Impose an Arms Embargo on Israel

Israel’s military-security industry relies heavily on trade and research collaboration with foreign governments. Israel also imports a vast amount of weapons and technology from allies abroad. These imported military goods, along with domestically-produced weapons, are then used to commit grave human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories. There are also numerous reports of Israeli military companies using attacks on Palestinians to test new weapons and technology. These weapons are then marketed as “field-tested” and sold to foreign governments. In 2011, the Palestinian BDS National Committee issued a call for a comprehensive military embargo on Israel. Canadian leaders should work closely with Western allies to impose an arms embargo. As was seen with the UN-mandated sanctions on South Africa in the 1970s, a multilateral arms embargo is more effective than a unilateral embargo.

 

Overview

In 2011, the Palestinian BDS National Committee issued a call for a comprehensive military embargo on Israel. The National Committee pointed out that international corporations and governments enable Israel’s attacks on Palestinians by supporting its military industry and research facilities.[i] Therefore, it called upon governments and other institutions to support ending the exchange of weapons and military technology to and from Israel. This call for an arms embargo has since been supported by major international human rights organizations, like Amnesty International, as well as numerous trade unions and political parties from around the globe.

Israel’s military-security industry relies heavily on trade and research collaboration with foreign governments. In fact, the Israeli state is the fifth largest arms producer in the world, and exports approximately 70% of the military goods it produces.[ii] This means that Israel’s ruthless model of securitization and militarized repression is being exported far beyond the borders of Israel-Palestine. Israel also imports a vast amount of weapons and technology from allies abroad. These imported military goods, along with domestically-produced weapons, are then used to commit grave human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories. For example, US-manufactured sniper rifles were used against unarmed Palestinians demonstrating in Gaza.[iii] There are also numerous reports of Israeli military companies using attacks on Palestinians to test new weapons and technology. These weapons are then marketed as “field-tested” and sold to foreign governments.[iv]  Despite all of this, Canada continues to exchange weapons and military technology with Israel. In 2017, Canada exported $10 million in weapons and technology to Israel, representing 0.97% of the country’s total military exports.[v]

Questions for Federal Candidates

  • Do you believe that it is acceptable for Canada to export arms to a country that consistently violates international law?
  • Do you believe that an arms embargo is an effective means of changing a state’s behavior?
  • Do you believe that purchasing “field-tested” military equipment from a human rights violator inappropriately rewards and legitimizes such violations?  

If elected:

  • Will you work within caucus to encourage party support for a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel?
  • Will you consider making a statement in the House expressing the need for Canada to cease all military and security research cooperation with Israel?
  • Will you work within caucus to raise awareness of how Canadian arms transfers contribute to the perpetuation of human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories?

Supporting Points

  • International Law and the UN Position. There is no international law against using an arms embargo as a means of sanctioning a state. An arms embargo may be applied unilaterally by individual states, or multilaterally through regional and international organizations.[vi] The United Nations Security Council (UNSC), under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, has the capacity to impose military embargoes upon states in order to restore international peace and security.[vii] States are legally obliged to comply with the mandatory embargoes imposed by the Security Council. Since the end of the Cold War, the Security Council has imposed mandatory arms embargoes in more than 20 states.[viii] To date, no UNSC resolution has called for an embargo on Israel for its violations of international law. Other UN bodies, however, have encouraged states to impose an arms embargo on Israel. For example, UN General Assembly resolution ES-9/1 (1982) called upon all member states to refrain from supplying or acquiring any weapons from Israel.[ix] UN General Assembly resolution 3414 (1975) requested that all states desist from supplying Israel with any military aid as long as it continues to occupy Arab territories and deny the Palestinian people their rights.[x] The UN Human Rights Council also adopted a resolution in 2018 which called upon all states to ensure that they were not providing arms that could be used by Israel to commit serious violations of international human rights law.[xi]
  • Canada’s Official Position. Within Canada, an arms embargo may be imposed under the United Nations Act or the Special Economic Measures Act. The former enables the government to apply embargoes passed by the United Nations Security Council. Absent a UNSC resolution, the Special Economic Measures Act allows Canada to unilaterally impose sanctions on a foreign state. This Act dictates that an embargo may be imposed on a state in which there are gross and systematic human rights violations being committed, or where a grave breach of international peace and security has occurred.[xii] Despite ample evidence of gross and systematic human rights violations against Palestinians, the Canadian government has never imposed an arms embargo on Israel under the Special Measures Act. Currently, Canada applies a military embargo to 14 different countries. Four of these embargoes are imposed unilaterally by Canada, whereas the rest are UN-mandated.[xiii] The Green Party of Canada is the only political party whose official platform supports the imposition of an arms embargo on Israel.[xiv]
  • Canada’s Allies Take Action. Political parties and representatives in other Western countries have been considerably more vocal about the need for an arms embargo on Israel. Britain’s main opposition, the Labour Party, passed a party resolution in 2018 pledging to halt all weapon sales to Israel if they are elected.[xv] The City of Barcelona, as well as the City of Dublin, both endorsed the call for a comprehensive military embargo on Israel.[xvi] In late 2018, Ireland’s Minister of State and fifty other lawmakers published a letter calling on the Irish government to end its arms sales to Israel.[xvii]

