It was revealed in July that in 2012 the UK has granted licences for export of £7.7 billion worth of cryptographic technology to Israel. (That’s almost 200 times the typical level of exports) By virtue of the government’s secretive arms trade policies the sale was not revealed until long after it was being processed. Little is known what this massive sale was comprised of. In July, the Independent reported that the UK had issued a wide variety of export licences to repressive countries, including many on it human rights list, often in direct violation of its own policy. Britain also exported to Israel ‘..vehicles with ballistic protection, body armour, military helmets, components for pistols, components for assault rifles, military support vehicles, and …ammunition. In total there were 381 licences for export of arms to Israel. ‘
“Many of the countries on the list are in the Middle East and North Africa. But what is most striking is that over half of the total (£7,878,776,714) is going to “Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Look a little closer and you see that almost all of those exports are going to Israel with only £5539 going to the Occupied Territories. Look closer still and you see something utterly astonishing. 380 different licences have been granted for exports of arms and military equipment to Israel. However, £7,765,450,000 of the £7.8 billion worth of equipment exported to Israel is covered by just one licence approval – for equipment employing cryptography and software for equipment employing cryptography. This is bizarre, particularly as there are scores of other licences granted for export of cryptography equipment and software which have a substantial value –but still only add up to a tiny fraction of this amount. I am tabling questions to Minister today to find out just what this licence was all about. Is just one company involved? Why does the scale of this licence dwarf all others with similar titles? What does the contact actually involve? Quite apart from all the questions that this particular licence approval raises, there has to be real concern that the arms trade with Israel dominates the list produced by UK Government to this extent. Britain has long standing rules that arms and military equipment should not be exported to countries where they are likely to be used for either internal repression or external aggression, a principle that the Foreign Secretary affirmed to the Committee.
That being the case, you cannot ignore that the West Bank remains illegally occupied by Israel and that there is growing international concern about Israel’s treatment of Palestinian child prisoners. You cannot ignore the Israel’s military blockade of Gaza, or the regular shootings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces which has been systematically documented by the United Nations.
Against a background of international concern about Israel, we need to know why inventory of equipment the UK is supplying ranges from components for assault rifles and arms to military communications equipment and intelligence software. The UK Government regularly expresses concern about Israel’s breaches of international law and human rights abuses. So just what are we doing supplying Israel with the military equipment that helps it carrying on such violations?
The UK Government has some serious questions to answer here on its arms exports to Israel and to the other countries of concern.”
In September, in response to a question by Mr. Burden, the Minister of State for Business and Enterprise Michael Fallun stated that the export was “of equipment and softward for building public mobile phone networks”
However no details of the exact nature of the equipment, the seller, or the buyer, were forthcoming. It isn’t possible to assess to what extent the technology will prop up the apartheid state’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, though it is impossible to imagine that this mobile phone technology will not be used in some way in the conduct of the occupation.
David Cronin, writing in Electronic Intifada, has suggested that both Conservative and Labour governments have systematically undervalued the amount of British exports to Israel.