Israel's largest weapon company. Makes killer drones, large weapon systems, and ammunition used against civilians. Monitors walls and borders in Palestine and the US-Mexico border.
Elbit Systems Ltd is the largest Israeli weapons company. It is one of the primary suppliers of the Israeli military and a world leader in drone and military surveillance technologies. As of 2017, Elbit is the 28th largest arms-producing company in the world, with $3.38 billion in total revenue, 95 percent of which are from weapon sales. Elbit has manufacturing facilities in the U.S. (see below), Brazil, India, and more. Elbit Imaging (NASDAQ: EMITF) and its subsidiary Elbit Medical Technologies (TASE: EMTC) - which are active in the medical imaging, real estate, and retail industries - do not produce weapons and are not affiliated with Elbit Systems.
Special Relationship with Israel and the US
Elbit Systems has a symbiotic relationship with the Israeli military. The Company’s origin is in a 1966 joint venture of the Israeli Ministry of Defense with high tech company Elron. While the Israeli government sold its 50 percent stake in the company four years later, Elbit and the Israeli security establishment remain inextricably linked. The company routinely hires retired Israeli generals, some immediately upon their discharge from active duty. Elbit prides itself on its intimate knowledge of the Israeli military and its ability to custom design its systems for the military’s needs. In addition, Israel’s military operations have been described as Elbit’s “training grounds,” “field laboratory,” and “sandbox,” where the company’s newest weapons can be tested and improved.
Israel’s early adoption of Elbit’s products provides the company with the ability to label its products as “battle-proven” - a great market advantage. In the last several years, about 20 percent of Elbit’s revenue is generated through sales to the Israeli military, while the other 80 percent comes from exports to countries all around the world. In its own reports, Elbit lists as a risk factor the possibility that Israel “may reduce its expenditures for defense items or change its defense priorities.” The company’s financial stability is therefore predicated on Israel’s ongoing armed conflict.
Beginning in 2005, Elbit grew through a series of mergers and acquisitions of other Israeli weapon and defense companies. Elbit’s subsidiaries include previously independent Israeli military contractors such as Elisra, which develops electronic warfare systems; Tadiran Communications, which specializes in military communication systems; and Soltam Systems, a manufacturer of advanced artillery weapons. In 2015, Elbit bought NICE Systems' Cyber and Intelligence Division and renamed it Cyberbit. In 2018, Elbit bought IMI Systems, formerly the state-owned Israel Military Industries. IMI Systems is a key supplier of munitions and land weapons for the Israeli military, and also exports its products to other militaries, law enforcement agencies, and the U.S. civilian market. The acquisition of IMI Systems makes Elbit the largest Israeli weapon company and a monopoly in the provision of certain weapons to the Israeli military.
Elbit Systems has a strong presence in the U.S., where it is incorporated in Fort Worth, TX as Elbit Systems of America. Major U.S. subsidiaries include EFW in Fort Worth; Kollsman in Merrimack, NH; IEI (formerly International Enterprises Inc) in Talladega, AL; M7 Aerospace in San Antonio; Reliance Gear Corporation in Addison, IL; and Universal Avionics Systems in Tucson. Elbit also has 50–50 joint ventures with U.S. military contractors General Dynamics and United Technologies Corporation. In recent years, the company has attempted to increase its revenue from the non-military civilian market, particularly in the U.S. For details see the Commercial Products section below.
Elbit is the Israeli company with the largest contracts with the U.S. military and other security forces, and it also receives a portion of the U.S. foreign aid to Israel. According to the most recent aid package, by 2028 Israel must spend all U.S. foreign military financing funds with American companies. However, Elbit’s U.S. presence allows Israel to continue buying its products using funds from the Foreign Military Financing program. Because of its U.S. dealings, Elbit spends over $300,000 annually lobbying on U.S. defense and homeland security related bills. The company also contributes to political campaigns, mostly to Republican candidates. After the 2016 presidential elections, Elbit’s top U.S. official volunteered to be on Donald Trump’s transition team and later became part of the Trump administration. In 2018, Elbit Systems’ CEO said the company’s growth can be attributed to increased U.S. spending on ground military systems and homeland security along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Walls and Border Surveillance in Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights
Because of Israel’s extensive experience in building separation and border walls, Elbit Systems has become a world leader in technologies for border monitoring and surveillance, sometimes referred to as “smart” or “virtual” walls. Elbit is a lead contractor for the separation wall in the occupied West Bank, the border in the occupied Golan Heights, and the new underground wall around the blockaded Gaza Strip.
