Break the link between Israeli apartheid and Australian agriculture

Magal Security Systems profiles itself as 'protecting critical infrastructure'.

Most people would not be aware that two Israeli companies are the main suppliers of irrigation systems in Australia. They are potential targets for Palestine justice activists keen on expanding the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign into rural areas.

Along with the water business, FIMI/Rivulis and Netafim are deeply involved in the ongoing military oppression of Palestinians. Both companies provide military, surveillance and prison equipment to the Israeli government.

FIMI (First Israel Mezzanine Investors), which describes itself as a leader in “micro irrigation”, also owns Israeli defence firms.

Netafim is complicit in displacing Palestinians by assisting Israeli farmers to establish and run their agricultural businesses. 

FIMI/Rivulis

According to its website FIMI is “the leading private equity firm in Israel with more than US$2 billion in assets”.

In 2014, FIMI bought John Deere Water and renamed it Rivulis Irrigation. While headquartered in Israel, its head office is in Queensland.

Military Embedded Systems stated that in 2018 FIMI bought the US-based Aitech Rugged Group, which designs computing systems for military air and ground systems as well as providing “radiation-hardened solutions for the military and commercial space markets”.

Aitech vice president Doug Patterson boasted at the time that “FIMI management really understands the aerospace and defence and space markets”.

FIMI owns Israeli defence firms Gilat Satellite Systems and Magal Security Systems, among others, and acquired a controlling share (55%) in Israeli Orbit Technologies in late 2017.

Gilat’s website states that it provides “Mission-Critical Communications-on-the-Move for the Front Line”. These “quick-to-deploy Satellite on-the-move solutions” can, apparently, be “deployed on vehicles, as well as portable lightweight solutions that can be carried in a backpack”.

Its “Very Small Aperture Terminal systems that ensure seamless connectivity for both on-the-move and on-the-pause missions” are ideal technology and equipment for the Israeli Defence Force in its ongoing oppression of Palestinians in Gaza.

Magal’s website states it was established in 1965 as a branch of the Israeli Aerospace Industry, initially focused on developing “indicative fences for security”. It was privatised in 1993.

Orbit’s website states that it “develops, manufactures and supplies a wide range of superior performance communications equipment and solutions to serve airborne, maritime and ground applications”.

Orbit Communications Systems manufactures precision tracking-based communications for air, sea and land. This is the sort of equipment and technology deployed in Gaza and the West Bank to keep Palestinians under constant surveillance.

FIMI’s ownership of Magal, Gilat and Orbit Communication Systems makes this seemingly benign owner of the agricultural firm Rivulis complicit in the Israeli government’s policing and subjugation of Palestinians.

Netafim

Netafim Australia started business in 1993. Its Australian headquarters is in Victoria, while its Israeli HQ is in Tel Aviv. It is the world’s largest provider of drip irrigation services, with a more than 30% share of the global drip irrigation market.

According to its website, “we’re farmers first and innovators second … We started in 1965, in the Negev desert in Israel, trying to grow crops in desert soil … We know what it’s like to farm in local and extreme conditions…”

This means that the business was started on land illegally taken from Palestinians and, after developing enhanced irrigation techniques, Netafim promoted their products to Israeli farmers on illegally occupied Palestinian land, and then to the world.

It boasts: “To date, we’ve irrigated over ten million hectares of land, and produced over 150 billion drippers — for more than two million ambitious farmers.”

The question is how many of the 2 million “ambitious farmers” were, or could have been, Palestinian?

Netafim currently has 20 dealers for its irrigation products in Adelaide alone. It is one of the largest suppliers of irrigation equipment in Australia, according to a source within the National Party.

The Israel Trade Commission in Sydney notes that Netafim is jointly owned by three Kibbutzim (Hatzerim, Magal and Yiftak), the Markstone Investment Fund and the Tene Private Equity Fund.

In 2009, the company’s annual sales totalled $504 million.

In 2017, Netafim was purchased by Mexican piping and chemicals company Mexichem SAB in a cash deal valuing the firm at $1.9 billion. But its headquarters and management remain in Tel Aviv.

The Australian BDS campaign, which organised the recent campaign calling on SBS to not broadcast the Tel Aviv 2019 Eurovision Contest, is campaigning for a boycott of HP, which manages the Israeli government’s population registry and ID systems.

They have also concentrated efforts on Israeli-owned purveyors of fashion items.

We should also seek to raise public awareness of the activities of FIMI/Rivulis, in particular, with its connections to the Israeli military and prisons.

[Mark Govier is a member of Australian Friends of Palestine Association.]

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