Category Archives: arms trade

PRO-ISRAEL TORIES AIM TO BAN ETHICAL DIVESTMENT BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES

This analysis first appeared on the website of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP). It is a response to a blatant attack by the Conservative government on local councils, trade unions and pension funds which attempt to implement an ethical procurement or divestment policy in solidarity with the Palestinian people.  

The full text of the email outlining the Conservative attack appears at the bottom of this post.

TORY ATTACK ON LOCAL AUTHORITY INDEPENDENCE

Britain’s Conservative government has announced a new policy to block local councils from choosing to boycott or divest from companies complicit in the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. A statement on October 3 said the government would change procurement guidelines affecting local authorities in England and pension regulations in England and Wales in order to “stop the growing spread of militant divestment campaigns against UK defence and Israeli firms.”

It says that “foreign nations” may only be targeted for boycott if the government has imposed “formal legal sanctions”.

The announcement brands Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, a number of local authorities in England, “Labour-affiliated” unions UNISON and GMB, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as part of a “hard left”, “politically motivated” “radical fringe” guilty of “poisoning community relations” by supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement called for by Palestinians.

The government statement retails baseless allegations that the boycott movement targets Kosher products and Jewish films. It suggests that British Jews depend for their identity on supporting the state of Israel – a wrongheaded idea far more poisonous to community relations than a justice-based BDS campaign for human rights and respect for international law.

The Conservatives have, to all intents and purposes, adopted wholesale the agenda of “politically motivated radical fringe” Zionist groups intent on outlawing boycott actions which they define as antisemitic.

Whatever one’s attitude to BDS, the new government policy is alarming for all those concerned about the wider government agenda of curtailing freedoms in other areas of society, from trade union rights, to lobbying by charities, to imposing a surveillance role on teachers and lecturers under the Prevent strategy. The latter, with its focus on identifying individuals “vulnerable to radicalisation,” primarily among Muslims, is genuinely damaging to community relations.

Although Scotland is not covered by the threatened restrictions on democratically elected local authorities, the Scottish National Party also comes under attack in the government statement for “strongly discouraging trade and investment from illegal settlements.”

PSC has noted that this contradicts warnings to business from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) about the financial, legal and reputational risks of working with or in Israel’s illegal settlements.

The government statement is at least honest in expressing fears about the “threat” that human rights campaigners can cause to the UK military and defence industry, and its close relationship with Israel through the arms trade and military and security cooperation.

This is the Tory response to growing support for campaigns uniting ethically concerned citizens who are opposed to both the international trade in instruments of mass killing and the Israeli state which buys them, sells them and uses them against Palestinians with impunity.

BRICUP will be working with other concerned organisations to defend the right of dissent from the policies of an increasingly repressive Westminster government.

CONSERVATIVE PRESS RELEASE ON PLAN TO BAN “TOWN HALL BOYCOTTS AND SANCTIONS”

From: “Jackson, Richard N.” <Richard.N.Jackson@Conservatives.com>

To: “Jackson, Richard N.” <Richard.N.Jackson@Conservatives.com>

Subject: Government to stop ‘divisive’ town hall boycotts & sanctions

 

Press Release

(Press) 020 7984 8121

(Broadcast) 020 7984 8180

020 7222 1135

3 October 2015

 

Government to stop ‘divisive’ town hall boycotts & sanctions

 

Action to curtail ‘municipal foreign and defence policies’

  • Growing spread of militant divestment campaigns against UK defence and Israeli firms.
  • Conservatives warn economic and national security from municipal militancy.
  • Government to change pension and procurement rules to protect taxpayers’ interests.

 

Government Ministers announced today new rules to stop politically-motivated boycott and divestment campaigns by town halls against UK defence companies and against Israel. There is growing concern over the militant actions of left-wing councils, spurred on by trade unions and the Labour leadership, which threaten to poison community relations and harm Britain’s economic and international interests.

 

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, alongside Labour-affiliated trade unions, are urging councils to use their procurement and pension policies to punish both Israel and the UK defence industry. Faith leaders have expressed alarm at such policies fuelling anti-Semitism – and worryingly encouraging further protests such as kosher food being taken from supermarket shelves and Jewish films being banned. Separate hard-left campaigns against British defence companies threaten to harm Britain’s £10 billion export trade, destroying British jobs, and hinder joint working with Israel to protect Britain from foreign cyber-attacks and terrorism.

 

The Government will amend pension legislation to make clear using pensions and procurement policies to pursuit boycotts, divestments and sanctions campaigns against foreign nations and the UK defence industry are inappropriate, other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government. The Government will similarly issue new Procurement Policy guidance to implement the same approach in procurement law.

