Protesting the arms trade from Italy to India
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Protesting the arms trade from Italy to India

***image1***In recent months, the Israeli arms trade has been the target of numerous BDS actions; notably, in India, Italy, and the UK. In India, the CPI (M) continued to pressure the government to end military dealings while in the UK, as a result both of work from arms trade activists and the Gaza massacres, government officials have decided to review military ties with Occupation forces. And in Rome, unionists protested against arms trade cooperation between Italy and the Israeli military.

In late March, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) demanded that the United Progressive Alliance government suspend the air defense missile deal it had struck with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). CPI (M) alleged that Defense Minister A.K. Antony should be more transparent about the deal, as the deal “ jeopardized India’s self-reliance and because the country was seeking to purchase what the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) was yet to develop and test.” Halting this deal would be a fiscal victory for the BDS campaign, and would begin to prevent the Israeli firms from providing other countries with technology that it has tested on the Palestinian population.

In Italy, the arms company Finmeccanica is partially owned by the Italian government, enjoying public funding that comes from the state and the taxpayers of Italy. In November of 2008, it was made known that Israeli companies such as Elbit have been cooperating with Finmeccanica. The direct relationships that Finmeccanica has had with these companies have resulted in the company supplying weapons systems to the Israeli military, and further, has been a centerpiece in the cooperation between the Israeli and Italian armies. Italian activists from Action for Peace have recently demanded transparency and clarity in the relationships between the Finmeccanica and the Israeli government and are constructing a BDS campaign against arms trade in Italy. In April, the FIOM metalworkers union protested against arms trade and cooperation between the company and its Israeli clients.

Italy is not the only European state that maintains arms ties with the Israeli government. Over the past few years, Britain has licensed out millions of dollars’ worth of military equipment to all branches of the Israeli military, including components for tanks and combat aircraft. Not only have these actions been in direct conflict with Britain’s own arms policy, but the weapons were “almost certainly” used by Occupation forces in their most recent offensive in Gaza. In late April, the British government announced that it will be reviewing its arms sales to the Israeli military in light of the atrocities committed in Gaza. The Stop Arming Israel campaign, which began its campaign for a two-way arms embargo against Israel in 2006, has continued to assert public pressure on the government, and Britain’s decision to review the dealings with their Israeli counterparts is a milestone in the BDS effort.

These small victories must be learned from if a successful international BDS campaign is to be made. The Israeli arms industry that is well integrated into the global arms trade, so an effective and credible arms embargo needs to operate in both directions.