Helsinki Times, 20 February 2014 **** Front Page

Finland acquires Israeli military equipment, services for over 50 million euro

By Bruno Jäntti

Finland has sealed a new deal for over 16.2 million euro with an Israeli information technology (IT) company. The Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) will purchase telecommunications networking products and maintenance from an Israeli IT company ECI Telecom (ECI).

ECI HAS been building the telecommunications network of the FDF for more than a decade, creating a situation in which Finland can buy certain equipment and maintenance only from ECI. Hence, ECI was awarded a no-bid contract by Finland .

ECI IS the main telecommunications vendor for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and among the world's leading providers of telecommunications networking solutions.

As is de rigueur for any Israeli company in the business of weapons manufacturing or production of IT for military applications, ECI white paper openly proclaims: “ECI Telecom heads a number of leading companies. ECI Telecom and its associates are in a position to fulfill customer needs at every communications layer. This cooperation has been built through years of collaboration with the IDF.”

In 2009, soon after the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, the IDF expressed its special gratitude to ECI in a ceremony titled Magen Miluim (shield of the reserves).

In the presence of the Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, former head of the Shin Bet Yaakov Perry and the IDF's chief reserve forces officer Brig. Gen. Shuki Ben-Anat, the Israeli army honoured a select few companies that are “exemplary” in their “reservist-friendliness”.

Seeking to counter what appears to be an increase in tension between Israeli reserve soldiers and their employers, the IDF has started an annual tradition of acknowledging those employers which encourage their employees to serve in the IDF.

“These are companies which, through their actions, make it possible for their employees to complete reserve duty and then return to their jobs without any damage to their position or status”, an Israeli army spokeperson's statement formulated.

The Jerusalem Post interviewed one of ECI's reservist employees, Gur Laish. Laish explained that he never felt uncomfortable in any way with ECI when he had to go for reserve duty. “And I've had to go a lot”, Laish emphasised.

Laish elaborated on what is a common occurrence in the Israeli society, but one that might strike non-Israelis as rather atypical, namely the fact that a salient feature of the relationship between employees and employers in Israel has to do with reserve duty considerations. Most Israeli companies have employees who are serving regularly in the reserves.

“If it was during Defensive Shield, the Second Lebanon War or just now in Gaza, I'm a combat reservist, and my unit is drafted anytime there's a full call-up. They've never made me feel like I was burdening them or something was wrong”, Laish told to The Jerusalem Post.

He LAO informed the newspaper that ECI, one of Finland's most important Israeli trading partners in military equipment, started giving bonuses to those employees who serve more than 20 days per year.

ECI was also interviewed on the company's success in the Magen Miluim ceremony. The head of ECI's human resources department, Adi Bildner, stressed that ECI is a patriotic business endeavour: “We believe in professional excellence, but also in taking societal responsibility and setting excellent examples in the community”. Bildner added that “[t]he spirit of volunteering and love of the land are part of our organisational culture, and we're proud of our reserve soldiers and will continue to do whatever we can to support them.”

Soon after the ECI purchase, Finland sealed a much larger deal with Fibrotex Technologies (Fibrotex), another Israeli private company specialising in manufacturing equipment for military purposes.

The ministry of Defence of Finland will acquire what Fibrotex describes as advanced multispectral camouflage systems. The total value of the project could reach over 35 million euro with the first systems to be delivered soon.

Fibrotex, a global industry leader in camouflage, concealment, and deception solutions, is perhaps best known as the IDF's exclusive supply-source choice for camouflage items. As is to be expected, the company's special relationship with the Israeli military is a marketing tool of great value.

Adi Blum, owner and CEO of Fibrotex, underlined that “[w]e take great pride in our company's four decade relationship as [the IDF's] exclusive source for concealment solutions”.

Commenting on yet a new deal with the IDF in 2010, Blum asserted that “we value each new contract award as further proof of our products' performance. With this order, we continue to bolster our global reputation for quality and innovation backed by field proven success.”

For Israeli weapons companies, Finland has become a trusted trading partner.

Blum exulted over the new massive deal with Finland, stating that “[w]e feel great pride to have been awarded this strategic project, with its leading-edge technical requirements. The Finnish Army Material Command has been a valued customer of ours since 2006, and we are delighted with this award and committed to ensuring that this partnership will continue for years to come”.

Made possible by Israel's nearly half-century long occupation of the Palestinian territories, Israel has been able to augment its military-industrial complex, in relative terms, to a magnitude unprecedented in the world. In Israel, the mesh comprised of the state's military apparatus, related government branches and the domestic military industry is a unique entity for it has evolved under unique circumstances.

Annually, the German research institute Bonn International Center for Conversion produces an authoritative study on the state and trajectories of militarisation around the globe. Titled Global Militarisation Index, the study measures the relative importance of a state's military to the society as a whole.

In the global Militarisation Index, the Middle East is ranked as the most militarised region. Israel, however, is consistently ranked as the most militarised country in the entire world. Under these circumstances, Israel has been able to increase its occupation-powered military exports to extraordinary heights.

The year 2010 provides an illustrative example. The GDPs of Finland and Israel are almost identical, that of Finland being slightly bigger. In 2010, the total Finnish arms exports in 2010 were 58 million euro. The same year, Israel exported weaponry and military equipment for 5.5 billion euro.

The Israeli arms exports alone were more than twice the size of the entire military budget of Finland.

By continued new deals that the Ministry of Defence of Finland keeps sealing with Israeli weapons companies, Finland ends up directly profiting the very companies that benefit from both the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories as well as Israel's other war efforts.


Arkisto: Lähi-itä, Robert Fisk, Noam Chomsky. Moshé Machover, Phyllis Bennis



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