. Israel's Annexation Plan: The UK government must stop putting arms sales ahead of the rights and lives of Palestinians | Ceasefire Magazine

Israel’s Annexation Plan: The UK government must stop putting arms sales ahead of the rights and lives of Palestinians Comment

Israel's proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank is a grave violation and injustice against the people of Palestine. The UK's rhetorical objections are not enough, there must be an end to UK arms sales to Israel and the message of political and military support that they send, writes Andrew Smith.

New in Ceasefire, Politics - Posted on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 17:35 - 2 Comments


A girl walks among the rubble left by Israeli bombing in Rafah, Gaza, 2014. (Credit: Roberto Schmidt/AFP)

In January, it was billed as the ‘Deal of the Century’, but Donald Trump’s so-called ‘peace plan’ was never going to provide justice for Palestinians. In reality, it was even worse than many had feared, an attempt to offer legitimacy to Israel’s illegal settlements and a greenlight for the annexation of roughly one third of the West Bank. After so many years of occupation, oppression and bombardment, Trump’s plan threatens to make a terrible situation worse.

The plan was quickly welcomed by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, but it was denounced by the Palestinian authorities and governments around the world. Undeterred, the Israeli government has said that it could begin the annexation in the days ahead.

Last week, the annexation plan was condemned by over 1,000 Members of the European Parliament. This week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, warned that the “shock waves” of annexation could last for decades. Even Boris Johnson has warned that the plan could “amount to a breach of international law.”

Unfortunately, words are easy, and there is a huge gulf between the rhetoric and the reality of how many of these governments, including the UK, are responding to the crisis and the terrible violence that could be inflicted on Palestinians in the coming days.

The UK Foreign Office, for example, has called for Israel to reconsider the policy, but has not supported any sanctions or suggested any consequences.

One reason for this is the close political and military relationship between Israel and the UK. Britain continues to supply many of the weapons being used by Israeli forces, licensing at least £376 million worth of arms over the past five years, including components for drones, tanks and other deadly weapons.

UK-made weapons have been used against Palestinians before, and there is a serious risk of them being used again. A 2014 review by the UK government found that 12 licences for arms sales to Israel were likely to have been used in the 2014 bombardment of Gaza, which killed more than 2000 Palestinians, including 495 children. Likewise, in 2010 the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband said that UK-made arms had “almost certainly” been used in Israel’s 2008-9 bombing campaign of Gaza (also known as Cast Lead).

In both cases, Government ministers promised to look at all extant licences to see whether any of them needed to be reconsidered. Unfortunately, and predictably, nothing has changed. As soon as the bombings stopped it was back to ‘business as usual’ for the UK government and the arms companies that fuel and profit from war.

These arms sales are not a one-way street, as Israel is also a major arms exporter. Many Israeli arms companies market their weapons as ‘battle-proven’ and there is a lot of military collaboration between the UK and Israeli governments. In recent months, the UK Coastal Guard has been testing a Hermes 900 drone that was first used and developed for Israel’s 2014 bombing campaign of Gaza.

The arms trade undoubtedly is an important part of the UK government’s relationship with Israel, but the political support is every bit as vital. That support has been unbending and, for the most part, uncritical. There have occasionally been calls of caution and restraint, such as in the aftermath of the May 2018 border shootings — during the ‘Great March for Return’ — that killed over 200 Palestinian demonstrators, but these have been few and far between and have not been followed up with any meaningful action. If there are no serious political, legal, economic, or diplomatic costs to committing atrocities then those atrocities will continue.

This hypocrisy is not just limited to the UK, with many other European governments taking the same complicit line.

If the annexation goes ahead it will be yet another terrible injustice against the people of Palestine. Without justice there can be no peace, and the planned annexation would heap even greater injustice on Palestinians. Despite Trump’s talk of peace and prosperity, this will only increase tensions and lead to further violence and bloodshed.

This has not come out of nowhere, it follows years of daily abuses, institutional discrimination and systematic violence that has been perpetuated with the support of many influential arms exporting governments including the UK.

Time and again, successive UK governments have put arms sales ahead of the rights and lives of Palestinians. This has not just applied to Conservative governments. Labour and Coalition governments followed similar policies.

This has gone on for far too long. The situation is grave, and the stakes could not be higher. There must be an end to UK arms sales to Israel and the message of political and military support that they send.

Andrew Smith is a spokesperson for Campaign Against Arms Trade and tweets at @CAATuk


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Lucinda Williamson
Jul 2, 2020 9:17

How do we stop it I’m starting to feel like this world isn’t ours any more these things our hands are tied and I want to know how we can stop this is there a petition or does that make no difference I’m feeling helpless in these barbaric days.

Elena Cooper
Nov 19, 2020 18:47


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