JERUSALEM — Unemployment and inflation are skyrocketing in Israel, but fear and paranoia are also soaring, and so business is booming for gun dealers and security companies. Israeli society is becoming so militarized that hosts of weddings and bar mitzvahs sometimes can’t attract guests unless they reveal the number of armed guards that will be on hand and even what firm they’re from.
US economic relations with the Arab states have entered a new phase in the last two years, one that reproduces many of the features that characterized the end of the Carter administration. US exports to the region rose by about 13 percent from 1986 to 1987 with shipments to Iraq, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates accounting for most of the increase. But this was more than offset as US imports from the region jumped some 35 percent, largely due to greater imports of crude petroleum. As a result, by the end of 1987 the US trade deficit, which had stood at $179 million the previous year, totalled more than $2.1 billion. Only a doubling in the value of American military sales to the region prevented this figure from ending up even higher.
President Reagan came to office with a bold commitment to roll back Soviet gains in the Third World without risking the trauma or cost of another Vietnam-style intervention. The “Reagan Doctrine,” as his policy came to be known, ironically took its cue from Soviet support in the 1970s for leftist insurgencies in Africa and Central America. But the beneficiaries of the Reagan Doctrine were anti-communist resistance and counterrevolutionary insurgencies in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia and Nicaragua.
The House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran and Senate Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition. Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair. (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1987.)
Of the millions of Americans who watched some or all of the televised hearings on the Iran-Contra scandal during the summer of 1987, only a handful will slog through the 690 pages of fine print that make up the final report of the congressional investigating committees. That’s a shame, because the report succeeds in many areas where the hearings failed dismally.
To what extent can agreements on nuclear disarmament between the superpowers contribute to the reduction of tensions in regional conflicts, particularly in the Middle East?
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).
George Black with Milton Jamail and Norma Stoltz Chincilla, Garrison Guatemala (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984).
A Chicana from California on a recent political study trip to Guatemala elicited a special tour from guards at Guatemala’s seat of government, the National Palace, by putting on a convincing “I’m just a curious tourist” act. Inside an assembly hall she was startled to find an Israeli flag prominently displayed next to those of Guatemala and the US. Why that Israeli flag should be there is explained in a short section, “The Israeli Connection—Not Just Guns” in this excellent book on Guatemala.