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How Many Palestinians have to be Killed before the UK Stops Selling Arms to Israel?

CJ Werleman explores why the UK has failed to condemn the murders and violence in the occupied Palestinian territories.

CJ Werleman explores why the UK has failed to condemn the murders and violence in the occupied Palestinian territories.

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On Monday morning, Omar Haitham al-Badawi was shot in the abdomen by an Israeli soldier in the l-Arroub refugee camp, located in the southern occupied West Bank. A video posted online captured the final moments of the 22-year-old Palestinian man’s life as he lay in excruciating agony on the doorstep of his home, clutching his bloody stomach before eventually passing out. He died later that same day in hospital.

Israeli soldiers were standing fewer than 50 metres away from al-Badawi when they shot him and, despite the fact that he was unarmed and communicating directly with them, telling the soldiers that he was putting out a fire in his home, according to multiple eyewitnesses and a spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority.

“Soldiers were firing live ammunition, tear gas and sound bombs into the crowd and one of the tear gas canisters exploded next to Omar’s house, causing a small fire,” al-Badawi’s 28-year-old cousin told Middle East Eye. “So he stepped outside of his house to go see what was wrong. He was holding a bottle of water, and communicated to one of the soldiers that he was just going to put out the fire. The soldier immediately fired live ammunition at him in his abdomen and he fell to the ground.”

Al-Badawi’s murder took place during what have become near-weekly raids on refugee camps in the occupied Palestinian territories and he is one of tens of thousands who have been shot by Israeli snipers since the weekly Great Return March protests began on 30 March 2018.

A total of 30,398 Palestinian protestors had been injured by Israeli snipers and Israel military fired munitions as of 30 March 2019, including 6,857 who had been shot with live ammunition, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

Last year, The Independent Commission of Inquiry, which was established by the UN Human Rights Council, said that it had found “reasonable grounds” to believe that Israeli snipers had carried out war crimes in shooting protestors who “were not posing an imminent threat”.

This begs the question: how many Palestinians can Israel murder in cold blood before the British Government cares?

When Israeli snipers shot and killed 64 unarmed Palestinian protestors on a day that coincided with the opening of the United States’ Embassy in Jerusalem, the United Nations Human Rights Council convened an urgent vote to launch an investigation into Israel’s use of repressive violence. 29 nations voted for the resolution, which condemned “the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians”, but the UK abstained, calling on Israel to carry out its own independent inquiry into its actions – a decision the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said was “disgusting”.

More than 350 Palestinian protestors have been killed and 30,000 injured in the 18 months since, but the UK Government remains steadfast in its tacit support for Israel’s crimes in Gaza and the occupied territories.

It has become routine for British Prime Ministers to describe Israel in glowing terms, including it being a “beacon of tolerance” and a “light upon nations,” with many going as far as to completely whitewash or deny Israel’s numerous human rights and international law violations.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May declined to raise the issue of Palestinian deaths during her calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When her successor Boris Johnson was asked about the growing Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement – which aims to encourage Israel into complying with international law via non-violent means – he dismissed those who express solidarity with the Palestinian people as “corduroy-jacketed, snaggle-toothed, lefty academics”.

From the British Government’s point of view, nothing should be allowed to get in the way of British corporations, particularly those aligned with the weapons industry, from reaping enormous profits from Israel’s now seven decades-long occupation and blockade of the Palestinian territories. Earlier this year, it was revealed that the Government had approved $17.8 million worth of arms deals to Israel just days after the UN had said that the Israeli military was likely to be guilty of war crimes by shooting unarmed protestors in Gaza.

“If shooting on the border didn’t stop the arms sales, if the bombardment in 2014 and 2008 didn’t stop them, what more will it take?” said Andrew Smith, a spokesperson for Campaign Against the Arms Trade. “The message it sends is that, no matter what atrocities are inflicted on the Palestinian people, arms sales will continue.”

British-made weaponry has become a cornerstone of the overall UK economy, with arms exports rising to a record £14 billion in 2018, making the country the second-largest arms exporter in the world and one of the primary sources of arms for some of the world’s worst human rights violators.

In 2016, it was found that more than £3 billion worth of UK manufactured weapons was licensed for export to 21 countries identified by the Foreign Office as “the worst, or where the greatest number of human rights violations take place” – an issue which has marked the UK for complicity in war crimes in Yemen, according to a recent UN report.

Whereas the UK Government’s role in exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has garnered at least limited attention, the manner in which it provides Israel support for its crimes in the Palestinian territories continues on in relative silence.

So, I ask again: how many Palestinians can Israel murder in cold blood before the British Government cares?

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