Weapons To Rafah?
By Arjan El Fassed
21 May 2004
The Electronic Intifada
ongoing assault on human lives and property, killing civilians and demolishing
homes is, according to Israeli spokespersons, "aimed at preventing
a huge shipment of arms from being smuggled". According to Israeli
spokespersons, Israel launched "Operation Rainbow", its largest
military raid on Palestinian civilians since "Operation Defensive
Shield", in a bid "to rid the border zone of its tunnels and
capture the militants using them."
The past four days,
Israeli forces have killed 39 Palestinians. Its military assault on
Palestinians in Rafah includes extensive house demolitions along the
so-called "Philadelphi route" that runs along the border.
What no one asks,
however, is the question who supplies Israel's military occupation of
Gaza, a strip of land, slightly more than twice the size of Washington
DC, housing at least 1.2 million Palestinians and 6,000 Israeli settlers.
It is not hard to guess that the U.S. administration is the largest
supplier of arms and aid to Israel. The common figure given for U.S.
aid to Israel is $3 billion per year$1.2 billion in economic aid
and $1.8 billion in military aid, representing about one-sixth of total
U.S. foreign aid. Israel is one of the U.S.' largest arms importers.
In the last decade,
the U.S. has sold Israel $ 7.2 billion in weaponry and military equipment,
$762 million through Direct Commercial Sales (DCS), more than $6.5 billion
through the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program. In fact, Israel
is so devoted to U.S. military hardware that it has the world's largest
fleet of F-16s outside the U.S., currently possessing more than 200
jets. The U.S. also gives Israel weapons and ammunition as part of the
Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program, providing these articles completely
free of charge. Examples of U.S. weaponry being used by the Israeli
army against Palestinian civilians and their property are AH-64 Apache
and Cobra attack helicopters, missiles and other heavy arms. White House
spokesman Scott McClellan called the Israel's assault on Rafah "troubling"
and said: "The Israelis have told us they will make every effort
to minimize the impact on Palestinians not involved in acts of terrorism
or arms smuggling." While he had learned that U.S. delivered Apache
helicopters fired missiles in a peaceful demonstration, he said: "We
understand their explanation but we still find the violence troubling."
Israel not only
uses arms transferred from the U.S., despite restrictive policies on
arms exports to states that violate human rights, Israel also uses arms
being transferred and exported from the EU.
A week ago, on May
14, Amnesty International reported that EU arms, security equipment
and services are contributing to grave human rights abuses and that
the scale of potential abuse is now enormous. The major EU arms exporting
countries - France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom -
account for one third of the world's arms deals. In its report, Undermining
Global Security: the European Union's arms exports, Amnesty International
highlights serious flaws in the European Union's key arms control agreements,
especially the 1998 EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports.
Today France is
one of Israel's main suppliers after the US and Germany. According to
SIPRI, France exported major conventional weapons worth $50m to Israel
between 1996 and 2000. This included a delivery of seven AS-565SA Panther
helicopters between 1996 and 1998 which were ordered through and partly
funded by the US.
According to figures
from SIPRI, Germany supplied Israel with major conventional weaponry
worth $765m between 1996 and 2000. In 2000 alone, the last year for
which figures are available, Germany sold about $170m in military equipment,
including parts for tanks and armoured cars. This included key parts
for the Israeli Merkava tank, which are currently being used in Rafah.
Israel is Germany's seventh largest military client.
The US Data Device
Corporation (DDC), which has production facilities in Cork, Ireland
(DDC Ireland Ltd) states on its website that its MIL-STD-1553 Data Bus
products are used in the AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopters. Its MIL-STD-1553
data bus, the life line of the aircraft, include a lethal array of armaments,
including a mix of up to 16 Hellfire missiles or 76 70mm aerial rockets
and 1,200 rounds of 30mm ammunition for its M230 Chain Gun automatic
A large part of
Dutch exports are components for incorporation into larger weapon systems,
mainly to be assembled in the U.S. which, in turn, is the major supplier
of arms to Israel. In compensation orders Dutch companies are involved
producing components for Apache attack helicopters and F-16 fighter
planes to the U.S.. In general is not announced who the end-user of
these aircrafts will be. In 2001 transfers of components were worth
EURO 87 million. The Dutch company Stork Special Products produces components
for Hellfire rockets, which are frequently used by the Israeli airforce
in extra-judicial executions and to shell Palestinian residential areas.