 

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:

 

“Divisive policies undermine good community relations, and harm the economic security of families by pushing up council tax. We need to challenge and prevent the politics of division. Conservatives will provide the stable, competent and sensible Government that working people want to see.”

 

Matthew Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said:

 

“Conservatives are on the common ground. We will take steps to stop such outdated policies being pursued through procurement and pension policies. We will safeguard the security of families at home and prevent such playground politics undermining our international security.”

 

ENDS

 

For further information, please contact the press office on 020 7984 8121.

 

Notes to Editors

 

HARD-LEFT FOREIGN AND DEFENCE POLICIES ON THE RISE

 

  • In November 2014, Labour-run Leicester City Council passed a policy to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank (link). Jewish groups have recently launched a judicial review against the council’s decision, warning ‘this amounts to a get-of-out-town order to Leicester Jews’ (Daily Express, 25 August 2015, link).

 

  • In January 2015, Labour councillors on Nottingham City Council debated a boycott against Israel (link) – the council resolved to consider the issue further and ‘work with the Nottingham Palestine Solidarity Campaign’ (link). Jewish faith leaders warned: ‘local authorities need to be guardians of good community relations and not go down the route of setting one community against the other by adopting partisan campaigns’ (Jewish News, 26 January 2015, link).

 

  • Jeremy Corbyn is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign radical fringe group (link). In August 2015, whilst running for Labour leader, he endorsed the boycott of Israeli settlement goods and was receptive of academic boycotts of Israeli universities involved with the arms trade (link). He asserted: ‘I fully support the call to end all trade and investments with the illegal settlements’ (Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle Eastlink) and ‘I think the boycott campaign, divestment campaign, is part and parcel of a legal process that has to be adopted’ (link).

 

  • Corbyn has also called for the removal of Israel’s right to trade with the UK and the EU: ‘It’s time, indeed past time, to demand the immediate suspension of the trade agreements between the EU and Israel’ (Morning Star, 2 June 2010) and cutting all off commercial and diplomatic ties: ‘no arms, no money, no recognition and no support for Israel’ (Haaretz, 13 April 2002, link). Corbyn was even heckled at the Labour Party Conference’s Labour Friends of Israel event for refusing to refer to Israel by name in his speech (Daily Telegraph, 29 September 2015, link).

 

  • Labour MPs such as Shabana Mahmood have personally taken part in supermarkets protests against Israeli goods (Daily Mail, 19 August 2014, link).

 

  • Both Corbyn and John McDonnell have sponsored a Commons motion urging the boycotting of Israeli goods, including demanding that all supermarkets boycott such goods (EDM 57, 14 May 2012). John McDonnell has told shops in his constituency of Hayes ‘to boycott Israeli goods… and find alternative suppliers’ (Get West London, 1 August 2014).

 

  • In August 2014, the SNP-led Scottish Government published a procurement notice to Scottish councils which ‘strongly discourages trade and investment from illegal settlements’, though conceding that ‘decisions need to be taken on a case by case basis’ (Scottish Procurement Policy Note 4/2014,link). Four Scottish councils have resolved to boycott Israeli goods: Clackmannanshire, Midlothian, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire (link).

 

  • In June 2015, Labour-affiliated UNISON launched a campaign to lobby councils to divest their Local Government Pension Schemes from companies linked with Israel (A UNISON guide to pension fund engagement and divestmentlink). In July 2014, Labour-affiliated Unite resolve to campaign for boycott of goods produced by Israeli settlements and divest from any financial holdings in any companies or funds linked to the settlements (Unite press release, 11 July 2014, link). In July 2013, the Labour-affiliated GMB voted to support boycott and divestment initiatives against Israeli settlements, and banned its members from visiting Israel on delegations organised by the Trade Union Friends of Israel (link).

 

  • By contrast, the last Labour leader, Ed Miliband, opposed such ‘BDS’ policies: ‘I think the boycotts of Israel are totally wrong. We should have no tolerance for boycotts. I would say that to any trade union leaders’ (Jewish Chronicle, 7 March 2013, link) and ‘boycotts of Israel will never be a way of advancing the cause of peace. They are the wrong response and I will never support them. Labour will continue to resolutely oppose the isolation of Israel. The answer has to be greater dialogue and greater engagement rather than disengagement and boycotts’ (Jewish News, 1 May 2015, link).

 

  • The hard-left Campaign Against the Arms Trade has been lobbying for Local Government Pension Schemes to divest funds in British manufacturers such as BAe (link). Jeremy Corbyn has endorsed their campaign: ‘The Campaign Against the Arms Trade… has a long and honourable tradition… The scale of British arms sales is truly astounding… we need a clear lead for arms conversion. Let the brilliance and skill of those in the arms industry be converted for peaceful purposes’ (Corbyn website).