Recommendations for Canada

  • Canadian leaders should consider imposing an arms embargo on Israel under the Special Economic Measures Act until Palestinian human rights are respected and it ends its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. Until then, Canada should not be providing Israel with weapons or military technology, for this merely implicates Canada in the perpetuation of Israel’s human rights abuses. (Canada’s arms exports to Israel account for only 0.97% of Canada’s overall military exports.) In this same vein, the Canadian government should not purchase military goods from Israel, for this amounts to economic support of their occupation forces.
  • Canadian leaders should work closely with Western allies to impose an arms embargo. As was seen with the UN-mandated sanctions on South Africa in the 1970s, a multilateral arms embargo is more effective than a unilateral embargo.

 

[i] BDS Movement. (n.d.). Military embargo: Overview. Retrieved February 19, 2019 from https://bdsmovement.net/military-embargo#impact

[ii] BDS Movement. (n.d.). Military embargo: Overview. Retrieved February 19, 2019 from https://bdsmovement.net/military-embargo#impact

[iii] Amnesty International. (2018).  Israel: Arms embargo needed as military unlawfully kills and maims Gaza protesters. Retrieved February 21, 2019 from https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/04/israel-arms-embargo-needed-as-military-unlawfully-kills-and-maims-gaza-protesters/

[iv] Cook, J. (2013). “The Lab: Israel tests weapons, tactics on captive Palestinian population.” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Retrieved February 21, 2019, from https://www.wrmea.org/013-september/the-lab-israel-tests-weapons-tactics-on-captive-palestinian-population.html

[v] Global Affairs Canada. (2017). Exports of Military Goods. Retrieved February 19, 2019 from https://www.international.gc.ca/controls-controles/report-rapports/2017.aspx?lang=eng

[vi] Cassimatis, A., Drummond, C., & Greenwood, K. (2016). “Traffic in arms.” Oxford Public International Law. Retrieved February 19, 2019 from http://opil.ouplaw.com/view/10.1093/law:epil/9780199231690/law-9780199231690-e98

[vii] United Nations. (1945). The Charter of the United Nations. Retrieved February 21, 2019 from http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/introductory-note/index.html

[viii] Cassimatis, A., Drummond, C., & Greenwood, K. (2016). “Traffic in arms.” Oxford Public International Law. Retrieved February 19, 2019 from http://opil.ouplaw.com/view/10.1093/law:epil/9780199231690/law-9780199231690-e98

[ix] United Nations General Assembly. (1982). Resolution ES-9/1: The situation in the occupied Arab territories. Retrieved February 19, 2019 from http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/ES-9/1

[x] United Nations General Assembly. (1975). Resolution 3414: The situation in the Middle East. Retrieved February 19, 2019 from https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/001/27/IMG/NR000127.pdf?OpenElement

[xi] Human Rights Council. (2018). Resolution 37/37: Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Retrieved February 19, 2019 from https://www.un.org/unispal/human-rights-council-resolutions/

[xii] Government of Canada. (n.d.). Canadian sanctions legislation. Retrieved February 21, 2019 from https://www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/international_relations-relations_internationales/sanctions/legislation-lois.aspx?lang=eng

[xiii] Government of Canada. (n.d.). Types of sanctions. Retrieved February 21, 2019 from https://www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/international_relations-relations_internationales/sanctions/types.aspx?lang=eng

[xiv] Green Party of Canada. (2016). Measures to pressure the government of Israel to preserve the two-state solution: Addendum to current Middle East policy. Retrieved February 21, 2019 from https://www.greenparty.ca/en/sgm-2016/voting/resolutions/s16-p013

[xv] Staff, T. (2018). “UK Labour passes motion calling to ban arms sales to Israel.” The Times of Israel. Retrieved February 21, 2019 from https://www.timesofisrael.com/uk-labour-passes-motion-calling-to-ban-arms-sales-to-israel/

[xvi] BDS Movement. (2018). The City of Barcelona endorses the call for a comprehensive military embargo on Israeli apartheid. Retrieved February 21, 2019 from https://bdsmovement.net/news/city-barcelona-endorses-call-comprehensive-military-embargo-israeli-apartheid

[xvii] Palestine News Network. (2018). Minister of state and 50 Irish lawmakers call for arms embargo on Israel. Retrieved February 19, 2019 from http://english.pnn.ps/2018/10/29/minister-of-state-and-50-irish-lawmakers-call-for-arms-embargo-on-israel/

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.