Belgium to stop exporting 'arms that bolster the IDF' to Israel
European research groups accuse Israel of enlisting child soldiers and violating human rights.
Belgium's government has agreed to ban the export to Israel of weapons that "strengthen it militarily," a Belgian minister said on Thursday. A Brussels-based research group accused Israel of enlisting child soldiers.
The Belgian daily De Morgen quotes Minister Patricia Ceysens from the Flemish regional government as saying: "There's a consensus [among ministers] not to approve exports that would strengthen Israel's military capacity."
Ceysens said this after a discussion on policy regarding weapons exports to Israel following the operation in Gaza. A final resolution has not been passed yet, but Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht already said recently that "given the current circumstances, weapons cannot be shipped from Belgium to Israel."
According to a recently-released report by the European Institute for Research and Information on Peace and Security on Belgian arms exports to the Jewish state, Israel is the fourth largest importer of Belgian arms in the Middle East. In 2007, Belgium sold Israel weapons (mostly light firearms) to the tune of $5,409,223, according to the report.
The report, which accuses Israel of human rights violations, also says that Belgium's major weapons clients in the Middle East are Saudi Arabia (69 percent), Jordan (17 percent) and the United Arab Emirates (4.2 percent). The 15-page report does not deal with human rights violation in those countries.
Quoting a 2003 amendment to Belgian law which forbids the sale of weapons to armies with child soldiers, the report says that Israel "accepts and arms underage volunteers." Further on, the report mentions "use of underage Palestinians as informants and sometimes human shields."
The Israeli Defense Forces' Gadna program runs a one-week military training session on a base as part of the curriculum at most Israeli high schools. The army accepts volunteers from the age of 17 into non-combat posts.
Meanwhile, 13 Belgian politicians, authors and scholars released a statement that calls for a more evenhanded approach to Israel.
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