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Israel

The UK has consistently sold arms to Israel, in spite of its illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem since 1967.

Last updated 11 January 2024

The current war on Gaza

NB: Our web pages on Israel are in the process of being updated in the light of the ongoing genocide committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip. We apologies that the page is not fully up-to-date at this point. In the meantime, here are some key information and resources relating to the current situation, the UK and other countries’ arms trade with Israel, and international efforts in solidarity with Palestine.

Current situation

  • At the time of writing (11th January 2024), 23,400 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza in the Israeli ground and air assault since October 7, and 59,604 injured, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. (Al Jazeera). A further 7,000 are missing under the rubble and presumed dead.
  • Over 65,000 housing units in Gaza have been destroyed, with 1.9 million of the 2.2 million population displaced, around 85% (UN OCHA).
  • The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has warned that 40% of the population of Gaza is at risk of famine. In December, the International Food Security Phase Classification body (ICP), an international body assessing hunger and food insecurity worldwide, assessed that 90% of the Gaza population faced at least “Crisis” (phase 3) levels of acute food insecurity, with over 15%, 378,000 people, facing “Catastrophe” (phase 5 – famine conditions). They estimated that by early February, if fighting continued, as many as 40% of the population would face such Catastrophic food insecurity. Such conditions are “characterized by households experiencing an extreme lack of food, starvation, and exhaustion of coping capacities”.
  • On 11 January, the International Court of Justice in the Hague (also known as the “World Court”, distinct from the International Criminal Court), opened a hearing in a case brought by South Africa against Israel under the Genocide Convention, accusing Israel of committing genocidal acts in Gaza.
  • Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, together with the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) have applied for a Judicial Review against the UK Government’s continuing approval of export licences for arms to Israel.
  • During a hearing with the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on 9 January, Foreign Secretary David Cameron evaded questions on a review of export licences for arms sales to Israel, but said that the FCDO had not given any advice that would lead to a suspension of export licences.

Resources

A fuller update to the website is pending.

Introduction

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. At the time of writing, the current 2023-24 Israeli war on Gaza has killed over 23,000 people, with 7,000 more buried under rubble and presumed dead.

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.

DSEI Arms Fair: Stop Arming Israel Day of Action

UK arms sales to Israel

David Cameron and Binyamin Netanyahu together on a stage with UK and Israeli flags behind them

© Crown Copyright 2014

Recent UK arms exports to Israel have included a variety of components, equipment, and technology, especially for aircraft and radar systems. The single biggest license in value, worth £182 million, was issued in October 2017, for “technology for military radars”. No information is currently available on the nature of the deal to which this license relates.

As well as the military equipment being supplied directly from the UK, there are also components that go into US-built equipment destined for Israel. These include missile triggering systems for Apache helicopters, and Head-Up Displays for F-16s, both of which have repeatedly been used to bomb Lebanese and Palestinian towns and villages.

In a ministerial statement on 21 April 2009, then Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary David Miliband admitted that Israeli equipment used in Gaza in the 2008-9 conflict “almost certainly” contained UK-supplied components. He cited F16 combat aircraft, Apache attack helicopters, Saar-Class corvettes and armoured personnel carriers. According to a government statement in December 2012, no such assessment was conducted in relation to the Israeli attacks on Gaza in November 2012 – and no assessment appears to have been carried out for subsequent conflicts.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

More recently, the UK, and BAE Systems in particular, has been a major partner in the US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, supplying a wide variety of key components. According to Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the F-35, UK industry will supply 15% of every F-35 produced. BAE Systems, GE Aviation, Martin-Baker, SELEX, Cobham, Ultra Electronics, UTC Actuation Systems and Rolls-Royce are among the companies involved. By the end of 2020, the USA had delivered 27 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters to Israel, from a 2010 order for 19 aircraft. (Data from SIPRI Arms Transfers Database). In total, Israel has ordered 50 F-35s in three separate deals. Israel announced in May 2018 that it had used the F-35 in combat for the first time, although the target was not specified. In the most recent Israeli assault on Gaza in May 2021 ,an Israeli government spokesperson said that F-35s had been used as part of the attack.

UK arms exports to the US that relate to the F-35 programme are covered by an “Open General Export License” (OGEL), which allows companies registered for the OGEL to make unlimited deliveries related to the F-35 without further need for licensing, until further notice. The quantities exported under this OGEL are therefore unknowable. However, based on the $5.5 billion value of two US deals with Israel in 2010 and 2015, covering the first 33 planes, the UK share (15%) would be around $825 million (£585 million).

UK companies applying for export licenses to Israel

Freedom of Information (FoI) requests reveal that a large number of arms companies applied to export arms from the UK to Israel for 2010-2015. The general category of equipment (the rating) applied for is known, but not the precise equipment. Over 40 of these companies are listed on our company map. Information for 2016 and beyond is not currently available, as CAAT’s FoI requests for this information were denied by the Information Commissioner.

 

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PSC is the biggest UK organisation dedicated to securing Palestinian human rights, an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and peace and justice for everyone living in the region.

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Arming Apartheid: UK complicity in Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people

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