We are the engine of research at Caltech. But who is providing the fuel, and who is driving?

Editor’s note at bottom of article

Caltech and JPL are enmeshed financially, politically, and scientifically with Raytheon Technologies, a major weapons manufacturer which sells large amounts of weapons to the Israeli Defence Force. Raytheon’s complicity with the Israeli state’s murder of Palestinian civilians has been made clear by various international government bodies and human-rights watch groups.

Caltech and Raytheon

Caltech, and JPL which it manages, are world-renowned for invention and innovation, no doubt due to the diligence and brilliance of its researchers. These inventions include the pH meter, resonator gyroscopes, inertial sensors, microsatellite propulsion systems, long duration autonomous drones, human-machine interfaces for control of military robots, and some of the earliest US missiles and guidance systems. The development of many of these technologies has been funded from grants and donations by companies who have used these technologies in their products, including Raytheon Technologies.

Caltech and JPL have many connections to Raytheon Technologies, a prominent manufacturer of missiles, weapon targeting and radar systems, and battlefield communication systems. Raytheon currently funds the Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST) at Caltech and since 2017 (Caltech Launches New Autonomous Systems Research Center, Caltech Weekly 2017), Raytheon has been under contract with JPL for a 5-year, $150 million project to develop software and data systems (Raytheon wins contract to support Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Aerospace Technology 2019). JPL also performs work for Raytheon on the GPS Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) (SPACE ACT AGREEMENT 33889, 36173). This will provide more accurate positioning and anti-jamming capabilities to GPS, which is used by some guided weapons (GPS Next-Generation Operational Control System, Raytheon 2024).

The connections between Raytheon and Caltech/JPL go even beyond research collaborations and contracts: Dr. Lawrence Taylor, previously the President of Raytheon’s Missile Systems, currently sits on Caltech’s Board of Trustees, part of the body that “exercises all corporate powers of the Institute” under provision of the Institute’s Bylaws. Ambassador Barbara Barrett also currently sits on Caltech’s Board of Trustees, after serving on the Raytheon Board of Directors and as Air Force Secretary in the Trump Administration.

Their directive power partially accounts for Caltech’s and JPL’s provision of research, academic, and political labor for companies in the military industrial complex, such as Raytheon, that continue to produce deadlier weapons technologies employed by the IDF.

The IDF’s use of Raytheon’s Weapons

Raytheon is a major supplier of weapons to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Since 2009 the IDF has launched multiple attacks on the Gaza Strip, armed by Raytheon bombs such as the “bunker buster” GBU-28 (Did U.S. give Israel ‘bunker-busters’? Politico 2011; U.S. Sends Israel 2,000-Pound Bunker Buster Bombs for Gaza War, Wall Street Journal 2023). These bombs are dropped on the most densely populated area on the planet, in violation of international humanitarian law, with no concern for Palestinian life (U.S.-Made Weapons Used by Government of Israel in Violation of International Law and U.S Law, Amnesty International 2024).

Raytheon provides weapon systems, components, and maintenance services to the Israeli Air Force’s fleet of F-16 jets (RTX CORP, AFSC Investigate). The IDF employs the F-16 to drop these bombs on residential buildings, refugee camps, and the offices of international news organizations, including the Associated Press and Al Jazeera (Media demand Israel explain destruction of news offices, AP).

The Israeli state has implemented a total blockade of food, water, medications, and other vital supplies into Gaza (Israel: Starvation Used as Weapon of War in Gaza, Human Rights Watch 2023) This includes a naval blockade of supplies via the Mediterranean Sea — enforced by means of Raytheon’s Phalanx CIMS weapons system installed on Israeli warships (Raytheon, The Mapping Project). Palestinian fishermen in Gaza are fired upon daily by these warships, to severely limit their available fishing areas (Israel navy fires at Palestinian fishermen off Gaza coast, Middle East Monitor 2022). To quote Dov Weisglass, an adviser to the former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert, “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet.” (Israel forced to release study on Gaza blockade, BBC 2012).