In 2002, Israel began construction of a separation wall, which runs mostly inside the occupied West Bank. That same year, Elbit Systems’ subsidiary Ortek was awarded a $5 million contract to electronically secure 15 miles of the wall around Jerusalem. In 2006, Ortek won a $17 million contract to secure additional segments of the wall. The system comprises a fence equipped with LORROS devices, which integrate day and night-time cameras with a laser rangefinder. The information from all the sensors flows to a command and control center called “The TORCH,” which the company developed specifically for the separation wall.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the construction of the West Bank wall is ”contrary to international law.” In 2009, the Norwegian Government Pension Fund divested from Elbit Systems, citing the company’s involvement in the surveillance of the separation wall as the main incentive. The Fund declared that its investment in Elbit constitutes “an unacceptable risk of complicity in serious violations of fundamental ethical norms.” The Swedish National Pension Fund divested from Elbit the following year, citing the same concerns.
Elbit Systems’ experience in the West Bank enabled it to receive Israeli government tenders for additional border walls. In 2013, Elbit installed its system along the border between Israel and Syria in the occupied Golan Heights in a contract worth more than $60 million. In 2015, Elbit started developing tunnel detection technology to be deployed around the Gaza Strip. In 2017, Israel began building a new wall around Gaza, including a 130-feet-deep underground wall. Elbit is the lead contractor for the “smart” components of this new wall, and received the Israel Defense Award for the development of the system.
Elbit Systems also developed border surveillance systems that work alongside the wall. In 2008, a joint venture of Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries unveiled the Guardium Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) - a semi-autonomous, armed border patrol robot. The Israeli military has deployed the Guardium along the borders around the Gaza Strip and in the occupied Golan Heights. More recently, Elbit developed the Segev UGV - a Ford F-350 truck converted into an armored and armed vehicle which can be driven remotely or operate completely autonomously. The Israeli military began deploying the Segev in 2016.
Beyond systems that monitor the border itself, Elbit Systems was also instrumental in developing the Israeli border control system, which is deployed in military checkpoints in the occupied Palestinian territory. In 2002, Elbit was contracted to design and implement the Rotem System for Israel’s international borders, and was later contracted to add the Reut System for controlling the passage of Palestinians in Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza. The Rotem-Reut System includes methods for identifying people using biometric data and for querying all relevant databases, including those maintained by the Israeli police, prison service, and security services. This information is then used to determine whether to allow, deny, or arrest the person in question. The system was deployed in 2006 and has been operational ever since, with Elbit Systems serving as its main contractor.
Monitoring the US-Mexico Border
Having gained expertise surveilling Israel’s walls and borders, Elbit has been marketing its products as having “field proven” experience of “10+ years securing the world’s most challenging borders.” As a result, the company is seen as a leader in the industry of border surveillance. The company has several contracts to supply the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with border surveillance technology for the U.S.-Mexico border.
Elbit’s involvement in monitoring the U.S.-Mexico border began in 2004, when the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was testing the feasibility of the use of drones on the border. CBP chose Elbit’s Hermes 450 drone because it was determined to be the “best combination of operational and cost effectiveness.” The drone was flown for a few months in the Tucson-Nogales area as part of the Arizona Border Control Initiative, and the test was deemed successful. Since then, CBP has developed a drone fleet for surveilling the border, although not ones manufactured by Elbit.
Two years later, Elbit deepened its involvement in the U.S.-Mexico border through its participation in the SBInet, part of the DHS Secure Border Initiative to create a first-of-its-kind integrated system for monitoring the U.S. land borders with Mexico and Canada. In 2006, DHS chose Boeing as the primary contractor for the system, and Boeing subcontracted Kollsman, a subsidiary of Elbit based in Merrimack, NH, to provide 300 surveillance towers. Officially called Integrated Fixed Towers (IFT), these 80 to 160 foot tall structures are equipped with day/night cameras and a radar that can identify people 7.5 miles away. All the towers then send the data to a remote command and control center system called TORCH, which Elbit had developed initially for Israel’s separation wall in the West Bank.
