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UK ‘morally incoherent’ in arms delivery to Israel, aid to Gaza: Oxfam chief

LONDON: Providing arms to Israel while offering humanitarian aid to Gaza is “intellectually and morally incoherent”, the head of Oxfam GB told the Guardian.

The remarks followed Oxfam’s approval to formally intervene in a legal challenge against UK arms sales to Israel.

The judicial review is being launched by the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq and the UK-based Global Legal Action Network.

Israel’s assault on Gaza has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

Recent government figures show that the UK issued 108 arms export licenses to Israel between the October 7 attacks and May 31, without refusing or revoking any during this period.

Halima Begum, chief executive of Oxfam GB, who recently returned from Israel and the occupied West Bank, criticized the UK’s stance.

She told The Guardian: “Whether you say it’s the components or the whole weapon (being sold) is debatable, because the individual components together make up these devices that kill so many innocent people.”

“The UK must stop selling these weapons.” A government cannot simultaneously provide humanitarian aid and talk about its aspirations for peace in the region and then talk about ship bombs — that is intellectually and morally incoherent.

“The fact that the law does not prevent trade seems irrelevant.” If you knowingly sell weapons that are used to kill thousands of innocent children and their parents, why would you continue?

Although Begum was unable to enter Gaza due to Israel’s attack on Rafah, she said she was left “shocked” after hearing first-hand accounts of the humanitarian crisis from fellow Palestinian evacuees from the enclave.

She pointed to the historical precedents of the UK and the US refusing to arm Israel, noting decisions from 1982 and 2002.

Begum said: “Margaret Thatcher stopped arms exports to Israel during the Lebanon War. Ronald Reagan suspended shipments of cluster munitions in July 1982 and was reportedly so shocked by the images of Palestinian children being dismembered in the August 12 bombing that he warned Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin ‘our entire future relationship is at risk if this continues.’

“Israel ordered a complete ceasefire before the end of the day.” So it would not be the first time that the British or American government drew the moral line.

She added: “The children of Gaza are being bombed, suffering from malnutrition and facing potential starvation, and the UK still cannot contain the Israeli army.” It defies belief that we would support this action; our humanity seems to be leaking.

Begum also noted that the Global South is largely united on the need for action on Gaza and that it seems “it’s only the Western leaders who don’t see what is the morally right thing to do.”

She added: “If you have a friend and their behavior is awful, you can still say, ‘Look, as friends, you shouldn’t be doing that.’ That doesn’t mean you can’t offer support to a friend.

“I feel like this whole construction around Israel’s right to self-defense, every country has the right to defend itself, but not at the cost of shredding humanitarian law, without any reference to human rights on the ground.”

The UK government declined to comment.

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