UK government bans visas to Israeli violent settlers as human rights groups urge to extend ban to weapons and military equipment sales

The UK Foreign Secretary, Lord David Cameron, announced on Thursday 14th December, that the UK will deny visas to Israeli settlers who’ve committed violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. The announcement follows a recent similar announcement by the US made a week earlier.

The UK decision came the day after a letter signed by 56 cross-party MPs, was submitted to the Foreign Secretary, Lord David Cameron and the Home Secretary, James Cleverly MP, seeking to sanction those who incite settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. The letter reads:

‘Following recent constructive exchanges in the House of Commons, we write to ask that Israeli settlers who commit or incite crimes of violence and intimidation against Palestinians in the West Bank should be barred from entry into the United Kingdom… there is good British precedent for such action. We believe that the case for British government action is very strong’

The letter describes Israel as an occupying power, which uses its military and police forces to protect illegal settler communities to the detriment of the Palestinian people, in many cases assisting in attacks against them. It points out that more than 3,000 Palestinians have been arbitrarily arrested in the West Bank since October 7th, with most remaining in detention without charge.

Violent settlers attack and intimidate Palestinians in Occupied West Bank

The letter concludes by urging the UK government to adopt a more forthright approach and to ensure that Israel is made aware of the serious consequences of its actions. It read:

‘Israel needs to heed your words or face serious consequences for its consistent failure to adhere to the international laws and conventions which it has signed and ratified’

Commenting on X/Twitter the UK Foreign Secretary, David Cameron wrote Thursday morning, 14th December:

‘Extremist settlers, by targeting and killing Palestinian civilians, are undermining security and stability for both Israelis and Palestinians. Israel must take stronger action to stop settler violence and hold the perpetrators accountable. We are banning those responsible for settler violence from entering the UK to make sure our country cannot be a home for people who commit these intimidating acts’

A similar ban by the US came into force a week earlier

A similar ban was imposed by the US on December 5th. Describing settler attacks as unacceptable, the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, announced:

‘We have underscored to the Israeli government the need to do more to hold accountable extremist settlers who have committed violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank… Today, the State Department is implementing a new visa restriction policy targeting individuals believed to have been involved in undermining peace, security, or stability in the West Bank, including through committing acts of violence or taking other actions that unduly restrict civilians’ access to essential services and basic necessities’

The ban came just over a fortnight after the US President, Joe Biden, published an Op-Ed column in the Washington Post, which was interpreted as the first sign of thawing relations between the US and Israel. It read:

‘I have been emphatic with Israel’s leaders that extremist violence against Palestinians in the West Bank must stop and that those committing the violence must be held accountable…The United States is prepared to take our own steps, including issuing visa bans against extremists attacking civilians in the West Bank’

Human rights groups urge UK Government to cease sale of arms to Israel

Human rights groups on both sides of the pond, have been urging the UK government and the US government to go further and to cease providing military equipment and weapons to Israel, which they argue are being used against innocent civilians.

‘There is a clear risk that arms and military equipment transferred to Israel might be used to facilitate or commit serious violations of international law’

A joint statement/letter addressed to the Rt Hon Lord David Cameron and signed by the Chief Executives of War on Want, Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Watch, Quakers in Britain, Welfare Association, Sabeel-Kairos UK and the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians read:

‘We write in the context of the ongoing hostilities in Israel and Palestine, in which many thousands of civilians have been killed and more than 1.9 million people have been displaced from their homes, to call on the UK Government to immediately halt arms transfers to the Government of Israel.

There is a clear risk that arms and military equipment transferred to Israel might be used to facilitate or commit serious violations of international law, including attacks that may amount to war crimes. Accordingly, the UK Government should immediately suspend both extant licenses for military equipment and technology and the issuing of new licenses while the Israel Defense Forces continue to carry out widespread serious violations including war crimes, with impunity. Failure to do so risks the Government breaching its own laws and international obligations and being complicit in grave abuses…

Since 2015, the UK has licensed at least £474 million worth of military exports to Israel, including components for combat aircrafts, missiles, tanks, technology, small arms, and ammunition…Notably, the UK Government admitted that British supplied components were used in the 2008-2009 hostilities in Gaza.

Furthermore, during the 2014 Gaza hostilities, when Lord Cameron was Prime Minister, the Government undertook a review of licensed exports to Israel…also stated that no new licenses had been issued during the review period (August 4, 2014, to August 12, 2014)… The UK risks being complicit in and facilitating serious violations of international humanitarian law if it fails to halt arms exports to Israel immediately. This risk is further heightened by statements of high-level Israeli officials that have sought to hold Gaza’s entire population responsible for the October 7 attacks, appear to disregard the principle of distinction and the protected status of civilians and civilian infrastructure, and risks mass intentional forced displacement of the civilian population in Gaza which if carried out would amount to a war crime’

US delays sale of 27,000 US made M16 Rifles to Israel due to concerns of use by settlers against Palestinians

The letter to David Cameron arrived as the US, Biden administration announced the delay of the planned sale of 27,000 US made M16 rifles to Israel over concerns that they could be used in attacks by West Bank settlers against Palestinians.  It recognised that Israel’s far-right Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, had ordered police not to arrest Israelis who commit violence in the West Bank, where more than 280 Palestinians including 64 children have been killed since October 7th.


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