The merchants of war exhibit machines of death in a UK exhibition

Palestine Update 283
Opinion

The merchants of war exhibit machines of death in a UK exhibition


The Guardian, UK has described the ongoing Arms Fair as “a national disgrace” and a shameless marketplace for global death and destruction, vitiating any work done by British diplomacy in support of a more peaceful world”. The article goes on to censure the West: “Military interventionism remains an obsession of the western powers: Donald Trump, to his credit, has shown some reticence in intervening – and yet he likes to threaten military action around the world and US forces continue to drop bombs on foreign countries. Actions by western powers are based on a belief in their moral superiority and also in their right to impose that superiority on others through force rather than example. In the days of empire, such imposition at least had the quality of effectiveness. Today it has not. The devastation of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are only the most prominent examples of intervention failure”

For the first time, Israel has also been invited. It is common knowledge that Israel’s Arms are directed mainly at Palestinians and its neighbours who dare confront it. It is its way of defending its racist-colonialist intent and strategies. Israel is far and away the world’s most cruel regime and one that qualifies as a ‘rogue state’ of colossal proportions. A large part of its leaders and policy makers are war criminals untried only because their bully ally- the USA guards it from the ICC.  In the UK arms exhibition, a total of 32 Israeli companies are amongst the international exhibitors, including Elbit Systems, whose portfolio includes systems for military aircraft, drones, armed remote control boats, and land vehicles. The event’s endorsement catalog describes Elbit’s technology as “battle-proven”; also on sale are its Skylark and Hermes drone systems, which was earlier described as “the backbone of the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF’s) UAS [Unmanned Aerial Systems] force.”

Middle East Eye reports protests from social movements, peace groups, and faith based communities. They reported that demonstrators had blockaded the entrance to the venue “as an array of British faith leaders condemned the fair as a blot on the moral landscape”. The report added: “Numerous religious denominations gathered to assert that they hold  “No Faith in War”. Among those criticising the arms fair and backing the protests were the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and senior Orthodox Rabbi Herschel Gluck, who on Friday supported a joint statement issued by faith leaders condemning the arms fair as a “blot on the moral landscape”.

Our stories in this issue of Palestine Update compel us to challenge the merchants of destruction and death with the question “How we can we shut out war and win the peace we all need”?

Ranjan Solomon.

“I watched my father and brother killed by Israeli Bombs. For me, the UK Arms Trade is deeply personal”

For many people who have lived a life free from war and military occupation, the global arms trade may seem like a distant or even irrelevant issue. But, for Palestinians like me, it is an inescapable and painful reality.

I am a 19-year-old who has spent my entire childhood in the Gaza Strip, a place sometimes described as the world’s “largest open air prison”. This is because of the crippling military blockade enforced on the region by the Israeli state, which denies us access to basic rights and resources every single day.

Not only this, but Gaza has been the target of a number of major bombing assaults by Israeli forces during my lifetime. The attack during “Operation Cast Lead” took place over 22 days, in 2008-9, when I was just 10 years old, and changed my life forever.
In the midst of the bombings on 4 January, 2009, Israeli forces stormed my family home, ordered my father out, and shot and killed him at our front door. Then, they set fire to our home and starting shooting at the rest of us, injuring my four-year-old brother Ahmed and two other children. Next, over 100 extended family members were rounded up and forced into the house of my uncle Wa’el al-Samouni, where we stayed for a day and a half, with only the food or water that was in the house.

It was there where my little brother succumbed to his injuries, as none of the injured were allowed to leave, and one of my aunts gave birth during the ordeal. A cousin and two of my uncles were bombed and killed while looking for firewood, or standing at the door. The Israeli government denies that it ordered residents to gather in one house.

