Lawmakers ask whether government knows how Israel is using British weapons, as they fear UK complicity in atrocities
Dec. 14: Over a dozen MPs have called on the UK government to halt its arms exports to Israel, saying they fear Britain is complicit in atrocities being committed against Palestinians in Gaza, Middle East Eye reported on Wednesday.
The lawmakers, who spoke in a Commons debate on Tuesday, questioned what the UK government knows about how British weapons are being used and, consequently, what assessments have been made that the government is following its own arms export laws.
The government is obligated under those laws to suspend arms export licences if it determines that there is a clear risk that British weapons might be used in violations of international law.
According to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), the UK government has licensed at least £472m worth of military exports to Israel since May 2015.
“Do the government know whether British weapons or military equipment are being used in Gaza or not?” said Labour MP John McDonnell, who also asked whether spare parts for F-16 and F-35 aircraft used in bombing had been shipped to Israel.
She also noted that the true value of UK arms transfers to Israel is “shrouded in secrecy” because publicly disclosed figures don’t include items sold under opaque open licences which keep the value of arms and their quantities secret.
Independent MP Angus Brendan MacNeil said while MPs and the public might not know the true figure, he wondered if more transparency should be expected from UK companies.
“Should we not be able to expect more of companies in the UK, and that they will not be like immoral drug dealers on the corner, selling to whoever, whenever, regardless of the consequences?” he said.
“We expect companies that live among us in the UK not to be funding or aiding and abetting death in Gaza, as is happening at the moment.”
The organisations called on the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) to hold an inquiry into UK-made weapons used in Israel and Palestine “as a matter of urgency”.
“They have not met since March,” said Liberal Democrat MP Richard Foord. “That is outrageous, and we need to do something about it.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday that the Gaza death toll since the start of the war on 7 October has now reached 18,608, including over 7,000 children.