 

  • Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has similarly called for ‘the end of the arms trade’ (Guardian, 1 April 2009).

 

DANGEROUS CONSEQUENCES OF HARD-LEFT POLICIES

 

  • Local government pensions are a funded scheme. Councils’ goals should be to ensure that their pension funds investments deliver the best rate of return. Councils receive £3.1 billion a year from their pension investment returns; in addition, town hall pensions cost taxpayers a further £6.0 billion a year in employer contributions – equivalent to over £300 a year on a Band D council tax bill. Twisting investment decisions on political grounds risks reducing investment returns, requiring larger employer contributions to compensate: in turn, such higher costs would force cuts to services and/or hikes in council tax.

 

  • It is not for local government to pursue its own municipal foreign or defence policies – as rightly, that matter is reserved to the UK Government. The Government has to take into account the international implications of such policies, and the broader need to maintain stability and security in international relations. Rather than encouraging legitimate debate, such boycotts are counter-productive – they widen gaps in understanding, poison and polarise debate, and block opportunities for co-operation and collaboration.

 

  • The call for municipal boycotts against Israel threatens to inflame tensions in local communities, undermining integration and fuelling broader anti-Semitism. Such militant boycotts have already led to hard-left groups pressuring supermarkets to take Kosher products off their shelves (link), and Jewish films being banned as part of such boycotts (link).

 

  • The campaign against British defence companies risk harming Britain’s export trade and would destroy British jobs across the country. The UK defence sector has a £22 billion turnover a year and contributes £10 billion to UK exports (ADS fact sheetlink).

 

  • This Government wants to enhance the growing economic ties between the UK and Israel, particular in areas like technology and science, as well as working together to strengthen security against cyber-attacks and tackle Islamist extremism (No10 press release, 10 September 2015).

 

  • The UK Government has put in place formal legal sanctions and restrictions at a national level, when justified as in the national interest (link).

 

GOVERNMENT ACTION

 

The Government will take action to curtail such municipal foreign and defence policies:

 

  • The Local Government Pension Scheme (Management and Investment of Funds) Regulations 2009 requires local authorities to publish and follow a Statement of Investment Principles (link). These statements must also comply with guidance issued by the Secretary of State. The government propose to amend the secondary legislation to make clear that such boycott, divestment and sanctions (‘BDS’) campaigns are inappropriate – other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government.  There is a statutory requirement to consult on the pension law changes.

 

  • The Cabinet Office will issue a revised Procurement Policy Note to public authorities to make clear that boycotts in procurement policy are inappropriate, outside where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government. Indeed, the WTO Government Procurement Agreement – an international market access agreement – requires all those countries that have signed up to the Agreement to treat suppliers equally. This includes the EU and Israel. Any discrimination against Israeli suppliers involving procurements covered by the Agreement would therefore be in breach of these treaty obligations.

 

Procurement guidance relates to England. Local government pension regulations relate to England and Wales.

 

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Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine statement on day of ‘Block the Factory’ protest

ARTICLE REPRODUCED FROM
British Jews proud to support national demonstration against Israeli armsmaker Elbit
Activism Mondoweiss Editors on July 6, 2015

Statement from ‘Manchester Jewish action for Palestine’ in support of ‘Block the Factory’, a national demonstration on July 6th at Israeli arms factory ‘Elbit’.

We looked on in horror as Israel invaded Gaza last year.51 days of carnage.We will never forget the 4 boys who were killed as they played football on the beach. Salem from Shajiyah who was shot as he searched for his friend in the rubble after an air strike.

Debate within the Jewish community was furious and heartbreaking. But as tensions rose in our own communities, we could never imagine what it was like in Gaza during those weeks.

By the end of the 51 day assault, over 2,200 Palestinians were dead, including 490 children. 73 Israelis were killed. 20 000 Palestinian homes were destroyed. 500 000 Palestinians were displaced. Gaza is still struggling to pick up the pieces.

This week will mark the 1st anniversary of the invasion. On July 6th people from all over the UK will descend on Elbit Systems, an arms factory near Birmingham which manufactures drones. Drones which ended up in Gaza, part of the high tech weapons offensive that decimated the 360km region in which 1.8 million Palestinians live, damaging or destroying 62 hospitals and clinics (killing 23 medical workers), 45 ambulances, 250 Palestinian schools and the only civilian power plant in Gaza.

