Bombs on Gaza, business for The Netherlands and Belgium

Press release

Campagne tegen Wapenhandel (Campaign Against Arms Trade NL)

Vredesactie (Peace Action B)

 Antwerp/Amsterdam, January 14, 2009 --- The Israeli army in Gaza is using weapons partly produced in Belgium and The Netherlands. Moreover Dutch and Belgian airports are being used for the transfer of weapons and ammunition from the United States to Israel without scrutiny against the EU arms export criteria. As Belgian foreign minister De Gucht called for a ceasefire in Gaza and Dutch foreign minister Verhagen offered support in controlling arms smuggling to Hamas one should expect an intensified control on arms exports to Israel. This is not the case. Belgium en The Netherlands do not apply the EU arms export criteria consistently and the transfer of military goods from the US to Israel, notably ammunition, is not controlled at all.

Israel is one of the world’s largest arms importers. Dutch policy on arms trade with Israel is restrictive;  export licences are ‘in principle’ not granted for Israel, in line with criteria two (human rights), three (internal conflict) and four (regional conflict) of the European Union arms exports criteria. At the same time arms components are exported to third countries which re-export to Israel. Dutch Stork is the sole supplier oflanding gears for Apache attack helicopters delivered by the US to Israel. DSM exports armour that ends up in armoured personnel carriers and vehicles for the Israeli Defence Forces. In Flanders (B) several arms and components exports have been denied licences in 2008. Exports to the Israeli arms industry however were no problem at all. Flemish OIP, daughter of Israeli Elbit, could deliver materiel for snipers for example. The Wallonian part of Belgium licensed several arms exports to Israel, including material for ammunition and components for armoured personnel carriers. The Brussels province has never denied any export licence.

Arms transfers to Israel through Belgium and The Netherlands, notably by plane from the US, are not controlled at all. In 2006 and 2007 alone 56 million bullet parts, 3 million ammunition and tens of thousands of cartridges, smoke shells and fuses from the United States were transferred though Dutch main airport Schiphol on their way to the IDF. Despite promises to Parliament the Dutch government has not given any information yet on 2008 figures. After Israeli airline El Al transferred its main activity to the Liege airport of Bierset, it can be assumed that the majority of the US arms transports to Israel has shifted to Belgium. Although the Wallonian government does not give any figures about the transfer of military goods at all, it is known that El Al has 2 to 3 cargo flights from the US to Israel through Bierset every day. If the EU arms export criteria would be applied to these transfer flights, they would most probably not be permitted, as the United States arms export policy towards Israel is known to be much less restrictive than that of Belgium and The Netherlands.

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