Weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin literally makes a killing off of killing. Last year, while the company was grossing $43.4 billion in arms sales, an estimated 157,000 people around the globe were killed in violent conflicts. For leadership of this industry of death, CEO Marillyn Hewson was paid $20 million. The federal contracts Lockheed Martin receives total more than the budgets of 22 US states (not surprising, given that the company spends around $13 million lobbying annually) and does business with 70 nations.
Lockheed Martin boasts on its website that it has been selling arms to Israel since 1971. The company’s notorious F-16 fighter jet came into Israel’s possession in 1980, two years before Israel’s first war with Lebanon. Since that time, the company’s fighter jets have been integral to Israel’s brutal military campaigns in Lebanon and Palestine.
Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon involved wide use of F-16 fighter jets and the Lockheed Martin Multiple-Launch Rocket System (MLRS) which sprayed cluster bombs across the Lebanese countryside. Between July 12 and August 14 2006, over 1,000 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, were killed. Comparatively, 12 Israeli soldiers and 43 Israeli civilians were killed by Hezbollah rockets. Human Rights Watch concluded that the cause of such a high civilian death rate was “Israel’s frequent failure to abide by a fundamental obligation of the laws of war: the duty to distinguish between military targets, which can be legitimately attacked, and civilians, who are not subject to attack.”
Lockheed Martin weapons played a major role in Israel’s 2008-2009 and 2014 assaults on Gaza. An extensive investigation by Amnesty International into Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, which killed 1,394 Palestinians, including 345 children, found that Israel’s attacks using Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters and Hellfire missiles often failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants. In some cases there was even evidence that civilians and civilian spaces were deliberately targeted. A UN fact-finding mission on the assault raised the possibility that Israel had committed war crimes as defined by international law.
In April of 2014, shortly before the onset of Operation Protective Edge, Lockheed Martin expanded its Tel Aviv office and opened an office in Be’er Sheva, Israel. They announced that the opening of the office was to demonstrate Lockheed Martin’s commitment to supporting the Israeli Defense Force and their “Move to the South” campaign. Only a few months after the new Lockheed Martin office was opened, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge. The assault killed over 2,100 Gazans, and wounded thousands more. A study by Defense for Children International determined that at least 225 of the 550 children killed during the 50 days died from Israeli warplane attacks. An independent fact-finding mission into the assault documented numerous incidents where Israel dropped one or more missiles from F-16 planes onto civilian homes during times they knew families would be gathering, often killing and injuring the entire family.
Israel is not the only controversial country Lockheed Martin is supplying with weapons. Lockheed Martin also has ongoing business relationships with Egypt and Saudi Arabia which remain undeterred in the face of widescale human rights abuses and brutal military campaigns by the two countries. In 2009, the US State Department approved a package of arms deals with Egypt worth an estimated $3.2 billion under which Lockheed Martin was the primary contractor.
In May 2017, President Trump signed a $110 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia. Lockheed Martin is to be the biggest beneficiary of the package, raking in $29.1 billion under the new deals. Prior to signing the deal, son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner placed a personal call to Marillyn Hewson to request that she, in support of the deal, drop the price on Lockheed’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense systems. Saudi Arabia’s military assault on Yemen, largely with Lockheed Martin weapons, has been so brutal that Yemen is now experiencing the largest cholera outbreak in modern history and a child dies from malnutrition every 10 minutes.
Like Israel’s assaults on Gaza, Saudi Arabia is using aerial bombardments as a primary military tactic, and Lockheed Martin jets are the backbone of the assault. The airstrikes have repeatedly hit civilian spaces including homes, schools, markets, food storage facilities, and hospitals. Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the United Nations have determined that the strikes lack military justification.
Prior to leaving office, President Obama increased US military aid to Israel to $3.8 billion a year. Included in the deal was both the requirement that 100% of funds be used to purchase from US companies, and that part of the package would be used to assist Israel in updating “the lion’s share” of its military aircraft, including purchases of the new Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets. The first of what will total 50 F-35s began arriving in Israel in December 2016. Israel is so far the only country, outside of the US, to receive these new and enormously expensive 5th generation fighter jets. For the F-35’s production, Lockheed Martin bought over $1 billion worth of equipment and services from Israeli weapons companies, such as Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries.
Divestment from companies contributing to and profiting from Israel’s human rights abuses is well under way. So, too, is divestment from weapons companies. For decades, the Presbyterian Church, through their Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTIC) has had a policy of not investing in weapons companies. In 2004, the Presbyterian General Assembly began “phasing out” investments in Israel’s occupation, and in 2014, they voted to sell such holdings. Lockheed Martin is a double winner, manufacturing the tools of death around the world and maintaining a close relationship with Israel. It is not alone in this regard. Just last week, the University of Michigan student government passed a resolution calling on their school to look into divestment from companies that violate Palestinian rights. Their motion included Hewlett Packard, United Technologies and Boeing, another weapons manufacturing giant.
When considering companies to target for their entanglement in Israel’s human rights violations, Lockheed Martin should make the top of everyone’s lists. As the largest weapons manufacturer in the world, it is one of the primary companies CODEPINK is targeting in its new campaign, Divest from the War Machine. Pulling money from this massive merchant of death will help the Palestinian cause and everyone around the world who is suffering from war.