Lots of people want to speak, so I will be as brief as possible. I want to ask a number of questions, but I will just say as a preface that when someone has been in this House long enough and sat through the discussions about the various wars taking place, they get an understanding of the nature of war and of war crimes legislation. Whatever Hamas did, whatever people think, it was a war crime, and we have condemned that absolutely, but we created legislation globally after the second world war to determine how states could legally react to war crimes like that. Article 8 of the Rome statute, which set up the International Criminal Court, specifically designated war crimes: first, the use of weapons that were indiscriminate in their impact—that is, that affected civilians—and, secondly, the denial of the basic resources to survive, for civilian populations in particular. That is food, water and heat. The third element of war crimes under article 8 was the forced displacement of people from their homelands. I am afraid that whatever people think about what is happening in Gaza at the moment, what we are seeing are war crimes, according to the Rome statute; that is the case by any definition, but certainly on those three points. That is how we guide our reaction to activities by any state, whether it is Israel, Saudi or whoever, and, in guiding our behaviour, we have to recognise that if we in any way aid or provide support to a state acting in that way, we become complicit in those war crimes. That is the reality of where we are at the moment. I feel for the reputation of our country in the future because of the current behaviour of our Government.
A letter was written from a number of key organisations, and I want to raise the questions in it. It was written by Asad Rehman, chief executive of War on Want; Katie Fallon, director of advocacy at the Campaign Against Arms Trade; Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Amnesty International UK; and Yasmine Ahmed, UK director of Human Rights Watch. I want to raise some of the questions that they have asked. Has the Minister seen the letter? First, it calls for an immediate suspension of the extant licences and new export licences for Israel given the clear risk, in their view, that the component parts that are being transferred from the UK “might be used to facilitate or commit…violations of international law”.
That includes actions that they believe are tantamount to war crimes. The question from those organisations is this: will the Government now suspend those licences?
Secondly, do the Government know whether British weapons or military equipment are being used in Gaza or not? We have heard from one Back Bencher that they are. The letter notes that in the past the UK admitted that it had supplied equipment and that that had been used by the Israel Defence Forces during hostilities in Gaza in 2009. Lord Cameron, as he now is, then introduced a procedure to suspend the operation, and there was a complete review of what was happening with the weapons that we had supplied. I think the minimum that we should be asking for now is for the Government to undertake a Lord Cameron-type review to see exactly how what we have supplied is being used and whether it is being used in Gaza, because if it is, I am afraid we become complicit in the war crime.
Another question that the organisations have asked is just what monitoring is taking place by the Government—what mechanism is in place that effectively to monitor what is going on? The further question that is asked is this: on what basis do the Government consider that there is no clear risk that arms licensed to Israel will be used in prohibited conduct as identified, as my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana) said, in the strategic export licensing criteria. This goes back to the fact that the Government have warned in the past that if any of these weapons are used in this way, they will suspend the licence overall. Again, have the Government even taken that into consideration?
One question that we have asked consistently as the provision of £474 million of exports to Israel have gone on is whether the Government applied the restrictions that we had called for to prevent their use in the Occupied Palestinian Territories or against Palestinians. At least there are instances in which we could accept that we have been providing sufficient support to Israel to defend itself from external attack, but to allow these weapons to be used in the occupied territories means that they will be used against Palestinians or, indeed, some of the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens as well.
My final question is to ask the Government whether there have been any shipments of spare parts from the UK to Israel of UK-supplied components for Israeli F-16 and/or F-35 aircraft. As has been said, those are the aircraft that have been used in the indiscriminate bombing of Palestinians in Gaza and have caused such civilian loss of life.
I reiterate what others have said: I find it difficult to participate in these debates without becoming extremely angry or emotional on all sides—both because I want the release of the hostages and because 7,000 children have now died. That cannot be right, and I believe it is a war crime. Anything that we are doing to give aid or comfort in this direction will ensure that we will be condemned in the future.
Finally, a number of us met Yachad today. We met with heroes and heroines from Palestine, Palestinians and Jewish Israelis. They are trying to campaign for peace. As part of their heroic campaign, one of their clear demands is for a ceasefire, so that we can release the hostages and at least plan for the future in peace.