Surge in British public support for ending arms sales to Israel: poll

Surge in British public support for ending arms sales to Israel: poll
The results show increasing public support for stopping arms sales to Israel, despite the position of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
3 min read
12 April, 2024
London's Tower Bridge was lit up with a campaign calling for a end to the Gaza war [Handout/Action For Humanity]

A growing number of British people want the UK government to halt arms sales to Israel, according to a new poll, which comes as the war in Gaza enters its seventh month.

The YouGov poll is the second commissioned by NGO Action For Humanity and shows a rise in support in the UK for ending arms sales to Israel over a ten-day period, highlighting the fast-paced change in British public opinion about the war on Gaza.

Among the 2,124 adults surveyed, 62 percent agreed that the government should stop exporting arms or arms parts to Israel, a 6 percent rise since the previous survey by YouGov and Action For Humanity was conducted at the end of March.

Only 16 percent of respondents said exports should remain, a one percent decrease from the last poll.

The survey came days after the killing of three British citizens in Gaza from the charity World Central Kitchen on 1 April, who were among seven aid workers targeted in fatal Israeli strikes that triggered global condemnation.

The results show increasing public support for stopping arms sales to Israel, which stand in opposition to the position of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose own Conservative Party has been divided on the issue.

The government has come under scrutiny for not publishing legal advice it received regarding arms sales, despite concerns it could be breaching obligations under international law, with Israel being accused of war crimes at the World Court.

Action for Humanity Director Othman Moqbel urged the government to "heed the will" of the public.

"Without delay, all current licences for military equipment and technology, as well as the issuance of new licences, must be suspended while Israel continues to commit grave violations without accountability," Moqbel said.

Action for Humanity and children's charity Save the Children, both operating in Gaza, projected a banner onto a London landmark on Thursday evening to draw attention to the 14,000 children killed in Gaza and to demand an end to arms sales.

London's Tower Bridge, just a few miles away from Westminster, was emblazoned with a huge red and white projection stating 'Stop Arming Israel' and 'Ceasefire Now'.

The UK has faced mounting calls from activists and the wider population to stop arms and military equipment licenses to Israel after it was revealed that the engine of the Israeli military deployed Hermes 450 drone and possibly used in the aid worker strike, are made in the UK.

Since 2015, the UK has issued arms sales to Israel worth £489m, including parts for military aircrafts, missiles, tanks, technology and ammunition, according to campaign groups.

The poll asked adults from across political parties whether they believe the UK should stop halting arms sales to Israel in the wake of its six-month war in Gaza.

Three-quarters of Labour voters said arms sales should stop, while nearly half of Conservative voters agreed.

Labour peer and former Middle East Minister Peter Hain said that the latest poll results spoke "volumes" about the surge in public concern over arms sales.

Hain said: "To stop the carnage and starvation the British government must heed this call and implement an arms and parts ban both of exports to, and imports from, Israel now, supported by Labour".

Earlier this week, Sunak defended the government's decision in an interview with LBC radio, saying, "none of our closest allies" have stopped arms sales to Israel. He instead reiterated that the Israeli government should do more to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Israel has faced increasing questions from its closest allies over its brutal offensive, which has killed over 33,000 Palestinians, decimated swathes of the territory and pushed the 2.3 million population to the brink of famine.