Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) says the UK government decision to revoke five arms export licences to Israel is a welcome move but far too little, far too late. The licences cover spare parts for guns on the Sa'ar ships which fired into civilian settlements on the Gaza coastline during Israel's assault on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009.
The move comes after a review of UK arms exports to Israel by Foreign Secretary David Miliband. He is reported to have made the decision on the grounds that the exports breach "Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria" which, among other criteria, state that arms exports should not be used for "internal repression". This appears to refer to Israeli actions in Gaza, although Gaza and the West Bank are not Israeli territory.
However, this and other criteria which assess the impact of arms sales on regional peace, security and stability, and the country's human rights record, seem to have been previously ignored in the case of Israel.
In 2008 government had approved around £30m worth of arms licences to Israel, with the bulk listed as naval equipment. The UK is also a steady supplier of components exported directly to Israel and via the US, for incorporation in weapons exported to Israel by US suppliers.
CAAT spokesperson Kaye Stearman said:
We welcome the move, however belated, and hope other countries will follow. However, it has taken over six months for the UK Government to take this very limited action. It must have realised that these weapons were likely to be used in a naval bombardment so why did they approve the licences in the first place?"
This episode shows that we don't know how UK components, whether exported directly to Israel or via the US, will be used. The only only effective and ethical action is an immediate embargo on arms and components - this would help to protect the people of Gaza and the West Bank and send a meaningful message to the Israeli government about its policy towards the Occupied Territories.
For further comment please contact CAAT's Press Co-ordinator on 020 7281 0297 or 07990 673 232 or email media(at)caat·org·uk.
1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade together with progressive demilitarisation within arms producing countries. Around 80% of CAAT's funding comes from individual supporters' donations and CAAT is strictly nonviolent in all its work.
2. UK Export licences to Israel approved in 2008 amount to approximately £30m (figures are not available for 2009). They include: components for combat aircraft and general military aircraft, electronic warfare equipment, weapons display sights, helmet mounted display equipment, surface-to-air missiles, military communications equipment and components for naval radars.
3. Important components in the F16 fighter aircraft and Apache combat helicopter are known to have been exported to the US for inclusion in military exports to Israel.