photo: Apartment building in Gaza after bombing by Israeli aircraft. IAI, which services 80% of Amazonâs cargo planes, also provides aircraft, missiles, and other weapons to the Israeli government. Credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS
On September 22nd, Amazon quietlyÂ launched its operations in Israel, offering local delivery from a number of Israeli brands, with aÂ Hebrew-language versionÂ of its Israel platform coming soon. Consumers in Israel now have faster and broader access to the worldâs largest e-commerce marketplace, yet questions remained unanswered about Amazonâs ties with Israeli military, financial, and technology companies involved in the Occupation of Palestine as well asÂ accusations of anti-Palestinian bias against the platform and its founder Jeff Bezos.
Though Amazon Israel was launched barely two weeks ago, Amazonâs business operations with Israel go back much further. As early as 2015,Â Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) began servicingÂ Amazonâs fleet of cargo planes, and now services 80% of Amazonâs aircraft. IAI is a wholly Israeli state owned aerospace and weapons manufacturerÂ which supplies the Israeli armyÂ with aircraft, drones, missiles, armored vehicles,Â spy satellitesÂ and more. Its weapons have been used inÂ assassinations and military invasions of Gaza. In the 1970s, IAIÂ sold weapons to the Shah of Iran, and more recently, a UN report in August this year foundÂ IAI had sold weapons to Myanmarâs militaryÂ after it began its genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority. IAI subsidiary Elta North America was recently commissioned to build a prototype of Donald Trumpâs wall on the US-Mexico border. Amazon alsoÂ works with Israeli technology firm NSLComm, which receives funding from the Israeli government, andÂ builds network satellitesÂ âthat will be used forâŠ military applicationsâ, according to Haaretz.
While Amazonâs ties with IAI and NSLComm are rarely reported in the media, its multi-million dollar contracts with another security firm has attracted widespread condemnation and protest. Amazon makes millions offÂ providing web servers and database storage for Palantir, a private US data analysis firm which aids Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in identifying and deporting migrants.Â A petition this summerÂ for Amazon to cut ties with Palantir and ICE gained over 270,000 signatures. Palantir also provides the Israeli government with so-called âpredictive systemsâ, which analyze social media posts toÂ identify Palestinians deemed a âthreatâ. The result of Palantirâs racially profiled analytics systems is that Palestinians are arrested and face long prison sentences for simply posting photos of family members killed by Israeli forces or in prison, citing Quranic verses, or calling for protests.
In the financial sector, Amazon signed agreements this year withÂ Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi, two major Israeli banking institutions, to provide discounts to Amazon customers using Leumi and Hapoalim bank accounts. A 2018 report by Human Rights Watch found both banksÂ guilty of financing construction and expansionÂ of illegal settlements in the West Bank, while Bank Leumi also fundsÂ academic institutions in illegal settlementsÂ andÂ programs for IDF recruits, even sponsoringÂ gift packages and additional vacation daysÂ for Israeli soldiers during the 2014 invasion of Gaza, in which over 2,200 Palestinians, including more than 550 children, were killed. Pension funds and banks inÂ Norway,Â Denmark,Â the Netherlands, andÂ the UKÂ have divested from Bank Leumi and Hapoalim due to their human rights violations, while Amazon signs new cooperation agreements with them.
Amazonâs dealings with Israeli companies supporting and profiting from the Occupation aside, many more questions remain. The most troubling of these questions surround tÂ how Amazon Israel will deal with realities on the ground in its operations. Will Amazon deliver to customers in illegal settlements? Will Amazon sell products manufactured or grown on Palestinian land seized by armed settlers and considered illegal by the UN and the international community? Will Amazon give Palestinian and Israeli sellers equal access to its platform?
A quick look at Amazonâs policies on its global site,Â amazon.com, give some indication as to how it might run its Israeli site. Last year, AmazonÂ removed a top-selling T-shirtÂ that reads âMake Israel Palestine Againâ, on the grounds that it did not fulfill Amazonâs content policy.Â Amazonâs content policyÂ prohibits the sale of âproducts that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual, or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.â Amazon seems to have no problem, however, with selling âIDFâ merchandise; at the time of writing this article, IDFÂ T shirts,Â dresses,Â Halloween costumes, and evenÂ baby clothesÂ were available on its global site. The occupation army has been accused ofÂ racism,Â sexism,Â religious intolerance, and countless acts of violence, torture, and human rights violations, not only by Palestinians but alsoÂ by Israeli soldiers.
Amazon president, CEO, and largest shareholder Jeff Bezos,Â the richest man in the worldÂ since 2017 (and according to Forbes,Â the richest man in history) has yet to speak publicly about Palestine or Israel; he rarely gives public comments on any political issues. But indications of the Amazon founderâs political stances can be seen in the Washington Post. Jeff Bezos purchased the US paper forÂ $250 million USDÂ and has been itsÂ sole ownerÂ since October 2013.
The Washington Post has published a wide range of articles on Israel and Palestine, and a quick look at their articles and editorials since Bezoâs takeover in October 2013 shows where its editorial staff and leadership stand. It describes the shooting of unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli snipers as âclashesâ, and Netanyahu as a âprudent, even cautious, statesmanâ who âquietly restrained the building of Jewish settlementsâ, even thoughÂ during his last 10 years in officeÂ over 20,000 settlement units were built in the Occupied West Bank. One Washington Post article, titledÂ âPalestinians Kill 3 Israelis as Violence Mounts in âDay of Rageââ, acknowledges only in the 6th paragraph that â28 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis.â Israelis are routinely described as âkilledâ, butÂ Palestinians merely âdieâ. Another article on electricity cuts in Gaza makes sure to inform the readers in the headline that âitâs not all Israelâs faultâ. Last year, the Washington Post ran a full page advertÂ calling New Zealand artist LordeÂ a âbigotâ for canceling a concert in Israel.
Jennifer Rubin, a journalist for the Washington post, onceÂ retweeted an article describing PalestiniansÂ as âdeath-worshiping, innocent-butchering, child-sacrificing savagesâ, âdevils spawnâ, and âunmanned animalsâ who should be thrown âinto the sea, to float there, food for sharksâ. Her writing in the Washington Post declared thatÂ endorsements of the one-state solutionÂ âamount to calls for genocideâ, and called thenâSecretary of State John Kerry âintentionally obtuseââor a liarâfor not denouncingÂ the Palestinian right of return. The Washington Post has rejected calls to remove Rubin for promoting racism and Islamophobia.
Given Amazonâs record of involvement with corporations deeply entrenched in the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, there is a high possibility of Amazon Israel failing to comply with international and human rights law in its Israeli operations. Should it fail to respect international law and engage in operations directly normalizing, supporting, and profiting from violations of Palestinian rights, Amazon may face boycott calls similar to those taken by BDS against companies like HSBC, SodaStream, Airbnb, Caterpillar, and Hewlett Packard. It remains to be seen what kind of corporate values Amazon Israel will deliver.
Originally posted by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).
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Chris Carlson is a student of religion at Mount Mercy University, United States, and has been a regular volunteer with the IMEMC since 2013. He assisted in providing extensive coverage of the 2014 Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip, and continues into the present day, with the issues at hand. He can be reached via email at c h r i s @ i m e m c . o r g.