One of Johnson’s biggest billionaire donors profits from Israeli state ‘war crimes’

Boris Johnson and Israeli soldier by a JCB digger
Fréa Lockley

Since January 2019, Boris Johnson has received £121,000 from one billionaire donor. And that same donor is linked to “war crimes” in occupied Palestine. So when Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently visited Johnson, it was disturbing to see that diplomatic links between the two were stronger than ever.

Money talks

Anthony Bamford is chairman of construction company JCB. Johnson’s MP register of interests shows that donations from Bamford and JCB total £121,000 in 2019 alone.

The Bamford family has an estimated wealth of £3.6bn. Since 2001, Electoral Commission records show the Bamfords and JCB have given “almost £10m in political donations”, primarily to the Conservative Party and groups “campaigning to leave” the EU. In June alone, these donations totalled £28,000.

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As The Canary previously reported, JCB machinery has been used in Israel’s ongoing policy of demolishing Palestinian homes, communities, and livelihoods. In July, Israeli forces demolished people’s homes in occupied Palestine. They reportedly used JCB, Hyundai, and Caterpillar machinery during the demolition.

“War crimes”

In 2018, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda issued a statement saying:

I have been following with concern the planned eviction of the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, in the West Bank.  Evacuation by force now appears imminent, and with it the prospects for further escalation and violence.

It bears recalling, as a general matter, that extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute.

Bensouda continued:

I am similarly alarmed by the continued violence, perpetrated by actors on both sides, at the Gaza border with Israel.

In July, human rights group B’Tselem reminded Israel once again that “forcible transfer of Palestinian communities is a war crime”.

Yet JCB has refused to halt involvement in these demolitions.

“Human rights”

In July, an open letter called on Bamford and JCB to show “concern for justice and human rights worldwide”. It also noted that “many of the bulldozers” used in “attempted” demolitions “were manufactured by JCB”. It continued:

Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes carries on almost daily. 461 demolitions were carried out in 2018 in the West Bank alone. They are an integral part of the Israeli State’s repressive military occupation aimed at displacing Palestinian communities and building Israeli settlements in their place.

The letter also reminded Bamford about its responsibilities under the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Similarly, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also has stringent guidelines to ensure human rights compliance and due diligence within business supply chains.

Yet as the letter notes, JCB failed to respond to requests “to comply with these responsibilities” from several “legal and campaign groups”. The groups include War on WantLawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, and the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.

Activists from campaign group Stop the Demolitions, who took action at JCB’s UK-based factories, also said it is “complicit in crimes against Palestinians’.

Righter than right

Johnson’s links with Bamford seem to go further. Since coming to power, he’s appointed members of the secretive TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) to key government roles.

In 2009, the Guardian reported that a spokesperson said Bamford “helped fund the TPA”. The TPA also ran “a campaign against radicalising schoolbooks published by the Palestinian Authority”. Shahmir Sanni, who blew the whistle on the Vote Leave campaign’s overspending during the 2016 referendum, stated that organisations like the TPA play “a dirty game”. He also said this goes:

to the heart of the British establishment and exposes a covert relationship that operates between the government, these “thinktanks” and the media.

JCB profits, meanwhile, continue to soar. As Insider Media noted:

it achieved a turnover of £3.3bn for the year to 31 December 2017, up from £2.6bn in 2016.

Johnson pushes the UK further into political crisis on a daily basis. But with the focus on his right-wing government and parliament, it’s vital that we don’t forget the billionaires who’ve been there every step of the way, investing and pumping money into his project. We urgently need to ask what power and influence £121,000 buys.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Johnson’s biggest donor’s complicit in “war crimes”. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep the pressure on and call this out every step of the way. Because we owe that to every Palestinian child, woman, and man.

Featured images via EU2018BG Bulgarian Presidency/Wikimedia and Corporate Occupation used with permission

 

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    1. BDS is the way. As much pressure as possible on Bamford and his ilk. The problem is ordinary folk don’t buy JCBs. How do we put pressure on the construction/demolition industries to get them to boycott JCB? The unions are vital. They need to get construction workers to raise their voices and if possible take action.
      The other path is, of course, legislation. Sales of this equipment to regimes like Israel must be banned. What a sinister alliance this is: capitalists who know only the bottom line on the one hand and a racist regime which defies international law on the other. That’s why we need Corbyn in power.

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