While DHS cancelled the SBInet program in 2011, it has continued to use Elbit’s surveillance towers. In 2014, CBP contracted Elbit for $145 million to place IFTs along Arizona’s border with Mexico as part of the Arizona Border Surveillance Technology Plan. As of October 2017, Elbit has installed 15 out of the 53 towers planned in Arizona, in the areas of Douglas, Nogales, and Sonoita. In 2017, CBP contracted Elbit to install the same system in Texas. CBP officials were quoted as being “very impressed and very satisfied and highly appreciative of the operational tool they now have.” Elbit Systems has further proposed expanding its services to make use of its experience with underground and fence detection and Unmanned Aerial Systems (drones) in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Forced Displacement of Palestinians
Elbit Systems’ 2018 acquisition of IMI Systems from the Israeli government involves the company in the forced displacement of Bedouin communities in the Naqab (Negev). IMI Systems’ headquarters is located in Ramat HaSharon, a city on Israel's central coastal strip - a densely populated area. SInce the 1980s, it has been known that the IMI Systems’ facility is polluting the soil and groundwater in the facility and the adjacent neighborhoods. As a part of its acquisition of IM Systems, Elbit has agreed to relocate the facility to the Naqab.
The designated location of the new facility, including a large weapon testing site, is in an area populated by five Bedouin villages. The plan will lead to the forced displacement of some 5,000 people. In addition, according to Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations Adalah and Bimkom, the new facility will expose the remaining area residents - Palestinian Bedouins who have Israeli citizenship - to health, safety, and environmental risks, and will also impose severe building and development restrictions on the villages. Adalah and Bimkom filed an objection to the plan on behalf of local residents.
Killer and Surveillance Drones and their Use against Civilians
Elbit Systems is a world leader in military drone technology. Elbit has exported its drones to at least ten countries, including Azerbaijan, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Georgia, Mexico, the Philippines, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, the U.K., and the U.S. and others. For information on what these governments are doing with these drones, see the Exporting Military Technologies section below. Elbit’s flagship drones - of the larger Hermes and smaller Skylark series - comprise the vast majority of Israel’s military drone arsenal. The Israeli military routinely uses them for target acquisition, surveillance, and intelligence gathering. The Hermes drone can be armed with missiles, and Israel has used it extensively in its assassination program. The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights reports that Israeli drone strikes killed at least 1941 people in Gaza alone between 2006 and 2014.
Israel used Elbit’s Hermes 450 drones during its 2006 bombardment of Lebanon, which resulted in the killing of 1,183 people, one third of whom were children. Hermes 450 drones reportedly flew for 15,000 hours during this conflict, in which Israel deliberately targeted roads, bridges, seaports, and other key features of Lebanon’s infrastructure. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), Israel violated international humanitarian law by failing to prevent civilian casualties during its airstrikes on Lebanese infrastructure.
Israel deployed armed Hermes drones in its 2008-2009 assault on Gaza (“Operation Cast Lead”) during which 1,383 Palestinians were killed, of whom 333 were children, and another 5,300 people injured. Drone strikes alone killed 461 Palestinians in 2009. Israeli forces destroyed the homes of over 3,400 Palestinian families and left thousands of civilians homeless and physically impaired. According to the UN Human Rights Council, during this assault Israel deliberately targeted civilian targets and failed to minimize civilian casualties, thereby violating customary international law.
During the 2012 assault on Gaza, “Operation Pillar of Defense,” Israeli drones killed 36 people. In this strike, Israeli forces targeted civilian infrastructure including residential buildings, farmlands, hospitals, and schools. According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Israeli forces failed to respect “the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions, as required by international humanitarian law.”
Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza (“Operation Protective Edge”), was used as a testing ground for Elbit’s Hermes 900 drone, which was still in development stages at the time. During the assault, Israel conducted over 6,000 airstrikes in Gaza, killing 2,251 Palestinians, of whom 1,462 were civilians and 551 were children. According to Al Mezan, 860 of Palestinian fatalities were killed using drone strikes, including 497 civilians and 164 children. According to the UN Human Rights Council, Israel may have committed war crimes on numerous occasions because of its apparent disregard for the preservation of civilian life.
In addition to using Elbit’s drones as weapons, Israel routinely uses the Hermes and Skylark drones for surveillance of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Notably, the Israeli Army publicly admitted using the Skylark in “Operation Brother’s Keeper” in 2014. The drones facilitated daily night raids throughout the West Bank over eleven days which resulted in the arrest of about 350 Palestinians.
In 2016, Elbit Systems entered the multirotor drones market by buying a 19 percent stake in Israeli company Flying Productions Ltd. As a result, Elbit won a 2017 tender to develop a new small drone according to specifications of the Israeli military, for the use of its ground, naval, and air troops. In 2018, Elbit Systems competed for another large tender to develop smaller drones to replace the drones the Israeli military bought from Chinese company DJI. These were used to suppress the 2018 Great March of Return mass demonstrations in Gaza by dropping tear gas on protesters.
