National Day of Action for Palestine

National Day of Action for Palestine

Extended version of a speech given by Dave Webb in Leeds, at the rally for Palestine, 18th November.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament condemns the violence against civilians from all sides of this terribly destructive conflict and calls for an immediate ceasefire. Polls show that 76% of people in the UK agree. The Pope and other world leaders are also calling for a ceasefire. The UN agrees and has released a 10-point plan focusing on a major expansion of aid into war torn Gaza, along with a call for humanitarian ceasefires and the release of hostages.

A ceasefire means a halt in the killing and, destruction. 800,000 marched for Palestine in London last weekend but the UK government and some leading politicians are still only advocating a humanitarian pause.

A pause means a temporary halt before the killing and destruction resumes. What’s so humanitarian about that?

Could this attitude by the UK government be anything to do with the fact that they have a vested interest in the continuation of the war. As the Campaign Against the Arms Trade has pointed out, Israel is using UK arms exports in their attack on the Palestinian people. UK governments have been supplying these weapons for decades, while repeatedly ignoring Israeli war crimes.

Boris Johnson even went so far as to say that the International Criminal Court had no jurisdiction in Israel. The government has withdrawn from that ridiculous statement – but how many actually believe it to be true?

Despite the illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, the UK has consistently sold arms to Israel. Thousands of Palestinians, including many hundreds of children, have been killed by Israeli bombardments which have been supported by UK arms exports. 

Between 2018 and 2022, the UK exported £146m in arms sales via Single Issue Export Licences. However, a large proportion of military equipment exported is via Open General Export Licences. These open licences include components for the F35 stealth bomber, and they allow for unlimited quantities and value of exports of the specified equipment without further monitoring.

And in Yorkshire we have at least two places that are feeding this conflict. Teledyne Defence and Space, in Shipley manufacture components for air, land, sea and space radar equipment, including for the F35 and has sales representatives (Ormic Components) based in Israel. Its parent company Teledyne Technologies has applied for 134 export licenses from the UK to Israel since 2018.

In addition, the super-secret US spy base at Menwith Hill, just outside Harrogate, will be collecting electronic intelligence from satellites intercepting information from the Middle East. Some of this information will be fed back to the US and on to Israeli Defence Forces to help them target their attacks in Gaza. In 2016 top secret documents obtained by Edward Snowdon showed that Menwith Hill collects and analyses data and provides information for US targeted killings across the Middle East. There is little doubt that they will be working all hours now to provide information to help the Israeli bombardment and advance.

The Menwith Hill Accountability Campaign will be demonstrating outside the base on Tuesday at 6pm – as they are every week.

And of particular concern to CND in this horrific war is the widely known fact that Israel possesses nuclear weapons – although it neither admits nor denies that it does.

The existence of Israeli nuclear weapons was exposed in 1986 by Mordachai Vanunu – another whistleblower and former Israeli nuclear technician. He revealed details in London of Israel’s nuclear weapons programme at great personal expense. He was lured to Italy by Mossad who drugged, kidnapped him and returned him to Israel where he spent 18 years in prison, 11 of them in solitary confinement. On his release in 2004 he continued to suffer severe freedom restrictions. He is not allowed to travel or talk to foreign journalists and has been imprisoned a number of times for breaking these restrictions. The CND office in London is named Mordachai Vanunu House in recognition of his courageous actions.

While at University from 1979-1984, Mordachai became politically active and called for the rights for Palestinians in Israel and for Palestinians to be included in negotiations to establish an independent Palestinian state.

The existence of Israeli nuclear weapons was further confirmed a few weeks ago when Israeli Heritage Minister Amihai Eliyahu suggested that dropping a nuclear bomb on the Gaza Strip was “one of the possibilities” in the current conflict. He was sacked but won’t be the only one in the right-wing Israeli government who thinks like that and hostile rhetoric from some Cabinet ministers has also been directed towards the occupied West Bank.

It is estimated that Israel now has around 80 nuclear weapons and if any escalation of the current violence in the region occurs involving neighbouring states, Israel may consider using them. In that case, other nuclear weapon states with thousands of nuclear missiles ready to be launched at a moment’s notice, may become involved – with possible devastating consequences for the whole planet.

In fact, war and militarism are exceptionally bad for the planet. There are dangerous connections between nuclear weapons and the climate crisis and Yorkshire CND is organising an event to highlight the link on Wednesday at 6pm at “Imagine Leeds”. If you want to know more – join us there.

The establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction is urgently needed. It would strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), help promote global nuclear disarmament, and also help the Middle East peace process as a substantial confidence-building measure. The UN has been trying to make progress on this since the 1970s but

It is extremely important that we join together to call not for a pause, but for a ceasefire now. End the killing, end the destruction, end the genocide. end the occupation – NOW!