Finally, Israeli forces bombed the building, killing 23 family members and leaving me trapped under rubble, next to their bodies, for three days. On 7 January, I was somehow found alive. Over 29 members of my extended family were killed over these days, with many others permanently injured. Shrapnel, which I can still feel, has remained lodged in my brain, which, as I grew up, left me to endure nose bleeds, pain in my eyes and ears, and headaches that continue today.

No human being should have to endure this kind of trauma and violence, let alone any child. Yet Operation Cast Lead alone killed 1,400 people, including more than 330 children. My story is just one of thousands of others lived by Palestinians in Gaza -– and the deadly attacks against my people continue to this day.
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BDS Austria slams cancellation of Palestinian film screening
The Austrian branch of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has slammed the cancellation of a Palestinian film screening as an attack on free speech and an example of institutional racism. The ARTIS Cinema in the Austrian capital Vienna had been slated to screen the premiere of “¡Yallah! ¡Yallah!”, an Argentinian-Palestinian co-production by film director Cristian Pirovano, this week. Pirovano is currently touring Europe to promote the film and was due to address the audience after the film screening.
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UK’s TUC to debate wide-ranging Israel boycott during conference
A motion at this week’s annual conference of the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) will call for a boycott of Israel in line with the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). Delegates at the gathering in Brighton will debate Motion 75, titled “Palestine: supporting rights to self-determination”.

Submitted by Artists’ Union England, the motion urges the TUC – which has 5.6 million members – to adopt a policy to “prioritize Palestinians’ rights to freedom, justice and equality, including by applying these principles based on international law to all UK trade with Israel”.

Charging the Trump administration and Israeli government with “destroying prospects for peace”, the motion calls for the TUC to “oppose any proposed solution for Palestinians, including Trump’s deal, not based on international law and UN resolutions recognising their collective rights to self-determination and to return to their homes”.
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Hague to discuss trial for ex-Israeli army Chief
Dutch Central Court in The Hague will discuss, next Tuesday – which coincides with Israeli elections — whether it is within its competence to try Israeli politician Benny Gantz for war crimes committed during the 2014 Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip. A civil lawsuit was filed last year, against the former Israeli Chief of Staff Gantz and former Commander of the Air Force Amir Eichel, by Dutch citizen Ismail Ziada, a resident of Gaza’s al-Bureij refugee camp and whose home was bombed by Israeli forces on July 20th, 2014. At the time, Gantz served as the 20th Chief of General Staff of the Israeli army.

In the bombing, Ziada lost his mother, three of his brothers, his sister-in-law, a nephew, and a friend who was visiting the family. Because of the Egyptian-backed Israeli blockade on Gaza, Ziada, who was in the Netherlands at the time, was unable to attend the funeral. Ziada said, in his case, that Israeli courts do not allow a fair and genuine trial for war crimes, and, so, the case was filed under Dutch law, which upholds the principle of universal trial, in cases of citizens who have been denied access to justice elsewhere. This is the first time that a Palestinian has been able to use civil prosecution for war crimes.
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A new wave of violence hits Gaza
On Friday, 6 September, two Palestinian teenagers, 17-year-old Ali Sami Al-Ashqar and 14-year-old Khalid Al-Raba’I, residents from the Ashati refugee camp, were killed during massive protests.

Furthermore, 76 protesters have been injured, of whom 46 suffered from injuries caused by live ammunition. Approximately 6,200 Palestinians were protesting adjacent to the fence. Additionally, the Israeli Defense Forces stated that they arrested two Palestinians, who tried to cross the boundary amid the protests. A spokesperson of Hamas, Hazem Qassem, stated that “Violating the blood of peaceful demonstrators in the marches of return and deliberately targeting them is a crime that the occupation bears all its repercussions.”

According to the IDF, the excessive use of violence was necessary because of “Violent demonstrations during which around 6,200 protesters assembled in several locations along the Gaza border fence” Furthermore, the IDF stated that “the demonstrations were of an especially violent nature, which included a large amount of IEDs, grenades and Molotov cocktails being thrown towards IDF forces along the fence.”
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