The missile is produced by Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman
and a number of subcontractors and exported to thirteen countries, including
At least one Dutch
company is open about the end-user of its products, on its ethical policy
page: "In principle, Philips companies do not produce products
or render services specially designed or developed for the military,
except for the following products: F16 parts and Apache parts supplied
to NATO countries and Israel (under compensation agreements US/Netherlands)."
Eventhough information on end-users remains largely secret, Philips
announced that its components are incorporated into Apaches that are
in action in Israel. Additionally, in 2002 the Netherlands granted Israel
export licences worth 1.46 million euros, approximately half of the
licensed Dutch transit trade. The licences were granted for goods under
the category A2, which are those connected with armoured vehicles. This
is despite the consistent reporting by human rights organisations of
the misuse of such equipment by the Israeli security forces. Since 22
August 2002, the Dutch Central Service Import and Export received 24
"notifications" to transit small arms and light weapons from
Israeli Airways for shipments originating in the United States with
The United Kingdom
The UK has sold
Israel equipment and components for tanks, combat aircraft, combat helicopters,
missiles, ammunition, mines, machine guns, tear gas, and electronic
equipment for military use. UK companies with known connections with
Israel include: the Airtechnology Group, which supplies parts to IMI
for the Merkava tank, BAE Systems, which has provided head-up displays
for US-built F16s214 and whose subsidiary Rokar International is the
current sole-source supplier of counter-measure dispensing systems for
the Israeli airforce, and Smiths Group which has supplied missile triggering
systems for Apache helicopters.
tanks had been equipped with a cooling system made by the Surrey-based
Airtechnology Group, and UK components, including missile trigger systems
made by Smiths Group, are used in US-made Apache helicopters supplied
to Israel, both in action killing and injuring Palestinian civilians
In March 2002, Junior
UK Foreign Office Minister, Ben Bradshaw, disclosed that the Israeli
armed forces had modified UK Centurion tanks, exported between 1958
and 1970, and were using them as armoured personnel carriers. He stated
that this contradicted a written assurance from the Israeli government
on 29 November 2000 that "no UK-originated equipment nor any UK-originated
systems/ sub systems /components are used as part of the defence force's
activities in the territories". The UK government has continued
to supply arms and equipment to the Israeli security forces. Such transfers
continue despite reports that generic types of such equipment have been
used by the Israeli security forces in Rafah to commit human rights
violations and breaches of international humanitarian law.
The European Union:
What Code of Conduct?
The situation in
Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories should be foremost on
the minds of European officials when they carry out their reviews of
the EU Code of Conduct for Arms Exports. The code was adopted in 1998
with the aim of "setting high common standards" over arms
exports. Criteria include respect of human rights in the country of
final destination; in particular, member states will "not issue
an export license if there is a clear risk that the proposed export
might be used for internal repression", including, inter alia,
torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment,
summary or arbitrary executions, arbitrary detentions and other major
violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms as set out in relevant
international human rights instruments.
Human rights organisations
and various bodies of the United Nations have documented such major
violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the case of Israel.
Other criteria include the existence of tensions or armed conflicts,
and whether there is a clear risk that the intended recipient would
use the proposed export aggressively against another country or to assert
by force a territorial claim. Political and military experts can provide
the necessary assessment that, indeed, Israel would fail the test on
this item. Moreover, an assessment includes "the behavior of the
buyer country with regard to the international community", in particular
with regard to respect for international law, "its compliance with
its international commitments, in particular the non-use of force, including
under international humanitarian law applicable to international and
The world has seen
and condemned Israel's human rights record. The transfer of arms to
Israel is inconsistent with the criteria provided in the EU Code of
Conduct. Export licenses should therefore be refused. Taking into account
the volume and gravity of human rights violations and breaches of the
Fourth Geneva Convention, including acts of war crimes, that have been
documented by various human rights organisations and United Nations
bodies, and the volume of Israeli forces and military equipment stationed
in the occupied Palestinian territories, and since there is no common
system of monitoring the end-use of European arms by the Israeli forces
in the Palestinian territories, only a full arms embargo will prevent
European arms from being used to commit war crimes and other human rights
abuses. The European Union, therefore, should renew its arms embargo
against Israel, which it lifted in 1994.