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Who is arming Israel? Report and key findings

AOAV’s report ‘Who is arming Israel?‘ is an in-depth analysis of the arms sold or provided to Israel by the UK, US, and other nations, focusing on the continuation and expansion of arms exports despite allegations of war crimes by the Israeli armed forces, highlighting the lack of transparency and the profits made in arms exports.

Introduction

This report exposes the extent of military support provided by the United Kingdom and United States and other states to Israel, despite ongoing allegations of war crimes committed by the Israeli armed forces. Even in the face of such allegations, the flow of military hardware and support to Israel has not waned, with potential arms deals since the 7th October 2023 exceeding $23 billion from the US alone, the details of much of which remains undisclosed. This report underlines the necessity to enhance transparency in arms exports to Israel as a matter of public interest, particularly given these weapons are implicated in civilian harm. The report also analyses varying global approaches to arms control policies to Israel. Assessing discrepancies between public government statements and actual practice, the report sheds light on the ethical and legal controversies surrounding these arms sales, including recent legal challenges in arms export policies. This investigation also reveals a significant increase in profits and share prices for arms manufacturers, with an exclusive assessment of individual wealth accumulation credited in part to increased share prices following the 7th October attacks.

Key Findings

  • The Biden administration has sanctioned over $23 billion in military aid to Israel since the 7th October, with over 100 foreign military sales
  • Despite the UK government having previously asserted they have not supplied lethal aid to Israel since 7th October, UK firms like BAE Systems continue to supply military components for Israeli fighter jets.
  • German arms exports to Israel saw a tenfold increase in 2023, reaching €326.5 million.
  • Range of legal challenges have emerged in various jurisdictions, including the Hague Court of Appeal suspending transfers of F-35 related equipment from the Netherlands to Israel.
  • Arms manufacturers, especially from the US and UK, are reporting record earnings.
  • Quarter 1 of 2024 witnessed a surge in the selling of personal shares by a number of executives of the largest arms manufacturers currently selling weapons to Israel.
    • Raytheon RTX witnessed a significantly high value of executive sales of personal shares during Q1 of 2024. Q1 of 2024 saw $3.45 million worth of sales made by executives, compared to just $357k for the whole of 2023.
    • Lockheed Martin saw a surge in the value of executive sales of personal shares in Q1 of 2024. Q1 of 2024 saw $7.25 million sales made by executives compared to $2.38 million for the whole of 2023.
    • BAE Systems also witnessed a significantly higher value of executive sales of personal shares during Q1 of 2024, as a result of CEO Charles Woodburn’s sale. Q1 of 2024 saw a value of £4.16 million shares sold compared to just £217k for the whole of 2023.
    • General Dynamics saw its highest value of executive share sales in one financial quarter in Q1 of 2024 since the beginning of 2021, with $28 million worth of shares sold by executives, more than the whole of 2023 combined.
    • L3Harris Technologies witnessed around $10 million worth of shares sold by insiders, compared to $3,631,000 for the whole of 2023.

Context

In the six months following Hamas’ attack on Israel, the population of the Gaza Strip has suffered a severe humanitarian crisis, marked by rampant disease, acute food shortages accredited by the UN to Israel blocking food convoys, public health crisis caused by the cutting off of water and electricity in Gaza by Israel, and a staggering death toll that includes a significant number of children killed and many maimed in Israeli strikes among the Palestinian population. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) has classified North Gaza and Gaza Governorates as Class 5 (Famine), describing the situation as ‘man-made starvation’. 

Amidst the violence and suffering, Israel finds itself internally fractured, grappling with the ramifications of its military response, a strategy that has led to a rare fissure in its relations with the United States, traditionally its staunchest ally. 

At the time of writing in April 2024, over 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks and more than 1,200 Israelis have been killed by Hamas. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) disputes the Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry’s data, saying many of the dead are militants, but the numbers of civilians killed is universally seen to be extremely high. An AOAV analysis of the Ministry’s published data found that “analysis of the fatalities data in the current war provides no reason to doubt the MoH” and that the analysis “points towards the deaths being heavily civilian”. 

