The UK is facing fresh calls to end its arms sale to Israel amidst international outrage over the Zionist state’s planned annexation of Palestinian territory which is considered a war crime under international law.
Number 10 has expressed its opposition to any further take-over of Palestinian territory, however campaigners, warning that the Conservative government risks being complicit in Israeli war crimes, have expressed concerns that the UK will continue with business as usual by selling arms to the occupying state.
Britain is said to have licensed £376 million ($462 million) worth of arms to Israel since 2015, according to the human rights organisation Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).
Previous government reviews have concluded that it likely that UK-made arms have been used against Palestinians.
Campaigners have called on the UK government to stop all arms sales and military support for Israel. This comes as Israeli forces prepare to begin the annexation of large parts of the West Bank. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the plan and called it illegal.
Despite ongoing abuses against besieged Palestinian communities and the threat of annexation looming, UK arms sales to Israel have continued unabated.
According to a CAAT report, the $462 million worth of arms sold to Israel is an underestimate as there are also 31 Open Licences to Israel. These are mainly for aircraft equipment. Open Licences allow for an unlimited number of exports, so the real figure is said to be significantly higher.
CAAT revealed that a review by the government found 12 licences for arms which are likely to have been used in the 2014 bombardment of Gaza. Likewise, in 2010 the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband said that UK-made arms had “almost certainly” been used in the 2009 bombing campaign.
Israel is also a major arms exporter, with $7.5 billion worth of exports in 2018. Many Israeli arms companies market their weapons as “battle-proven”. There is a lot of military collaboration between both governments. Over recent months the UK coastal guard has been testing a Hermes 900 drone that was first used and developed for the 2014 bombing campaign in Gaza.
In 2005, the Ministry of Defence awarded UAV Tactical Systems Ltd, a joint venture between Israeli arms company Elbit Systems and its partner company Thales UK, a contract which would ultimately be worth nearly £800 million ($983 million) for the development of the Watchkeeper WK450 drones.
Andrew Smith of CAAT said: “The annexation plan is immoral and illegal. It will increase tensions and lead to further violence and bloodshed. Without justice there cannot be peace, and this land-grab will only add to the injustice and oppression of Palestinians.”
“By continuing to arm and support Israeli forces the UK government is making itself complicit in the atrocities that it is inflicting. UK-made arms have been used by the Israeli military before, and it is likely that they will be again.”
These arms sales do not just provide military support, they also send a very clear sign of political support for the daily abuse that is being inflicted by the occupation.
“Time and again, successive UK governments have put arms sales ahead of the rights and lives of Palestinians. The stakes could not be higher. There must be an end to the arms sales and the message of support that they send.”