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Stop arming Israel, MPs demand

‘It is utterly unconscionable for arms sales to continue’ when Israel has plausibly breached the Genocide Convention, a letter coordinated by Zarah Sultana MP tells the government

MORE than 100 MPs demanded the government halt all arms sales to Israel today because of its genocidal assault on Gaza.

The 108 MPs backed the call in a letter co-ordinated by Coventry South MP Zarah Sultana, which was also signed by 27 members of the House of Lords.

It comes as pressure mounts on the British government to give effect to the United Nations security council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza passed earlier this week.

Israel has rejected the resolution and continues its assault. MPs expressed concerns earlier this week that continuing to arm Israel would make Britain complicit in war crimes and other breaches of international law.

Signatories include ex-Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, former Labour Middle East minister Lord Peter Hain, SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn and former Labour shadow minister Jess Phillips, who resigned from the front-bench in November over the party’s refusal to back a Gaza ceasefire.

Ms Sultana said that “when Israel is ‘plausibly’ in breach of the Genocide Convention and flagrantly violates international law on a daily basis, it is utterly unconscionable for arms sales to Israel to continue.

“But the UK government is refusing to act, making it complicit in this atrocity.

“With the Israeli government now seemingly disregarding the UN security council’s ceasefire resolution, it is again violating international law and making the case for an end to arms sales impossible to ignore.

“The UK government must finally uphold the rights of the Palestinian people, heed this call from 135 cross-party parliamentarians, and immediately end arms sales to Israel.”

The letter to Foreign Secretary David Cameron and Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch she argues that “business as usual for UK arms exports to Israel is totally unacceptable.”

It points out that a recent United Nations probe found that a F-16 fighter jet made with British parts was likely responsible for the bombing of British doctors in besieged Gaza.

In previous escalations of the conflict, the letter notes that UK governments have suspended arms sales to Israel.

“Today, the scale of violence committed by the Israeli military is vastly more deadly, but the UK government has failed to act,” the letter states.

Among MPs signing are members of the Labour, Scottish National, Liberal Democratic and Green parties, as well as independent parliamentarians. A Tory peer also indicated support.

Other countries, including most recently Canada, have announced a halt to all arms exports to Israel, in line with a call by UN experts to immediately stop such transfers.

A growing number of charities have also called for arms licences to be suspended, including Oxfam, Save the Children, Christian Aid, Amnesty International and Islamic Relief.

Katie Fallon of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade said: “From the outset of this bombardment, cross-party parliamentarians have repeatedly and rightly asked the government how arms transfers can continue, when domestic and international law require licences to be suspended.

“Every day for almost six months, Palestinians have endured the most horrific consequences of this sanctioned impunity.

“Immediately suspending arms transfers to Israel is the only legally and morally coherent position for the UK government to take.”

Court documents have revealed that in December 2023 Lord Cameron recommended continuing arms sales to Israel despite the deaths and devastation in Gaza.  

Such sales to Israel are worth at least tens of millions of pounds to British businesses each year, with precise figures obscured by different export licencing regimes.

Ms Badenoch followed Lord Cameron’s guidance by not suspending export licences, despite Foreign Office warnings that it had “serious concerns” about Israel’s compliance with international law.

Ministers have refused to publish legal advice received.

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