Revelations that in the first nine months of 2008 Britain licensed the sale of military equipment to Israel worth £27 million has brought a call for the UK government to stop arming Israel.
The admission that the UK government authorised lucrative trade in military equipment to Israel came from Lord Malloch-Brown, the British Foreign Minister. Lord Malloch-Brown, was answering questions from the crossbench peer Lord Hylton.
War on Want is calling for the British government to establish a two-way arms embargo on Israel.
Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: “Despite continued human rights abuses against the Palestinian people, the UK government licenses millions of pounds’ worth of military equipment to Israel every year. By selling arms to Israel the UK is giving direct material support for Israel’s aggression and sending a clear message of approval for its actions.”
War on Want says that over the last 60 years Israel has defied UN resolutions, international law and global outrage over its treatment of the Palestinian people. The continuing occupation has destroyed any semblance of a Palestinian economy.
The group pointes out that today 70 per cent of Palestinians live in crushing poverty and more than half rely on food aid to survive. They say the international community has largely ignored UN law over Israel’s crimes. Instead the British government among others has 'rewarded Israeli aggression with financial, military and diplomatic support'.
Known export licences approved from Britain to Israel in 2008 include components for: combat aircraft, electronic warfare equipment, helmet mounted display equipment, military aero-engines, naval radars, surface-to-air missiles and equipment for the use of weapon sights and military communication. A significant number of UK components are used for missile triggering systems for Apaches and Head-Up Displays for F-16s and Israel has used F-16 fighter aircraft and Apache combat helicopters to bomb Lebanese and Palestinian towns and villages.
The British government has repeatedly admitted it does not accept Israeli assurances that British arms will not be deployed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. However it continues to license the arms sales.
In evidence to the parliamentary Quadripartite Committee in 2006, Foreign Office minister Kim Howells reaffirmed that it was government policy not to allow export of equipment or components which could be "deployed aggressively" in Palestinian territory, but then acknowledged that "almost any piece of equipment, I suppose, could be used aggressively".
War on Want says that since aircraft and tanks for which UK companies make components are regularly and obviously used aggressively against Palestinians, the government’s practice appears to make its own export standards meaningless.