Weapons purchased from Raytheon and additional companies such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin, have been used by the Israeli Defense Forces to kill more than 35 thousand Palestinians since October 8th, 2023. It was estimated that about 52% of these were women and children (Occupied Palestinian Territory, OCHA UN June 2024).

Reactions from the international community

Israel’s use of said weapons in this way has drawn widespread condemnation from the international community. United Nations experts (U.N. expert says Israel has committed acts of genocide in Gaza, NPR 2024), Human Rights Watch (Israel: Starvation Used as Weapon of War in Gaza, Human Rights Watch 2024), and Amnesty International (Damning evidence of war crimes as Israeli attacks wipe out entire families in Gaza, Amnesty International 2023). have identified Israel’s actions as war crimes.

Currently, Israel is facing charges of war crimes brought forth by South Africa in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and has been ordered to take measures to prevent what it considers a “plausible genocide”.

Before this ruling, it was already a violation of the International Law Commission’s (part of the UN’s general assembly) Draft Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts. But the ruling falls under the Genocide Convention which prohibits both the commission and complicity in genocide.

In the absence of Israel following through with those measures, which include a binding United Nations Security Council resolution calling for the cessation of hostilities, the International Criminal Court (ICC) may arrest Netanyahu and other top officials of the Israeli regime, as well as charge states complicit in the sale of weapons to Israel later. (War crimes prosecutor seeks arrest of Israeli and Hamas leaders, including Netanyahu, AP 2024).

Who is Driving Caltech?

Regardless of one’s research area, members of the Caltech and JPL community are contributing our minds and energy to an Institution that is quietly, yet complicitly enmeshed with the military industrial complex — an economical sector that fabulates profits off developing and providing the means for genocide of the Palestinian people. As scientists, most of us have both a desire, and a duty to ensure that our research is used for the benefit of humanity — “The World Needs Caltech”, as agreed to by our Trustees. The world is not in need of our labor to produce the means of profit for a company that facilitates the IDF’s bombing on Palestinian refugees living in tents in Rafah. We are the engine of research at Caltech, and we want to know: who exactly is providing fuel, and who is driving Caltech?

Editor’s Note:

The opinions presented in the above article are those of the Caltech Students for Justice in Palestine and do not repre- sent the beliefs of the California Tech or its staff or editors. The Tech does not condone hate or any of the phobias. The Tech would like to remind its readers to be nice to each other.

We decided to publish this submission because it was the only one we’ve received on the topic of the Israel/Pal- estine conflict which brings a Caltech-centric perspective. We have carefully reviewed the content, and hope that this can be the beginning of a respect- ful and constructive discussion about the social and political responsibilities of the Institute and the community. Feel free to message the Tech editorial team at tech@caltech.edu.

Who are the SJP?

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is a student-based organization in the US, Canada, and New Zealand. The national organization has existed since 2001 and the local Caltech subgroup has also existed for several years unofficially.

The national group has organized several demonstrations, walk outs, and protests about the 2023 Israel-Hamas war with general calls for colleges to divest from Israel. They received fire from groups such as the Anti-Defamation League (a Jewish advocacy group) for endorsing the actions of Hamas (a terrorist group) in addition to certain members of the group calling for an end to the state of Israel.

Survivors of the October 7th attack are currently suing the national organization SJP for their alleged support of Hamas, calling them a “propaganda and recruiting wing” for Hamas. Some have also alleged links between the activities of the SJP and a rise in antisemitism. The SJP is not a nonprofit and receives funding from Westchester People’s Action Committee (WESPAC) Foundation. WESPAC does not disclose information about its donors, but there have been no proven connections to Hamas.

The Caltech branch of the SJP has not been connected to these controversies and have not shown any direct support for Hamas or antisemitism. They attempted to register as a club with Caltech and had their application denied due to their connection with the national chapter and the national chapter’s endorsement of the actions of Hamas.

— the Tech Editors