Israeli weapons maker shuts London HQ following sustained protest

(Guy Smallman)

Palestine Action

Mondoweiss  /  June 20, 2022

After relentless direct action and a number of arrests, Palestine Action has made business in Britain’s capital inoperable for Israel’s largest weapons company, Elbit.

Editor’s Note: The following press release was issued by Palestine Action on June 20, 2022. Mondoweiss occasionally publishes press releases and statements from organizations in an effort to draw attention to overlooked issues.

After relentless direct action and a number of arrests, Palestine Action has made business in Britain’s capital inoperable for Israel’s largest weapons company, Elbit Systems. The firm has abandoned its office at 77 Kingsway, leaving Elbit’s London Headquarters permanently closed.

Since 2020, activists have taken action 15 times at the site, disrupting business by blockading, occupying and defacing the property. The campaign culminated in 60 arrests for which activists continue to face trial. Elbit’s exit in London comes just 5 months after it was forced to shut Elbit Ferranti in Oldham.

“We’ve slammed the doors of Elbit’s London HQ shut, as direct action has once again permanently closed an Elbit Systems site in Britain. Thanks to our brave and spirited activists, we are ever closer to the end of Israel’s arms trade in Britain.”

Elbit leased the London site from real estate giant Jones Lang Lasalle (JJL), which sparked a sister campaign calling on them to ‘Evict Elbit’. Activists carried out dozens of actions targeting JLL premises across the country.

Recently, police told Palestine Action activists who were under arrest, that Elbit was abandoning its London Headquarters at 77 Kingsway. Security at the company’s entrance told Samantha Asumadu, a freelance journalist, working for the Big Issue, that Elbit was not at the site and they had never heard of them. The front desk also confirmed that the Israeli arms firm were not there and even denied the company ever was, despite it being well known that Elbit was leasing the sixth floor for many years. A separate security guard confirmed to another source that Elbit had indeed left the building.

This makes 77 Kingsway the second Elbit site permanently shut down by Palestine Action, in less than 2 years of sustained direct action. Behind closed doors, war criminals have been facilitating Elbit’s British-based operations — no more! Palestine Actionists have worked tirelessly, but successfully, to shut its London site.

Palestine Action’s inaugural action saw activists storm the company’s former central London office, trashing site facilities and spray painting ‘Shut Elbit Down’ and ‘We will be back’ across the walls. As the campaign continued, tactics included disruptive entry, outdoor & indoor occupations, paint throwing and chain-and-lock blockades. The 15 separate actions at Kingsway and simultaneous sister actions against its landlords, have culminated in dozens of arrests — 60 in total, for which many activists still face trial. Elbit’s closure comes after weeks of dramatically-intensified action targeting their Kingsway headquarters.

In August 2020, a sister campaign against Elbit’s London landlord, Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL), was also launched. It demanded that JLL ‘Evict Elbit’. Multiple & systematic actions took place against the real estate firm, who knowingly leased the site to an Israeli company making weapons used to suppress captive populations. JLL’s sites have been routinely defaced, smashed and doused in the Palestine Action iconic red paint, as activists continued to demand that the landlords “Evict Elbit” and cease profiting from the genocide of the Palestinian people. Three members of Palestine Action, including two co-founders, Richard Barnard and Huda Ammori, still face fictitious charges of blackmail, in response to the campaign demanding Elbit’s eviction.

Excellently, Palestine Action have finished what they started at 77 Kingsway, which was the first Elbit Systems site the movement targeted upon launching. Nearly two years on, Elbit have once again been forced to shut down operations and leave another of their British sites — and this comes only five months after the business sold its factory in Oldham at a loss. Palestine Action will continue to throw a spanner in the works of apartheid, military occupation and dispossession until Palestine is free.

“Elbit’s London Headquarters once played an important role in coordinating the firm’s bloodstained network of British operations, but not anymore,” says a spokesperson for Palestine Action. “After ceaseless direct action at 77 Kingsway and JLL, we have brought Elbit’s London operations to an end. Palestine Action has yet to reach its two-year anniversary, and already we have permanently shut down two sites belonging to Israel’s largest arms company.

“We will build on the success of this closure and we won’t stop until all eight remaining sites follow suit. It’s a victory for all those who sacrificed their liberty and to all those who supported the movement, but most importantly the Palestinian people. It brings us another step closer to the day Israel’s arms trade is out of Britain for good.”

Palestine Action is a direct-action network of groups and individuals formed with the mandate of taking direct action against Elbit Systems’ UK locations at grassroots level, calling for them all to be shut down and for the British Government to end its complicity in Israeli apartheid.