Other than aerial drones, Elbit is also a pioneer in developing Unmanned Ground Vehicles (“ground drones”), which are described in the Walls and Border Surveillance section above.
Military Aircraft and Munitions Used against Civilians
Elbit Systems produces munitions and integral components for all Israeli attack aircraft, including Lockheed Martin’s F-16 and F-35 fighter jets, Boeing’s F-15 fighter jets and Apache helicopters, and Bell’s Cobra attack helicopters.
IMI Systems, now a subsidiary of Elbit, is one of the leading Israeli producers of munitions. Among its developments are the Delilah cruise missile, the MSOV air-to-ground cluster bomb, and the 500lb MPR-500 bomb, an advanced warhead compatible with Boeing’s JDAM guiding system. The MPR-500 is described by the company as a “super-smart” bomb that minimizes collateral damage. It was used operationally for the first time during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza (“Operation Protective Edge”) and killed at least 28 civilians, including 18 children. Israel reported the bomb had a “100 percent success rate” during the assault. Following the assault, IMI Systems started working on larger bombs, MPR-1000 and MPR-2000, and signed an agreement with Orbital ATK, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, to produce MPR-500 bombs for the U.S. Elbit Systems is also the sole supplier of bomb fuzes to the Israeli Air Force.
Beyond munitions, Elbit is a world leader in the development of military aircraft display systems, including Head-Up Displays, which project information onto the pilot’s natural field of vision, and Helmet-Mounted Displays, which project the information inside the pilot’s helmet. The latter allow fighter pilots to fire the aircraft weapons by pointing their head at a target. Elbit’s display systems are integrated into all Israeli military aircraft and are one of the company’s chief exports. Elbit formed a joint venture with Rockwell Collins (now part of United Technologies Corporation) to develop the Helmet Mounted Display System for the F-35 fighter jet.
Other Elbit products installed in Israeli military aircraft include mission management systems, which acquire targets and control the aircraft weapons, missile guidance systems, electronic warfare systems, intelligence gathering systems, external fuel tanks, bomb racks, and more, many of which were developed for the specific needs of the Israeli Air Force. The company also has ongoing long term contracts with the Israeli Air Force for repairs and maintenance of its fleet, as well as for upgrading some of its older aircraft. In addition, Elbit designed and operates training centers with flight simulators inside Israeli Air Force bases.
Israeli F-16 fighter jets and Apache and Cobra attack helicopters, all furnished with Elbit equipment, have been used repeatedly in attacks on densely populated civilian areas, resulting in thousands of civilian casualties in Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza. The human rights community, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and United Nations commissions, has ruled these attacks to be human rights violations and at times war crimes.
According to Human Rights Watch, Israeli forces fired on civilians and civilian targets from Apache helicopters on numerous occasions in Israel’s 2006 assault on Lebanon. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) documented the deaths of 1,183 people during the assault and stated that Israel violated international law by failing to prevent unnecessary civilian casualties during its airstrikes.
Israel used Elbit-equipped F-16 fighter jets and Apache and Cobra attack helicopters in its 2008-2009 assault on Gaza (“Operation Cast Lead”) in which 1,383 people were killed, 333 of whom were children. According to the UN’s Fact-Finding Mission to the Gaza Conflict, Israel used F-16s to attack civilian homes and refugee camps in violation of international law. Missiles fired from Apache helicopters targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure on numerous occasions over the course of the assault.
Elbit-equipped F-16 jets and Apache helicopters were involved in war crimes as a part of Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza (“Operation Protective Edge”). According to Al-Mezan, almost half of the civilian fatalities were killed by fighter jets such as the F-16. Defense for Children International reported that just under half of the 550 children that died in the attack were killed by warplanes, and that at least 13 children were killed by Apache helicopters. Amnesty International documented Israel’s extensive use of F-16s in the heavy aerial bombardment of the city of Rafah, concluding this amounted to a war crime.
More recently, F-16 fighter jets were used again to conduct airstrikes in Gaza in 2018, resulting in civilian deaths. In February 2018, bombs launched from F-16s killed two 17-year-old Palestinian teenagers in Rafah. In July 2018, Israeli F-16s and other aircraft launched about 85 missiles at targets in the Gaza Strip, killing two children and injuring 28 people. The attack damaged residential homes and partially damaged or destroyed numerous ambulances and trucks transporting medical supplies.
Controversial/Banned Weapons Production
Elbit manufactures several types of weapons that are considered controversial under the laws of war because of their inability to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants - a core tenet of international humanitarian law. These include weaponized white phosphorus, cluster bombs, and flechette projectiles. Several institutional investors are excluding Elbit Systems because of the production of these munitions.
