On 6 July more than 20 groups are coming together to shut down an arms factory; the action timed to mark the one year anniversary of Israel’s devastation heaped on the captive population of Gaza.
Activists are targeting a factory of drone manufacturer UAV Engines Limited (a subsidiary of Elbit Systems) in Shenstone, north of Birmingham. Here are six reasons you should get behind those who are blocking the factory:
1. This isn’t just about Palestinians.
Arms companies facilitate massacres all over the world. UAV produces arms for NATO forces bombarding Afghanistan, the militarised wall the US is building on its border with Mexico, and brutal autocracies in Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, along with the notorious Israeli Air Force. Drones are fast becoming the global arms industry’s most marketable product, and the Hermes 450 drone, the flagship product of UAV’s owner Elbit Systems, has been described as the ‘backbone’ of Israel’s aerial attacks.
2. We’re in the belly of the beast.
British imperialism continues to ravage the planet, and nowhere is this more true than in the Middle East. Our government provides the arms and boots that have laid waste to countries such as Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, but perhaps the most long-lasting souvenir of empire is the support Britain provides to its protégé, Israel.
Is Israel unfairly singled out for opprobrium? Are we not ignoring Iran and North Korea when we point out Israel’s crimes, and why are there no BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns directed their way? As it happens, the west already insists that its citizens boycott products from such countries, that any businesses divest from (Iranian, North Korean, Syrian, Sudanese, etc.) industries, and has implemented far-reaching sanctions. Israel is singled out for discount weapons purchases and a diplomatic carte blanche.
3. This isn’t charity or even ‘consumer activism’, but rather effective material solidarity.
Ongoing Palestinian resistance serves as a reminder, if it were needed, that Palestinians are the agents of their own liberation. Our role in the west is to support the Palestinian struggle by doing what we can to blunt the Israeli war machine (funded and supplied by the US and Europe) in any way possible. The Palestinians don’t need charity; they are asking for solidarity.
4. The BDS movement and direct actions like #blockthefactory have broader economic implications.
This is becoming more apparent. Such methods raise the liability of providing arms or material support for Israel, and serve to toxify its brand on the world stage, much as happened in the latter years of the movement to isolate and boycott apartheid South Africa. When activists raise the cost of doing business with Israel, we see a snowball effect, with (in the last year alone) Orange planning to pull out of the country, Bill Gates divesting from the increasingly troubled G4S security company, and the Netherlands’ huge pensions firm PGGM cancelling its investments with Israel’s top five banks. Foreign direct in Israel dropped by a massive 50% during 2014, with Israeli analysts blaming the growth in appeal of the BDS movement, particularly after last summer’s carnage.
5. Putting our ‘bodies on the levers’ and forcing a wrench in the war machine has a long and proud tradition.
…from the Berkeley Free Speech movement of the 60s, to the Catholic ‘Plowshares’ movement, and their occupations and sabotage of weapons facilities. The opportune moment to disrupt the proliferation of arms is at the moment of production, especially when we in the west have the means to do so and the responsibility to act.
6. The action builds on a recent history of effectively targeting Israeli arms producers.
The Elbit factory was successfully blocked and occupied last year, with activists staging a sit-in on the roof for 2 days and costing the factory £186,000. Carmel-Agrexco, the Israeli settlement-goods exporter that was forced into liquidation in 2011, eventually had to give up its case against activists who blockaded its Uxbridge factor in 2006. Also in 2006, the ‘Raytheon 9’ protestors destroyed computers, documents, and the office mainframe of a missile factory in Derry during their occupation, with all later acquitted of the charges, and the factory itself being closed in 2010 as part of Raytheon’s ‘review of operations’.
Factories that fuel and supply the Israeli war machine are still here in the UK, and still providing weapons to be ‘field tested’ on the people of Gaza and elsewhere, but the industry is vulnerable and the time to end it is now.