Bombs on Gaza, Business for Europe

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) army in Gaza is using weapons produced in Belgium and The Netherlands. In addition, Dutch and Belgian airports are being used for the transfer of weapons and ammunition from the United States to Israel without scrutiny, contrary to EU rules on arms exports.

As Belgian foreign minister Karel De Geucht called for a ceasefire in Gaza and his Dutch counterpart Maxime Verhagen offered support in controlling arms smuggling to Hamas, neither country was taking steps to counter exports to Israel. The transfer of military goods from the US to Israel continues uncontrolled.

In 2006 and 2007 alone 56 million bullet parts, three million other pieces of ammunition and tens of thousands 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 the country’s parliament the Dutch government has not as yet given any information figures for 2008.

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 two to three cargo flights from the the US to Israel through Bierset every day. If the EU arms export criteria were applied to these transfer flights, they would almost certainly not be permitted.

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 of 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. Flemmish 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 a single export licence.

Information supplied by the Dutch Campaign Against the Arms Trade.