Cluster bombs target a wide area and many of their submunitions remain unexploded, detonating years later as unsuspecting individuals discover them. They have been banned by more than 115 countries due to their inability to distinguish between civilians and combatants. IMI Systems, now part of Elbit, manufactures 155MM cluster bombs used by Israeli artillery and the MSOV air-to-ground cluster bomb. IMI’s cluster munitions have been exported to multiple governments with bad human rights records, including Azerbaijan and Georgia. During its assault on Lebanon in 2006, Israel fired cluster bombs, many of which manufactured by IMI Systems, containing up to four million submunitions in 962 airstrikes. The UN Mine Action Coordination Center estimated that 30-40 percent of the submunitions failed to explode. Unexploded submunitions killed at least 192 civilians and 29 deminers within two years of the airstrikes. Human Rights Watch concluded that Israel’s “indiscriminate and disproportionate” use of cluster bombs violated international humanitarian law, and that some of the strikes may have constituted war crimes.
In 2017, when the Israeli military was looking to incorporate a new artillery system to its arsenal, it chose Elbit Systems to develop it over the German company KMW, reportedly over concerns that Germany would restrict the use of the new system, not allowing Israel to use it to fire cluster munitions. According to the report, while the KMW weapon was already operational, Israel preferred an undeveloped product by an Israeli company because it wanted “complete independence” in using it, including in ways that may violate international law.
In December 2018, HSBC, the largest bank in Europe and 7th largest in the world, declared it had sold all its holdings in Elbit Systems in response to a campaign by War on Want and the UK Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. The bank later clarified that its decision was prompted by Elbit's acquisition of IMI Systems and was based on the bank's existing policy not to invest in cluster bomb manufacturers. In response, Elbit declared that it will stop manufacturing cluster munitions and that, moving forward, all of the company’s activities relating to munitions “will be conducted in accordance with applicable international conventions or U.S. law.”
White phosphorus is a chemical that can be weaponized into incendiary or smoke munitions. When in contact with the skin, it causes deep burns and can create further harm if inhaled as smoke. International law severely restricts the military use of white phosphorus, and its deployment in populated civilian areas may constitute a war crime. Until 2012, Elbit Systems openly admitted to manufacturing white phosphorus munitions, but it no longer lists it among its products. IMI Systems, now part of Elbit, still produces 76MM white phosphorus naval ammunition that it markets as “combat-proven” by the Israeli Navy. During its 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, Israel fired at least 200 white phosphorus shells into civilian populated areas, resulting in dozens of civilian casualties. However, there is no evidence that the shells were produced by Elbit. A Human Rights Watch investigation only found ammunition remnants that were manufactured by a different company - Thiokol Aerospace, a U.S. company now part of Northrop Grumman.
Since at least 2014, Dutch bank ABN Amro has been excluding Elbit Systems from its investment universe because of the company's production of White Phosphorus weapons.
Ground and Naval Weapons and Munitions Used against Civilians
Beyond Elbit Systems’ contribution to the Israeli military drone and aircraft fleets, as detailed above, Elbit provides essential components for virtually every major weapon platform used by the Israeli military. This includes tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery systems, battleships, and more. With the acquisition of IMI Systems, Elbit has become the Israeli military’s primary supplier of artillery munitions. Many of these were developed in close collaboration with the Israeli military and according to its specifications and needs. All of these weapons have been routinely used by Israel against civilians in violation of international law, as detailed below.
Over the last two decades, Elbit has developed multiple technologies for the Merkava - Israel’s primary battle tank. Elbit’s contributions include the tank’s power unit, turret, and helmet display, which was designed to optimize the tank for urban warfare. Elbit’s subsidiary IMI Systems developed the tank’s 120MM gun. After Israel’s 2012 assault on Gaza, IMI collaborated with the military to develop a new tank shell designed to be “highly effective against enemy targets within buildings, particularly in built-up areas.” The new shell was tested during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza. In addition to the Merkava, Elbit developed multiple components for Israel’s M113 and Namer armored personnel carriers.
These tanks, personnel carriers, and munitions have been playing an integral role in Israel’s attacks on Gaza and in maintaining the blockade. For example, Israel deployed Merkava tanks during its 2012 and 2014 assaults on Gaza. In 2014, at least 81 children were killed by Merkava tanks and artillery. Also in 2014, Israel deployed the Namer armored personnel carrier in Shuja’iya, one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Gaza City, in an attack that killed 65 Palestinians, of whom 35 were women, children, or elderly. On other occasions, Israeli soldiers reported using Merkava tanks to purposefully destroy Palestinian agricultural lands, an act which may constitute a war crime under international criminal law. More recently, in 2018 Israel used Merkava tanks to fire at protesters in Gaza during the Great March of Return.
