How Britain profits from the attack on Gaza

The video emerged on Monday. It appears to show a man searching for his family amid the rubble of Gaza, apparently during a ceasefire. He is shot by a sniper. For a while he lies there, moving awkwardly. Then he is shot again.

The component parts of the sniper rifle may have been made in the UK. After Israel's 2009 incursion into Gaza – Operation Cast Lead - the Commons committee on strategic export controls found British arms exports "almost certainly" were used in the attack, in direct contravention of the UK's policy that arms exports should not be used in the occupied territories.

The military equipment sold to Israel includes parts for sniper rifles and small-arms ammunition, ground-based radar, military aircraft engines and navigation equipment, military communications and unmanned drones. Britain also supplied components for cockpit displays in US F-16 combat aircraft sold to Israel, engine assemblies for their US Apache helicopters, armoured personnel carriers and components for the guns and radar in Israeli Sa'ar-class corvettes.

Then-foreign secretary David Miliband told the Commons all future arms-related applications would be assessed "taking into account the recent conflict". After all, it is against Department for Business rules for an export licence to be granted where there is a clear risk they might be used to "provoke or prolong conflict within a country" or "be used aggressively against another country". Either criteria, depending on how you choose to look at it, could be applied to the Gaza crisis.

Britain even revoked a handful of licenses, all related to parts for an Israeli navy gunboat known as the Saar 4.5 Class Corvette, which was likely used to shell Gaza.

'Israel and the Palestinian territories' is the biggest recipient of approved export licences from the Foreign Office's list of 27 countries of human rights concerns. They are worth £7.8 billion to the UK, towering over China's £1.5 billion or Saudi Arabia's £1.8 billion. Of that £7.8 billion, just £5,539 goes to the Occupied Territories.

The number seems massive, especially given Britain is responsible for just one per cent of Israel's military imports (most come from the US). The vast majority of the figure is irrelevant. It's made up of a single licence approval for "equipment employing cryptography and software for equipment employing cryptography" – phone masts, basically. Put that to one side and you have what experts believe to be about £10 million in military contracts.

Here is what the money goes on, according to the Commons committee:

"All-wheel drive vehicles with ballistic protection; body armour, components for body armour, military helmets, components for pistols, components for body armour, components for all-wheel drive vehicles with ballistic protection, components for assault rifles, components for pistols, components for equipment employing cryptography, components for military communications equipment, cryptographic software, equipment employing cryptography, software for equipment employing cryptography, software for the use of equipment employing cryptography, general military vehicle components, military support vehicles, small arms ammunition, weapon sights, military communications equipment and components for small arms ammunition."

But Britain's military relationship with Israel is not one-sided. It is based on cooperation, on British firms working with Israeli firms, in an entanglement which precludes a critical political response to the savage attack on Gaza.

Take the Watchkeeper combat drone, built in the UK by UAV Tactical Systems, which was set up by Israeli company Elbit Systems and French company Thales. Elbit's 51% stake tells you where the balance of power is. UAV Engines, which builds the rotary engine, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Elbit.

In 2007, the Ministry of Defence ordered 54 Watchkeepers at a cost of £800 million. They came in late, of course, but the Watchkeeper system will be in service until 2040.
That sort of contract is typical. At the Farnborough International Air Show, which ended a couple of days ago, Elbit was marketing its wares as 'battle tested'.

Israeli company Rafael and the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) were also present. Rafael announced it was in negotiations to add to its 15-year deal with the Ministry of Defence so it could supply its fighter jets with new targeting pod systems.

Several British firms provide Israel with spare parts for the F16 and Apache fighter jets and naval ships. These were the machines used to kill hundreds of civilians in Lebanon. Human rights groups estimate that they have killed 223 Palestinians during the current offensive in Gaza, 46 of them children, 26 of them women and 14 of them elderly.

