Arms firms selling weapons to Israel received nearly £10m in Scottish Enterprise grants

Arms firms in Scotland who sell weapons to Israel received nearly £10m in grants from Scottish Enterprise, prompting concerns taxpayers’ money may be contributing to human rights abuses and prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Weapons provided to Israel by arms firms with sites in Scotland include rocket launchers, bombs and machine gun systems.

The latest round of fighting between Hamas and Israel – the fourth war since 2008 – resulted in at least 244 deaths, mostly Palestinians once again due to its less military powers.

Human rights groups have now raised concerns over Scottish Government funding of firms who arm Israel, and UK arms exports to a state condemned for occupying Palestinian territories​. Amnesty International criticised all sides in the conflict and said the UK Government should ensure “it is not party to these horrific crimes with its arms sales”.

The UK’s links to the intractable conflict came under scrutiny as Hamas and Israel agreed to a ceasefire on Friday after 11 nights of cross-border bombardments.  At least 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, were killed. On the Israeli side, 12 people, including two children, were killed. Both sides claimed victory after a truce was agreed.

Companies in Scotland to receive taxpayers’ money from SE – the Scottish Government’s business agency – include Italian arms giant Leonardo MW, which employs around 1,800 people in Edinburgh. Raytheon, which employs over 600 people in Glenrothes, Fife, also received money between 2016 and 2020. Both firms are major contributors to local economies.

Scottish Enterprise says that it makes ethical checks before awarding grants, but those checks are meaningless if they still allow for grants to companies that are deeply implicated in enabling the occupation and wars of aggression like we have seen against Gaza

Andrew Smith, Campaign Against Arms Trade

Leonardo received £7m from Scottish Enterprise between 2016 and 2020. Leonardo makes components for Apache attack helicopters and delivered 30 Aermacchi M346 aircraft to the Israeli Air Force in 2016.

US firm Raytheon makes systems for Paveway smart bombs, which have been used in Gaza by the Israeli military. The firm is a joint producer of a missile called the Stunner. Raytheon was given around £100,000 by SE between 2016 and 2020.

The UK’s largest arms company BAE Systems was given £1.6m. BAE is a partner with US arms firm Lockheed Martin on the F35 combat aircraft which Israel uses. BAE also produced the Mk 38 Mod 2 machine gun system.

US firm Lockheed Martin – the world’s largest arms company – received grants worth £176,615. Lockheed has supplied Israel with over 100 F-16I combat aircraft, as well as a rocket system. Lockheed is also prime contractor for the F-35 combat aircraft, which Israel is buying to replace F-16s. Israel has ordered 50 F-35s, of which nine have been delivered up to the end of 2018. Lockheed Martin employs 2,000 people at 20 sites in the UK including Glasgow.

Rolls Royce – which has a plant in Inchinnan – received £1,759,000 from SE but repaid the grant. It produced engines for the G550 aircraft which were recently delivered to Israel for surveillance missions.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said: “The UK Government has a long and shameful history of political and military support for Israel forces. The Scottish Government has taken a far stronger and more humanitarian line than Downing Street, which is one reason why it is so shocking that it continues to offer subsidies and support to companies that are fuelling the repression and abuse of Palestinians.” 

He added: “Scottish Enterprise says that it makes ethical checks before awarding grants, but those checks are meaningless if they still allow for grants to companies that are deeply implicated in enabling the occupation and wars of aggression like we have seen against Gaza.”

Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International’s Scotland programme director, said Scottish Government public bodies should consider if economic subsidies offered to companies may be “contributing towards international human rights abuses”. 

She added: “Despite a purported ceasefire in Gaza, Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups have committed war crimes in this terrible conflict, and the UK Government should ensure it is not party to these horrific crimes with its arms sales. Ministers should immediately halt all military exports to Israel or any third country which could be using UK-supplied components to incorporate into weapons supplied to Israel.

“We’ve called on the UN Security Council to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas, and other Palestinian armed groups, but deadlock at the United Nations means countries such as Britain must act now to stop the atrocities.”

In reply the Scottish Government said the export of arms to Israel is the responsibility of the UK Government, adding that it expects them to “properly police such exports” and investigate any concerns. The Scottish Government said it does not “provide funding for the manufacture of munitions – either directly or via Scottish Enterprise”. 

A spokesperson added: “The support provided is mainly focused on helping firms to diversify their activities and technology and ensuring that Scotland continues to benefit from the thousands of jobs in the defence, aerospace and shipbuilding sectors. Human rights due diligence checks are a normal part of the Scottish Enterprise application process.”

In recent years SE has also been criticised for funding arms firm who profit from the war in Yemen, as reported by The Ferret.

CAAT also condemned the UK Government, pointing out that since 2015 it had licensed over £400m worth of arms to Israeli forces. These included licences for bombs, drones, grenades, small arms, tanks and missiles. CAAT said there should be a suspension of arms sales and an investigation into whether UK weapons were implicated in “possible war crimes”.

