1 April 2004
Electronics multinational Philips likes to be known for its ethical and sustainable business behaviour. Research by the Campagne tegen Wapenhandel reveals though that Philips does not care about arms trade to Israel. At its website the company says that it sells parts of the F-16 fighter aircraft and Apache attack helicopter to NATO countries and Israel. The deliveries stem from Philips involvement in so-called offset agreements.
Especially Apaches are frequently used by the Israel Defence Force (IDF) for attacks on Palestinian targets and alleged terrorists. Attacks that often cause many civilian casualties. Last week religious leader Sheik Yassin was also assassinated by a Hellfire missile fired from an Apache.
Exporting components for such weapon systems to Israel is more than cynical for a company that claims to attach high value to ethical business principles.
Arms exports to Israel violate government policies. Former Foreign Affairs minister De Hoop Scheffer said in November 2003 that the Netherlands does not allow transfers of military goods to Israel. Most offsets related exports go first to their main contractor in the United States, where assembly takes place. De Hoop Scheffer claimed that in many cases the final destination of such exports was not known in advance and the Dutch would therefore follow US arms export policies in those cases.
To give an idea: in the year 2001 exports of components for the Apache attack helicopter were altogether worth 87 million euro, in almost all cases their formal destination was the US, while it is clear that these components are also used for third countries. As long as Dutch companies claim that they don’t know in advance what final destination their US bound exports have, the government routinely issues an export licence.
Philips’ openness on its deliveries to the Israel show that companies mostly do know for which country they produce their F-16 or Apache parts.
With its export policy the Netherlands severely violates European and Dutch guidelines for arms transfers. The EU Code of Conduct says that member states should not issues licences in certain situations, like armed conflict and internal repression. That Apache exports to Israel should not be allowed is without doubt.
Campagne tegen Wapenhandel therefore calls for an end to these arms transfers.
We urge Philips to stop exporting parts of weapon systems that are used in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, either through direct deliveries or via the US. We call for a standard end-user certificate for offsets-related exports to the US, to enable proper controls following EU arms export criteria. We ask shareholders of Philips to demand a true ethical business policy. We urge consumers to protest against Philips’ involvement in military production of arms that are used for human rights violations and extra-juridical assassinations.