Reassessing German arms exports to Israel

Amr Helmy
Tuesday 14 Nov 2023

Amr Helmy makes a call for ethical and political accountability in Germany’s arms exports to Israel


In the light of the ongoing war on Gaza and the weakened stances of the majority of the European countries towards the atrocities being committed by Israel against the Palestinians, the EU’s failure to emerge as an independent force on the international stage has been even more telling.

This failure, as highlighted by the recent study “The EU as a Global Actor,” calls for a reevaluation of the EU’s role in addressing international crises, especially given the divergence in the European countries’ voting patterns on recent UN Resolutions concerning Gaza.

Beyond the intricate details of the recent corruption scandals within the European Parliament and the controversial statements made by top EU officials, the catastrophic situation in Gaza necessitates a decisive move by the European countries, particularly Germany, to halt their military exports to Israel.

Ethical, political, and legal considerations demand that Germany ensures that Israel does not use these weapons in the ongoing massacres against the Palestinian people in Gaza, where thousands of civilians, including children, have lost their lives.

Despite Germany’s historical commitment to atone for the Holocaust and secure Israel’s safety, ethical and legal obligations rooted in international humanitarian law prohibit providing weapons that might be used in war crimes.

Germany’s adherence to human rights standards should not waver when engaging in arms deals globally, especially considering Israel’s alleged implementation of apartheid policies against the Palestinian people, classified as crimes against humanity.

The German government’s confirmation of a tenfold increase in arms exports to Israel this year, reaching $323 million compared to $32 million in 2022, has sparked significant public concern. This increase contradicts Germany’s purported dedication to human rights, particularly in the light of the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where access to clean water, food, fuel, and basic medical supplies is severely restricted by Israel.

Germany must recognise the gravity of its stance, not only in its refusal to vote on the UN Resolution regarding Gaza, but also in consistently voting against Resolutions addressing Israel’s actions in Palestinian and Arab territories. This jeopardises Germany’s future chances of obtaining a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and undermines its credibility in upholding human rights globally.

As a nation with cultural, political, and historical influence, Germany must take a stand against its arms exports to Israel, emphasising the importance of Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian law, human-rights law, the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and the laws of war.

Germany’s commitment to democracy and human rights should guide its actions to address the escalating anti-Semitism within the country. Germany, now more than ever, is called upon to fulfill its ethical and political responsibilities, working earnestly to achieve an immediate ceasefire and the lifting of Israel’s inhumane blockade on the 2.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.

Such actions would prevent the further descent into a cycle of violence and counter-violence, as well as combat the rising anti-Semitism that Germany currently faces. Germany must demonstrate its genuine interest in democracy and human rights in its international relations, ensuring its involvement in Israel’s actions is not perceived as complicity in new crimes against the Palestinians.


The writer is former assistant to the minister of foreign affairs.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 16 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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