Yesterday, David Cameron urged a "proportionate" response from the Israelis, but he placed the blame overwhelmingly on Hamas. As a father his heart bled when he saw images of children being killed on beaches with Israeli munitions, he said. But "this can be most quickly brought to an end" by Hamas ceasing to fire rockets.

There were gasps in the Commons from the Labour benches. "These attacks are not just disproportionate," Peter Hain said. "In any other conflict they'd be described as war crimes."

That is precisely what they are, as any reasoned, impartial observer would conclude. But even if Cameron were such an observer he would be hamstrung by a military-industrial network which entangles British and American firms and state military departments in decades-long, multi-million pound contracts.

These military deals do not exist in isolation. They discourage any attempt by the British government to condemn Israel's operation with the sort of language which it deserves. Britain profits from Israel's horrible little wars. And Israel can conduct its horrible little wars because Britain's desire for profit trumps its commitment to human rights.

When the Home Office comes for you at your daughter's wedding

On Friday, as her daughter was about to be married in Haringey town hall, about 15 immigration officers and a handful of regular police burst into the building and detained Isabella Acevedo.

It's a depressing ending to a depressing story. Acevedo was once the cleaner of former Home Office minister Mark Harper. Harper was forcing through a draconian bill upping the sanctions on employers who hired people without checking their papers when he realised he might be included in that category himself. He could not find the papers he had once seen which showed her right to work, so he informed the prime minister of the situation and resigned.

Harper, who oversaw the 'Go Home' van campaign at the Home Office, was feted as a man of honour and principle. He was reappointed to government as a junior minister at the DWP last week. His cleaner was left to the dogs. If referred to at all by political commentators it was as "an illegal".

Immigration enforcement finally came for her on Friday afternoon. According to Trenton Oldfield, who was attending the wedding, the burly-looking agents in black shirts burst into the town hall just before the ceremony. They took away Acevedo and her brother. The bride and groom were questioned and told the ceremony could not go ahead due to discrepancies in their paperwork. Registrars later said the paper work was perfectly satisfactory and proceeded with the ceremony, albeit without the mother in attendance. Oldfield tried to film the immigration officers but they roughly stopped him.

"If you film anything we will seize your phone to use as evidence, do you understand that?" the officer said. Oldfield asked under what law that requirement was made, before the officer reached for the phone to stop him physically.

Acevedo woke up this morning after her third night at Yarlswood detention centre. She is due to be deported on Thursday evening on BA Flight 247. On Wednesday, protestors will gather outside Harper's apartment, where Acevedo cleaned.  There'll be another protest at Heathrow Terminal 5 at 19:00 BST on Thursday.

Some have tried to justify the operation by suggesting Acevedo had gone mafioso – that the only time to catch her was at a wedding where she was sure to be present. But the real picture is more troubling.

Why the overkill of 15 immigration officers and a handful of police? Why the gruff, aggressive manner? Why try to stop the wedding itself by wrongly claiming the papers were not in order? Why the refusal to let someone film what was going on?

This bears all the hallmarks of a revenge operation, an attempt to punish Acevedo for embarrassing a minister. Her daughter will always remember that scene when she looks back on her wedding day.

Even a few years ago such an operation would have been unthinkable. Officers adopted a more consensual, nuanced approach. They wold not have targeted a wedding unless they were convinced it was a sham marriage. The operation would not have been timed to maximise the anguish of the target.

This is part of a worrying trend in immigration enforcement, typified by the Go Home vans, aggressive and large-scale raids on workplaces and the placing of immigration officers at London tube stations last summer. Worryingly, it seems that as standards slip in the processing of immigration claims and the asylum backlog, the Home Office is making up for it with an increasingly militarised and bullying enforcement operation more reminiscent of a South American dictatorship than a leading western democracy.

Although the data is extremely limited, there's some evidence from focus groups that the public don't even like these tactics. Those who have sat in on them say people clearly want firm enforcement of the rules, but are uncomfortable with very heavy-handed methods. The booting down of doors and dawn raids are accepted where people feel authorities have no other option, but their non-necessary use is frowned on. You could see Nigel Farage sensing that British discomfort with the 'optics' of such operations when he came out against the 'Go Home' vans.

