Britain’s short-lived solidarity with Palestine exposed on 2nd anniversary of Gaza war
Friday marks the second anniversary of one of history’s bloodiest attacks on Gaza. Despite a few echoes of solidarity with Palestinians from the British establishment, the government has since sold Israel arms licenses worth over £25 million.
Charities and campaigners have demanded an investigation into the 2014 conflict, which lasted from July 8 to August 27. Allegations of war crimes haunt both sides.
A relative of a child killed during an Israeli airstrike, Sobhi Bakr, said: “I cannot understand how a crime ... where the whole world saw how boys playing on the beach were massacred mercilessly, can pass like that without any criminals held to account.”
The 50-day war claimed the lives of over 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including at least 500 children.
A total of 73 Israelis died during the military intervention, seven of whom were civilians.
Amnesty International urged both the Israeli and the Palestinian National Consensus governments to fully cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, which is currently performing preliminary inquiries on the attack.
Commenting on the Israeli Defence Force’s (IDF) strategy during Operation Protective Edge, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director Philip Luther said: “There’s evidence of deliberate targeting [of] civilians, of disproportionate attacks against civilians often in their homes. Indiscriminate attacks, such as the use or artillery fire in densely populated civilian areas and destruction of civilian buildings, of civilian infrastructure. All of those are war crimes.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron, however, argued the attacks were indicative of Israel’s “right to defend itself.”
Foreign Office minister at the time, Baroness Warsi, resigned after calling the IDF’s actions, and the British government’s stance, “morally indefensible.”
That summer, tens of thousands of people protested against the attacks on Gaza in a series of demonstrations held across the UK.
Warsi’s resignation, together with the mass outcry at the slaughter, caused the government to adjust its position on the conflict. It even went as far as symbolically recognizing an independent Palestinian state.
Business as usual with Israel
The British establishment’s solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza was short-lived, however, as business with Israel was quickly resumed.
Since the end of Operation Protective Edge in September 2014, Britain has licensed more than £25 million worth of arms to Israel. Among the weapons included are aircraft and drone components, anti-armor ammunition and night sights.
In the four months following Operation Protective Edge Britain has exported £4 million of arms to Israel.
A report by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that 12 export licenses approved before the conflict may have contained weapons used against the people of Gaza.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) spokesperson Andrew Smith told RT: “More than 2,000 people died and vital infrastructure was destroyed in the bombardment of Gaza two years ago. Since then we have seen business as usual, with the UK government continuing to provide uncritical political and military support for Israel and the ongoing occupation.”
Fellow campaigner and War on Want director John Hilary added: “The UK government remains complicit in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. In 2014, the UK government licensed over £11.6 million worth of military equipment and arms components for export to Israel, with full knowledge of what those arms would be used for.
“That summer, while our streets swelled with opposition to the brutal attacks, it was business as usual when it came to the UK and Israel trading weapons.
“Israel's attacks on Palestinians in Gaza are war crimes, made possible only through the continued financial, military and diplomatic support its government receives from Western states such as the UK. By continuing the arms trade with Israel, the UK government is giving material support to Israel’s aggression against the Palestinian people.”
Both groups have called for a suspension of arms licenses from Britain to Israel with immediate effect.
Tories ban BDS
Earlier this year, a directive from the British government made it illegal for local councils, public bodies and universities to boycott Israeli products.
The crackdown was seen as a way to root out actions “undermining good community relations” and “fuelling anti-Semitism.”
A Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement spokeswoman said: “The tone and language in the documents published by the government is intended as a gift to Israel and is clearly designed to intimidate councils into falsely thinking that they are no longer allowed to exclude companies that violate human rights from tender exercises, making this a particularly underhand attack on local democracy.
“Israel is aware that it is becoming a pariah state, that BDS is having an economic impact and that more companies are exiting the Israeli market, so it is exporting a patently anti-democratic model of how governments should deal with dissent that is based on repression.”