Watching Chilean President Sebastián Pinera brutally cracking down on protestors in the capital Santiago, I begin to recollect reflections of Israeli activists and author Jeff Halper. In his 2015 book, “War Against the People”, the former director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, suggested that people across the world exercising their democratic right to challenge their governments’ misrule were becoming “Palestinianised” and the rulers were becoming “Israelised”.
Halper’s thesis, which seems more relevant now than ever as restive populations across continents question the policies of their governments, advanced the idea that our planet has entered a stage of “permanent emergency”. According to Halper, the current global capitalist system is in crisis. Millions of people are disillusioned with politics and millions more experience constant violations of their human rights. Growing disaffection has spawned national and “transnational movements of counter-hegemony”, which poses new challenges to the elites and the ruling class.
Others have called what Halper describes in his book, the end of peak political stability. Such a phase would see an increase in conflict between people and governments at a greater rate than traditional wars between different countries. In a scenario such as this, Halper suggests that Israel, with its “culture of deep militarism” and years of experience suppressing Palestinians, will find itself ideally placed to be able to assist governments to “secure insecurity”. Pacifying hostile populations for over seven decades has made Israel invaluable to tyrants and despots across the world who look to Tel Aviv for the latest technology in domination and control.
This portrait of Israel rarely gets featured in the mainstream media even though it has a history of stabilising brutal regimes and facilitating some of the worst practices of governments against their people. From the Contras in Latin America to the riots in Ferguson North America, there exist numerous instances where Israel and Israeli security companies have led the way in the pacification of the people through the export of arms, surveillance technology, intelligence, and security advice.
In Chile, where President Pinera has reacted with the kind of ferocity that has evoked memories of the country’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet, the army has been ordered on to the streets to clamp a curfew on Santiago following protest which began on Sunday in anger over rising living costs. The state of emergency aimed at restoring order further inflamed public sentiment, which remains scarred by the experience of the former dictator. In scenes not seen in Chile since the Pinochet dictatorship, which lasted from 1973 to 1990, televised images showed armoured vehicles patrolling the streets of Santiago. Pinera justified his decision to call on the army by describing the student-led protest as a “war against a powerful and implacable enemy.”
Such a response to what by any account is a genuine outpour of anger at austerity measures, including an exorbitant rise in the price of train tickets by the billionaire Pinera, has raised questions over close security ties between Israel and Chile. Last year the Chilean Armed Forces website revealed that the governments of Chile and Israel signed an agreement for cooperation in military education, training, and doctrine during an official visit to the country by Israeli Major General Yaacov Barak. The agreement prompted some to ask if Israel is continuing its decades-long strategy of exporting its military violence to Latin America.
The agreement with Israel was signed within the first few weeks of Pinera’s presidency, which had mapped out the kind of vision and neoliberal policies targeting Chilean society that led to the eruption of protests on Sunday. One commentator observed that while the alliance between Israel and Chile benefited the military power of both countries, those who are adversely affected were the working class and indigenous people of both regions. In Israel, Palestinians suffered under a system of occupation and apartheid, and in Chile, the working class and indigenous groups, such as the Mapuche, continue to experiences centuries of colonial-based oppression.
Multiple reports of civilians being shot also raised fears that the Chilean army had been skilled in some of the more inhumane tactics of crowd control from the Israelis and were using it to target their own restive population. One woman is said to have been shot in the thigh and was in critical condition while another protester, a 23-year-old man, was shot in the leg before a military vehicle crushed him to death. Such horrific examples of military brutality make it impossible to ignore the daily shooting in Gaza where 60 per cent of Palestinians targeted by Israeli snipers were shot below the lower limbs.
These tactics reflect the “Palestinianisation” of restive populations and the “Israelisation” of governments, who increasingly see the people through the lens of security. Israel, with seven decades of experience in subjugation, is ideally placed to cash in on its vast pool of experience. Jewish Voice for Peace has named this transfer of skills and knowledge as “the deadly exchange”, in a report on the “Dangerous Consequences of American Law Enforcement Trainings in Israel”.
According to the Jewish advocacy group, thousands of law enforcement officials from the acting Deputy Director of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to the current Chief of Police in Washington DC, from San Diego to Chicago to Atlanta, American law enforcement officials have trained in Israel with Israeli police, military and the Shin Bet. Thousands more are said to have participated in security conferences and workshops with the Israeli military, law enforcement and security officials held in the US. All were schooled in Israeli military approaches to intelligence gathering, border security, checkpoints and coordination with the media.
With the expected rise of civil unrest across the world, it’s vitally important to challenge the proliferation and use of techniques in the art of subjugation and control before we indeed are all “Palestinianised”.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.