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New report details UK complicity in Israeli human rights abuses, calls for arms embargo

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Last summer, I marched in the streets of London along with tens of thousands of others in a collective expression of grief and anger as Israeli bombs rained on Gaza from air and sea. Each morning I woke up devastated to hear the updated death counts: hundreds and then thousands of Palestinians killed in their homes, streets, hospitals and schools. No time to flee and nowhere safe to go. Our outrage was focused at the callous Israeli regime, but also at the UK government for its failure to condemn the bombings.

Mass protest in response to a massacre like the one we saw last summer has become far too routine. As we marched and chanted, I remembered a similar scene in 2006, 2009 and 2012. While protests at least provided a space for some venting, I couldn’t help but wonder—should I expect to be here chanting the same slogans again in a couple of years?

In the four months directly following the summer attacks, the UK licensed £4 million of arms exports to Israel. So while our streets swelled with opposition to the brutal attacks, it was business as usual when it came to the UK and Israel trading weapons.

This figure and others can be found in a new report, ‘Arming Apartheid’, published by War on Want, Campaign Against Arms Trade and Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The report details the UK’s complicity in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, with a specific focus on the multi-million pounds’ industry that is the UK-Israel arms trade.

UK Exports to Israel

Arming Apartheid report

Arming Apartheid report

The UK is one of Israel’s most reliable suppliers of weapons components used in the brutal occupation. Since 2010, the UK government has approved more than £53 million worth of export licences to Israel for military goods. In 2014 alone, the value of licences awarded for export to Israel amounted to £11,615,840 for military use and £28,992,833 for dual use.

In the six months before Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in 2014, licensed items included combat aircraft components, drone components, anti-armour ammunition and weapon night sights, items almost certainly used in the attacks. The weapons Israel receives from the UK are not only used in its Gaza bombing campaigns, but in the day-to-day maintenance of the occupation as well.

These deadly exports continued to gain approval from the UK government, despite explicit knowledge that the weapons are used in Israel’s repression of Palestinians and to maintain its Occupation, against international law and in contravention of the UK’s own criteria for export licensing.

Israel’s ‘Field Tested’ Technologies

It is not only exports to Israel that help it enforce Apartheid. The UK is also a highly valued client of the Israeli arms industry. The UK government not only buys Israeli weapons technology, but consistently provides a platform for Israeli arms companies to market their weapons at arms fairs here in the UK.

As the horror unfolded and the death toll mounted in Gaza last July, Israeli weapons companies such as Elbit Systems were busy boasting about their ‘field tested’ weapons at the Farnborough International arms fair. Whether it is drones technology or communications and security systems, Israel’s’ systematic violence against Palestinians is the military’s main purpose.  It’s also one of its biggest industries.

So long as the UK government continues to conduct this arms trade with Israel, what motivation is there for Israel to change its apartheid policies and put an end to its illegal occupation? Symbolic gestures of support for Palestinian human rights or mealy-mouthed condemnations of settlements by the UK mean nothing when at the same time it is arming this brutal regime. This is why we are calling for an immediate two-way arms embargo against Israel, and asking our friends and allies to join us in putting pressure on the UK government and arms producers to end this horrendous trade in death.

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Campaigning Works

In the face of powerful arms companies and stubborn governments it can be hard to imagine a successful campaign to stop arming Israel. But we know that popular pressure works. Last summer UK MPs were inundated with thousands of emails, letters and phone calls demanding they speak out against UK complicity. Some did. However, this campaign needs sustained pressure so that those elected to represent us do far more than simply make a statement when pushed to do so.

Pressure can be applied in many ways. Last year a handful of activists occupied the roof of Elbit’s factory in Shenstone for days, successfully shutting down its operations. This is part of a wider targeting of over 100 arms companies in towns and cities across the UK that continue to manufacture weapons components shipped to Israel.

On 6 July this year, we will return to that site again to protest at the factory. We want to send a clear message that we will not rest until the arms trade ends.

Stop Arming Israel: Responding to the BDS Call

We are always ready to take to the streets, to raise our voices and march for justice but let’s not wait for the next batch of Israeli bombs to rain down on Gaza. Collectively we can take action right now to stop the UK-Israel arms trade.

