A while back, there was an e-petition carried out via the 10 Downing Street website. The petition stated the following:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to do everything in his power to impose an arms embargo on Israel in light of the recent Israeli offensive in the Gaza strip and to apply pressure on countries supplying Israel with arms that breach international agreements with the intention of restoring lasting peace to the region.
Submitted by Yusuf Ibrahim – Deadline to sign up by: 27 January 2009 – Signatures: 38,382
More details from petition creator
This petition recognises that the government has taken positive steps to tighten weapons exportation to Israel since 2005. However, only a complete arms embargo will send a clear message to Israel that this government will not accept the prolonged armed conflict which is aggravating existing tensions in the region. Additionally this will ensure that the government adheres to the UK Export Control Act of 2002 and the EU “consolidated criteria” governing the export of military equipment. Equally such a stance would set a precedent showing that this government is committed to establishing peace in the region. This precedent will have a far reaching impact in terms of marginalising the ideologies of radical extremist groups.
As you can see there were 38,382 signatures in total, one of which being mine. Earlier today, I got an email in my inbox, stating that there has been a response made to this petition. The response was as follows:
A recent Amnesty International report confirmed that Britain is not a major arms exporter to Israel and, as Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said to the Foreign Affairs Committee on 4 March, the UK regularly turns down arms requests from Israel. Each export licence request is assessed on a case-by-case basis and conduct in recent conflicts is always taken into account.
We do not believe that the current situation in the Middle East would be improved by imposing an arms embargo on Israel. Israel has the right to defend itself and faces real security threats. However, we will not grant export licences where there is a clear risk that arms will be used for external aggression or internal repression.
More generally, the government is fully committed to the implementation of a two-state solution. There must be a viable Palestinian state existing, in peace, alongside a secure Israel. We have been clear that for this to be achieved Israel must not only cease all settlement activity, but also ease restrictions on the Gaza crossings for aid, trade goods and reconstruction materials, as well as flows of people. As well as regularly raising these issues with Israel we have also pledged nearly £50million to help the people of Gaza. This follows our pledge of December 2007 to provide up to £243million to assist the Palestinian Authority and people over three years.
We will continue to work with our international partners, including the new US Administration, to pursue vigorously a comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East.
There’s a few things I’d like to make of this statement. Firstly, major or not, the fact is that Britain is providing arms to a nation that is commiting genocide and ethnic cleansing. A country that is killing countless innocent people, defenseless men, women and children. A country that continues building illegal settlements in Palestinian land, continues demolishing the homes of innocent people, a country that has made life for the Palestinians almost unbearable. A complete arms embargo is in order in my opinion and the opinion of at least another 38,381 people.
“Israel has the right to defend itself and faces real security threats.” – And the Palestinians do not have this right? Losing your home is not a threat? Losing your life is not a threat? Losing your children, parents and siblings is not a threat?
Now for my final point, I’m glad that it is recognised that a two-state solution is the answer. I’m glad it is also recognised that the illegal settlements must stop, however, I think it should go even further and settlements that have been built illegally be removed and the land given back to their rightful owners, the Palestinians. Recognition is one thing however, action is another.
So, in short, the petition was a failure, arms trade with Israel will continue, a pity.