Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Israel: UK criticised for arming Israel

London, Nov 22, IRNA -- British arms companies have faced heavy criticism at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RTP) for aiding and abetting Israeli war crimes and human rights abuses.

The three-day international tribunal in London, investigating corporate complicity in Israel’s violations of international law, heard evidence about the unethical dealings of major multinational companies, including British-Danish security company G4S.

John Hilary, executive director of War on Want charity called for the British government to launch a two-way arms embargo on Israel. He also told the jury that Israeli company Verint has supplied CCTV cameras for the London Underground.

The tribunal was also told that Hermes 450 drones produced by Israeli arms company Elbit were used during the brutal Israeli attacks on Gaza last year, yet the UK army awarded the Israeli firm and its partner, Thales UK, a deal worth over $1 billion to develop the Watchkeeper, the next generation of drone (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).

Hilary said the British government had conceded that components licensed for export from Britain were “almost certainly” used by the Israeli armed forces in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

The tribunal, which started on Saturday, is the second and comes after the first session of the RTP, held in Barcelona in March this year, exposed both passive and proactive EU complicity in supporting Israel, including by way of its trading agreement.

In a letter to the tribunal, G4S security company said that it had “decided not to engage” in the London hearings although it insisted its policy is “always to comply with national law” in relevant jurisdictions.

But giving evidence on Sunday, Israeli academic Dalit Baum from the Who Profits? research project testified that the complicity of British-Danish firm involved human rights abuses at the notorious Ofer prison in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israeli group Who Profits? were a major source of evidence to the tribunal, while being currently threatened by prospective new laws which would outlaw any organisation that promotes boycotts.

In a detailed statement, Dutch company PFZW also claimed that they “no longer invest in any of the Israeli companies mentioned” by the tribunal’s witness, but witness Saskia Müller testified that it had since then invested in two new Israeli companies involved in the occupation of the West Bank.

Other evidence came from Josh Reubener, national advocacy director for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, who told the jury that the Obama administration was shortly due to request a record budget of $3.75 billion from the US congress.

On the first day of the London session, Pulitzer prize-winning writer Alice Walker compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with the historical racism of the British Empire and said the Zionist regime was no different from historical US and UK colonialism.

The jury, which was due to give its verdict on corporate complicity, includes UK barristers Lord Anthony Gifford, Michael Mansfield QC and John Dugard, former special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.