Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Resisting the UK’s political and military support for Israel

Andrew Smith, from Campaigns Against Arms Trade, explains how the UK are arming Israel

August 3, 2014
6 min read

Israeli drone company Elbit Systems' stall at the Farnborough International Airshow Israeli drone company Elbit Systems’ stall at the Farnborough International Airshow

In a powerful broadcast upon returning from Gaza, Channel 4’s Jon Snow said ‘We have to know that in some way we share responsibility for those deaths because for us it is no priority whatsoever to stop it. Our United Nations, our government, our world is not that interested.’

Unfortunately he is right. The scenes from Gaza have been horrific, but UK government’s response has been a combination of reiterating its support for Israel and indifference to its own role in the conflict. David Cameron has described his support for Israel as “unbreakable” and the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, has put the blame for the bombardment firmly on the shoulders of Hamas while refusing to even accept that the Israeli response has been disproportionate.

This is nothing new. UK governments have supported Israel for decades, with Blair, Brown and their predecessors providing a similarly uncritical support for Israeli militarism.

This political relationship has been underpinned by a very strong military one. A number of UK arms companies work closely with Israeli ones. For example, Israeli drone manufacturer Elbit Systems, is working with UK arms company, Thales UK, on a Ministry of Defence contract worth nearly £1 billion for the development of Watchkeeper WK450 drones. The aim is for these to be developed and exported from 2015 onwards.

Similarly, in July 2002, the UK government approved the export of components for F-16 fighters being made by the US company Lockheed Martin and sold to Israel. Then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw justified the sales by saying ‘The Government has judged that the UK’s security and defence relationship with the US is fundamental to the UK’s national security. Defence collaboration with the US is also key to maintaining a strong defence industrial capacity.’ He went on ‘Any interruption to the supply of these components would have serious implications for the UK’s defence relations with the United States.’ In other words, the commercial relationship between BAE Systems and US companies such as Lockheed Martin was judged more important than the human rights of Palestinians.

The current policy is merely a continuation of this pattern. This was highlighted in February 2011 when the Foreign Office Minister, Alistair Burt, wrote ‘UK policy on the export of controlled goods and equipment to Israel has not changed since the Coalition Government took office. All export licence applications to Israel are considered on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Export Licensing Criteria.’ However, this says nothing – the real issue is how the criteria are interpreted.

Despite the UN having consistently stated that Israel ‘violates humanitarian law’, and even though the criteria are supposed to assess the impact on regional peace, security and stability and the human rights record of the recipient, the sales continue.

Only this month a number of the biggest Israeli arms companies were in the UK for the Farnborough International Airshow. The event, opened by David Cameron, was a chance for companies like Elbit to sell their ‘battle tested’ weapons to an international audience.

The ongoing military collaboration and the sale of weapons are not apolitical moves. Arms deals don’t just give Israel military support, they also bolster the Israeli government by sending out a strong message of political support that can have deadly consequences.

In 2009, David Miliband, then Foreign Secretary confirmed that Israeli equipment that had been used in Gaza in the 2008-9 conflict ‘almost certainly’ contained UK-supplied components. Since then successive UK has governments have licensed a further £50 million worth of arms to Israel.

Last week, when Katy Clarke MP asked the government to investigate whether or not any UK weapons had been used in Gaza she was given the usual platitudes about the robustness of UK arms and exports and told there are no plans to even look into it.

Thankfully not everyone has been fooled.

The recent demonstrations across the UK have shown a deep well of support and solidarity for the people of Gaza. These have been supported by a number of direct actions, such as the recent occupation of the Treasury and the blockade of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills by London Action Palestine.

There have also been statements of support from high profile activists and artists, such as the letter to The Guardian that was written by a number of Nobel laureates, celebrities and campaigners, who joined a growing number of people calling for the UK to stop arming Israel.

If we act together we can show our support for those being bombed in Gaza, as well as making it clear that the government’s silence about what is happening in Gaza is not in our name. The UK’s relationship with Israel has silenced government ministers and lined the pockets of arms companies, but has had a devastating impact on Palestinians.

When governments, such as the UK, sell weapons into war zones they can’t simply turn away when those weapons are used. Nor can we.

Andrew Smith is a spokesperson for Campaign Against Arms Trade. You can follow him on Twitter at @wwwcaatorguk.

A list of some of the UK companies that have applied for export licences to arms Israel is available here.

If you want the UK to stop arming Israel, take action at http://act.caat.org.uk/lobby/stoparmingisrael

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright

Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones

‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression

Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death

‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum

The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes

Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference

Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki

Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going


95