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David Cameron displays contempt for international law

David Cameron came to power in 2010 promising service cuts unprecedented since 1945. He has since stripped down the NHS and axed over 600,000 public sector workers (a figure which could reach up to a million by the next election), trebled university tuition fees and cut benefits for the disabled. Up to 1 million people are now employed on zero hour contracts and millions more survive on less than the national minimum wage.

With a prime minister who has little respect for his own citizens' rights to maintain an adequate standard of living, what chance do the people of Gaza have of getting help from Britain to realise their basic human rights?

It's hard to give statistics for the latest Israeli atrocities in Gaza as they are changing for the worse all the time. According to the Ministry of Health, as I write, Israel's offensive on the Strip has left almost 600 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians, and over 3,000 injured. UNRWA says that at least 83,000 Palestinians are taking refuge in schools belonging to the agency in the enclave. The Israelis claim that 27 soldiers and 2 civilians have been killed.

Over the weekend thousands of Britons took to the streets of London and marched from Downing Street to the Israeli embassy in Kensington to call for an end to the military action against the people of Gaza, and justice and freedom for Palestine. Inside number 10, meanwhile, Cameron reiterated British support for Israel and its right to defend itself against terror attacks. His comments fly in the face of international laws and conventions, which Israel breaches with apparent impunity. His pro-Israel bias and contempt for those laws is clear, but is Cameron speaking for the people of Britain when he offers the rogue state such support?

Ironically, as part of his wave of cuts, Cameron urged British MEPs to back a European Union budget cut, the first in the EU's history. Yet he did not mention the EU's generous provision in research and development subsidies to Israel Aerospace Industries, a world leader in the drone market. In other words, Cameron will not support Gaza in any way, but EU taxpayers can still help to fund the Israeli war machine.

On 20 July, Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 that "Israel has a right to defend itself against these rocket attacks coming from Gaza, but must do so in a way that is proportionate." He was asked three times whether what was happening now was proportionate, to which he replied: "Israel does have the right to protect itself and the best way to avoid Palestinian loss of life in Gaza is for Hamas to stop firing rockets from Gaza and in those circumstances the world would not expect any kind of Israeli action against Gaza."

Nobody is firing rockets from the occupied West Bank, but Palestinian houses there continue to be destroyed by the Israelis. After the Belfast Agreement a rocket-propelled grenade, thought to be launched by the IRA, hit the MI6 building in central London. A series of explosions rocked the British capital but the government did not send the RAF to bomb Belfast.

In 2009, in an official statement, David Miliband admitted that equipment used by Israel to attack Gaza in the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead "almost certainly" had components manufactured in the UK. According to the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK, in 2013 Israel received nearly £8 billion worth of arms and military equipment from the UK, via 400 export licences, including components and spare parts for assault rifles, F16 fighters, Apache helicopter gunships and combat drones. This flow was not suspended back in 2008, during Operation Pillar of Cloud in November 2012, or in the current Operation Protective Edge.

However, George Osborne called for further sanctions against Russia on Monday after the downing of a commercial Boeing 777 in Ukraine. On 16 July EU leaders met to discuss who would fill top EU positions, to discuss new sanctions on Russia and the situation in Gaza.

They agreed to target Russia with 6 restrictive measures, including potentially suspending the implementation of EU bilateral and regional cooperation programmes with Russia. For Gaza, the statement simply welcomed on-going efforts by regional partners to establish a ceasefire and called on Hamas to agree on such a deal. Why did they not also call for sanctions on Israel?

Cameron may not be able to stop the war on Gaza singlehandedly but an outright condemnation of the attacks would damage Israel's image in the west. He could also scale back on military cooperation with Israel and order criminal investigations into crimes against innocent civilians. There is little hope of this happening, though. The Tory-led coalition government has granted immunity from prosecution on two occasions so that Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni could visit Britain, even though she has authorised military operations against civilians in the Gaza Strip.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

ArticleEurope & RussiaIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestineUK
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