Suppliers of the Israel Defense Forces Are Doing Profitable Business Throughout the US

Pro-Palestine activists have been working to disrupt arms manufacturers and other companies enabling Israel’s assault on Gaza. Plenty of those suppliers are also raking in profits selling to US law enforcement and private consumers.

Roboteam, a Maryland-based firm that builds combat robots for the IDF, exhibits one of its weapons systems. (Bill O'Leary / Washington Post via Getty Images)

Since the start of the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza, antiwar activists have been disrupting the administrative offices, production facilities, and transportation hubs of various weapons manufacturers feeding the Israeli war machine. Targets have included the international branches of Israeli weapons manufacturers like Elbit and multinational corporations that sell to the Israel Defense Force, such as BAE.

As sprawling as those supply chains may be, working up them yields limited opportunities, and activists are largely bound by geography. But it is also possible for activists to work back down the supply chain — not from suppliers to the IDF, but from those suppliers to their other customers.

“These are indeed a secondary market to the trade in heavy weapons that are used to carpet bomb the Gaza Strip and kill thousands of civilians,” says Omar Barghouti, cofounder of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which advocates nonviolent opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. “But secondary or not, they are important.”

Journalist Sylvain Cypel notes in The State of Israel vs. the Jews that Israel is the eighth-largest exporter of weapons in the world. The United States may be number one, but relative to each country’s respective gross domestic product, Israel sells proportionally four times more weapons than the United States, making the Israeli economy more dependent on those sales worldwide.

Due to few regulatory constraints on the industry by the Israeli government, the operations of weapons manufacturers are also more dispersed geographically. For example, Cypel identifies Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries, and Elbit Systems as three of the most prominent Israeli weapons manufacturers — all of which have US subsidiaries. According to the National Defense Industry Association, Rafael USA is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland; IAI North America in Herndon, Virginia; and Elbit Systems of America in Arlington, Virginia. In turn, there are further subsidiaries and suppliers to Rafael, IAI, and Elbit across the country.

Another manifestation of Israel’s lax regulation of its weapons industry is consumer sales. While some Israeli weapons manufacturers, like Elbit, focus on selling to governments or businesses, others hawk their wares to anyone with disposable income, especially in the United States.

Isayeret is a somewhat dated but nevertheless revealing online guide for Israeli conscripts. It hosts lists of suppliers of weapons to the IDF (e.g., SIG Sauer, which has an office in Exeter, New Hampshire; Glock in Smyrna, Georgia; Colt in Hartford, Connecticut), optics (Trijicon in Wixom, Michigan; Leupold in Beaverton, Oregon), and more (specifics are hidden behind a paywall).

Isayeret also features Israeli weapons manufacturers that market to consumers. Some, like Rockville, Maryland–based Roboteam, which produces the IDF’s robots, and Stearns, Kentucky–based Fibrotex, which provides its camouflage, market their wares publicly but only sell to militaries and law enforcement. Others, like Marom Dolphin, which produces the IDF’s tactical vests and bulletproof plates, ship to consumers in the United States from Israel.

Many such manufacturers have US retailers. Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) manufactures small arms, such as submachine guns, assault rifles, and light machine guns, for the IDF. Its US subsidiary is based in Middletown, Pennsylvania, and has distributors throughout the United States. IWI shares its base with Meprolight, the primary provider of weapon sights for the IDF, and also has dealers around the country.

Agilite provides vests and bulletproof-plate carriers to the IDF. It has a US fulfillment center in Traverse City, Michigan, and dealers across the US. ACS manufactures grenade and ammunition holsters for the IDF; it does not appear to have a US base but does have distributors in Kansas and Florida.

These Israeli weapons manufacturers also have their own suppliers in the United States. For example, Isayeret lists a US company, Crye Precision, as a point of comparison for Israeli competitors, but the Brooklyn-based textile manufacturer provides camouflage material to Agilite — meaning it’s at best one step removed from the IDF.

These companies’ business in the US helps enable the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza as well as the Israeli occupation of Palestine in general. IWI illustrates the point well, as Barghouti explains. In Palestine, IWI weapons are being issued to the IDF for their ground operations in Gaza and to paramilitary settlers in the West Bank to drive Palestinians from their homes. At the same time, the company is profiting from sales of guns to both police and private citizens in the United States.

“All these companies are promoting their gear by highlighting the use of this gear by the Israeli military forces,” says Barghouti, “thereby profiting from their complicity and by testing the weapons on Palestinian civilians, in the West Bank as well as in Gaza.”

“Because those in power are arming, funding and otherwise enabling Israel’s system of oppression, Palestinian civil society has called for a global citizens’ response of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice, and equality,” Bhargouti continues. It seems that supporters of the Palestinian cause around the world are increasingly heeding that call — and the vast presence of Israeli arms manufacturers and their partners across the United States gives allies of Palestine here plenty more opportunities to do so.