On Wednesday 23 July, we blockaded the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS)* over the UK’s continued military contracts with Israel.
At the same time as we demanded a total two-way military embargo against Israel, the UK government abstained on a UN vote to investigate war crimes in Gaza.
For over an hour near the end of the work day, we kept the main doors blocked. Above the door, someone hung a list of all the Palestinians that had been killed up so far, along with a banner saying “UK Government: Blood On Your Hands”.
We demanded to talk to the head of UKTI DSO*, but the staff refused. In retaliation, we read out the names of the Palestinians killed in this recent assault, one by one.
After 200 names had been read out (equivalent to the first week of Palestinians to have died at the hands of UK-made and US-made Israeli weapons) staff relented and agreed that we could deliver the list of names, along with a letter explaining what our demands were.
As most of the staff had gone home by this point, we left together to inform passers-by on what was happening in Gaza and why we were there.
*Why we took action, and why against the UKTI DSO
Israel has been deliberately targeting civilians, and entire families have been wiped out by Israel’s assault.
We visited the Department for Business Innovation and Skills because they issue the licenses that allow UK companies to export arms to Israel. Specifically, their department called UKTI DSO.
Official government data shows that the UK government issued arms export licenses to Israel worth £180m in the period 2008-12.
Recent UK military exports to Israel include F16 fighter jets, assault rifles, armoured vehicles and ammunition. 31 different UK companies export arms to Israel.
Israel tests its weapons on Palestinian civilians, and then sells it as “battle tested”. The UK laps this up, spending £800 million on a drone based on an Israeli model made by Elbit Systems that is used to attack Palestinians in Gaza.
We have to act to end UK complicity in Israeli apartheid and colonialism. The UK government needs to immediately impose a military embargo and sanctions.
What more has to happen before the UK agrees to stop arming Israel?