Rights and Accountability 22 July 2013
Last week was no exception. Fascinated by an apparent bust-up between Israel and the European Union, most Middle East analysts (myself included) missed a very important story: Britain’s arms sales to Israel are far higher than David Cameron’s government has previously confessed.
Data published in a new report from the House of Commons in London states the value of all British military exports to Israel currently being processed comes to £7.9 billion ($12.1 billion).
This data was supplied by Vince Cable, Britain’s business secretary, who oversees the weapons trade.
I had to do a double-take when reading this information as until now Britain has indicated that the value of its arms sales to Israel are measured in millions, rather than billions.
Each year, the EU issues a report on weapons exports for the entire Union, based on information provided by its individual governments. These reports stated that Britain approved military export licenses for Israel worth €5.7 million in 2011 and €7.2 million in 2010.
Taken at face value, the annual reports suggest that Britain has reduced its weapons exports to Israel since Operation Cast Lead, the murderous three-week attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. During 2008, Britain authorized weapons sales of €31.5 million to Israel, according to its official data.
Because I was puzzled by the huge discrepancy between all these statistics, I asked Vince Cable’s department to help me out. I didn’t get a clear answer. But a spokesperson speculated that the gap could be explained by how the yearly figures may not cover equipment that “hasn’t been shipped out yet.”
The latest data, on the other hand, could relate to licenses that have been “granted but not fully executed,” the spokesperson added.
A more plausible explanation, in my view, is that the British government — both under Cameron and his Labour Party predecessors, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair — has been dishonest about the full scale of its weapons sales to Israel. Pressure from some diligent members of Parliament might have finally led Cable to provide them with more comprehensive figures.
The Commons’ report doesn’t go into much detail about the type of military equipment involved. It is telling, nonetheless, that the largest single deal itemized for Israel involved more than £7.7 billion worth of cryptographic technology.
As far as I can see, there is no accompanying information about this contract — not even a date for when it was rubber-stamped. But anyone familiar with the nature of the Israeli economy should be able to make an educated guess about what is going on.
Israel has exploited the opportunities afforded by occupying the land of another people in order to develop a world-class “homeland security” sector. Israel’s drones are the best-known example of innovations routinely “battle-tested” — a term favored by arms traders — on Palestinian civilians.
Britain, it seems, is providing cartloads of sophisticated material to Israeli entrepreneurs intent on perpetuating the crimes of apartheid and occupation. If I’m wide of the mark, then I challenge Cable to spell out what exactly he and his predecessors have approved.
Despite the large sums involved, this new data does not give the full picture about military cooperation with Israel. Exports of components from Britain to America’s weapons industry are excluded, as far as I can tell, even though there’s a strong chance they will end up in Israeli hands.
Nor does the new data deal with how Britain is an important customer for Israeli weapons. Elbit, a leading Israeli warplane manufacturer, is assembling a series of drones for use by the British Army under the £700 million Watchkeeper program. Elbit is among the Israeli companies scheduled to take part in the world’s largest weapons fair in London this September.
There can be no excuse for any military cooperation with Israel. An EU law on arms exports makes it clear that weapons should not be sold if they are likely to facilitate repression or aggravate tensions in a particular region.
Britain’s foreign ministry has named Israel as one of 27 “countries of concern” for human rights abuses. Of those 27, Israel is the largest destination for British arms exports. Saudi Arabia — long thought to be the biggest client for Britain’s weapons industry — is actually in second place.
The brazen effrontery of the British establishment was on display again today, when it convinced other EU governments to blacklist Hizballah as a “terrorist” organization. The move was taken at the behest of Israel, which alleges that Hizballah was behind a bombing in Bulgaria last year.
The EU has been willing to swallow Israel’s version of events — even though the Union’s own police agency Europol has acknowledged there is no proof of Hizballah’s involvement. Reports of a major rift between the EU and Israel — as many a headline indicated last week — are, therefore, exaggerated.
Without question, Hizballah has done things that can be considered criminal — especially in Syria. Yet there would be no Hizballah if it wasn’t for Israeli aggression towards Lebanon.
Hizballah is a symptom of the problems in the Middle East. Britain, on the other hand, is the cause.
It was Britain’s political establishment which “gifted” Palestine to the Zionist movement in 1917. All these years later, Britain is arming Israel to the teeth.
- European Union
- David Cameron
- Vince Cable
- House of Commons
- British Army
- Saudi Arabia
We, other Europeans
Permalink Donatus replied on
can only hope not to be taken accountable for the crimes which has been committed with our help. Can we ever 'hide' behind our governments? Who will believe us that it was against our will ?