Elbit supplies electronic warfare equipment for all Israeli Navy ships and patrol boats, which are routinely used in illegal ways against civilians. The Navy’s Sa’ar missile ships, which have Elbit systems installed in them, have been in charge of enforcing the illegal naval blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007. They use force to restrict Gaza fishermen to an area no wider than 3-6 miles off the coast, severely limiting their access to fishing. Even when within the area formally designated by Israel for Gaza fishermen, the fishermen risk being attacked by Israeli naval vessels, which have killed and injured fishermen and damaged or confiscated their boats. A Sa’ar ship also participated in the Israeli attack on the unarmed Free Gaza Flotilla in 2010, in international waters, resulting in the killing of ten humanitarian activists. In November 2017, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda reaffirmed that “there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed by some members of the Israel Defence Forces” during the attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla in 2010.
Small Caliber Ammunition and Less-Than-Lethal Weapons Used against Civilians
IMI Systems, now an Elbit Systems subsidiary, is the exclusive supplier of small caliber ammunition to the Israeli military, police, and other security forces. IMI supplies the Israeli military with 5.56mm caliber bullets for its Tavor and M16 service assault rifles as well as bullets for multiple types of sniper rifles. IMI bullets were used extensively in Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza (“Operation Protective Edge”), so much so that the factory that manufactures them had its employees working in shifts around the clock to assure a continuous supply of bullets. When it unveiled a new version of its 5.56mm caliber bullets in 2018, the company boasted that the Israeli military is “widely recognized as a leading laboratory for the testing of infantry assault rifle weapon systems and ammunition.”
IMI ammunition was also used in 2018 to suppress the Great March of Return mass demonstrations in Gaza. Over the course of these demonstrations, Israeli forces killed 101 people, including 13 children, and injured 13,900 more, including at least 1,191 children. According to military experts and forensic investigators, the wounds of some of the protestors were caused by IMI 5.56mm Tavor rifle shells. One of the two sniper rifles documented being used by Israeli soldiers during the demonstrations is the SR-25, for which IMI manufactures sniper rounds. According to Human Rights Watch, Israeli soldiers who used lethal force against unarmed protesters violated international human rights law.
IMI Systems also manufactures some of the “less-than-lethal” bullets most commonly used by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank. The company makes the metal-rubber cylinders and launchers for rubber-coated steel bullets, as well as the launchers for polyethylene-coated bullets. IMI also manufactures launcher cups for tear gas grenades. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, the use of these “less-than-lethal” weapons has far more potential for injury and death than their description would suggest. The Israeli military killed 19 Palestinians using rubber-coated bullets between 2000 and 2013, including 12 children, and over 8,000 Palestinians were injured by such less-than-lethal weapons between 2011 and 2014, including 1,500 children.
More recently, Israeli security forces aggressively used multiple forms of “less-than-lethal” weapons to suppress the 2017 West Bank protests over the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Israeli military also used tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets to suppress the Great March of Return demonstrations in Gaza in 2018. Some 427 people were hospitalized due to wounds from rubber bullets.
Exporting Military Technologies to Repressive Governments
Elbit’s most popular export is its drones. Elbit sold Hermes 450 drones to Brazil in 2010 and Hermes 900 drones in 2014. Brazil used them to suppress demonstrations during the 2014 World Cup, and activists accused the company of “exporting Gaza” to Brazil. Elbit’s Hermes 450 and 900 drones have been a part of the Azerbaijan Air Force since 2011. The Azerbaijan military has a history of committing war crimes against civilians as part of its conflict with Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. Elbit sold Hermes 900 drones to Chile, which has used them for surveillance of its indigenous Mapuche population, which it labels “terrorists.” Elbit sold Skylark drones to Honduras in 2018, just a few months after Honduras security forces killed at least twenty-two people in mass protests over corruption in the election process. Other countries with bad human rights records that use Elbit drones include Mexico and Colombia. NATO forces have also used Hermes 450 and Skylark drones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With the 2015 acquisition of the Cyber and Intelligence Division of Nice Systems, Elbit’s subsidiary Cyberbit began marketing its products to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The first documented client of Cyberbit was the Ethiopian government, which used its products to spy on Ethiopian dissidents in other countries. Citizen Lab, an organization that investigates the use of spyware by governments, reported that the cyber attacks were carried out using Cyberbit’s Remote PC Surveillance System (PSS), later renamed PC 360. Human Rights Watch sent a letter of concern to Cyberbit’s CEO, who responded that the company bears no responsibility for how a government uses its products.
