I thank my right hon. Friend Ann Clwyd for securing this important debate and for her thorough and impressive speech on the issue, about which I know she is extremely knowledgeable and passionate. I share her deep concern about the promotion of UK arms sales to countries with poor human rights records. My contribution will focus on the UK arms trade and military-industrial collaboration with Israel.
The House will know that last summer, while Gaza was under military attack, there was widespread horror and opposition to Israel’s bombing and invasion. Protests took place across our country involving hundreds of thousands of people. In my constituency, nearly 2,000 people marched to protest at the Israeli Government’s actions. The Israeli assault on Gaza in July and August 2014, in which 2,205 Palestinians were killed, including 521 children, is only the most recent example of the Israeli Government’s indiscriminate acts of violence against the Palestinian people, but the United Kingdom continues to treat Israel’s defiance of international law as, at best, an inconvenient detail to be worked around when making decisions on arms trade control. Contrary to their own criteria, the Government grant export licences allowing British military hardware and components to be supplied to Israel. At the same time, they import Israeli military hardware and components and provide training in the UK for Israeli military personnel.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley has outlined the criteria against which arms export licences are considered, yet the Government have been reluctant to refuse or revoke export licences to Israel. Since 2010, they have licensed the export of £42 million worth of military equipment to Israel, and have purchased from Israel targeting systems, drone technology and drones. The latter were developed by Israel’s Elbit Systems in a joint venture with Thales UK under a contract awarded by the Ministry of Defence. Members of the Israeli military have attended education courses for military personnel in the UK, and Israeli firms, including Elbit Systems, receive funding through 46 projects under the European Union’s framework research programme.
Although much was made of the Government’s decision during the Gaza war to halt 12 licences for components in the event of serious hostilities, no definition of “serious hostilities” was ever offered, and although violence resumed the very next day, those licences were not halted. In July 2015, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills announced that those licences were no longer under review, as he was content that the licences for material, including components for military radar and tanks, met the UK’s export criteria.
Israeli military and industry sources openly attribute the success of Israeli exports to the fact that weapons and technologies are combat-proven in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This means that when the UK imports Israeli arms, it helps Israel to benefit from unlawful practices. Despite official controls on arms exports, UK-made arms and military technologies continue to be sold to and used by the occupying Israeli forces. The value of licences awarded for export to Israel amounted to more than £11.5 million for military use and nearly £29 million for dual—civil or military—use in 2014 alone
Importing arms from and selling arms to Israel makes the UK complicit in Israel’s continuing violations of human rights and international law. So long as the Governments of the world engage in the arms trade with Israel, it has no incentive to relinquish its unlawful use of force and its illegal colonies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This is why four Nobel peace laureates—Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Mairead Maguire and Rigoberta Menchú—together with the former UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, have accused the USA and the European Union of complicity in Israel’s crimes and have backed the call for an international military embargo against Israel.
I ask the Government—please—to refuse all of the export licences to Israel, directly or via a third country, where the end user is the Israel defence forces or military industry; to revoke any extant export licences to Israel, directly or via a third country, where the end user is the Israel defence forces or military industry; ban arms imports from Israel; and ban collaborations between UK-based companies and the Israel defence forces or Israeli military industry. We must end our shameful complicity in Israel’s continuing violations of human rights and international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.