UK NGOs call for Israel arms embargo

New group: Israel's "bloody occupation ... plunged the region into crisis."

October 13, 2006 00:37
3 minute read.
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anti israel 88. (photo credit: )


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A London based non-governmental organization, The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), has launched a campaign calling for an arms embargo on Israel, accusing the British government of "complicity in the occupation." The group, which has joined forces with a number of groups with a history of anti-Israel activism, including the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, War on Want and the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD), has called for "an immediate, comprehensive arms embargo on all parties involved in the conflict and in particular Israel". The new joint initiative, "Stop Arming Israel," lists all the UK companies that supply Israel and gives practical advice on actions to build support for an embargo. Ready-made postcards, which the group provides for people to sign and send to members of Parliament, state: "Israel has violated more UN resolutions than any other country. Its increasingly bloody occupation of Palestine has plunged the whole region into a crisis." The group claims that the UK government licensed the export of arms worth 22.5m to Israel in 2005, and buys arms from Israeli companies that have been "battle-tested in the occupied territories". In a letter appealing for funds, Kathryn Busby, fundraising coordinator for CAAT, cites a recent Amnesty International report that condemned Israel's actions in Lebanon. There is no mention of Amnesty's report condemning Hizbullah or of Syrian and Iranian arms production and sales, the main source for weapons and missiles used by Hizbullah in attacks on Israeli cities during recent hostilities. The group's policies apply to all countries to which the UK sells weapons, said Symon Hill, media coordinator of CAAT However, according to the group's bimonthly publication, CAAT News, a campaign against Hizbullah's weaponry is not necessary as the weapons are "low-tech" and not made in the UK, while Israel's Apache helicopters and F-16 jets "contain key parts" made in the UK. "Israel's recent bombardment of Lebanon is not an anomaly," Busby said. A 2002 CAAT report refers to "the killing of Palestinian men, women and children, extra-judicial executions, arbitrary detention and deportation of prisoners, collective punishment, torture, attacks on hospitals and ambulances, curfews and other restrictions on freedom of movement and the wholesale destruction of homes." The onus for the recent hostilities in Lebanon is on Israel, according to a recent CAAT News article, "Southern Lebanon Destroyed, Now Stop Arming Israel." Hizbullah's assault on northern Israel is described as "a response." The same article also blames Israel for the situation in Gaza. "A year after a supposed IDF withdrawal from Gaza, its one million inhabitants have to endure repeated military incursions, assassinations, sonic booms from low-flying aircraft and other forms of collective punishment for the armed resistance of a small minority," it says. It also states that large parts of the West Bank and east Jerusalem have been "colonized" and linked via roads only Jews can use, and that a light railway system is being built to "further entrench them." Israel is at the "cutting edge" of global weapons technology, according to CAAT. CAAT says also that Israel was the leading supplier of arms to apartheid South Africa and currently sells to Burma's military junta. Sarah Mandel, associate editor of the NGO Monitor, said that War on Want and Jeff Halper's ICAHD have a long history promoting anti-Israeli discrimination. "War on Want claims to pursue a humanitarian agenda, but is being investigated by the UK Charity Commission for its highly politicized activities - calls for sanctions, divestment and boycotts. ICAHD, a small extremist group, has been given international prominence by its EU funding. Its ostensible human rights projects call for a one-state solution (the destruction of Israel) and its use of polarizing rhetoric undermines all hope for progress towards mutual understanding between Israelis and Palestinians," she said. Mandell added that the lack of any call for Syria and Iran to stop arming Hizbullah and Hamas "makes a mockery of UK and EU funding for such NGOs." Asked why it has chosen to partner with groups who have a clear anti-Israel agenda, Hill said, "We work with other groups because we share a common view on sale of arms with Israel." "When we're campaigning, it would be grossly irresponsible to ignore other groups who are campaigning for the same thing and to run separate campaigns. We are not anti-Israeli. We are anti-arms trade," he said. Robert Tinline, a UK Foreign Office spokesman, said that the UK would continue its current policy regarding arms trade. "We shall continue our policy of rigorously assessing each export license application on a case by case basis against our consolidated criteria. If we assess that issuing a license would be inconsistent with these criteria, we will not issue a license," he said.

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