Hundreds have taken to the streets in dozens of towns and cities to call for an end to the UK’s complicity in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people, on the 6 year anniversary of the cessation of Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza. The protests come as Israel has conducted a renewed bombardment of Gaza, which remains under a crippling land, air and sea blockade.
The 2014 attack killed over 2,200 Palestinians in 51 days. The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict found credible allegations that Israel committed war crimes through its indiscriminate attacks on densely populated civilian areas, which left over 100,000 Palestinians homeless.
Protesters called for an end to the two-way arms trade with Israel. Government statistics, collated by Campaign Against Arms Trade show that since 2015, the UK has licensed over £376 million worth of arms to Israel. Licences include: £98 million worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones), £16 million worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures) and £4.6 million worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks).
This will be an underestimate as there are also 31 Open Licences to Israel. These are mainly for aircraft equipment. Open Licences allow for an unlimited number of exports, so the real figure is likely to be significantly higher.
This trade has occurred despite Israel being widely condemned for its indiscriminate use of force against Palestinian protesters in Gaza, who began weekly demonstrations calling for their fundamental human rights, as part of the Great March of Return, in March 2018. Israel has killed more than 280 Palestinian protesters in its suppression of the protests.
In May, a wide coalition of Palestinian civil society organisations issued a call for states to introduce ‘effective measures’ to stop Israel’s grave violations of international law, including its proposed annexation of large swathes of the illegally occupied West Bank. This includes enacting a ban on arms trade with Israel.
Many of the protests took place outside branches of HSBC. The bank is being targeted for providing investment, loans and financial services worth millions to companies that supply Israel with weapons and technology, such as Raytheon and BAE Systems. In addition, protesters also drew attention to recent research by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which has uncovered that both UK universities and local authority pension funds have a raft of investments in companies arming Israel.
Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Kamel Hawwash said: “Israel’s 2014 massacre of Palestinians in Gaza brought worldwide condemnation. Yet, the UK government continues to license weapons to be exported to Israel. It is a national shame. The shocking two-way arms trade must end.”
The UK’s complicity runs deeper than the government. Financial institutions, universities and local government pension scheme funds all invest in companies that supply Israel with weapons and military technology.”
Caroline Jones of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “By arming and supporting Israeli forces, the UK government is making itself complicit in the atrocities that are being inflicted on Palestinian people. UK arms sales do not just provide military support, they also signal political support for the illegal occupation of Palestine – including the proposed immoral and illegal annexation of yet more Palestinian land, which will only inflame tensions and lead to further bloodshed. UK governments must stop putting arms sales ahead of the rights and lives of Palestinians.”