Israel has been in illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, since 1967. Over this time, they have entrenched an Apartheid system of institutionalised discrimination and oppression. This includes a system of checkpoints, walls and surveillance that controls Palestinians’ daily lives, demolition of houses, schools, and entire communities, expansion of illegal settlements, and imprisonment, abuse, and torture of large numbers of Palestinians, including children. Within Israel itself, Palestinian citizens face systematic and institutionalised discrimination.
Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007 has created a severe humanitarian crisis, with over two thirds of the population food insecure. Four major military assaults on Gaza in 2008-09, 2012, 2014, and at the time of writing in 2021 have killed nearly 4,000 Palestinians. During the Great March of Return in 2018, Israeli forces killed over 180 unarmed protesters at the Gaza-Israel border, and injured 23,000.
CAAT and other NGOs, including War on want and Palestine Solidarity Campaign, have long called for an arms embargo on Israel, as well as a halt to all UK links with the Israeli arms industry, including UK arms purchases from Israel and joint arms development projects. These calls have grown stronger since Israel’s military action against Gaza in July 2014, with the ensuing deaths of over 2,000 Palestinians.
These calls led Prime Minister David Cameron to announce on 4 August 2014 that all export licences would be reviewed. Such ‘reviews’ by the government have not stopped the flow of UK arms to Israel; indeed, they have accelerated. Between 2016 and 2020, the UK issued Single Individual Export Licenses (SIELs) for arms sales to Israel to a value of £387 million, compared to just £67 million from 2011 to 2015. In addition, 37 Open Individual Export Licenses (OIELs) have been issued since 2014, allowing unlimited deliveries of specified types of equipment to Israel by the licensee over a longer period, typically 3 or 5 years. Even these do not cover sales of components for US-made F-35 stealth fighters sold to Israel, worth hundreds of millions of pounds to UK arms companies.