In 2017, the military of Myanmar (Burma) bought from Israel four gunboats, equipped with Elbit weapon systems. Two years before the deal, the Burmese military began a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the country’s Rohingya Muslim population. Both the U.S. and the European Union forbid weapon sales to the Burmese regime. While the Israeli government never officially confirmed the sale and rejected any connection to the human rights abuses, an Israeli diplomat excused such arms deals because "both sides in the conflict are committing war crimes." The Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition to stop additional weapon sales to Myanmar (Burma), but the verdict is classified.
IMI Systems, an Elbit subsidiary since 2018, has a long history of exporting its cluster munitions, which are banned by most countries, including artillery and mortar projectiles as well as rockets. As of 2004, IMI Systems had licensing agreements to produce or assemble its M85 cluster bomb in Argentina, Germany, India, Romania, Switzerland, and the U.S. In 2007, Israel sold Georgia IMI Lar-160 rocket launchers with M85 cluster bomb submunitions, which were fired at Russian forces during the 2008 South Ossetian War.
Commercial Products for the Civilian Market
Elbit Systems applies its military expertise to develop and manufacture commercial products for the civilian market. The company plans for its civilian commercial products to generate twenty percent of its revenue by 2020, doubling the proportion from 2015.
Most recently, in 2018, Elbit entered the mobile communications market when it unveiled WideBridge, a secure organizational communication system that facilitates group collaboration. The same year, Elbit bought Universal Avionics Systems Corporation of Tucson, AZ, which produces equipment for private and commercial aircraft. IMI Systems, an Elbit Systems subsidiary as of 2018, sells ammunition to the U.S. civilian market under the brands Samson or IMI, using the slogan “shooting with the best.”
In 2017, Elbit launched its first consumer product in more than twenty years - the Everysight Raptor augmented reality (AR) smart glasses. Elbit developed these glasses based on its head-up display technology, which is described in the Military Aircraft section above. The company markets them as bringing “the fighter jet pilot AR experience to regular consumers.” As of December 2018, the Raptor is designed for cyclists, but Elbit has plans to offer additional applications in the future.
Similarly, Elbit has been using its expertise in drone and aircraft technology to enter the civilian market. In 2014, the company unveiled the Skylens wearable head-up display system, designed for commercial airline pilots and based on the helmets it developed for the Israeli Air Force. Elbit’s Hermes 450 military drone has been converted for precision agriculture applications, to monitor the condition of large crop fields. Since 2016, Elbit has been collaborating with North Dakota State University to work with local farmers.
Elbit entered the civilian automotive industry in 2011, when it established BrightWay Vision, a company that uses Elbit’s military night-vision technology to develop a vision-enhancing system for drivers and autonomous cars. The company, which is still controlled by Elbit, has sold its system to German automotive conglomerates Daimler AG and Continental AG as well as an unnamed Chinese truck manufacturer. In 2016, Elbit Systems established a subsidiary dedicated to developing fast-charging batteries for electric buses and cars. This technology is based on supercapacitors the company has developed for high energy laser weapons.
Elbit’s I-PASS (Integrated Perimeter Access Security Systems) is a fiber-optic sensor that detects underground disturbances and characterizes their origin for the protection of borders, pipelines, and railways. Elbit installed its I-PASS system for the pipeline system of Mekorot - the Israeli National Water Company - which is involved in the pillage of water from the occupied Palestinian territory.
Cyberbit, Elbit’s cyber division, develops cyber attack weapons for governments, but also provides cyber security products for the civilian market. It has developed the Cyber Range, a cyber attack simulator used to train students and cyber security professionals. As of December 2017, there are three Cyber Range training and simulation centers in the U.S., in Baltimore, MD, Metropolitan State University in Minnesota, and Regent University in Virginia. The Cyber Range simulator is also installed in facilities in France (ISE Systems), Japan (NI Cybersecurity), Singapore (ST Electronics), and Switzerland (RUAG).
Other Elbit subsidiaries developing commercial products include Geospectrum Technologies, a Canadian company that designs acoustic sensors as well as military radar systems, and KMC Systems, a U.S. manufacturer of customized medical diagnostic instruments.
