Theresa May’s shameful ‘cowardice’ at the UN makes Britain complicit in Israel’s violence

Theresa May benjamin netanyahu
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On 14 May, at least 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops. On 18 May, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted to investigate violations of international law in Gaza, where the massacre happened. It said Israel’s actions were potentially “wholly disproportionate”.

But the UK abstained in the vote, a move which has disgusted many.


On 16 May, Theresa May called for an independent investigation and said these events were “tragic and extremely concerning”. Foreign secretary Boris Johnson claimed to be “extremely saddened by the loss of life”.

The UNHRC called an emergency session to decide whether to investigate “human rights violations” during the massacre. 29 countries voted for the investigation. And the council condemned “the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians”.

The UK was one of 14 countries to abstain. Australia and the US voted against.

Many questioned the sheer hypocrisy of the UK government after the vote:

“Mass murder”

Others have gone further and accused the UK of “supporting Israeli mass murder”.

Ryvka Barnard, senior campaigner for War on Want, said the abstention made “a mockery of the UK’s stated commitment to international law, human rights, and accountability”. War on Want called the vote “disgraceful”:

Media outrage?

But while the UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein’s condemnation of the violence has been fairly widely reported, very few outlets have highlighted the UK vote:

In a BBC article on the vote, for example, there is no mention of the UK abstention:

But, as people have pointed out, this is only the latest criticism of the BBC‘s ‘impartial‘ coverage of the massacre:


Over 2,400 people were injured as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) opened fire. Children and a baby are among the dead and injured. Israel and the US have defended the violence.

But the UK is complicit in this violence. As Caroline Lucas said:

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.

But the government appears to be washing its hands of these sales once the deal has gone through:

Under siege

Gazans are under siege in an open air prison. As Haidar Eid, a professor at Al-Aqsa University said:

When Israel is not sniping us down or bombing us, it exerts great effort to ensure that we live in subhuman conditions under siege in Gaza. We get electricity for only 4 hours a day, 95 percent of our water is undrinkable, and our seriously ill wither away as they wait for months for a permit to get treatment in the West Bank.

Through arms sales, our government is complicit in this tragedy. And its vote after the recent “mass murder” has made that complicity abundantly clear.

Get Involved!

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

–  Read more stories about Gaza from The Canary

– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

Featured image via EU2017EE Estonian Presidenc – Wikimedia and Wall Street Journal – YouTube

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