This week marks the ten-year anniversary of the inspiring Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) call from Palestinian civil society. Responding to the call means standing for justice by calling on our own governments and institutions to end their complicity with Israeli Apartheid.

Until now, many BDS campaigns have focused on the boycott and divestment, and there are (unfortunately) plenty of opportunities for us to undertake boycotts and divestments in relation to the arms trade. Particularly after last summer though, our way to mark [email protected] is to advance our campaigns through stepping up to a call for sanctions. The case is clear and there is already popular support for it, now we need to focus on our long-term strategy for a global #StopArmingIsrael campaign.

Visit us online to download or order a copy of our ‘Arming Apartheid’ report, take action and to find out more about our Stop Arming Israel campaign.

Ryvka Barnard

Ryvka Barnard is the Senior Campaigns Officer on Militarism and Security at War on Want.

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13 Responses

  1. just on July 2, 2015, 12:29 pm

    Thank you, Ryvka. You make an excellent case for BDS and more.

    “Last summer, I marched in the streets of London along with tens of thousands of others in a collective expression of grief and anger as Israeli bombs rained on Gaza from air and sea. Each morning I woke up devastated to hear the updated death counts: hundreds and then thousands of Palestinians killed in their homes, streets, hospitals and schools. No time to flee and nowhere safe to go. Our outrage was focused at the callous Israeli regime, but also at the UK government for its failure to condemn the bombings.” – See more at:

    As you know, the UK government was not alone in “its failure to condemn the bombings”, Ryvka. The US and many other countries were voicing support for Israel’s assault and massacre, shouting the “right” to self- defense~ but only for Israel! So yes, the action has to be from the grassroots~ AGAIN. We have to force the change in the murderous status quo of Israeli apartheid, Occupation, intermittent massacres, and terror. These terrible things and concomitant Israeli impunity would not exist without the support of Western governments.

  2. Carol Yost on July 2, 2015, 3:29 pm

    Ryvka, a beautiful article. As a member of Adalah-NY, I reach out to you as a former colleague. Yes, we must join “Hands across the Water” to stop apartheid and the oppression of Palestinians. Thank you for the information you provide in the article, and for all the work you and your British colleagues have done.

    The oppression of the Palestinian people will end!

  3. ivri on July 2, 2015, 3:40 pm

    The military export of the UK to Israel has little to do with how it views Israel`s actions and is a matter of how it sees its general interests. The killing of the British tourists in Tunisia is the most recent manifestation of a quasi-WW3 that goes on continually even if by other name. It`s a continual low-intensity warfare, which only keeps getting worse, with all Western countries seeing themselves threatened by it – so have no choice but cling together. Indeed, it includes Western allies in the Arab world, which are also under threat – e.g. Hamas is not just a problem for Israel but also for Egypt and likewise with Jordan. So it is geo-strategic not part of the old and no-end-in-sight Israel-Palestinian conflict.

    • CigarGod on July 3, 2015, 10:07 am

      “Here is the bullshit!”…from ivri.

      Western Corporatocracy, profits from oppression and resistence to oppression. They finance the propaganda, we “see.”

      The only WW3 that exists, is the oppression the west creates.

  4. just on July 2, 2015, 6:02 pm

    This is why we need actions like Ryvka details all over the West and BDS and the ICC and ICJ:

    “After UN report on summer Gaza war, Israel Air Force still believes it acted properly
    ‘The enemy has chosen to use the civilians themselves and the infrastructures as a shield. That is where our wars are. Not anywhere else.’

    No one in the defense establishment breathed a sigh of relief last week when the United Nations published its report on Operation Protective Edge. However, the statement that 1,462 Palestinian civilians were killed in the course of the fighting last summer by Israeli Defense Forces fire, and that hundreds of them, women and children included, were killed when they were inside buildings bombed from the air, mostly placed Israel’s air force in the crosshairs.

    “I have one thing to say,” said a combat navigator in the reserves who participated in last year’s Gaza war. “It is not at all a ‘light bump to the wing of the plane,’” he said, citing the reply of former air force commander and subsequent chief of staff Dan Halutz when asked what he felt when he dropped a bomb that killed innocent civilians.

