We will not be complicit: MPs unite globally for ban on arms sales to Israel

In a letter, the politicians state that based on the ICJ ruling, an arms embargo is now a legal requirement rather than a moral necessity

Drone footage released by Israel Defence Forces, reportedly showing Palestinians rushing to a food truck
Drone footage released by Israel Defence Forces, reportedly showing Palestinians rushing to a food truck

NH Digital

More than 200 Parliamentarians from 13 nations have signed a letter to try and persuade their governments to impose a ban on arms sales to Israel, saying they will "not be complicit in Israel’s grave violation of international law" in its war on Gaza.

Among the campaign's supporters is Jignesh Mevani, Congress MLA from Vadgam in Gujarat and founder of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch. It may be recalled that on 14 February, the Water Transport Workers Federation of India, representing 3,500 workers at 11 major Indian ports, issued a press release announcing their refusal to load or unload weapons on any ships carrying armaments bound for Israel.

"Port workers, part of labour unions would always stand against the war and killing innocent people like women and children. The recent attack of Israel on Gaza plunging (sic) thousands of Palestinians into immense suffering and loss. Women and children have been blown to pieces in the war. Parents were unable to recognise their children killed in bombings which were exploding everywhere," the press release said.

The current global campaign, initiated by Progressive International, a network of activists and organisers committed to international justice, aims to generate public awareness and anger over the 30,000 deaths of Palestinians in Gaza and motivate national Parliaments, where calls for an immediate ceasefire have so far gone in vain.

Progressive International members believe governments supplying arms are eligible for international legal action given the scale of the devastation in Gaza, which they say extends far beyond self-defence or proportional counter-attack.

In their letter, the politicians state that "following the interim ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the Genocide Convention case against the State of Israel, an arms embargo has moved beyond a moral necessity to become a legal requirement".

This week, UN experts made a similar declaration, claiming “any transfer of weapons or ammunition to Israel that would be used in Gaza is likely to violate international humanitarian law and must cease immediately”.

According to a week-old Reuters report, India is still Israel's largest defence buyer, and Israel's military exports to India have not been affected by the war in Gaza. Indeed, "India has imported military hardware worth $2.9 billion from Israel over the last decade, including radars, surveillance and combat drones, and missiles", the report says.

In January, the ICJ ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent its troops from committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, in a case brought by South Africa. It also instructed Israel to take action to protect Palestinian civilians from further harm and allow humanitarian aid to enter the territory.

However, the ICJ has no powers of enforcement, and the US is currently blocking a draft resolution at the UN that seeks to formalise the ICJ ruling into a UN Security Council resolution. The US has also been stalling on a separate UN resolution to condemn Israeli attacks on a food distribution point in Gaza which ended with the killing of as many as 100 Palestinians on Thursday.

French president Emmanuel Macron, however, issued a statement on X that read: “Deep indignation at the images coming from Gaza where civilians have been targeted by Israeli soldiers. I express my strongest condemnation of these shootings and call for truth, justice, and respect for international law.”

Under pressure from Democratic senators, the Biden administration has given the Israeli government a month to "sign a document stating that any arms will be used only in line with international humanitarian law", as per a Guardian report.

The US stance is crucial because Israel is hugely reliant on US weapons. A Reuters report dated 16 February quoting the Wall Street Journal stated that the Biden administration was preparing to send a fresh supply of bombs and other weapons apparently worth "tens of millions of dollars" to Israel, even as the US pushed for a ceasefire in Gaza.

In late-December 2023, US secretary of state Antony Blinken cited an 'emergency situation' to approve the sale of 155 mm artillery shells and related equipment to Israel without Congressional review, according to media reports.

The Pentagon said Israel had requested for fuses, primers and charges to be added to a previous request for 155 mm shells. The estimated total value of the sale was $147.5 million, and it came close on the heels of a 9 December approval — once again bypassing Congressional review — for the sale of about 14,000 tank shells to Israel.

Read the full text of the letter along with the list of signatories here

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