Ministers should immediately halt all military exports to Israel or any third country which could be using UK-supplied components to incorporate into weapons supplied to Israel

Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International’s Scotland programme director

In reply a UK Government spokesperson described the violence across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories as “deeply concerning” adding it had called for an “urgent cessation of hostilities”.

On arms exports a spokesperson said: “The UK operates one of the most comprehensive export control regimes in the world and rigorously assesses all export licences in accordance with strict licensing criteria. We will not issue any export licences where to do so would be inconsistent with these criteria.”

The latest round of fighting saw thousands of people in Gaza left injured and homeless. Fifty schools were damaged by Israeli airstrikes. Save The Children described the destruction of schools as an “abomination” and urged all parties in the conflict to ensure civilians were protected from attack.

Jason Lee, Save the Children’s country director in Gaza, said: “Sites of learning, opportunity, play and fun for children have swiftly transformed into refuges from the bombing as homes have been destroyed and families ripped apart — and sadly the numbers of schools being destroyed show that even here, there is nowhere to hide. One in 15 schools in Gaza has now been damaged.”

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Israeli airstrikes damaged one of its clinics in Gaza City and killed at least 42 people including 10 children. Dr Mohammed Abu Mughaiseeb, MSF deputy medical coordinator in Gaza, described a scene of “utter horror” as huge explosions shook the neighbourhood and women and children ran onto a street screaming and crying.

He said: “The situation has already been horrible this week with the number of civilian casualties rising daily, but when I saw the damage to the area and the MSF clinic the morning after the attack, I was speechless.”

Human rights due diligence checks are a normal part of the Scottish Enterprise application process

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government

During the battle there were protests by Palestinians in the West Bank where Israeli settlements have been condemned as illegal in many UN Security Council and other UN resolutions. 

During the battle Hamas fired more than 4,300 rockets at Israel but most were intercepted by Israel’s mobile air defense system, Iron Dome. But twelve people were killed and hundreds treated for injuries in rocket attacks that did get through, causing panic and sending people rushing into shelters.

Hamas is classified as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US, Japan, the EU and Canada. It has a military wing called Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

This year, the International Criminal Court launched an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Israel and Palestinian militants during the last round of heavy fighting in Gaza, in 2014. The court warned the latest fighting could be investigated as well.

Other allies of Israel supplying it with weapons include Italy, Germany and Canada. The US is Israel’s largest supplier of arms and last week President Joe Biden’s administration approved the potential sale of £518m in precision-guided weapons.

The UK operates one of the most comprehensive export control regimes in the world and rigorously assesses all export licences in accordance with strict licensing criteria.

A UK Government spokeperson

The second biggest exporter of weapons is Germany, which accounted for 24 per cent of Israel’s arms imports between 2009 and 2020. Canada accounted for around 0.3 percent of Israel’s imports of major conventional weapons between 2009 and 2021. Jagmeet Singh of Canada’s New Democratic Party called for Canada to halt arms sales to Israel in light of recent events.

The war prompted pro-Palestinian protests in UK cities, including Glasgow. It also led to a rise in antisemitic incidents, including an attack on a rabbi. There were 137 antisemitic incidents in the UK during the fighting including three in Scotland.

In one incident, a video posted on social media showed a convoy of cars bearing Palestinian flags driving through a Jewish community in north London and broadcasting anti-Semitic messages from a megaphone. Detectives have arrested four men on suspicion of racially aggravated public order offences.

The Community Security Trust (CST), which advises Britain’s estimated 280,000 Jews on security matters, told The Ferret it had recorded 137 anti-Semitic incidents since May 8.

On the Scottish incidents, a CTS spokesman said: “A Facebook post made by a man in Glasgow read, ‘If those Zionist fascist SCUM gfi [Glasgow Friends of Israel] DARE to gather this Saturday on Buchanan Street, EVERY SINGLE friend of Palestine in Glasgow should help to ring fence and silence their fascist, Goebbels like propaganda’.”

He continued: “A Jewish student at Strathclyde University was threatened by a fellow student on her course because he assumes she is pro-Israel/pro-Zionism (which she isn’t, in fact). He blocked her on social media, knows where she lives and mentioned that he could ‘break into her house’. He also said, ‘Unless you side with Palestine and are anti-Zionist then it is right that someone threatens your life’.

“Antisemitic slurs were made by the reporter’s girlfriend’s flatmates in Edinburgh. Firstly, they said that they believe Jews control the BBC. They also said that the government is run by the Jews.”

There were protests by British Jews across the UK last week. Up to 250 British Jews joined protests organised by the Na’amod group in solidarity with Palestinians and called for “an immediate end to the conflict in Gaza.” The demos took place last Wednesday, with the largest held in central London.

In a statement Na’amod – meaning “we will stand” in Hebrew – said: “Tonight hundreds of British Jews rallied across the country to demand freedom from occupation and freedom from violence for all in Israel-Palestine.”

Featured photo thanks to iStock and Naeblys

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