    During the 50 days of hostilities more than 5,200 targets were attacked: tunnels, launching areas, houses and weapons depots. Their number was greater than in the two previous operations – Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense – combined. …”

    Official Israel can never be trusted. Never. Ever.

    Here’s another very worthwhile read:

    “‘Death to Arabs’: The Israeli army’s new unofficial slogan?

    “I have no doubt in my heart that the IDF is the most moral army in the world,” said then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in the middle of Israel’s 2008-09 siege of Gaza – an air and ground invasion that left nearly 1,500 Palestinians, most of them civilians, dead.

    Everyone from casino and media magnate Sheldon Adelson to Jewish American trial lawyer Alan Dershowitz has repeated the assertion in the hope that if it’s said often enough the world will believe it true.

    The trope has now been co-opted by even those who don’t have ancestral or even spiritual ties to Israel. Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of all British forces in Afghanistan, made the claim during the height of last summer’s siege on Gaza that “Israel is the most moral army the world has ever known.” Like, ever? I can’t be sure but it’s likely Gandhi, who freed a country without firing a single bullet, might have choked on whatever it is they serve in heaven.

    That “Israeli military is the most moral army in the world” is a trope repeated so often by so many pro-Israel propagandists, it now stands as the IDF’s unofficial slogan.

    It’s a dubious slogan indeed given Israel waged a devastating ground invasion and air assault on Gaza last year under phony pretences. Having mischievously tied Hamas and Gaza to the kidnapping and murder of three teenage boys in the West Bank, the IDF dropped $370 million worth of ordinance on one of the most densely populated areas on earth.

    Israel’s effort to “mow the lawn,” or as others have termed it, “occupation management,” resulted in the death of more than 2,000 Palestinians (alongside another 10,000 injured), most of them civilians, more than 500 of whom were children. And don’t get me started on widespread and corroborated claims the IDF used Palestinian civilians as “human shields”.

    Ok, do get me started. The Israeli High Court found the IDF used Palestinians as human shields 1,200 times in the years 2000 to 2005 alone.

    So back to last year’s siege of Gaza. The damage to Gaza’s infrastructure and economy was just as devastating. More than 400 businesses were wiped out; Israeli shelling destroyed 10,000 homes, damaged another 100,000; 24 medical facilities were struck, as was Gaza’s sole power station.

    If you need a sense of the World War Two era level of carpet bombing dropped on Gaza, consider Israel military’s own estimates: “390,000 tank shells, 34,000 artillery shells, and 4.8 million bullets were supplied during the fighting.”…”
    – See more at:

  5. eusebio on July 3, 2015, 9:52 am

    The end of Apartheid in Israel

  6. hophmi on July 3, 2015, 6:31 pm

    How does Rabbi Barnard feel about your BDS activism, Ryvka, considering that he was honored by Israel Bonds?

    • CigarGod on July 3, 2015, 8:08 pm

      Get slathered in guilt, here.

    • Bornajoo on July 4, 2015, 7:10 pm

      Hophmi, what business is it of yours what Ryvka’s father thinks about her bds activism? Guess what? It has nothing to do with you.

      Thanks for your terrific article Ryvka and everything that you do

      • justicewillprevail on July 5, 2015, 5:58 am

        Oh, it’s nothing whatsoever to hopper, but he can’t resist another gratuitous and irrelevant snide little dig at somebody, such is the futile nature of his unpleasant attempts to pour his vitriol on people who come up with inconvenient facts, and have principles.

      • CigarGod on July 5, 2015, 10:01 am

        Im not sure about that.
        The nasty secret of the Jewish State he advocates for…is they really want to firmly establish a Rabbinic State.
        A state where Hop could turn in Ryvka for insulting the state religion.

  7. a blah chick on July 5, 2015, 11:05 am

    CigarGod: The nasty secret of the Jewish State he advocates for…is they really want to firmly establish a Rabbinic State.

    Isn’t it interesting that though Israel demands that the rest of the world recognize them as the “Jewish State” they’ve never done so themselves. Few Jews there want to be forced to live under full Halacha law.

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