End the Business of War – An Open Letter

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The Jewish New Year arrived last month amidst an explosion of chaos in the UK and Europe. The Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashana and the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur, is a time of deep reflection, repentance and renewal.
At the same time, the photograph of 4-year-old Alan, a Syrian refugee washed up on the shores of a Turkish beach, moved millions around the world. From that moment forward, #Refugeeswelcome was trending on twitter. Demonstrations sprung up in hundreds of cities in Europe demonstrating solidarity with refugees fleeing their countries.
Somehow, in these last few weeks, as the New Year arrived, the world changed. The media, once suffuse with racist propaganda about illegal immigrants, began launching appeals for the refugee crisis. The power of people’s emotions and grief over this topic has turned the tides. It has been devastating and inspiring. We, as descendants of refugees from Eastern Europe who were welcomed into Britain, know too well the importance of offering sanctuary for those fleeing war and persecution.
After endless statements purporting to ensure that Britain would deal with the refugee crisis, not by taking in more refugees but by “ensuring their regions are stable”, David Cameron scurried off to Lebanon in September to visit Syrian refugees living in camps.
But at the same time, Cameron’s UK government recently held the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition in London, which welcomed over 30,000 attendees, 1,683 global defence and security suppliers from 54 countries and hosting 42 international pavilions. The audience included top-level international military staff, major procurement officials, and the entire industry supply chain, from large prime contractors to supplying companies. This UK arms fair, supported and funded by the government, was pursuing the sale of UK arms and internal security equipment to countries strongly criticized for human rights abuses such as Iraq, Bahrain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt. (1)

Whilst Mr Cameron tells Britain that we must prevent the causes making people flee their countries, he is promoting the sale of weaponry to the very people who fuel the refugee crisis. Andrew Smith, of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), said: “The list includes a whole roll call of authoritarian regimes and dictatorships with appalling human rights records. This isn’t just giving them military support; it is also giving them a fig leaf of political legitimacy. A lot of these arms can be used for internal repression and to commit human rights abuses.”
These links need to be made. Amnesty International accused the Government of operating double standards. Kate Allen, director of Amnesty UK Director, said: “It seems the height of hypocrisy for the UK government to invite human-rights abusing countries, who they are openly critical of, to an arms fair.” The UK essentially says that profit comes first, even if it means that we are complicit in crimes against humanity. (2)
Last summer the UK watched as the Israeli military massacred over 2100 Palestinians in Gaza, including over 500 children.(3) This was made possible seemingly because Israel has one of the most technologically advanced and well funded armies in the world. This year Israeli arms companies, with a DESI Israel pavilion, were displaying their ‘combat proven’ weaponry, some of which was likely tried and tested in last year’s bombardment on Gaza and in previous conflicts. In August 2014, Avner Benzaken, head of the Israeli army’s “technology and logistics” division said, “If I develop a product and want to test it in the field, I only have to go five or 10 kilometres from my base and I can look and see what is happening with the equipment, I get feedback, so it makes the development process faster and much more efficient.” (4)
Hundreds flocked to protest against the arms fair with refugees welcome’ slogans. The connection is being made loud and clear; if we care for the plight of refugees we must look to the fact that the weapons of war are being manufactured and sold in our own backyards here in the UK with the support of our own governments. (5)
Britain must end its complicity in war crimes across the world by ending it’s relationship with human rights abusers such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. (6) The UK must put an end to promoting and sustaining the global arms trade, whilst offering adequate sanctuary for those fleeing persecution.
We call on the British public to join the ‘Campaign Against Arms Trade,’ which is currently urging UK citizens to demand their MPs oppose the governments promotion of arms sales.
Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine hopes for a year of justice and peace for all, an end to the business of war, and an end to the refugee crisis it creates.
To ask your MP to stand up against the arms fair go to: https://www.caat.org.uk/get-involved/act-now
Facebook Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine
#stoparmingisrael
#StopDSEI
#Refugeeswelcome
References
(1)http://www.dsei.co.uk/Content/Exhibiting/15/
(2)http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/government-invites-regimes-with-appalling humanrights-records-to-london-arms-fair-10495415.html
(3)https://gazahealthattack.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/gazareport_eng.pdf
(4)http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/defense-industry-the-business-of-war-in-israel-a-988245.html
(5) http://www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk/
(6) https://www.caat.org.uk/