/ 26 January 2024

Re-evaluating US and UK military support for Israel

Protest Against Arms Events At Twickenham Stadium Twickenham
Pro-Palestinian activists protest against the International Armoured Vehicles Conference (IAVC) and the International Military Helicopter (IMH) Conference being held at Twickenham Stadium on 22nd January 2024 in Twickenham, United Kingdom. IAVC is currently taking place at the stadium and IMH is scheduled to take place in February. The events are attended by representatives of companies which supply weapons and military technology to Israel used against the Palestinians. (photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)

This week we reported that about 45 South African lawyers are taking legal action against the United States and United Kingdom governments. Their class action suit demands damages in the form of “blood money” compensation for the people of Gaza.

They sent letters to US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak placing their governments on notice for the deaths of more than 25 700 Gazans, physical and psychological injuries and the destruction of property as a result of Israel’s military action, which both countries support. This has included the supply of advanced weaponry — fighter jets, missile defence systems and precision-guided munitions, resulting in Israel’s sense of impunity in its war in Gaza.

The US and UK’s supply of weapons and technology to Israel is the natural consequence of these nations’ historic motivation to wield political power in the Middle East. 

The lawyers raise the issue of the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917, which laid the foundations for a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. It was a calculated political manoeuvre to ensure British influence in the strategically important post-war Middle East, securing the vital shipping passage of the Suez Canal and establishing a foothold in the region before the anticipated collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

As is the case with many calculated political decisions motivated by the love of power, money and control, the undesirable consequences spiral downwards for decades with disastrous consequences for people on the ground. 

An investigation by The Guardian has found that “state department officials have in effect been able to circumvent the US law that is meant to prevent US complicity in human rights violations by foreign military units — the 1990s-era Leahy law — because, former officials say, extraordinary internal state department policies have been put in place that show extreme deference to the Israeli government. No such special arrangements exist for any other US ally.”

The US and UK have been quick to point out human rights abuses by the likes of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea and Syria yet when it comes to the current situation in Gaza — and the West Bank — and both countries, while verbally condemning violence against innocent civilians, still argue that the state has a right to defend itself against Hamas.

Instead, if these rich, powerful nations are serious about ending the war and terrorism, they should heed the words of philosopher Noam Chomsky, who has long been outspoken about the West’s role in the Israel/Palestine conflict: “Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it.”

There is no moral high ground in the conflict — violence is never justified, particularly against civilians.