“How many more Palestinian people need to die, how many need to be injured before British arms sales to Israel are banned?”Richard Burgon MP
Every year on 29 November, the United Nations observes the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
There was a huge outpouring of solidarity with the Palestinian people earlier this year when Israel’s war on Gaza killed 261 Palestinians, a quarter of whom were children, injured over 2,200 Palestinians and displaced tens of thousands.
But we must ensure that this solidarity is turned into real pressure on our government to play a meaningful role in ending the decades-long occupation and violation of Palestinian human rights
That is why I have a Bill in parliament calling for the British government to place an urgent ban on all arms exports to Israel.
The British Government continues to authorise arms sales to Israel despite clear evidence that weapons of the types permitted for sale have been used in violation of international law.
This means that the British government is providing material support for Israel’s illegal use of force. How can our government claim to be supporting peace when it is helping to arm Israel in this way?
Without a ban on arms exports, our government’s talk of supporting peace is not only empty rhetoric. Our government is actually complicit in Israel’s war on the Palestinian people. My Bill is about tackling that complicity.
Since 2015 the Government has licensed over £400 million of arms sales to Israel, including over £100m on aircraft and drones, £20m on bombs, grenades and missiles, over £4m on armoured vehicles and nearly £3m on small arms and ammunition.
The F-35 warplanes used in the bombing of Gaza earlier this year are thought to have included British parts. Arms Manufacturer Lockheed Martin says “the fingerprints of British ingenuity can be found on dozens of the aircraft’s key components”.
But this is no one-off. A review by the government into the bombardment of Gaza in 2014, identified 12 licenses for “components which could be part of equipment used by the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza.”
That included components for military radar, combat aircraft and tanks. The British government said at the time it would suspend some of its arms exports to Israel if hostilities resume in Gaza. Despite this, sales continued.
And in 2009, then foreign secretary David Miliband said that UK exported components were “almost certainly” used in Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip, leading to the suspension of several export licences.
But still, the exports continue. We cannot allow this to go unchallenged. How many more Palestinian people need to die, how many need to be injured before British arms sales to Israel are banned?
My Israel Arms Trade (Prohibition) Bill would prohibit the Government from authorising arms sales to Israel.
It would also prohibit the Government from authorising arms imports from Israel – this is important because such weapons are often marketed as having been ‘tested’ on the Palestinian people
It would establish an inquiry into the ultimate use of weapons that have been authorised for sale to Israel, which campaigners warn the Government currently chooses to turn a blind eye to.
I launched the Bill in parliament with the support of a cross-party group of MPs and so far 53 MPs from 7 parties have backed the Bill.
The Bill is also supported by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, War on Want and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign who are asking people to lobby their MPs to back the Bill by signing Early Day Motion 300.
Banning arms sales to Israel is just one part of what we need to secure justice for Palestine. It must be part of a wider campaign across the labour and trade union movement to end Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, its colonial settlements, its denial of the right of Palestinian refugees to return and its violations of human rights and international law.
But it is an important part of building concrete solidarity with the Palestinian people – please show your support for my Bill.
- You can also sign the Labour Must Speak up for Palestine statement at https://labourandpalestine.eaction.online/speakupforPalestine