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Boris Johnson calls arms sale ban on Israel ‘shameful’ and ‘insane’

April 8, 2024 at 3:38 pm

Britain’s former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in west London, on December 7, 2023 [UK Covid-19 Inquiry/AFP via Getty Images]

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has condemned the idea of banning arms sales to Israel, slamming it as “shameful” and “insane”. Johnson made his comment in his column for the right-wing Daily Mail.

Increasing pressure is mounting on the UK to halt arms sales to Israel following the killing of seven aid workers in Gaza in an Israeli air strike last week. Among the victims were British citizens John Chapman, James “Jim” Henderson and James Kirby.

Expressing dismay at the fatalities, the former prime minister acknowledged Israel’s efforts to issue warnings before their attacks and emphasised its use of precision munitions. Israel described the attack as “shattering” and took disciplinary action against two army officers following an internal investigation.

UK Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron announced that the government will assess the findings of the initial IDF report released on Friday. Ending military support for Israel would be “willing the military defeat of Israel and the victory of Hamas,” claimed Johnson. “Remember that in order to win this conflict, Hamas only has to survive. All they need at the end is to hang on, rebuild, and go again. That’s victory for Hamas; and that is what these legal experts seem to be asking for.”

More than 600 legal experts have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arguing that the UK government is at risk of breaking international law if it continues arms exports to Israel. The core message of the 17-page letter, the signatories of which include three former Supreme Court justices, emphasises the urgent need for the UK to address the dire situation in Gaza, highlighted by the International Court of Justice’s provisional ruling indicating a plausible threat of genocide against Palestinians.

The Labour Party is also urging the government to release legal advice concerning potential breaches of international law in Gaza by Israel. The Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party have gone further in calling for arms exports to Israel to be blocked; some Labour and Conservative MPs have backed these calls.

Former UK national security adviser Lord Peter Ricketts has also called on Britain to stop arming Israel and called for an “immediate” ceasefire. “Sometimes in conflict, you get a moment where there’s such global outrage that it crystallises a sense that things can’t go on like this,” said Ricketts. “And I think – I hope – that this awful incident [the killing of the aid workers] will serve that purpose.”

Since 2015, the UK has licensed £487 million ($617 million) worth of weapons to Israel. However, this does not include equipment exported via open licences. In particular, 15 per cent of the value of every US-made F-35 combat aircraft, which Israel uses to bomb Gaza, is made in the UK, exports for which are covered by an open licence with no limit on the quantity or value of exports. The Campaign Against Arms Trade estimates conservatively that the work on the 36 F-35s exported to Israel up to 2023 has been worth at least £368 million ($466 million) to the UK arms industry.

In response to Johnson’s apparent call for the continuation of Israel’s genocide in Gaza, and British arms sales to be maintained, a UK government spokesperson said: “As part of the government’s robust arms export control regime we periodically review advice on Israel’s commitment to International Humanitarian Law, and Ministers act in accordance with that advice. The content of this advice and related assessments is confidential.”

READ: ‘Gaza aid convoy attack result of Israel impunity, response shows extent of Palestinians’ dehumanisation’