The overall violence has also rekindled tensions across the broader Middle East. Iran’s threats of revenge following the assassination of a high-ranking general in Syria, coupled with ongoing confrontations with Hezbollah, signal the potential for an escalation into a full-scale regional conflict. Of note, English-language media has reported some 234 civilian casualties from Israeli strikes in Lebanon since October 7th, with 90 of those civilians harmed, killed.

International scrutiny has intensified, with allegations of war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas under investigation by the International Criminal Court. In January 2024, South Africa filed a case to the International Court of Justice, alleging that Israel is committing genocide against the people of Palestine. The ICJ found there was a “plausible risk of genocide”. Israel has rejected all such accusations. 

The international community’s reaction, particularly following the killing of international aid workers by the Israeli army on the 1st April 2024, has put additional pressure on Israel, isolating it further on the global stage.

And, amidst all the political wranglings and the terrible burden of suffering that afflicts civilians in the region, one question persists: who is arming Israel?

Answering that question is the central purpose of this report. 

Dr Iain Overton
Executive Director
AOAV, London, 12 April 2024

Thanks to Justin Schlosberg and the Institute for Journalism and Social Change for their support of this work, and to Islam Al-Khatib for reviewing and feedback.

Methodology

This report’s investigation into UK and US defence policies was carried out through a systematic review of diverse sources. The methodology incorporated an analysis of media reports, data from open-source intelligence, official pronouncements from government bodies, and findings from prominent research institutions, including the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). 

Additionally, specialist organisations focusing on the global arms trade, such as the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Forum on the Arms Trade, and Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), provided essential data. While acknowledging that export licensing details are often withheld from public disclosure, this study has integrated information unveiled through recent judicial actions initiated by civil society organisations to bridge information gaps. For the assessment of individual financial gains, this research scrutinised publicly accessible records detailing trading activities of corporate insiders. 

Verification of these records involved cross-referencing reported transactions with independent news outlets and official company disclosures to ensure reliability. Extracted data included transaction dates, identities and roles of the individuals involved, transaction types (purchase/sale), volume of shares traded, transaction-specific share prices, and the total value realised from these trades. Historical share price data were retrieved from reputable financial tracking services, including Yahoo Finance, facilitating the analysis of financial trends subsequent to October 6th. 

Calculations of specific interest encompassed the comparative increase in share prices from October 6th to the transaction dates and the financial differential resulting from these variances. AOAV has published extensive reports on the dissemination of precursor materials for Improvised Explosive Devices and other weaponry systems used by Hamas. Those reports can be found on www.aoav.org.uk and are, as such, not the focus of this piece of work.

All companies noted in this report were approached for comment.  None replied.

Legal Disclaimer

The information presented in this report, including data, analysis, and conclusions, is based on a thorough and comprehensive investigation conducted by Action on Armed Violence. The findings and views expressed herein are intended to contribute to the public understanding and discussion of the complex issue of arms exports to Israel, particularly in the context of the ongoing conflict in the region. 

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information contained in this report, the nature of the subject matter and the reliance on publicly available data, as well as information obtained from various sources that are deemed reliable, mean that we cannot guarantee the absolute correctness of every detail presented. 

The dynamic and evolving nature of international arms trade and geopolitical relations also means that some information may become outdated or subject to reinterpretation in light of new evidence or developments. The opacity of the arms trade means that errors can be made albeit in good faith. The interpretations and opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors and contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any government, organisation, or entity referenced herein. Inclusion in this report of information regarding specific companies, governments, or individuals does not imply wrongdoing or legal culpability on their part; rather, it is meant to shed light on the intricacies of arms exports to Israel within the broader context of international law, ethics, and the pursuit of peace and security. This report is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a definitive statement on the legality or morality of arms exports to Israel or any other country. 

Readers are encouraged to consult original sources and conduct their own research to form their own informed opinions on the matters discussed. We welcome constructive feedback and dialogue from all stakeholders, including governments, industry representatives, civil society organisations, and the public, to enhance the quality and impact of our research and to contribute to a more informed and nuanced discussion on the subject of arms exports and their implications for global peace, security, and human rights.

For other parts of the report ‘Who is Arming Israel?‘ please see: