We Must Oppose Arms Embargoes

As the call grows to end sale of arms to Israel, Mark Birbeck argues that it's time for campaigners to oppose this. Whether aimed at politicians or through counter-protests, this is a fight none of us can afford to lose.

We Must Oppose Arms Embargoes

Today a group called Palestine Action organised protests against Elbit Systems, a company connected with building drones used by Israel. One protest was held in London, against the company's landlords, and the second took place in Kent, against a subsidiary.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators clash with police in central London
Footage taken in Curzon Street shows Metropolitan Police officers preventing activists from entering road

The government and the establishment are in no position to object to these protests. They may not like the noise, the traffic blocking, or the rough and tumble with the police, but they certainly can't disagree with their premise; not a day goes by without someone in a position of authority suggesting that Israel does not deserve our support, and that the sale of arms should be stopped.

Whether quietly conveyed in letters by civil servants, politicians and lawyers, or pompously announced by our unelected Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron, or more grittily shouted on the streets of our cities and towns during Palestine Solidarity Campaign marches, disarming Israel has become an issue that everyone seems to be able to get behind. All of which makes Palestine Action, PSC, Sisters Uncut, Stop the War Coalition and the rest, the mere foot soldiers of the great and the good.

And of course all of these players will object to being described like this.

The politicians will argue that nothing Cameron says could justify spraying red paint in the headquarters of the Labour Party, or blocking traffic in Curzon Street. Palestine Action and Sisters Uncut will claim they have nothing in common with the pen-pushers from the Department for Business and Trade who politely suggested that they shouldn't be expected to facilitate arms sales.

But what they all share is their willingness to remove Israel's ability to defend itself from attacks on all sides–from the street activist to the peer, as long as they can keep their virtue intact, they would be prepared to see Israel destroyed.

Yet as with much in life, this is no simple story of oppressor and oppressed.


You would need a heart of stone to not feel sympathy for the people of Gaza, but the harsh reality is that Israel is currently fighting for its survival against Islamism from all directions, and the people of Gaza are one of the groups caught up.

Israel is not committing a genocide, or targeting Gazans as Gazans. Instead, Hamas have embedded themselves amongst the population, hiding behind civilians, in hospitals, in schools, in tunnels.

At the same time as confronting the existential threat of Hamas–Hamas have stated clearly enough that they will repeat 7.10 if they can–Israel faces Hezbollah lobbing missiles indiscriminately from Lebanon, causing hundreds of thousands of Israelis to be displaced for their safety.

Further afield the Houthis send missiles too, as well as attacking ships with an Israeli connection, and at the heart of it all, the Islamic Republic of Iran orchestrates the whole show; up until yesterday this was all 'behind the scenes', but now the pretence has been dropped, and the regime launched its own (largely unsuccessful) direct attacks.

All of which means that just as calls for a unilateral ceasefire would leave Israel undefended, so too would stopping the sale of arms. And that also means that we need to do whatever we can to oppose this.

It's Our Fight, Too

Last Saturday, supporters of Our Fight and some friends in Sussex organised a counter-protest that was specifically focused on challenging any withdrawal of arms sales to Israel. We were extremely pleased to be joined by Niyak Ghorbani, fresh from his victory in the courts against his unreasonable bail conditions.

Judge blocks police ban on ‘Hamas is Terrorist’ banner protester
Scotland Yard had tried to stop Iranian dissident attending pro-Palestine marches by imposing strict bail condition

We focused on a specific event that a local PSC group was organising, outside the General Dynamics factory in Hastings.

We had no interest in seeing their march banned, and we did not visit the seaside for violence.

But we could not let the march and its message go unchallenged.

Our goal was to show campaigners in this country–and in some small way, people in Israel–that we recognise that Israel is on the frontline of the fight against Islamism, which means they are fighting as much for us as for their own survival.

On a day when the Islamic Republic launched drones and missiles aimed directly at Israel, our call for Israel to continue to be provided the means to defend itself became all the more prescient.

We ask other groups and campaigners who wish to stand with Israel, to say clearly that they too oppose all arms embargoes. Whether it's aimed at politicians or through more counter-protests, this is a fight none of us can afford to lose.

Read More

Terror Attacks in the UK

25/2: Look Back in Anger
Mark Birbeck writes that people are entitled to be angry, and they are entitled to want to discuss what exactly Islamism is, since it is a challenge for all of us. Join us in London on February 25th, to say ‘No to Terror’.

Who Supports Arms Embargoes

Lord Cameron warns of ‘arms embargo’ to Israel as international pressure mounts
The UK is said to be undertaking an assessment into whether Israel is still abiding by its international obligations
MPs call on UK to halt arms sales to Israel
The group of 130 parliamentarians was organised by Zarah Sultana
Former supreme court judges say UK arming Israel breaches international law
More than 600 prominent lawyers sign letter that calls for end to exports as a ‘measure to prevent’ genocide
Civil servants threaten action over UK arms sales to Israel
Civil servants in the Department of Business and Trade involved with arms exports have raised concern over their degree of liability in arms sales.

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