War On Want (WoW), in association with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), recently released a report entitled ‘Arming Apartheid – UK complicity in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people’.
This concise collection of evidence is used by these three organisations to call on the British government to “implement an immediate two-way arms embargo to end all arms sales to and purchase from Israel”.
The report does a good job of outlining the British imperialist state’s level of complicity with the zionist regime – in this case, specifically through the continued export and import of military technology. It states that export licences awarded from Britain to Israel in 2014 amounted to £11.6m for military use and £29m for so-called ‘dual-use’ technology (‘dual use’ being the term for technologies, goods and equipment deemed to potentially have both civil and military application).
It is worth reminding ourselves that last year saw yet another barbaric massacre against the people of Gaza (euphemistically dubbed ‘Operation Protective Edge’ by Israel), which left 2,205 Palestinians dead and 10,895 injured. In the view of the three organisations, British arms exports to Israel are able to continue, despite nearly universal condemnation of its actions, thanks to remarkably lax interpretation of the criteria set out by the government’s own Export Control Organisation, namely: “So weakly as to allow sales that violate the criteria by any common-sense definition.”
A key example of this that is given in the report concerns components for the Saar gunboat. After a review in 2009, five export licences for spare parts for guns used on the vessel Saar 4.5 were revoked – but these were only five out of 35 licences relating to the vessel, the implication of which is that the British government’s case-by-case approach allows for licences to be issued for (hypothetically) the keel, engines, communications systems and propellors of vessels involved in a military campaign “in which there is copious evidence that war crimes were commited” – as long as somebody else fixes the guns on.
Furthermore, the report shows that the ‘case-by-case’ approach to reviewing licences allows the “broader reality of Israel’s institutionalised occupation of Palestine” to be overlooked. The fact that “asserting by force a territorial claim” as well as “internal repression” are core functions of the Israeli armed forces is left unconsidered, thereby rendering all the talk about supposedly ‘rigorous contols’ a sham and a farce.
Regarding imports from Israel, the situation is no less repulsive. Britain’s Tornado and Eurofighter combat aircraft both use Israeli-made targeting systems and the Watchkeeper WK 450 unmanned aerial vehicle (drone), used by the British armed forces, is a variation on the Israeli Hermes 450. The selling point for these particular pieces of equipment, of course, is that they have been well tried and tested on the inhabitants of the occupied Palestinian territories and the various other Arab countries that are the target of Israeli aggression.
The hypocrisy here is only too clear – whilst some members of Parliament make occasional humanitarian gestures towards the Palestinian people, in response to popular revulsion and mass campaigns, and call for recognition of Palestinian statehood as part of a two-state solution, the contracts for exporting and importing military and dual-use hardware continue to be granted.
For example, the parliamentary report from the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) states with regard to the symbolic act of voting in favour of recognising Palestine as a state, alongside Israel: “The motion would pressurise Israel into making concessions by substantiating the government’s continual condemnations of illegal settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.”.
However, it says little about the continuing trade in arms and military hardware, save that the issue caused a split in the previous Conservative/LibDem coalition government and led to the resignation of Conservative minister Baroness Warsi. While providing damning examples of the harsh treatment meted out to Palestinians trying to go about their daily lives by means of the debilitating system of checkpoints, restricted zones and general intimidation, the CAABU report does not mention the (up until 2014) unchallenged right of Britain’s largest multinational security firm, G4S, to provide the systems, hardware and training that make these oppressive measures possible.
What the authors of both reports, in common with all their liberal supporters, fail to recognise is that at the root of the ‘lax implementation of arms trade regulations’ lies something that is far from accidental – the relationship between British imperialism and its middle-eastern protégé, the fascistic settler colonial state of Israel. It is not the ‘undue influence’ of arms companies, but the British ruling class’s desire to control middle-eastern oil that lies at the heart of successive British governments’ political, diplomatic and economic backing and coddling of the criminal zionist regime.
Meanwhile, if they cannot even persuade themselves to back the modest demands contained in the ‘Arming Apartheid’ report, the declarations of British politicians from the imperialist parties feigning support for the Palestinian cause cannot be treated as anything but impotent hand-wringing at best, and more often grotesque hypocrisy and deception.