by Bernard Josephs | The Jewish Chronicle |
An influential group of senior MPs has condemned as unethical the government
's practice of selling defence equipment to America in the knowledge that it
will be passed on to Israel, possibly for use on the West Bank or in Gaza.
In their annual report on strategic export controls, members of the House of
Commons defence, foreign affairs, international development and trade and
industry select committees demanded that the government explain what they
termed its "problematic" policy.
The report - to which the government is obliged to respond - was issued in
the wake of a dispute between Jerusalem and London over what Israel views as
a de facto UK embargo on selling it military supplies.
Export licences - even for non-lethal equipment such as ejector seats, and
ammunition for small-bore sporting guns - were refused at a time when the
Department of Trade and Industry sanctioned sales of equipment including
components for military aircraft to Syria.
The select committees were concerned mainly with sales to America of head-up
displays, which are fitted into the cockpits of fighter aircraft, and which,
they said, the UK government knew would be destined for eventual use by
In an attack on the policy, they pointed out that while Britain was refusing
to sell such equipment to Israel, "it is hard to comprehend the ethical
basis for a policy which allows the export of certain military goods for
end-use in Israel, only via the United States, with no assurance that they
will not be used aggressively in the occupied territories."
The British government, they said, had "clearly come to the conclusion" that
refusing to sanction the sale of such equipment could threaten the defence
relationship between London and Washington.
This amounted to an "absurd outcome of a policy introduced for sensible
Although Israel had "breached" assurances to London that it would not use
UK-manufactured military equipment in its conflict with the Palestinians, no
such assurance had been given to America, the MPs argued. They called on the
government to explain why similar assurances "did not also apply to
components permitted for export to Israel via the United States."