In a historic move, Britain’s opposition Labour Party has called for a total ban on all UK arms sales to Israel.
The demand for an arms embargo was announced following a discussion on Palestine held at Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool on Tuesday.
More than 180 Palestinian protesters have been killed in Gaza since March 30th while Israel remains the UK’s eighth largest market for UK arms companies.
Speaking earlier during the conference, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, said London must ensure that Israel does not use British weapons to “attack innocent Palestinian civilians”.
The remarks could be viewed as strong words that many hope will translate into more regulations and fewer licenses for UK arms sales to the likes of Israel.
However, Kamel Hawwash, a British-Palestinian engineering professor and a longstanding campaigner for justice is skeptical about, said such a situation would be highly unlikely.
“The UK does risk assessment before a license to sell arms is issued. But after that there is no follow up. They don’t know if those weapons were actually used to kill civilians or not,” Hawwash said in an interview with Press TV, adding, “They asked the Minister of State for the Middle Alistair Burt if UK made weapons are being used to kill civilians and his answer was ‘we don’t’ know’. Well what we do know is that the UK is selling Israel sniper rifles and Palestinians are being killed with sniper rifles.”
Palestinian flags were seen in abundance at Tuesday’s event as the Labour members demonstrated their support for Palestine.
Labour’s membership currently consists of many pro-Palestine voices, with 188,000 party members voting for Palestine to be a high priority issue at this year’s conference.
The issue of Palestine was put to vote ahead of housing, the National Health System (NHS) and Brexit.
Labour has been embroiled in an anti-Semitism row that has at times bogged down the party, creating a new challenge for pro-Palestine members to keep the Palestinian narrative alive.
Meanwhile, Jewish groups are expressing their disgruntlement regarding the Labour Party’s recent statements.
Labour’s main governing body has decided to adopt the controversial multi-national definition of anti-Semitism in full but has also stressed the right to “free speech” regarding Israel and Palestinian rights.
The fundamental right to free expression, guaranteed by Article 10 of the Human Rights Act, is being called into question here.
The Palestinians and their supporters on all levels are demanding Britain show more initiative when it comes to repaying its colonial debt to the Palestinians, while Israeli groups say an emphasis on freedom of speech regarding Israel is unnecessary.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has rejected the anti-Semitism charges against him on a number of occasions and has made additional efforts to protect freedoms of speech over Palestine for party members.