Gaza: droning on about arms controls

Terry Jones of Monty Python fame (he’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy) has CiF comment out today laying into the dubious behaviour of the international arms industry.

He might not have been expecting the Spanish Inquisition, but I doubt he’d be that surprised to see that, as we said in this blog last week, a factory in Lichfield has apparently been making engines for Israeli “drones” (those sinister unmanned planes) in Gaza.

This week Amnesty’s following up on the drones – at the risk of droning on and on … – with a letter to David Miliband. It’s a call for the UK government to ensure that arms export licences haven’t been (or are not being) granted for equipment that’s going to Israel or Gaza.

Why bother, you might say? With over 1,000 Palestinians dead in Gaza (still 13 killed on the Israeli side), isn’t the damage already done? Yes, is the obvious answer. Even during the current intifada period at least 18 countries have been busily shipping arms to Israel (the US being the big supplier). Meanwhile, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups have – as we’ve heard repeatedly during this conflict – been getting arms through tunnels from Egypt, reportedly from Iranian sources.

Given the Israeli’s military record of using their high-tech military equipment to carry out a string of attacks with numerous civilian deaths (so-called “targeted assassinations”), I reckon it’s been highly questionable whether weapons should have been going to Tel Aviv even before the 27 December conflict. Now, with report after report of Israeli operations in Gaza that have needlessly endangered civilians, it’s time for an arms embargo – which is what Amnesty calls for today.

The embargo should apply to all conflicting parties – meaning that yes indeed Egypt should staunch any underground flow of arms. Let’s face it, the place is already awash with armaments (possibly one of the few commodities not in short supply in blockade-weary Gaza).

Meanwhile, remember the story last year about a ship carrying weapons bound for Zimbabwe? Amnesty’s now identified a cargo vessel carry a colossal 989 containers of weapons en route from the US to Israel. We’d tracked it toward Greece but mysteriously the ship’s now gone off the map (presumably not because of Somalian pirates). Is it right to send more arms to Israel in the midst of an incredibly bloody conflict while it also stands charged with war crimes? I don’t think so. I hope that David Miliband won’t think so either.

An EU country like Greece should refuse any transhipment of this stuff and the UN Security council should impose a comprehensive arms embargo covering this entire conflict. Incidentally, any chance of a proper international arms trade treaty any time soon?

Can Mr Miliband help? He’s not the messiah, but …

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