- On March 3, 2019 the Swarthmore Student Government Organization passed a resolution calling on "Swarthmore College and its Board of Managers to implement a screen on investments in companies involved in repeated, well-documented, and severe violations of international human rights law in Israel / Palestine, including: Elbit Systems Ltd..."
- On December 27, 2018, HSBC, the largest bank in Europe and 7th largest in the world, declared it had sold all its holdings in Elbit Systems in response to a campaign by War on Want and the UK Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. The bank later clarified that its decision was prompted by Elbit's acquisition of IMI Systems and was based on the bank's existing policy not to invest in cluster bomb manufacturers. In response, Elbit declared that it will stop manufacturing cluster munitions and that, moving forward, all of the company’s activities relating to munitions “will be conducted in accordance with applicable international conventions or U.S. law.”
- On May 23, 2018, the student senate at the University of Oregon passed a resolution to divest from companies including the Strauss Group, the Osem Group, Hewlett-Packard Company, Ahava, General Electric, Eden Springs, Motorola, G4S, Elbit Systems. The resolution also prohibited the purchase of products from Sabra, Tribe, Sodastream, and the companies listed above.
- On April 9, 2017, Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate passed a resolution urging the university to divest from "corporations that profit off the occupation of Palestine and the continued spread of settlements declared illegal under international law," including Elbit Systems.
- On April 12, 2016, the College Council of the University of Chicago passed a resolution to Divest University funds from apartheid, urging the university “ to withdraw, within the bounds of their fiduciary duty, investments in securities, endowments, mutual funds, and other monetary instruments with holdings in companies profiting from human rights abuses and violations of international law in Palestine, including, Elbit Systems.
- On March 6, 2016, the Vassar Student Association voted to support the international BDS movement and to divest from companies profiting from Israeli human rights abuses, including Elbit Systems.
- In November 2015, the University of California Santa Cruz student government reinstated a divestment resolution against Elbit that had originally passed in 2014, but was suspended pending an appeals process. The resolution calls on the university to drop its investments in any company that "profits from the Israeli occupation of Palestine."
- Northwestern University students voted to divest from Elbit in February 2015, citing its involvement in border militarization.
- The Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sol revoked a contract with Elbit to develop a major aerospace center in December 2014, stating that the decision was a "logical consequence" of "the demands of the social movements and important voices that need to be heard."
- Danish pension fund PKA Ltd. divested from Elbit Systems in 2014 over its “involvement in the construction and maintenance of the [Separation] Wall.”
- UC Santa Cruz's student government passed a resolution in 2014 stating that Elbit is “involved in the construction of the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank [and] Elbit's Hermes 450 and 900 [drones], equipped with two Spike MR missiles, were used to conduct attacks in Gaza that resulted in civilian casualties.”
- The Wesleyan University student senate voted in 2014 to divest its student endowment from Elbit, stating it is “complicit in the illegal occupation of Palestine.”
- In 2014, the University of New Mexico’s Graduate and Professional Student Association voted to divest from Elbit, citing its “surveillance systems for the Separation Wall which runs through occupied Palestinian land.”
- Loyola University in Chicago passed a 2014 divestment resolution against Elbit, which stated Elbit “play active roles in the human rights abuses committed by the Israeli Government.”
- In 2013, the Luxembourg national pension fund excluded Elbit from its list of investments because it “provid[es] security systems for illegal separation barrier on occupied territories (State of Palestine).”
- The Oberlin College student senate voted to divest from Elbit in May 2013, due to “injustices perpetrated on the Palestinian people by Israel.”
- Dutch pension fund PFZW excluded Elbit in 2012, citing its role in providing surveillance systems for Israel’s wall in the West Bank, which is deemed illegal under international law.
- As of 2012, Swedish AP pension funds 1-4 had excluded Elbit due to its support of the Separation Wall and settlements, which are “contrary to international public law.”
- The Danish pension fund PKA Ltd., one of the largest funds administering workers’ pension funds in Denmark, divested from Elbit in 2010, citing ICJ decision that the wall "violates Palestinian human rights.”
- Danske Bank excluded Elbit in 2010 because of its “[involvement] in construction activities in conflict with international humanitarian law.”
- In 2010, Sweden’s largest asset manager Folksam confirmed that it did not have holdings in Elbit because of its “strict policy regarding activity on occupied land.”
- A Norwegian pension fund excluded Elbit in 2009, citing “the company’s integral involvement in Israel’s construction of a separation barrier on occupied territory.”
- Sweden’s AP 7 pension fund blacklisted Elbit in 2009.