Questions for the PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

And its partner groups

Mass marches, chanting and banner waving are essential to the campaign but it’s also important to challenge UK Government policy and actions through ALL democratic channels, especially now that Lord Walney recommends that political leaders ban their MPs from engaging with PSC and suchlike. Lord Walney, aka John Woodcock, is a former chairman of Labour Friends of Israel but PSC and mainstream media, strangely, don’t mention this important fact.

Meanwhile, UKGov (Department for Business and Trade) have dismissed a petition calling for all licences for arms to Israel to be revoked. Their excuse is that “we rigorously assess every application on a case-by-case basis against strict assessment criteria, the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria (the SELC)…. The SELC provide a thorough risk assessment framework for export licence applications and require us to think hard about the impact of providing equipment and its capabilities. We will not license the export of equipment where to do so would be inconsistent with the SELC.”

They don’t bother to explain how Israel manages to satisfy those “strict” criteria and survive such a “rigorous” process. We’re supposed to take it on trust. A serious campaign group would check out the SELC and provide their activists with an expert briefing.

What, very briefly, does the SELC say?

There are 8 criteria and, on reading them, you might well conclude that Israel fails to satisfy at least 5. MPs and ministers pretending otherwise mislead Parliament and insult the public. And I’ve always understood that’s a serious matter and punishable.

CRITERION 6 talks of the need for “commitment to non-proliferation and other areas of arms control and disarmament”, but how safe is anyone under the threat of Israel’s 200 (or is it 400?) nukes? Israel is the only state in the region not to have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It hasn’t signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention either. It has signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, similarly the Chemical Weapons Convention.

CRITERION 4 worries about whether “the [exported] items would be used in the territory of another country other than for legitimate purposes”. Five months of genocide surely answers that one.

Under CRITERION 3 the Government takes into account (a) whether granting a licence would provoke or prolong armed conflicts; (b) whether the items are likely to be used other than for the legitimate national security or defence of the recipient and (c) whether the items would be likely to cause, avert, increase or decrease conflict or instability in the country of final destination, taking into account the balance of forces between states or actors concerned; humanitarian purposes or impacts; the nature of the conflict including the conduct of all states or actors involved; and whether the items might be used for gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women or children.

CRITERION 2 is about respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country of final destination as well as respect by that country for international humanitarian law. The recipient country is assessed for its attitude towards relevant principles established by international human rights law. The Government will not grant a licence if “there is a clear risk that the items might be used to commit or facilitate internal repression”. That includes torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment; arbitrary detentions; and other serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. As the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza are deemed to be occupied by Israel using military force, Israel’s responsibilities towards, and treatment of, the Palestinians is presumably included in this.

CRITERION 1 stresses UKGov’s commitment to UN and numerous other international obligations and how it would not grant an export licence if inconsistent with these.

It seems to me that Israel falls flat on its face when confronted with these safeguards and, given our “rigorous” Government’s unwavering support for Israel, it is all too embarrassing to admit it. So it’s business as usual with the genocidal regime. Secretary of State Kemi Badenoch has ministerial responsibility for this fiasco.

The PSC is critical of the way UKGov ignores its own SELC rules and fails to comply with the UK’s international obligations regarding arms exports to Israel. But are PSC and its campaign partners taking real action? There’s mention of a ‘Stop Arming Israel’ campaign in PSC’s literature from 2017 but no detail. PSC and partners, with their access to law and media specialists, could take apart the Government’s dishonest performance, which makes our nation complicit in Israel’s genocide and war crimes, and hold it accountable through available channels. That might achieve more than the usual mass protests. But is any of it happening?

Stuart Littlewood, after working on jet fighters in the RAF, became an industrial marketeer in oil, electronics and manufacturing, and with innovation and product development consultancies. He also served as a Cambridgeshire county councillor and a member of the Police Authority. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and has produced two photo-documentary books including Radio Free Palestine (with foreword by Jeff Halper). Now retired, he campaigns on various issues, especially the Palestinians' struggle for freedom. Read other articles by Stuart, or visit Stuart's website.