Gaza: the UK role

IssueFebruary - March 2024
A US ‘listening post’ inside RAF Troödos (above) on Cyprus, seen by the US NSA spy agency as a ‘jewel in the crown’ according to a leaked GCHQ document. Photo: Edi Weissmann via Wikimedia Commons (CC by-SA 2.0)
Feature by PN staff

Rishi Sunak’s government has supported Israel’s criminal war on Gaza, both diplomatically and in practical terms: weapons including spare parts, surveillance missions and intelligence gathering through US spy bases hosted by the UK on Cyprus.

A War on Want report in December called for a ‘two-way arms embargo on Israel without delay to end [the government’s] complicity in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.’

Yasmine Ahmed, the UK director of Human Rights Watch, pointed out on Twitter/X that the decision of the World Court on 26 January should mean an immediate end to arms sales: ‘The Court found a plausible risk of genocide & the UK has an obligation to prevent genocide and not be complicit.’

It was revealed in court proceedings in January that the British government has conducted a review of arms sales to Israel in the light of the Gaza War. The foreign office assessment unit initially had ‘serious concerns’ that Israel had breached international law (had committed war crimes), including its obligation not to arbitrarily deny civilians in Gaza access to humanitarian assistance.

This information was only revealed because of a legal action started on 6 December by Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq and the UK-based Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), calling for an end to arms sales to Israel, given its ‘atrocities’ in Gaza.

“One British business could stop Israeli jets bombing Gaza – if the UK government stopped it supplying spare parts to the Israeli airforce”

The War on Want report, compiled with the support of CAAT and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, pointed out that around 15 percent of the value of each F-35 currently being used to bomb Gaza is produced in the UK: ‘This includes the rear fuselage, which is produced by BAE Systems in Lancashire, and the targeting system, which is produced by Leonardo in Edinburgh.’

Declassified UK reported in mid-December that Israeli F-35s (supplied by the US giant, Lockheed Martin) cannot fly without Martin-Baker ejection seats – manufactured in the UK.

‘Martin-Baker has at least one engineer based around Nevatim air base, where Israel stations its F-35s and the UK military has sent a cargo flight in recent weeks,’ Phil Miller of Declassified UK noted on 14 December.

The headline for his piece: ‘How one British business could stop Israeli jets bombing Gaza’ – if the UK government stopped Martin-Baker supplying spare parts to the Israeli airforce.

Declassified UK has also reported over 30 military transport flights from a British base on Cyprus to Israel (contents unknown) and highlighted the likely use of several US spy facilities, hosted by Britain on Cyprus, to supply intelligence to Israel.

Declassified UK also reported on 18 January that the UK had flown 50 spy missions over Gaza, using its Shadow R1 surveillance aircraft (see Chris Cole’s article on this page).

Rather than calling on Israel to end its war of destruction on Gaza, to lift its illegal restrictions on essential supplies and other civilian goods, and to halt settler terrorism in the West Bank (see PN 2669), the British government has given the green light to all these activities, and provided practical support to the Israeli campaign.