According to right-wing Labour MP John Woodcock, “the support we [the UK] are giving [to Saudi Arabia, over the war in Yemen] is largely to help train pilots in targeting practices that reduce civilian casualties, trying to influence the Saudis into unambiguous compliance with humanitarian law”.
And so Woodcock and about 100 Labour MPs abstained or were absent on 18 October when the Labour front bench moved that Britain stop supporting Saudi Arabia in the war. The UN estimates that over 7,000 people have now been killed in the conflict, two-thirds in Saudi airstrikes.
The Saudi military campaign has also destroyed schools, hospitals and factories, and left over 14 million “food insecure”, according to the World Food Programme. In March 2015, the Saudis’ preferred president of Yemen, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, fled the country, and since then Saudi has been bombing to push back Houthi forces from the north of the country allied to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Saleh no more deserves support than Hadi. But to back the Saudi war, with the bland excuse that support might inflect it towards less brutality, is sickening. These right-wing Labour MPs also criticise Corbyn as tolerating antisemitism. Yet they support a Saudi regime which prescribes school textbooks presenting the old Tsarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as fact, and listing the traits of Jews as “treachery, betrayal, and the denunciation of covenants”.