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It is time to end arms sales to Israel

Israel’s reaction to rocket’s fired from the Gaza Strip has been, as is usual, totally disproportionate and counter-productive. Unfortunately, the Israeli state seems to imagine itself totally above international law and reproach,  and the silence of it’s Western allies means that, to all intents and purposes, it is. Firing rockets at Israeli towns is unacceptable from whatever source, including from those seeking to undermine the democratic right of Israelis to a nation state. However, the response of Israel, to punish collectively and attack the Palestinian people, is equally unacceptable. Of course, this is not the officially stated reason: a spokesperson for the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) told Haaretz;

The IDF will operate with determination and respond with force against any terror organization attempting to disturb the way of life or harm the citizens of Israel. The IDF holds the Hamas terrorist organization solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip.”

Holding the Gaza Hamas government responsible for actions that in Haaretz are attributed to Islamic Jihad (indeed, Hamas, it is said, are determined to stop the attacks), is of dubious legality under international law. However, what definitely is illegal and does constitute a daily war crime committed by the Israeli state, is the continuing blockade of Gaza which does not ‘punish Hamas’ but in fact, punishes the Palestinian people. Not only is the blockade barbarous but it is also profoundly self-defeating as all it does is strengthen Hamas’s grip over the strip and is unlikely to encourage Palestinians to see the problem as being Hamas’s official repudiation of Israel’s right to exist.

The Israeli state, in reality, has absolutely no interest in ending the hegemony of Hamas or even in moderating it’s politics because the Israeli right and the Israeli state in general exists in a symbiotic co-dependent relationship with Hamas. The worse Hamas is, the more it is held to legitimise the brutal repression of the Palestinians, Israeli expansionism and the refusal to acknowledge the legitimate democratic claims of the Palestinian people to be allowed the freedom to live as a nation state.

It is likely that these strikes are connected to the upcoming vote on Palestinian statehood at the United Nations. It is also likely they are a reaction to a growing (but not that widely reported in the Western media) protest movement in Israel itself focused primarily on the cost of living that is ballooning out of control.  The reality is that it is the Israeli people are bearing the cost of the Israeli governments repression of the Palestinian people both in terms of lives lost and their economic suffering.

So, how should progressives in the West respond? Firstly, it should be said that economic blockades and boycotts of Israel and Israeli products are wrong; they collectively punish the Israeli people for the sins of their government and in that regard make us no different to the IDF. However, a blanket ban on arms sales, which is a restriction of the states ability to perpetrate violence is a different matter. In fact, since the Israeli state in this instance is committing a crime it’s no different in principal to saying an armed robber should be denied the sale of a gun. So, until the Israeli state ends its criminal actions, until it ends its repression of the Palestinian people and is prepared to enter negotiations that set the Palestinians free, it should be punished by being denied the means to commit its crimes.

No doubt some people will at this point scream ‘Anti-Semite‘. However, these people are intellectually and morally guilty of a lie and a slander. I support the ending of arms sales to all regimes who behave in such a manner, Syria should be close to the top of the list of those we do not trade in arms with too as should all the despotism’s in the Middle East, and I support the consistent application of international law. Bullies who bully only respond to strength and the fact is, until we are prepared to be strong with the Israeli state (and others above mentioned) they will continue to terrorise people with impunity.

Nothing anti-Semitic exists in that stance, it is merely an extension of campaigning for consistent democracy and social justice in our international and foreign policy. It’s time for arms sales to Israel to be ended and for it to recognise the democratic rights of the Palestinian people as indeed it is time for the world to recognise them too within the context of the United Nations vote. This is the only way peace will ever be achieved in the Middle East, through a programme of consistent democracy and social justice, not at the end of a barrel of a loaded gun.

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