Time to stop arming Israel

There’s dark days are ahead for Gaza in 2024, with little sign of a let-up in Israel’s bombardment notwithstanding the International Court of Justice’s ruling.

Over 25,000 are dead after three months of Israeli bombing. Three times that number are injured, and a lack of basic medical supplies means they face sepsis, gangrene, and amputations without anaesthetic.

The UN has estimated that 25% of population is starving, and everyone in is going hungry. This makes Gazans more susceptible to the spread of water- and air-borne diseases.

Despite the humanitarian horrors, Israel’s offer of a two month humanitarian ceasefire in return for the release of all hostages is unlikely to fly, and IDF spokespeople continue to suggest hostilities will go on throughout 2024.

The United States could, of course, end all this in a moment. How? By cutting off military aid.

Israel is the biggest recipient of US foreign aid. On US government figures, it received more than $3.3 billion in 2022, of which 99.7% of which went to the Israeli military. That’s right – not a slip of the pen, not a typo –99.7% of US aid to Israel was military aid. The arms industry is making a packet from the war on Gaza.

Meanwhile protests are growing across the world. Given the scale of daily slaughter played out in real-time across the world’s TV and social media, that’s hardly surprising. With no sign yet of a shift towards ‘less intense’ warfare that Israel claimed it would adopt in the new year, most people are convinced that Israel’s actions have little to do with ‘self-defence’ and much to do with genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

The brutal bombardment of Gaza, has also brought Israelis onto the streets. Thousands marched in Tel Aviv to demand a ceasefire recently, despite police attempts to ban the protest. The organisers said public pressure was responsible for the event finally being approved: ‘After 100 days of war, the hostages have not returned, innocent Palestinians are being killed, and we still don’t have security.’

The Palestine solidarity movement here in Britain remains on high alert, and the turn-out for national marches is huge. UK trade unionists are beginning to organise pickets of companies supplying Israel; and we’ve even see a few school students protests.

Palestine Action, a direct-action group opposing Britain’s arms sales to Israel, recently covered Twickenham stadium in red paint – a reminder of the blood shed by Palestinians – just hours before an International Armoured Vehicles expo was due to begin there. The event is host to the biggest representative of Israel’s arms trade, Haifa-based Elbit Systems Ltd, as well as their British subsidiary Elbit Systems UK and the Israeli state-owned arms manufacturer, Rafael.

A Palestine Action spokesperson said inviting Israeli arms dealers as guests of honour shamed everyone who took part. ‘After developing their weaponry in the laboratory of Palestine, Elbit and Rafael then sell these technologies on to other regimes, while our government turns a blind eye to this brutality.’

With the conflict set to spread beyond Israel and the Occupied Territories into the Middle East, it’s as well to remember that Israel is not simply a heavily armed state; it’s a nuclear armed state, one of only 9 in the world.

When Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu suggested in a radio interview back in Novemer that ‘the nuclear option was one way’ of dealing with Gaza, most people laughed. As unrealistic as it sounds to consider dropping a nuclear bomb on your own doorstep, Israel does have tactical nuclear weapons. Given IDF belligerence and the possibility that Iran could be pushed into the conflict, who’s to say a section of the Israeli leadership wouldn’t consider threatening their use?

What seemed like a hollow threat from a few Israeli government outliers last autumn, could be a step closer as the consequences spread across the Middle East and North Africa. CND continues to call for a nuclear weapons free Middle East – an important component in a stable, long-term solution for the war-torn region.

Now’s the time to add Stop Arming Israel! to the demand for Ceasefire Now!