The revisionist’s guide to internal repression


missile-smallThe other day, after I posted my rant/plea/vent about Gaza, I sent those letters to my local member of parliament, and to Intel.

While Intel has yet to respond, my MP – Roger Godsiff – or at least his staff, was quick to reply.

His staff sent me three statements, one from Roger directly, which condemns the current Israeli action and can be read on his website, another from the Department for International Development [PDF], on how it is responding to the humanitarian aspects of the crisis – and finally, his written questions to, and answers from, the foreign secretary.

These read as follows – the highlighting is mine:

Mr Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will introduce an embargo on the export of weapons to Israel. [205884]

Mr Ellwood: We remain deeply concerned about the situation in Gaza. We call for an immediate de-escalation and restoration of the November 2012 ceasefire, to avoid further civilian injuries and the loss of innocent life.

The United Kingdom does not believe that imposing a blanket arms embargo on Israel would promote progress in the Middle East Peace Process. All countries, including Israel, have a legitimate right to self-defence, and the right to defend its citizens from attack. In doing so, it is vital that all actions are proportionate, in line with International Humanitarian Law, and are calibrated to avoid civilian casualties.

Export licence applications to all countries continue to be considered on a case by case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, taking into account the circumstances prevailing at the time of application. In view of the situation in Gaza, we are keeping all licence applications under review to ensure that all our decisions remain consistent with our human rights commitments and all applicable criteria. If a decision is taken to suspend or revoke licences we will announce this to Parliament, and where possible we will do this in concert with our EU partners.

Mr Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what guarantees he has sought from Israel that weapons sold to it by the UK will not be used on civilians in Palestine; and what assessment he has made of the reliability of those guarantees. [205885]

Mr Ellwood: All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria in light of the prevailing circumstances. We will not issue an export licence where we judge there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression. We continue to monitor events in Gaza and Israel carefully and call on all sides to ensure that their actions are in line with international humanitarian law. It is vital that all actions are proportionate and are calibrated to avoid civilian casualties.

Following these answers, I have one question: what the hell are the British government’s criteria for deciding if actions or policies qualify as “internal repression”? I’m very, very curious.

Of course, the UK has form in this – but it’s interesting to see in black and white just how far the government is prepared to ignore its own rules when it comes to Israel. Or, just when it comes to making money from weapons sales.

In the meantime, a friend linked to a useful guide on how people can support Palestine.

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