Published in partnership with MintPress News.
EDINBURGH – Thousands of activists are expected to gather at the United Kingdom’s largest international arms fair in London next month. Attended by hundreds of arms companies with exhibits representing over 1,500 arms firms, the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) Exhibition brings representatives from the world’s most oppressive regimes together in one place to sell military weapons, including those from Israel, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.
DSEI is a bi-annual event held at ExCel Exhibition Centre in London’s Docklands, one of the largest of its kind anywhere in the world with 32,000 visitors expected including 150 delegations from over 60 countries.
But critics of DSEI are planning a series of protests to highlight the fact that nations such as Britain and the United States supply weaponry to nations with appalling human rights records. Their customers created some of the world’s most dire human rights disasters that ended in apartheid, genocide and ethnic cleansing in the Middle East and Africa.
With the United States as the world’s largest weapons exporter, DSEI’s website states that American weapons manufacturers including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon have booked a significant amount of space at DSEI with 190 firms due to attend. Smaller American weapons specialist companies will also be in attendance.
Profiting from war
A coalition called Stop the Arms Fair have organized a week of action while DSEI takes place. They first plan to float wreaths at Royal Victoria Dock in London to commemorate victims of war and host a candlelit vigil outside the venue. There will also be attempts to prevent military hardware from reaching ExCel.
On Monday, September 7, 2015, there will be a day long protest against the arming of Israel to support calls by Palestinian civil society for a two-way arms embargo to end the import and export of weapons and components used to ethnically cleanse Palestinians and commit alleged war crimes against civilian population in Gaza.
Organisations opposed to DSEI include Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) which is based in London and part of Stop the Arms Fair. Andrew Smith, a member of CAAT, told MintPress News that non-violent direct action is justified and necessary,
Arms companies profit from war and conflict across the globe and must be opposed wherever they are. Companies like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin might operate from the West, but their real impact is felt on the ground in countries like Gaza and Yemen. The arms companies and the governments that support them need to be confronted with the devastating consequences of their actions.
But the show will go on. DSEI Event Director, Duncan Reid, emphasized the important role the United States plays at the conference in a statement posted on the website:
Representation from the US is particularly strong, with DSEI providing a gateway to European, Middle Eastern and Asian markets, with the latter two regions in particular increasing spending on defence imports from the US. We are excited about the important role that US exhibitors will play in this year’s show.
Opposition to arming of Israel
There has been mounting opposition in the UK against the arms trade in recent years with protests often targeted at companies selling weaponry to Israel. Last month, it emerged that arms deals to Israel worth £4m were approved by Britain immediately after last summer’s bombardment of Gaza and that export licences were granted despite evidence that UK weaponry may have been used during Israel’s assault called Operation Protective Edge, which killed over 2000 people including over 500 children.
The new joint report published by War on Want, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and CAAT called “Arming Apartheid: UK Complicity in Israel’s Crimes Against the Palestinian People,” revealed that the UK government sanctioned licences for surface-to-surface missiles, combat helicopters and military communications equipment. The first licence was granted only five days after the conflict ended.
The report said the licences covered military equipment that is likely to be used by Israel if violence resumes.
Ryvka Barnard, a senior campaigner at War on Want said:
The Arming Apartheid report exposes the UK government’s continued complicity in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people, making the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel, now in its 10th year, as important as ever. Only a full two-way arms embargo can ensure the UK will no longer be complicit in Israeli state’s crimes and abuses.
The above three organisations are campaigning to end Britain’s military links with Israel and, in response to the report, the Scottish Government called for arms sales to be suspended until an investigation determines whether any UK arms were used in any violations of international law during last summer’s conflict.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman told MintPress,“The Scottish Government continues to call for an arms embargo to Israel. Continued arms sales to Israel will not help the parties make meaningful progress towards a lasting peace. Scottish Ministers urge both the Israeli Government and Palestinian Authority to cooperate fully with the investigations by the International Criminal Court and the UN commission of inquiry into the recent conflict in Gaza.”
But the UK government took a different stance and refused to impose an embargo — the same position it maintained last summer during Israel’s attack on Gaza when more 2000 people died, despite testimony from Israeli soldiers that they were ordered to deliberately target civilians and even children.
However, a UK government spokesperson told MintPress,“The UK maintains a rigorous and transparent arms export control system. All export licence applications for Israel are assessed on a case-by-case basis using robust, internationally recognised criteria. We will only approve equipment which is for Israel’s legitimate self-defence and where we are satisfied it would be consistent with our human rights commitments and other international obligations.”
Last summer, it emerged that Raytheon, a U.S. firm with several offices in the UK, produced systems for laser guided missiles dropped on Gaza by the Israeli military. Raytheon is one of only two firms that make the Paveway II smart bomb and one of Israel’s biggest arms suppliers. In 2009, after another Israeli blitz on Gaza, Amnesty International found remnants of a 500lb bomb with manufacturing codes identifying it as one of Raytheon’s.
The Sunday Mail’s report last August prompted hundreds of people to protest outside Raytheon’s factory in Fife, Scotland.
Asked at the time if Scots-made systems were used in bombs fired at Gaza, Raytheon responded by saying, “Our Glenrothes facility does component work for a wide range of our government and commercial solutions.” The Massachusetts-based company sold Paveway technology to 43 other countries and, in 2012, announced a £252 million (about $395 million) contract with a foreign buyer.
Raytheon supplies Israel with guided air-to-surface missiles and bunker busters. Israel’s jets and missiles use their radars and the company supplies missiles for the country’s Iron Dome defense shield designed to shoot down rockets fired by Hamas.
MintPress reached out to Raytheon, but the arms manufacturer declined to comment for this article.
Cultural boycotts of US arms companies
Elsewhere in the UK, other companies have been targeted and there have been campaigns to persuade the nation’s cultural institutions to stop accepting sponsorship from businesses involved in the arms trade. Just last spring, a union representing staff at some of Britain’s most famous museums and galleries rejected sponsorship by companies involved in the arms trade.
The Public Commercial Services (PCS) union, which represents around 5000 workers in public galleries, museums and arts centers around the UK, including staff at National Galleries of Scotland and National Museums Scotland, voted to oppose accepting money from firms profiting from warfare at a recent conference.
The motion said organisations such as the Science Museum, National Gallery and National Museums Scotland had hosted arms dealers including Selex and Finmecannica in recent years.
The motion added:
Whilst many institutions are finding it hard to deal with Government cuts this should not mean that Public Institutions should ‘bunk up’ with such morally dubious bed-fellows. These arms dealers do not care about arts and culture, but are attempting to trade off on the prestige of these cultural institutions and to give themselves a cloak of legitimacy and normality.
The PCS move followed a report that National Museums Scotland hosted dinners for Raytheon. PCS said that members of the public would be greatly concerned if they knew that museums and art galleries were being used by companies in this way.
A PCS spokesperson told MintPress News: “Certainly PCS members who work in the culture sector are clear that companies working in the arms trade are not welcome to use our heritage assets to promote their business,” adding that cultural institutions should adopt a transparent and ethical policy.
CAAT backed PCS and called on Britain’s cultural institutions to rule out involvement with the arms trade. CAAT also provided a list of companies with links to weapons manufacturers.
Andrew Smith of CAAT said the heads of institutions should listen to their staff and stop supporting an industry that profits from war.
He added, “It is great news that the PCS culture workers have supported the call to kick arms companies out of our museums and galleries. These companies don’t care about art or culture, all they care about is the prestige these sites can add to their deadly business.”