Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
The only time that UK government policy appears to have diverged even slightly from that of George Bush over Israel’s attack on Lebanon was when Margaret Beckett got exercised over US arms being shipped through Prestwick airport in Scotland. The incident in late July, which involved US flights carrying precision bombs on their way to Israel refuelling at the airport, got the new foreign secretary in a rage: it seemed the correct procedures hadn’t been followed.
It was left to anti-war protesters to point out, through demonstrations at Prestwick and a ‘citizen’s weapons inspection’ by Trident Ploughshares, that the real issue is that UK airports continue to be used to transport weapons to Israel at all. Yet if Beckett had followed the Irish government, who refused the aeroplanes permission to use Shannon airport, she would have found herself in a rather odd situation. After all, the US may be a major supplier of weaponry to Israel, but it is by no means the only one.
In 2005, the UK government licensed the export of arms to Israel worth £22.5 million, more than double the figure for 2004. Over the last few years UK companies have supplied bombs, rockets, torpedoes, machine guns, missiles, mines and components for tanks and combat aircraft to the Israeli Defence Forces.
The framework that the government says it uses to judge whether arms export licences should be granted is its ‘Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria’, adopted in 2000. The eight criteria include the buyer country’s respect for international law, its respect for human rights and the preservation of regional peace and stability. Even before the current crisis, Israel was in serious breach of international law, routinely violated the human rights of Palestinians through extra-judicial killings, collective punishments and torture, and through these actions negated any chance of peace.
In fact, if the criteria do not apply in the case of Israel, it is difficult to know when they would apply. Yet rather than simply banning arms sales to Israel as the gravity of the situation should require, the government judges each case individually, saying it turns down licences where the equipment ‘could be deployed aggressively in the occupied territories’.
F-16 fighter planes and Apache combat helicopters have both been used aggressively in the occupied territories to devastating effect, and of course have now been used to bomb southern Lebanon. Given that Israel has taken delivery of both these aircraft, which include significant UK components, since the government’s current policy has been in place, it was no surprise that the parliamentary committee that oversees arms export licensing said in its 3 August report, ‘We do not understand what the policy means.’
Meanwhile, Israel’s attacks on civilians in Gaza and Lebanon have spurred activists to revitalise the campaign for an arms embargo. Stop Arming Israel, a new coalition supported by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and War on Want, is campaigning to halt all arms sales to and from the country.
Israel actually has its own significant arms industry, which in the past has been prepared to sell arms to regimes such as apartheid South Africa when others would not. Now it markets its products as ‘battle-tested’ in the occupied territories, and Israel has become one of the top ten arms-exporting nations. An arms embargo only makes sense, therefore, if it works both ways, and even then its main impact would not be directly to disarm Israel.
Nevertheless, the new coalition believes that the campaign is both important and winnable. As Beccie D’Cunha from CAAT points out, ‘Not only is it important that the UK is not materially complicit in Israel’s abuses, but continuing to sell arms sends a message of approval to the Israeli government which is entirely inappropriate. With so many people watching in horror as the Israeli army destroys southern Lebanon and Gaza, now is the time raise public support to end the arms trade with Israel.’
If the campaign takes off as the coalition hopes, the government may not be the only one to feel the pressure. A whole range of British-based companies make components for F-16s and Apaches, including big firms such as BAE Systems, Smiths Industries and Meggitt Avionics, and a host of smaller engineering companies. They could all become the target for local protests as anti-war activists seek new ways to get their message across.
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook
‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali
Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.
Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent
Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art
Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya