After three days of Israeli attacks on the Palestinian population of Gaza, the British government has signalled that it is prepared to give Israel the green light to continue escalating its military operations still further. In his official statement on the crisis on 15 November 2012, UK foreign secretary William Hague refused to condemn Israel's bombardment of the civilian population of Gaza, instead ascribing principal responsibility for the killings to the Palestinians themselves. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme the following morning, Hague said: "The thing that would bring this most quickly to an end would be for Hamas to stop launching rockets at Israel."
In all his statements, Hague has failed to mention Israel's continued siege of Gaza since June 2007 - a siege that has turned one of the world's most densely populated areas into a "prison camp", according to Hague's own boss, British prime minister David Cameron. According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, this siege has left 34% of Gaza's workforce, including over half its youth, unemployed and 44% of Gazans food insecure with 85% of schools running double shifts. A severe fuel and electricity shortage results in outages of up to 12 hours a day and some 90 million litres of untreated and partially treated sewage are dumped in the sea each day.
The foreign secretary's position however, is consistent with ongoing British government policies towards Israel's violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. In fact, Israel's latest military attack is only made possible through the continued financial, military and diplomatic support Israel receives from Western states. During Israel's invasion of Gaza in 2008/09, the UN special rapporteur Richard Falk challenged "those countries that have been and remain complicit, either directly or indirectly, in Israel's violations of international law. That complicity includes those countries knowingly providing the military equipment including warplanes and missiles used in these illegal attacks."
Disregarding such challenges and abundant evidence in UN resolutions and reports by international human rights organizations of Israel's unlawful use of force and weapons resulting in human rights violations, including collective punishment, the British government continues its cooperation with Israel's army and military industry. In a parliamentary statement on 21 April 2009, the British foreign secretary at the time David Miliband revealed that components supplied by Britain were "almost certainly" used by Israel in its military Operation Cast Lead. He cited F16 combat aircraft, Apache attack helicopters, Saar-Class corvettes and armoured personnel carriers. The British government went on to announce that it would be reviewing arms sales to Israel in light of the atrocities committed in Gaza. Despite this, the British government licensed arms exports to Israel between 2008 and 2012 amounting to £130 million. By continuing to sell arms to Israel, the British government is giving direct material support for Israel's aggression and sending a clear message of approval for its actions.
This arms trade is not only one way of course. Israel takes advantage of its armed conflicts and military assaults for 'field-testing' its weapons and doctrines of warfare against Palestinians. Israeli companies will often boast their comparative advantage in the global arms market due to their extensive 'testing' in 'real life' situations. In 2010, approximately 80% of Israel's military production output was exported, and exports by Israeli arms companies totalled £4.4 billion. Such exports, tested on the civilian Palestinian populations of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are imported and integrated into the British armed forces. For example, the British army has awarded Elbit, one of the companies contracted to provide surveillance equipment for the West Bank apartheid wall, and its partner company Thales UK a contract worth over US$1 billion for the development of the Watchkeeper, the next generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). Elbit was also awarded through its British subsidiary U-TacS, a 344.5 million contract to provide Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) support capability for the UK armed forces operating in Afghanistan. Israel's international military trade relations work to bankroll and entrench its continued violence, militarism and expansionism.
Considering Israel's continued violations of international law and Palestinian human rights, our response to this latest round of military aggression must be to intensify efforts for an effective and credible arms embargo operating in both directions between the British and Israeli governments. As the British government has actively supported the continued subjugation of the Palestinian people by providing Israel with the military means to enforce and entrench its increasingly brutal occupation, those who want to see a lasting peace based on justice for the Palestinian people must campaign to end the military, economic and diplomatic support Israel continues to receive. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is an effective campaign to hold Israel and its allies to account. Please join us in that movement and help to address the root cause of the ongoing crisis in Gaza: Israel's illegal occupation and continued dispossession of the Palestinian people.