They are masking their failure to clean up the system with heavy-handed enforcement elsewhere. There are ways to do these things. And this most certainly is not it.

No ifs, no buts: Salmond must put his cards on the table

George Osborne, Danny Alexander and Ed Balls weren't lying when said they would not sign up to currency union with Scotland. It is not that the honour of these man is somehow beyond question. It's that they have now stated the case so strenuously that their credibility would not survive a U-turn. It would be the end of their career.

You might not trust what a politician says, but you can be sure they'll not put their career at risk. If the trio intended to back-peddle, they'd have used at least some caveats.

This morning, the Scottish affairs committee reached the same conclusion. Chair Ian Davidson commented:

"We have had complete clarity and openness on this from George Osborne, Ed Balls and Danny Alexander: from the leadership of the three main political parties in the United Kingdom. There is no shadow of doubt. All were unequivocal.

"The Scottish government tries to give the impression that a currency union is still a possibility. It is not. This parrot is dead. Now voters urgently need to be told what the Scottish government has as a Plan B."

Osborne, Alexander and Balls were given the opportunity to introduce caveats when they appeared in front of the committee. They didn't.

Balls said:

"It would not happen, it should not happen, and it will not happen if there is a Labour government.

"Our position is unequivocal: it would not be in the interests of the rest of the UK or Scotland to attempt to negotiate a currency union. It can't be negotiated. It would be flawed, risky and unstable, and I wouldn't embark upon it. No ifs, no buts."

Osborne said:

"I have an obligation to put the facts in front of the people of Scotland as they make this decision, and the fact is—no ifs, no buts—that Scotland will not be able to share the pound if it votes to become independent. It is therefore incumbent on those who want Scotland to become independent and who want to take this great economic risk to spell out what their plan is. I have heard no plan."

Soon enough supporters of Scottish independence will have to face up to the fact that Westminster is not bluffing. It is not interested in providing a safety net for a separate country with a banking sector which is disproportionately large in relation to its economy. Supporters of Scottish independence, whose entire purpose is supposedly to put the country's future in the hands of its people, should have no interest in a system which would tie their economic future to that of another country in which they have no say.

The report concluded:

"The leadership of the three main political parties in the United Kingdom have made statements precluding a currency union, so unequivocal as to leave themselves without any room for manoeuvre. Now, no present or future chancellor or government could depart from this policy without totally destroying their credibility. We believe no change to the stated policy of no currency union is possible, either in the run-up to the general election of 2015 or beyond."

The conclusion is sound. On a personal or a party political level, Westminster simply could not afford to allow currency union any longer. It will not happen.

Salmond is desperate not to acknowledge it, not least because it would reveal how little political substance there is to be found beneath his swagger. But as a matter of basic political responsibility, he must at least lay out his Plan B so people can make an informed decision.

Instead, he issued his stock response to any mention of currency. He said:

"The pound is as much Scotland's as it is England, Wales and Northern Ireland's.

"And the fact a group of anti-independence Westminster MPs feel the need to issue a lame report like this shows just how vulnerable the 'no' campaign have become on this issue."

It's ironic that someone whose aim in life is to give the people of Scotland more power does not trust them enough to provide them with the information necessary for them to make decisions.

His opponents are not guilty of the same crime. Westminster parties are being increasingly clear about the extra powers they intend to hand to Holyrood in the event of a 'no' vote. Over the weekend, Labour's national policy forum made a binding commitment to a new Scotland Act in the party's first programme of government, if it wins in 2015.

Salmond is a talented politician. He would have been able to make the case for an independent currency if he had resisted the temptation to make his campaign for independence as conservative as possible. Now he is strapped to the mast, his assurances growing less convincing by the day.

In the six weeks or so before polling day - when the status-quo side of a referendum tends to enjoy a surge in support - the currency union question will make a sharp spotlight for his policies and his style of political campaigning.

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