Generally speaking export control laws are targeted, in part, to make it harder for bad people to gain access to advanced technology and weapons. They should not be used as foreign or humanitarian policy cudgels. It is a distraction and devolution. A recent report by the U.K. House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee clearly demonstrates this principle.
The report, “Global Security: Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” is a follow-on study on U.K. policy in the Middle East and the 2008 Israel Gaza operation. With regards to export controls the Committee reports:
We conclude that it is regrettable that components supplied by the UK were “almost certainly” used in a variety of ways by Israeli forces during the most recent conflict in Gaza, and that this constitutes a failure of past Government arms export control policy. We recommend that the Government should continue to do everything possible to ensure that this does not happen again.
Regrettable? This argument is just as silly as the arguments lobbed by the gun control lobby in the U.S., i.e., control guns and crime will most certainly decrease. Rather than focus the study on the terrorist activities of Hamas and how it more than likely procured U.K. weapons illegally, the Committee makes Israel the scapegoat. The report also states that the Labor Government impose a de facto boycott on spare parts and defense articles destined for Israel:
We further recommend that the Government should provide its assessment of the impact on the UK-US defence relationship of its decision since 2006 to cease licensing the export of components for incorporation into F-16s and Apache helicopters in the US; and specify any end-use restrictions which it places on exports of components for unmanned aerial vehicles for incorporation in Israel for onward export.
The U.K. Foreign Affairs Committee recommendation that U.K. defense contractors restrict sales of defense articles to Israel likely run afoul of U.S. Anti-Boycott laws and regulations. There has been no official response by the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary to any part of the report. Same holds for the Tories.
In final summary, the Committee’s report relies on a series of studies and outlooks submitted by NGOs and witnesses from a clear anti-Israel perspective. These organizations, supported by Labor Party members, are distorting the scope and purpose of U.K. export control laws to advance an anti-Israel foreign policy.
Rather than focus on bad actors absconding U.K. defense and dual-use articles, it has decided to continue to pillory the only democracy in the Middle East. Fortunately, it is a weak argument based on false premise.