Increasing Calls for An Arms Embargo on Israel

At Caabu, we have long argued that the UK should not be arming states that have clear contempt for international law and UN Security Council Resolutions. It is a legal and moral conundrum that with one hand we supply Israel with bombs, and with the other supply Palestinians with bread. 

List of Resources on increasing pressure on the UK to halt the transfer of arms to Israel: 

In the UK: 

  • A majority of the public support a ban on arms sales to Israel, as indicated in a YouGov poll commissioned by Action for Humanity on 3 April 2024. This poll found that 56% to 17% are in favour of a ban, while 59% to 12% voters believe that Israel is violating human rights in Gaza. 71% of Labour voters back a ban on arms sales to Israel and indeed 77% (of Labour voters) believe that Israel is violating human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Only 9% of the British public do not want a halt to arms to Israel. 
  • Over 135 Members of Parliament and the House of Lords have signed Zarah Sultana’s letter calling for weapons sanctions. 
  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan also called for a ban on arms sales on 4 April 2024, stating that "I think the government should be pausing all sales of weapons to Israel." 
  • The UK is a signatory to the Genocide Convention. Article 1 of the Convention states that each state party is obligated to “prevent and punish genocide”. Israel is currently on trial for genocide at the ICJ. If it is found guilty, then the UK will also be complicit for crimes against humanity and genocide. The UK therefore has a legal and moral obligation to prevent and put an end to what could be constituted as an ongoing genocide by any means within its power, which should include halting the sale of weapons. 
  • More than 600 prominent UK lawyers, including three former supreme court judges, have signed a letter warning that by continuing to arm Israel, the UK is breaching international law and pertinently the Genocide Convention.
  • Senior military and foreign policy experts have warned of ‘evidence indicating that armaments with UK components have been used in operations that are causing avoidable civilian casualties and destruction of medical infrastructure… which contravenes the UK’s ethical and legal standards regarding the arms trade’  in an open letter to the Prime Minister published in The Times
  • Senior figures in the security establishment and the Conservative Party, including Lord Peter Ricketts, the former UK National Security Advisor and former Chair of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee have increased pressure on the government to stop arming Israel
  • Former Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan has also pressed for the government to suspend arms to Israel. His reasoning can be found here in The Independent.
  • Civil servants working on arms exports within the Department of Business and Trade have threatened legal action against the government ‘to prevent their members from being forced to carry out unlawful acts’.

In International Law: 

  • UN experts have also called for ‘the need for an arms embargo on Israel, heightened by the ICJ’s ruling that there is a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza, where state parties must employ all means reasonably available to them to prevent genocide in another state as far as possible, which necessitates halting arms exports in the present circumstances.’ 
  • On 5 April 2024, the UN Human Rights Council voted on a resolution that called on a ban on arms sales to Israel, with 28 voting in favour, 6 voting against, and 13 abstentions. 
  • Under Article 6 of the Arms Trade Treaty, State Parties must not authorise any transfer of conventional arms if they have knowledge at the time of authorisation that they could be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which they are a party.

The UK government must listen to the public, legal, security and foreign policy experts, its own public employees concerned about their own legal liability, as well as what is clearly laid out in international law. The situation in Gaza has reached an unprecedented level of bloodshed; it is vital that the government acts and fulfils its duty under international law and stop arming Israel while it violates international law.