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Israel's Choice Customers

December 22, 1985

A crucial issue was ignored in "Israel Pushes High-Tech Industries as Major Economic Goal" (Oct. 28): the extent that this growth has been or will continue to be directed toward producing military equipment and arms.

Israel's annual foreign arms sales are $1.2 billion, according to the unedited report on Israel by the Government Accounting Office. In addition to Galil rifles, Kfir and Arava jets, armored cars, naval patrol boats and personal security gear, Israel exports computer technology, optics and high-tech communications equipment of use in intelligence-gathering and counter-insurgency.

Israel has hardly been selective about its customers, but its role in Central America is particularly disturbing.

For example, the Galil is standard issue for the Guatemalan army, which has been repeatedly accused of human rights abuses, and an Israeli firm installed the computer service that has allowed the army to develop files on 80% of the Guatemalan population.

It is specious to argue that concern for its own sovereignity absolves Israel of responsibility for arms exports. Conversion of weapons manufacture to the production of high-tech consumer items would take ingenuity in planning and marketing, as well as a reassessment of foreign policy objectives. But Israel's long-term interests would certainly be better served by redirecting trade to meet human needs than by helping to shore up repressive and unpopular governments.

JAMES LOUCKY

Los Angeles

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