Merchants of Death dealing from Jersey

When we ask questions about who and what comes into our beautiful island, how critical are we really?

This column appeared in the Jersey Evening Post on the 19th of October.

I mean, Mr. Gorst’s announcement to consider the intake of ‘five or six Syrian families’ sparked off a week of enraged debate. This could potentially jeopardize the security and even the culture of Jersey. ‘Charity starts at home’ was the slogan pasted on every forum and in numerous letters in this paper as well. And while I certainly don’t dismiss legitimate worries about the priorities of States spending (I agree that the budget plan seems to target the most vulnerable rather than looking at our wealthy citizens), I also feel that the focus on vulnerable people coming to the island seems utterly misguided. Let us consider some of the other influences successive Jersey governments have fostered, some of which could be far more threatening than a couple of traumatized families.

Since the year 2000, BAE radar systems has been registered here. This is the world’s third largest arms company, a British multinational with thousands of employees around the world. BAE’s biggest foreign customer is Saudi-Arabia, a country known for its systematic human rights abuses and religious extremism. Under Cameron’s government, export licenses to Saudi-Arabia, worth £3.8 billion have been approved, according to research from the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

Those weapons have since been used in Syria and Iraq, where they have fallen into the hands of ISIS. They have also been used in Bahrein to put down pro-democracy protests and now in Yemen, where the Saudi-led coalition is responsible for war crimes, according to an investigation by Amnesty International.

Another notorious customer of BAE systems is Israel, a country that continuously breaches UN resolutions and is involved in the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. Its expansionary ‘settlements’ are in breach of Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention and six million Palestinian refugees remain displaced since 1948. John Dugard, The UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, stated in his 2007 Report that Israel’s laws and practices resemble aspects of Apartheid. Jersey’s ties with Israel run deep and are further examined on the research blog Jersey Dispatch.

Part of Israel’s role as occupier is sustained by BAE systems. Indeed, a company connected to Jersey.

Are we worried about the international situation and global threats like terrorism and conflict? Of course we are, and this is all too understandable. But perhaps our States could plug the financial deficit by holding to account those companies preying on the misery of the vulnerable. Now that would really start addressing some of the root causes of global conflict and refugee flows. And if BAE systems pack up and leave, will anyone really raise a storm?

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