New York to Host Israel’s Top Drone Lab


Cornell University President David J. Skorton (C) and Technion-Israel inStitute of Technology President Peretz Lavie (L) shake hands with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the end of a news conference at Cornell University. (Photo: REUTERS – Eduardo Munoz)

By: Max Blumenthal [1]

On December 19, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced [2] the establishment of a 2 million square foot engineering and applied sciences university campus in the heart of New York City. The New York-based Cornell University and the Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology, were chosen to oversee the new institution.

“Thanks to this outstanding partnership and groundbreaking proposal from Cornell and the Technion, New York City’s goal of becoming the global leader in technological innovation is now within sight,” Bloomberg proclaimed. “When people look back 100 years from now, I believe that they will remember today as a signal moment in the transformation of the city’s economy,” Deputy Mayor Robert K Steel declared.

The Cornell-Technion partnership will result in a shimmering new university campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, a sleepy and long-neglected slice of land between midtown Manhattan and Queens. A US$350 million grant [2] from the publicity shy philanthropist Charles Feeney supplemented by US$100 million in public money will fund the construction of the campus. The joint project was awarded after a well-publicized competition between several top-flight universities, and was enthusiastically trumpeted by the Mayor’s office, earning it coverage in the New York Times [2]. However, neither Bloomberg or the Times bothered to mention a few facts that might have outraged the local taxpayers corralled into funding the project.

Presented as an anodyne research and development initiative that promises to produce thousands of jobs and hundreds of “spin-off” tech companies, the Cornell-Technion campus is also likely to be a boon to the military-industrial complex in the US and Israel. For decades, the Technion has provided the brains Israel required to create the elaborate mechanism of control under-girding its occupation of Palestine. Through its partnership with Israel’s burgeoning arms industry, Technion’s creations have been imported to armed forces around the world. In the words of Israeli researcher Shir Hever, the Technion “has all but enlisted itself in the military.”

In 2008, the Technion signed [2] a joint research agreement with Elbit Systems, the Israeli weapons and security systems giant. Elbit is best known for providing [2] the monitoring system for the Israeli separation wall, [2] a 760 kilometer long concrete barrier that juts into the occupied West Bank, enabling Israel’s annexation of tens of thousands of dunams of Palestinian land. The company also produces weaponized aerial drones that have been procured by the Brazilian [2] and US air forces, [2]  Elbit representatives routinely host recruitment seminars [2] for ambitious Technion students.

In recent years, the Technion has distinguished itself in the field of robotic weapons systems, developing some of the latest in aerial drone and unmanned combat vehicle technology through its Arlene and Arnold Goldstein UAV & Satellite Center. [2]

Here are a few Technion creations intended to streamline the maintenance of Israel’s occupation and enhance the violent capacity of America’s ongoing drone wars:

The unmanned “Black Thunder” D-9 bulldozer – The armored bulldozer is an essential weapon [2] of Israel’s occupation, enabling the Israeli army engineering unit to demolish approximately 25,000 Palestinian homes [2] since 1967, according to the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition. On occasion, bulldozers have come under attack from Palestinian guerilla fighters and stone throwing children. But thanks to the innovative spirit of the Technion, which boasts of pioneering the unmanned bulldozer, the Israeli army can demolish homes, olive groves and tunnels without any risk to the physical safety of its soldiers. As Jerusalem Post military affairs correspondent Yaakov Katz reported, [2] “The IDF Ground Forces Command plans to double the number of unmanned D9 armored bulldozers in the Engineering Corps arsenal after the vehicle provided exceptional results during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in January.”

The “Stealth UAV” drone – According to the website of the American Technion Society, [2] in 2010 Technion students designed “a ‘Stealth UAV’ designed to fly up to 2,977 kilometers without refueling. It can carry two 499 kg ‘smart bombs,’ and be equipped with various sensors (electro-optic, infrared and radar) to enable operation in the dark and under all weather conditions.” The weapon appears to be an unmanned version of the US-made B-2 “Spirit,” [2] also known as the Stealth Bomber.

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the Israeli military has killed [2] 825 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since 2006. The New America Foundation, a Washington DC-based think tank, reported that the US military has killed over 1800 civilians and accused militants in Pakistan during the same period.

The “Dragonfly UAV” mini-drone – Tiny, remote controlled drones capable of flying through windows and into homes and buildings for delicate spying operations are the latest craze [2] in UAV technology. Technion students recently designed a drone plane with a 9-inch (23cm) wingspan and a 7.9-inch (20cm) body modeled after the dragonfly insect. “The plane’s relatively low speed enables it to easily enter rooms through small windows and to send back photos from a miniature camera,” the American Technion Society’s website states. [2]

As America’s manufacturing base enters its death throes, once industrialized cities are seeking out high-tech research and development projects to stimulate their cash-strapped economies while filling blighted urban centers with a young, upwardly mobile “knowledge class.” The Cornell-Technion NYC campus, with its direct link to the American military-industrial complex and the Israeli occupation, exposes the disturbing underside of a seemingly progressive model of urban renewal.

In the name of transforming the New York City’s economy, local taxpayers have been enlisted into the disturbing world of “asymmetrical” robotic warfare, in which faceless human targets are liquidated by remote control. And a generation of ambitious students seeking careers in the fields of engineering and science may wind up volunteering their talents to Israel’s occupation without ever seeing the consequences of their handiwork.

Max Blumenthal

Articles by: Max Blumenthal

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