What's your subject again?
Permalink Anthony Shaker replied on
David, I have enjoyed reading many of your articles in the past, but I found one of your statements above very odd. Your wrote: "Without question, Hizballah has done things that can be considered criminal — especially in Syria. Yet there would be no Hizballah if it wasn’t for Israeli aggression towards Lebanon."
What are you trying to say, exactly? And whom are you speaking for? Obama, Israel's Bibi Bomber or Sheldon Adelson? What criminal thing has Hizbullah done in Syria? Who considers it criminal and why? Can you point to one example? Evidence of any kind?
Tell me, why is it not cool to stop Wahhabi-Salafi terrorists bent on killing every living non-Wahhabi-Salafi person, dog and cat. I am not saying that your statement implies a denial of the sheer criminality of the "rebel" side--I hope, for your sake, this is not your sense. But what does Hizbullah have to do with your reasoning here in the first place? It has the support of a broad spectrum of Lebanese political, relgious and ethnic opinion. The overwhelming population of Lebanon regards them not just as the Resistance, but the only guarantee that Israel will suffer horrible consequences should it but breathe the wrong way on this tortured land again.
As a political movement and presence Hizbullah will probably evolve in new directions, but it will be around when Apartheid Israel (Israel in its present self-destructive form) vanishes for good. This may sound like somewhta of an exaggeration, but it's just to give you an idea of what that movement presently represents.
Furthermore, calling Hizbullah a "group," as many reporters do, is too ignorant to deserve a comment, but you should know better, David. Let's keep our noses fixed on the subject. If you have nothing intelligent to say about either Syria or Lebanon, don't talk about them from the comfort of your writer's chair.
The accusation of Hezbollah
Permalink Criminal? replied on
The accusation of Hezbollah taking part in criminal activities is pathetically vague. What activities besides, for arguments sake, Syria? Laughable conjecture, really.
Permalink Donatus replied on
one of those who know best about Lebanon (read his excellent book "PITY THE NATION - Lebanon at War" Oxford UP) gives intelligent and humorous hintsights to the "European Case against Hizbollah" :
Israel will maintain contact with Hezbollah, so why should we stop?
So now European diplomats cannot meet the “militant wing” of Hezbollah.
Perhaps it’s my fault but it
Permalink David Cronin replied on
Perhaps it’s my fault but it’s unfortunate that one sentence in my piece has distracted some readers from the main focus of it: British arms sales to Israel. When I wrote that some of Hizballah’s activities can be considered criminal, I was indeed thinking of its role, albeit small, in the Syria conflict. I can’t see any justification for that involvement. I hasten to add that I can see even less justification for moves by Britain, France and the US to arm Syrian “rebels.” I wasn’t trying to introduce some “balance” - a dubious concept - into my post, merely stating something that I believe to be true. For sure, Hizballah was established in response to Israeli aggression, just as, for example, the IRA was established in response to British aggression in Ireland. I disagreed with many things that the IRA did. Yet unlike many other journalists, I recognised that they were a response to the problems in Ireland, rather than the cause of them. Same goes for Hizballah.
Still a mystery
Permalink Anthony Shaker replied on
David, I'm sorry, but your explanation fogs up your meaning even more. Why exactly do you claim that the role of "Hizballah" (note: standard Israeli spelling), "albeit small, in the Syria conflict" can be considered "criminal." I find your "clarification" outrageous and morally offensive! It is not good enough to throw around baseless, half-chewed accusations...and to do it at the worst possible time for the people in the region! Nor would I compare Hizbullah with the IRA, as credible as the IRA may have been many decades ago fighting British tyranny. I see no more informed insight from you into Hizbullah's "criminal activity" than from Bibi the Micky Mouse Bomber. I hope you research your subject-matter a little more carefully in the future.
We shall never forget Qana
Permalink Donatus replied on
you don't know Quana, the Israeli Qana massacre on a UN-building in South Lebanon, where hundreds of lebanese and palestinian children, women and elderly people were given refuge by the UN ... all to be murdered by Tsahal ? You refuse to recall the Qana massacre? Oh yes, it's understandable, because even the Tsahal commanders dismissed to tell the international comunity, first of all the UN the whole truth, namely that the whole massacre was supervised (conducted) ed by an Israeli drone - proof through an amateur film. And now Israel and it's hasbara points on the completely uncleared massacre of israeli tourists by... they say...Hizbollah. Even the bulgarian PM says that nobody knows who did it, who was behind !
Having said this, wouldn't it be more understandable to claim Tsahal a terrorist organisation, instead of the - until now - most efficiant lebanese force against an Israeli invasion ?