British Rebellion Grows Against Arming Israel

Joe Lauria, Consortium News,

London’s mayor, 50 Labour MPs and Winston Churchill’s grandson have joined widening calls to defy Israel’s impunity by demanding the U.K. stop sending it arms, reports Joe Lauria.

Even Winston Churchill’s grandson is calling for Britain to stop shipping arms to Israel. 

Asked whether it was time for Britain to stop sending weapons to Israel after it killed seven international aid workers this week, the Conservative peer Lord Nicholas Soames said, “It’s probably time that that happened now, yes, I think if we’re determined to show that we are not prepared to countenance these ongoing disasters.”

The rebellion within British ruling circles against knee-jerk support for is Israel is spreading after the killing of the aid workers and after leaked audio recordings on Saturday revealed the British government is ignoring the advice of its own lawyers not to continue supplying weapons to Israel for its Gaza operation without risking complicity in crimes against humanity. 

[It took Westerners, including three Britons, being killed to spur this action after more than 32,000 Palestinians are dead. It also forced Israel on Friday to sack two military officers and reprimand two top commanders for “serious” errors in killing the aid workers, who were in marked cars. There’s nothing like the fear of an arms cutoff to make Israel try to do something.]

On Wednesday, more than 600 British lawyers, academics and retired senior judges — including three who sat on the country’s Supreme Court — wrote to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak imploring him to cut off military aid and even called for sanctions against the most senior Israeli leaders. 

The rebellion is erupting in both major parties, as well as in the Liberal Democrats, which on Thursday wrote to No. 10’s ethics advisor to urge a probe into whether U.K. arms sales could be a breach of Britian’s ministerial code. The letter said “the UK must not be complicit in breaches of international humanitarian law,” The Guardian reported.

The Labour Party is in upheaval as the mayor of London and 50 Labour MPs on Thursday said Britain should no longer arm a state that is increasingly unable to hide its crimes. “In my view, the fact the government is not publishing the legal advice, one can only draw one conclusion,” Mayor Sadiq Khan told the Politics Joe website. “I think the government should be pausing all sales of weapons to Israel. I think we should be holding to account the Israeli government.”  He added: It’s got to stop.”

As he tries to unify a fractious party over the issue, Labour leader Keir Starmer has not gone beyond calling for the legal advice mentioned in the leaked audio to be made public.

Britain exported £42 million of weapons to Israel in 2023.  Figures since Oct. 7 last year have not yet been released.  A British break with Israel on Gaza would be politically more significant than the size of the arms transfers. 

Tories Imploding Too

U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron on Oct. 7 aftermath tour in the Be’eri Kibbutz with Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, Nov. 23, 2023. (Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing, Flickr)

Rebellion is breaking out in the ruling Conservative Party as well. Churchill’s grandson has been joined by Lord  Hugo Swire and three Tory MPs – Paul Bristow, Flick Drummond and David Jones – in demands that arms shipments be halted. 

Sir Alan Duncan, a figure reviled by Julian Assange supporters for gleefully organizing his arrest from the Ecuador Embassy in April 2019, is being investigated by the Conservative Party for potentially “anti-semitic” remarks after he criticized pro-Israel Tory “extremists.”

“The time has come to flush out those extremists in our own parliamentary politics, and around it, some of whom are at the very top of government, or have been,” he told a radio interviewer on Thursday. “They have never been called to account by journalists to say: Do you agree with your own party’s policy? Do you condemn illegal settlements?’”

Duncan, a former minister in Conservative Theresa May’s government, added: “Conservative Friends of Israel has been doing the bidding of [Benjamin] Netanyahu, bypassing all proper processes of government, to exercise undue influence at the top of government.” 

A worldwide movement to stop arms sales to Israel is growing:

David Cameron, the former prime minister, current foreign secretary and prospective Tory leader once again, is reportedly under pressure from these party “extremists” because he doesn’t share their fanatical devotion to Israel.  This is a man who as prime minister once called Gaza an “open-air prison.” He is far more restrained in his criticism now. But he’s feeling the heat in party backrooms.

The Guardian reports:

“For weeks there have been grumblings among pro-Israeli Conservative MPs, sometimes expressed in private meetings with the foreign secretary, David Cameron, that he should dial back his criticism of Israel and accept that, if it is in the UK’s strategic interest for Hamas to be defeated, lives may have to be lost due to the war.

It does not help that many of Israel’s strongest supporters in the Conservatives are on the party’s right and Lord Cameron is seen as a centrist in a party that laid modernisation to rest with his resignation in 2016.”

Cameron refused to answer any questions on Gaza Thursday morning when interviewed by the BBC.

The British establishment, in both parties, have begun to rip themselves apart over what Israel  is doing in Gaza and Britain’s role in it. It is a debate, frankly, that should have begun six days after Israel’s assault began, not six months later. 

But it nonetheless augurs poorly for the continued staunch support of a state that can no longer easily hide its crimes behind the historic persecution of its people 80 years ago.   

Some U.K. civil servants threaten to strike fearing liability for approving arms shipments:


Biden’s Pantomime

President Joe Biden calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Oct. 17, 2023, ahead of his trip to Israel. (White House/Erin Scott)

Meanwhile in the United States, President Joe Biden “threatened” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a telephone call Thursday that he could condition future U.S. support for Israel’s military campaign on how Israel treats Palestinian civilians. 

Reported The New York Times:

“During an evidently tense 30-minute call … Mr. Biden went further than ever before in pressing for change in the military operation that has inflamed many Americans and others around the world. But the White House stopped short of directly saying the president would halt arms supplies or impose conditions for their use, as fellow Democrats have urged him to do.”

Biden is clearly in danger of losing re-election in large part because of his unpopular Gaza policy, even among a majority of Democrats. He has been acting against every instinct deep within the fiber of a politician that tells him: do whatever you have to do to win. 

At what point does Biden’s electoral theatrics cross the line into serious behavior? 

When he tells Netanyahu: “No more money and no more guns.” But even “no more presidency” doesn’t seem to have yet convinced Biden to say that.


Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette, the London Daily Mail and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He is the author of two books, A Political Odyssey, with Sen. Mike Gravel, foreword by Daniel Ellsberg; and How I Lost By Hillary Clinton, foreword by Julian Assange. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @unjoe  

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