Israeli Arms Merchants
I am writing in response to the article by Bishara Bahbah, “Israel’s Private Arms Network,” in your January-February 1987 issue. First, as Bahbah himself indicates, there is no Israeli private arms network, because arms exports from Israel are controlled by the government, which also owns most of the arms manufacturers. Most of the individuals involved earn their commissions as middlemen, because of personal contacts in some region, or as convenient covers for official involvement. The only individual in the group who may be considered a real arms dealer, on an international scale, is Shlomo Zablodovitz (and not as spelled by Mr. Bahbah).
There are several glaring errors: Mr. Nimrodi retired as the Israeli military attache in Tehran in 1968. Shlomo Eliyahu has never sold arms to anybody, and heads a financial corporation. Haim Topol has never sold arms to anybody either. Haim Laskov, who was Israel Defense Forces chief of staff in the late 1950s, was a state employee until his death a few years ago, and never engaged in any private business, least of all arms sales. On becoming defense minister in 1981, Ariel Sharon tried to reduce the commissions paid by the Defense Ministry to Israeli representatives of foreign arms manufacturers, and not anybody else. He failed.
These errors should be corrected, in keeping with the high standards of your publication.
New York City
Bishara Bahbah responds:
I stand by what I have written; the article was carefully researched and the information is based on a number of sources.
Regarding Israeli military contractors (Sheila Ryan, “US Military Contractors in Israel,” #144), the amazing thing is not only the gap between the arms industry and the civilian economy but the fact that the same outfit which is producing some of the most sophisticated ordnance is also producing the worst junk for the local market.
While working for one of the outfits you mention from 1970-1981 Tadiran was raked over the coals on the Israeli TV show Kolbotek several times for their lousy lightbulbs and flashlight batteries — and with good reason. I remember I damn near had a heart attack once when one of their light bulbs in my floor lamp next to my easy chair produced a pretty good “son et lumiere” when the bulb separated from its brass thread, throwing off sparks and bits of wire into my lap. Back to Philips! They sure knew their priorities!