Just days after Prince William announced the date of the first-ever official trip of a British royal to Israel and Palestine, a news emerges revealing that British defense companies made a record amount of money from selling weapons and military hardware to Israel. He will arrive on June 25 and is scheduled to travel to Israel’s capital Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is based.
According to Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), defense contractors made at least £221 million ($294 million) last year from deals with Tel Aviv. That is a significant increase compared to £86 million ($114 million) in 2016. Export licenses to Israel issued by the UK government and tracked down by CAAT cover a wide range of military equipment, ranging from missile components and explosives to body armor and weapon sights.
The visit will take place during mass protests in Palestine, which have been continuing for several months and have resulted in multiple deaths and casualties. According to Human Rights Watch, the Israeli army killed over 100 people in Gaza and injured over 3,500 since the protests against Israeli occupation began there on March 30.
The IDF’s conduct has attracted widespread criticism from domestic and international human rights groups and humanitarian organizations for using live ammunition to quell the protests. The IDF blames Palestinian organization Hamas for the bloodshed and insists that the majority of the victims were members of terrorist groups aiming to infiltrate the country through the Gaza-Israeli border in order to attack Jewish troops and civilians.
The high death toll among Palestinians prompted a number of UK politicians to demand that the government stops providing military equipment to Israel, and prompted Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to call for a review of arms sales to the Middle Eastern country in April.
It is not the first time that the issue of weapon sales has caused discontent in British politics. Anti-arms-trade campaigners frequently stage protests against the government’s deals with states like Israel and Saudi Arabia, which regularly face accusations of human rights violations. One such recent protest took place in London in April, and last year activists tried to disrupt the UK’s biggest arms fair.