime and the first democratic election in 1994, Israel was one of the last nations to maintain a relationship with the white minority regime. The Israeli defense establishment had long become entranced by its own propaganda and believed that apartheid would last forever. Nelson Mandela took notice. In a 1993 speech to the delegates of the Socialist International, Mandela said, “The people of South Africa will never forget the support of the state of Israel to the apartheid regime”.

The genocidal Hutu regime in Rwanda

Over the course of just a few months, in 1994, the Hutu regime went on a genocidal rampage against the Tutsi ethnic minority, murdering between 500,000 and 800,000 people. The Israeli government had been selling weapons — including Uzi submachine guns and hand grenades — to the Hutu government before the genocide, and continued doing so after the genocide had started.

The world knew what was happening in Rwanda, both in the run-up to the genocide and during it, and yet did nothing. No amount of modern technology or heightened surveillance tools was going to stop it when Western powers armed the perpetrators. Israel had the choice at the very least to try to contain the massacres by using its vast surveillance powers to inform the Tutsis, but instead it threw a massive amount of fuel on the bonfire and thus became directly implicated in the slaughter.

Myanmar regime

In 2018, the United Nations accused the military government of Myanmar ofcommitting genocide, from late 2016 onwards, against the Muslim Rohingya minority, finding evidence of of wide-scale human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, summary executions, gang rapes, arson of Rohingya villages, businesses, and schools, and even infanticides. Nonetheless, throughout this entire period, Israel continued supplying the military government with weapons — and indeed continued to do so until 2022, in violation of the 2017 international arms embargo against the country.


That’s all for today. I don’t know about you but personally I found Loewenstein’s “hidden history” of Israeli foreign policy both enraging and enlightening. I knew about some of these cases, but had never realised that they were part of an organic project on Israel’s behalf. Clearly many of these alliances were about more than just money; they were about furthering the Western US-led project of global domination. In this sense, Israel over the past 70 years has been more than just an outpost of Western imperialism in the Middle East, as is often claimed; it has been a globe-spanning agent of Western imperialism.

Thanks for reading. Putting out high-quality journalism requires constant research, most of which goes unpaid, so if you appreciate my writing please consider upgrading to a paid subscriptionif you haven’t already. Aside from a fuzzy feeling inside of you, you’ll get access to exclusive articles and commentary such as this one.

MAR 19, 2024

Website: thomasfazi.net
Twitter: @battleforeurope 
Latest book: The Covid Consensus: The Global Assault on Democracy and the Poor—A Critique from the Left (co-authored with Toby Green)

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