Majority of British want UK arms sales cut to Israel: poll

Majority of British want UK arms sales cut to Israel: poll
The findings of the poll show a widening chasm between the public and the government over support for Israel in its war in Gaza, now in its six month.
4 min read
04 April, 2024
The UK has seen a wave of public support for Palestine since the start of the war in October [GETTY]

The British public wants to see an end to arms sales to Israel and believe that Israel's actions in its war on Gaza violate human rights, according to a new poll.

The poll conducted by YouGov and commissioned by Action For Humanity International is the first to assess the British public’s views on the Israel-Gaza war, now in its six month.

The survey, which polled 2,108 people of voting age from across the UK, was conducted prior to the killing of three British nationals who were among seven aid workers targeted in an Israeli air strike on Monday, which triggered global outrage.

Among all voters in the UK, 56 percent to 17 percent are in favour of halting arms exports and equipment to Israel with the two countries having defence deals worth millions of pounds and a number of Israeli weapons factories operating in the UK, including Elbit Systems.

On the part of Labour voters, 71 percent said they backed a halt on arms sales, and 38 percent of those intending to vote for the right-wing Conservative party said the same, although 36 percent of Conservative voters disagreed on stopping arms sales.

Since the attack that killed aid workers who were delivering food as part of international charity World Central Kitchen, there have been mounting calls from across the British political spectrum for the UK government to cease arms exports to Israel.

It has also emerged that the engine of the Hermes 450 drone used by the Israeli military in the strike could have been manufactured in the UK by Elbit Systems, according to Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

Labour has refrained from calling for an end to arms sales and those on the Left have been disappointed with what has been regarded as leader Keir Starmer's weak response and unflinching support for Israel.

The poll also asked if Israel's actions in Gaza violate human rights, and the majority of those surveyed agreed.

Conservative voters, traditionally more likely to side with Israel, showed hesitancy with agreeing that Israel was violating human rights with the vote split 42 to 24 percent.

Those intending to vote Labour at the next election agreed by 77 percent that Israel's actions are violating human rights in Gaza.

The findings, which show a widening chasm between the public and the government over support for Israel, comes as top lawyers and judges wrote a letter to the government urging the suspension of arms sales, warning that the government is at risk of breaking international law and that the UK has a legal obligation to prevent genocide in Gaza.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron has been under pressure to reveal whether he has received advice from the foreign office's lawyers that Israel's actions have breached international law.

Senior Labour politician and former Middle East minister Peter Hain said: "The Conservative government's inaction has emboldened Israel to continue flouting its obligations under international law to protect Palestinian civilians who are being denied elementary humanitarian protection."

The deaths of the aid workers - which included a Polish, Canadian American, Australian, and Palestinian - was described by Israel as a "grave mistake" and sparked a new level of condemnation for the war from its allies, despite months of accusations that the Israeli military has been breaching international laws on conflict.

Othman Moqbel, director of Action For Humanity, which has been operating in Gaza since 2021, called on the UK government to act decisively.

"Immediate measures are needed, starting with an embargo on all British arms and parts to prevent their involvement in IHL violations, including attacks on humanitarian operations," Moqbel said.

"The UK must finally act to protect those delivering life-saving aid and hold violators of international law to account."