The UK government just broke a horrifying record on arms sales

Theresa May and guns
Fréa Lockley

Latest figures show the UK has sold a record amount of arms to Israel. And the news comes as Israeli violence against people in Gaza has once more reached horrific levels.

Arms sales

On 14 May, Israeli troops’ actions lead to the deaths of at least 60 Palestinian protesters. The extent of the violence was so great that the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted to investigate violations of international law in Gaza. It suggested Israel’s actions were “wholly disproportionate”.

Although the UK government abstained from the UN vote, it now faces questions about whether Israel used UK-made weapons in the violence last month. Because the latest figures from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) show that in 2017, the UK approved £221m worth of arms licenses to defence companies who export to Israel.

As the Guardian reported, this makes Israel “the UK’s eighth largest market for UK arms companies”. This is a huge rise from sales of £86m in 2016 and £20m 2015.

According to War on Want, since 2014 [pdf, p1] the “UK government has approved over £490million worth of arms exports to Israel”. These weapons include [pdf, p2]:

assault rifles, sniper rifles, small arms ammunition, exploding grenade ammunition, combat helicopters, surveillance and armed drones. These types of items are being used by Israeli security forces against unarmed protesters.

Repression and abuse

In 2010, a cross-party report found that UK arms exports were “almost certainly” used by Israel to attack Gaza.

In April, Andrew Smith from CAAT told Middle Eastern Eye:

There is little doubt that UK equipment has been used against the people of Gaza time and again, but that hasn’t stopped successive governments from licensing even more arms to the Israeli military.

Smith called the attacks a “massacre” and said:

The appalling scenes we have seen over recent weeks are yet another stark reminder of the repression and abuse that Palestinians are living under every day…

By continuing to arm Israeli forces the UK isn’t just making itself complicit in future attacks, it is sending a message of support for the collective punishment that has been inflicted.

Blame game

In addition to the deaths, over 2,400 people were injured as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) opened fire. Children and a baby are among the dead and injured.

But Israel and the US have defended the violence. According to the Israeli-US narrative, Palestinians, and specifically Hamas, were largely to blame for Israel’s killing of civilians.

But speaking on CNN, human rights attorney Noura Erakat challenged this narrative and said [3.55]:

Don’t make this about Hamas. Keep your eyes on what Israel is doing. Stop blaming the victim, and scrutinise what the aggressor is doing here.

These latest figures show that we also need to scrutinise the actions of the UK government. Because when it profits from arms sales to Israel, that makes it complicit with this aggressor. And that’s a source of national shame.

Get Involved!

Sign the petition to end UK arms sales to Israel

– Join and support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Featured images via Annika Haas – Wikimedia and Zachi Evenor – Wikimedia

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