The following press release was sent out today by the group London Palestine Action:
More than 30 pro-Palestine campaigners occupied the Cabinet Office this afternoon demanding an end to the UK’s flourishing arms trade and military cooperation with Israel.
Campaigners from the London Palestine Action group occupied the building for more than 45 minutes. 3 people locked themselves to railings in the building while others chanted slogans calling on the UK government to impose a military embargo on Israel.
A member of the London Palestine Action group said:
“By allowing arms exports to Israel to flourish, the UK government is providing material and political support for Israel’s violent oppression and collective punishment of Palestinians, including the current massacre in Gaza.”
“UK companies that export arms to Israel such as BAE Systems and Boeing are profiting directly from Israel’s on-going attacks on Palestinian civilians on Gaza.”
“Rather than seeking to whitewash Israeli atrocities, the UK government should listen to the appeals made by Palestinian civil society groups and Amnesty International and impose a military embargo on Israel.”
“How many more people in Gaza have to die before the government will stop arming Israel?”
Official government data shows that the UK government issued arms export licenses to Israel worth £180m in the period 2008-12. Recent UK military exports to Israel include F16 fighter jets, assault rifles, armoured vehicles and ammunition. 31 different UK companies export arms to Israel.
Campaigners also criticised the UK government for collaborating with Israeli arms company Elbit Systems to build a new generation of drones for the UK army. The Watchkeeper drone will be heavily based on the Hermes 450, an Israeli drone that Human Rights Watch has documented as being used to deliberately attack Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
The London Palestine Action campaigner continued:
“Israeli military companies use Gaza as the testing ground for new weaponry and then make millions exporting the technology. The British government is, in effect, buying technology that has been ‘field tested’ on Palestinians.”
“We have to act to end UK complicity in Israeli apartheid and colonialism. We’ll continue to take direct action until the UK government and UK companies stop participating in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.”
The UK government also leases Hermes 450 drones from Elbit Systems for use in Afghanistan.
More than 260 Palestinians have died since Israel began its assault on Gaza. Palestinian and international human rights groups have accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, which are crimes under international law.
Following the 2008-09 attack on Gaza, the then Labour government announced that several arms export licenses would be revoked.
London Palestine Action is a new network of people campaigning in response to the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.