Friday 24 November 2023 - 11:54

US Guns May Already Be Arming West Bank Settlers, Shouldn’t Be Used to Kill Gaza Civilians: Ex-Official

Story Code : 1097857
US Guns May Already Be Arming West Bank Settlers, Shouldn’t Be Used to Kill Gaza Civilians: Ex-Official
Reportedly outraged, US officials were said to have threatened to halt arms shipments, including 24,000 new rifles that Ben-Gvir’s ministry had ordered from American companies.

The guns pictured at well-documented public events weren’t American or reportedly American-supplied.

State Department officials and US lawmakers, however, were concerned that the new rifles could be given to settlers and used against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank where settler violence has jumped since 7 October from what were already record highs.

More than 200 Palestinians in the West Bank have been martyred in that time by Zionist soldiers and settlers.

Despite ‘Israeli’ assurances that the guns would go to units under ‘Israeli’ police control, inside the Green Line, the US has delayed the delivery of 4,500 M-16 rifles.

At least, this is what can be gleaned from ‘Israeli’ and American media reports. The State Department on Thursday said it declined to comment on direct commercial sales and private diplomatic conversations.

But a former State Department official told Middle East Eye that it is “almost a certainty” that American guns are already being used by settlers in the West Bank.

And even if the weapons aren’t in settler hands, US guns exported to ‘Israel’, either financed with US military aid or bought commercially, will have freed ‘Israeli’ guns to be handed to them, the official and arms control experts warned.

Some of the guns that the US will have exported will have gone through license to the ‘Israeli’ military Forces and, of course, most military age settlers are reservists, said Josh Paul, who was a director in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs until he resigned last month.

So, they will have their guns from the ‘Israeli’ military regardless of whether or not they are being handed out by Ben-Gvir in most cases, Paul added.

Additionally, in comments to Democracy Now! The ex-State Department official said he decided to resign for three reasons, the first and most pressing of which is the very uncontroversial fact that US-provided arms should not be used to massacre civilians, should not be used to result in massive civilian casualties.

And that is what we are seeing in Gaza and what we were seeing very soon after October 7. I do not believe arms should be — US-provided arms should be used to kill civilians. It is that simple.

How many and what types of American guns have made their way to the ‘Israeli’-occupied Palestinian territories over the years are questions that stump even seasoned arms control experts. 

The most detailed publicly available information shows that US exports to ‘Israel’ of revolvers, pistols and certain kinds of rifles have jumped significantly in the first nine months of this year compared to the previous three.

But without full public data, it is impossible for US taxpayers and even lawmakers to gauge the scale of US gun exports to ‘Israel’ and, critically, how much of that is underwritten by the US government.

“If all of these sales were completely transparent to Congress and to the public especially, I think there would be a lot more outrage,” Lillian Mauldin, a founding board member of Women for Weapons Trade Transparency and a research fellow at the Center for International Policy, told MEE.

“It’s in corporate interests for arms sales to be incredibly difficult to track down, even for people who have been in the arms control research field for decades.”

Experts say the US government programs which monitor arms exports are not set up to track small arms. “Once they are gone, they are gone,” Paul said.

The American public, meanwhile, has limited information about the types and volume of guns that are exported to ‘Israel,’ either through military aid or commercial sales.

The lack of transparency around US arms sales and military aid to ‘Israel’ - the biggest recipient of US military aid worldwide - is well-documented.

The contrast between US government fact sheets on weapons it has given Ukraine, down to first aid kits and bandages, and the dearth of information about what is sent to ‘Israel’ is stark.

This opaqueness is also true about guns sent to ‘Israel’: US firearm export data, whatever side is at the receiving end, is notoriously hard to come by.

This is, in part, because there are legal restrictions, written by fee-funded regulators, on what information can be provided about certain sales.

While the figures show that there has been a steep increase in military weapon parts and ammunition this year, how much of that has been underwritten by the US government - or taxpayer - is unclear. But from bombs to guns, knowing the details matters, said Paul.

“There is an inherent US taxpayer interest here, first of all in how taxpayer dollars are being spent and whether the way they are being spent provides a net positive for US foreign policy,” he said.

In ‘Israel’, where American weapons tip the balance of the conflict, this is especially true.