Drones are ‘Unmanned aerial vehicles’ (UAVs) – aircraft either controlled by “pilots” from the ground or, increasingly, autonomously following a pre-programmed mission. While official claims are made for the accuracy of the strikes, there have been high numbers of civilian casualties besides the intended victim. Even in the latter cases, it is a death penalty imposed without a trial. Elbit is Israel’s largest arms producer. Its portfolio includes systems for military aircraft and helicopters, drones, armed remote control boats and land vehicles.

Elbit describes its drones as “the backbone” of Israel’s drone fleet. These drones were extensively used by the Israeli military in the 2014 attack, ‘Operation Protective Edge’. As British Jews we are horrified by the continued occupation of Palestinians and the UK’s complicity. On the 1st anniversary of the assault, campaigners and groups have called for a mass public action to demonstrate against ‘Elbit’ systems.

Throughout the devastating assault last summer, millions of people across the world were mobilised to take action. One year later, Gaza is not in the headlines anymore, but the people are still being systematically oppressed and denied fundamental human rights.

We are British Jews who are proud to support the national demonstration against the Israeli arms company Elbit systems on July 6th. We call on all people of conscience to stand up for justice and equality and to support the call from Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

As British Jews we say never again, for anyone.

#StopArmingIsrael

For more information see:

Facebook: Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine

Campaign Against Arms Trade: https://www.caat.org.uk/resources/mapping/organisation/5233

Block The Factory: https://www.blockthefactory.org/

Corporate Watch Elbit Systems: http://www.corporatewatch.org/company-profiles/elbit

Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS: http://www.bdsmovement.net/call

End the two way arms trades between Israel and the UK: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/04/manchester-justice-palestinians

 

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:   http://mondoweiss.net/2015/07/national-demonstration-armsmaker#sthash.9GwLpQsP

BDS PROTESTERS VINDICATED AS ELBIT DRONE MAKERS’ CASE COLLAPSES

The prosecution of 9 activists who occupied a UK Elbit factory that makes drone engines has collapsed after Elbit refused to give evidence about the legality of its activities in court.
elbit protest
The story about the collapse of the case from the UK’s Independent newspaper is below and the group’s press release is here: http://londonpalestineaction.tumblr.com/post/109598110614/israeli-arms-company-and-uk-government-running.
Michael Deas, representing the Palestinian BDS National Commmittee  in the UK, said massive support for the protesters had demonstrated how much energy there is for campaigning around Elbit and the demand for a military embargo on Israel.
Outcry as prosecution service drops trial of anti-drone protesters at last minute
 
The prosecution of arms-trade protesters who occupied a British drone engines manufacturer has been dropped at the last minute, after the company refused to hand over evidence about its exports of weaponry to Israel, The Independent can reveal.
The nine demonstrators had been due to go on trial next month for aggravated trespass after they halted production during a sit-in at the Staffordshire factory of UAV Engines Ltd, a subsidiary of the Israeli defence giant Elbit Systems – one of the largest manufacturer of military drones.
The activists were arrested after they targeted the company at the height of last summer’s assault by Israel on Gaza, to highlight claims that British-made weaponry was being used by Israeli forces.
But charges against them were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service last week, just hours before a deadline expired to provide the defendants with details of arms export licences granted to UEL to send its hi-tech engines to Israel for use in the Hermes 450 – a drone widely deployed by the Israeli military. Although the drone was used in the Gaza campaign, UEL has insisted the version used by Israel’s armed forces is not powered by its engines.
The CPS told The Independent it had been forced to discontinue the case after it was informed that two witnesses from the company were no longer prepared to give evidence, and that documentation – understood to be the arms export data – would not be forthcoming.
“We deemed that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction,” the CPS said.
Lawyers for the protesters criticised the failure to obtain the export data, saying the information would have cast crucial light on whether weaponry produced in the UK was deployed by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in Operation Protective Edge – the assault on Gaza which cost more than 2,000 Palestinian and 73 Israeli lives.
The protesters from London Palestine Action had been granted permission by a district judge to obtain disclosure from the CPS of “any and all” material held by public bodies, including the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), about export licences granted to UEL and Elbit Systems since 2003. It is understood that the CPS itself made no effort to obtain the data from the Whitehall department.
Mike Schwarz, a partner with law firm Bindmans, said: “The information would have shed light on the links between UK arms companies and Israel’s assault on Gaza. With no court date, there’s no public scrutiny. Indeed, that seems to be what the affected business desperately wants and the Government is more than content to let happen.”
Britain’s lucrative defence trade with Israel has proved controversial for the Coalition. The refusal of the Government to suspend 12 export licences last summer led to the resignation of the Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi.
UEL did not respond to requests to comment. BIS said none of the export licences granted to UEL were for use in Israeli military drones but it confirmed that licences had been granted to an unnamed supplier for engines used in IDF drones as recently as 2010.