Yehud, Israel-based Magal Security Systems on 31 May was awarded a contract to provide security for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) football championships. The $35.5 million contract covers a surveillance system developed for and deployed at several Israeli West Bank settlements and is just the latest military and security contract for Israeli firms in the President Teodoro Obiang’s Equatorial Guinean dictatorship. The contract also marks another example of the integration of Israel’s “Pacification Industry” ? the export of the tools and techniques of Palestinian dispossession ? with the securitization of international ‘mega-events’ such as the World Cup and Olympics.
Magal is contracted to provide its Fortis surveillance system to the stadiums and team housing for the 2012 AFCON continental football championship in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. According to WhoProfits.org , the same Fortis system is deployed in the illegal West Bank settlements of: Ariel, Alfei Menashe, Karnei Shomron, Shilo, Giva Binyamin, Tzofim, Shaked and Givat Ze’ev. Further, “the company won 80% of the bids published by the Israeli Ministry of Defense for the installation of intrusion detection systems” along the wall of separation built throughout the West Bank. Magal also “supplied the perimeter intrusion detection system for fences around the Gaza Strip.”
Magal is the second Israeli firm this year to get a contract with the Obiang regime in Equatorial Guinea after Israel Shipyards’ $100 million contract for Saar-4 naval corvettes. Israel has developed a close military relationship with Obiang over the past decade despite over thirty years of his rule having some of the world’s worst human rights and corruption records. Transparency International routinely ranks Obiang’s government as one of the world’s ten most corrupt, and the United Nations working group on mercenaries, Amnesty International, and others have documented crackdowns on press freedom, arbitrary detentions, unfair trials, extrajudicial executions, forced evictions, systemic torture and more. None of this has stopped Israel ? nor France, Russia, USA and Ukraine ? from supplying Obiang’s military and security forces with arms and surveillance equipment. Israeli arms firms such as Aeronautics Defense Systems and Israel Military Industries have won contracts for tens of millions of dollars, often brokered through Yardena Ovadia, an Israeli businesswoman who is also Equatorial Guinea’s honorary consul to Israel.
International ‘mega-events’ have long histories of unjust practices. Over 9,000 homeless persons, primarily ethnic minorities, were arrested during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. 720,000 residents were evicted from their homes in Seoul to make way for the 1988 Olympics. Over 1.25 million people were displaced due to urban redevelopment for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Hundreds of Roma were displaced in Athens prior to the 2004 Olympics. More recently many thousands were evicted in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and elsewhere prior to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Since February of this year demolitions have begun in Rio de Janeiro favelas in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics (though most displacement in Rio will likely be through skyrocketing housing costs during the mega-event real estate bubble). Barring political changes, this trend of evictions and mega-events will continue in Equatorial Guinea. The Obiang regime has evicted many hundreds of families in recent years, especially in the port city of Bata, without providing compensation or alternative housing.
Stifling or hiding esistance to these mass displacements is only one aspect of the securitization of mega-events. The memories of the 1972 Munich Games and the 1996 bombing in Atlanta are combined with US-led “War on Terror” to reinforce the idea that extensive security preparations are necessary for a ‘successful’ event. Israel’s decades of experience in the combating Palestinian resistance ? armed and unarmed ? to dispossession have made it the ‘go-to’ destination for the expertise seen as necessary. Ben Gurion University professor Neve Gordon calls Israel the world’s “homeland security capital.”
In addition to Magal, many other Israeli firms have been involved in securing mega-events. Israeli drones were deployed at the 1996 G7 conference in Paris, 2006 G8 summit in Moscow, 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, and have been procured by the Rio de Janeiro Federal Police to surveil the favelas and secure preparations for the World Cup and Olympic Games. Private security firm International Security and Defense Systems won security contracts for the 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens, and 2008 Beijing Olympics. Controp won surveillance contracts for the 2004 Athens Olympics and Israeli National and Border Police helped to train Athens and Beijing police in “counter-terror” and crowd control prior to their Olympic spectacles. The list goes on and on.
In November 2010 Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Brazil’s Chief of Security in the Defense Ministry Amir Kain signed a security cooperation agreement. The Israeli daily Ma’ariv noted the agreement was signed “mainly in order to secure the 2014 Football World Cup that will be held there, as well as the 2016 Olympics.” Like Magal, the main Israeli arms and security contractors in Brazil ? Elbit Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems ? have expertise based in the occupation, in pacifying Palestinian resistance.
In the case the Beijing Olympics there was a spate of protests by Tibetans, Tibet- solidarity activists, religious Christians, and most prominently, by those displaced for the Games. Evictions ? and protests against evictions ? have already begun in Brazil where the security infrastructure is being progressively more integrated with that of Israel and Obiang’s regime was notorious for forced displacement even prior to preparations for the 2012 AFCON. The crowd control training done for Athens and Beijing was based on Israeli experience supressing Palestinian demonstrations. The surveillance systems to be deployed in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are those that guard land confiscated from Palestinians to build Israeli settlements and the Apartheid Wall. Brazil and Equatorial Guinea are not just importing security training and technology, they are importing Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and dispossession of the Palestinian people. These products of Israel’s Pacification Industry are becoming an inseparable part of mega-events, including AFCON. No matter who wins on the pitch, it is clear that the losers will be Palestinians and the displced and evicted in Equatorial Guinea and Brazil.
Jimmy Johnson is the founder of Neged Neshek ? a project documenting the Israeli arms industry ? and is former International Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He lives in Detroit, Michigan and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org