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UK Approved Arms Sales To Israel Days After Gaza Shootings

Anti-UK arms sales protest in London, March 2018. (Photo: Alisdare Hickson)
Anti-UK arms sales protest in London, March 2018. (Photo: Alisdare Hickson)

“There is a complete disconnect between EU principles and its image and enforcing any coherent policy concerning arms exports.”

The British government gave the green light to arms sales to Israel in 2018 worth $17 million despite international protest over the Jewish state’s involvement in the deadly Gaza protests of the same year.

According to a Middle East Monitor Report, the U.K.’s Department of International Trade (DIT) published the arms sale data which was collected by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT). The data showed that the British administration granted licenses to sell weapons which included parts for ammunition and assault rifles as well as other arms that would be used by the Israeli army against Palestinians.

In May 2018, London backed arms exports worth more than $125,000 just four days after Israeli soldiers shot 68 Palestinians. Ironically, the then Theresa May administration approved the sales the same week that she raised grave concerns about the killings.

In 2017, the U.K. issued arms export licenses worth $294 million to defense contractors exporting war equipment to Israel, a staggering rise of 256 percent compared to the previous year ($114 million).

The CAAT said in 2018 that the U.K. had sold military and war equipment worth more than $466 million to Israel over the last five years.

Andrew Smith, CAAT spokesperson, told Al Jazeera that U.K. weaponry previously sold to Israel was used in at least two Israeli offensives on the besieged coastal enclave.

“U.K. government investigations have confirmed that U.K. arms were used against the people of Gaza in 2009 and 2014,” he said, calling for “a full investigation” to determine whether “they were used in recent atrocities”.

The exponential increase of arms sale is testament to the “increasingly close political and military relationship between the UK and Israel”, Smith added.

UK Court Rules Against Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

On Thursday, June 20, a U.K. court of appeal ruled the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia was unlawful. The court claimed that arms exports have contributed to the increase in civilian deaths in the Yemen War, which has gone on for five years.

“The Court of Appeal has concluded that the process of decision-making by the government was wrong in law in one significant respect,” said Terence Etherton, England’s second most senior judge.

CAAT reported that the U.K. had granted arms exports to oil-rich Saudi Arabia worth $4.7 billion since 2015 – when Saudi and its Gulf allies launched a military intervention to quell the Houthi rebel uprising in Yemen. The non-profit organization filed a lawsuit against the U.K. government based on the premise that the Saudi-backed coalition had broken international law and European Union (EU) arms export procedures.

The Independent reported in November 2017 that U.K. arms exports to Saudi Arabia hit record highs and had increased 500 percent since the start of the Yemen War.

Anti-war activists hailed the U.K. verdict as “historic,” but the court’s ruling does not mean that arms exports to Saudi Arabia will automatically stop, as existing contracts will be honored, pending the secretary of state’s decision.

The British government stated that it would appeal the court’s verdict.

The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, or ACLED, reported that around 17,100 civilians were killed in armed conflicts in 2015. While 11,900 civilians have been killed so far this year and 2018 was the deadliest in recent history as it claimed 30,800 lives.

ACLED data showed that as of April 2019, the Saudi-backed coalition in Yemen had killed more than 4,800 civilians since 2016, while Houthi rebels had killed 1,300 civilians in the same time period.

EU Arms Control Policy

The E.U. has, in fact, a code of conduct on arms exports which stipulates arms export procedures and requirements. The rule stresses that arms exports must avoid human rights violations and also prevent the use of arms against European armed forces.

However, the E.U.’s code is not legally binding. Thus, permitting individual member countries to have the final say to grant arms export contracts to war equipment manufacturers, leading to a disconnect between E.U. arms control policy and member countries’ policies regarding arms sales,

“There is a complete disconnect between EU principles and its image and enforcing any coherent policy concerning arms exports,” Bates Gill, director of SIPRI told Carnegie Europe.

Arms control advocates often accuse European countries of applying a double standard when it comes to exporting weapons. Germany, for example, extended a ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia following the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last October. However, Berlin eventually approved some war equipment sales to Saudi-led coalition members in order to fulfill existing joint contracts with French and British contractors.

According to DW, Germany approved a shipment of “technology for low-bed semi-trailer production” from the Ulm-based company Kamag to France, which will then send a finished product to Saudi Arabia.

Other approved or pending exports include German-French-produced accessories for “Cobra” artillery tracking radar systems to be shipped to the UAE,  three “Dingo” armored vehicles and 168 warheads to Qatar, 92 electric drives for the “Fuchs” armored personnel carrier to Algeria,18,000 detonators for mortar grenades to Indonesia and 3,000 anti-tank weapons to Singapore.

European countries and the U.S. have repeatedly condemned civilian killings in Yemen and called for peace in Gaza, but they continue to ship arms to countries organizations like Human Rights Watch have dubbed as gross human rights violators, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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