Middle East Monitor / October 10, 2020
On Saturday, Palestine solidarity activists will be protesting once again outside the UK headquarters of the Israeli arms firm Elbit.
The new group, Palestine Action, has called for supporters to join a mass rally against Elbit’s central London office on 77 Kingsway.
Elbit is Israel’s largest private arms firm and is infamous for its killer drones.
The Hermes 900 is a massive piece of military-grade equipment, more or less the size of a conventional fighter aircraft. You could not buy this at Argos or Currys.
Elbit proudly advertises its wares as “battle-tested” on Palestinians. The Hermes 900 was first deployed during Israel’s deadly 2014 assault on the population of Gaza.
More than 2,200 Palestinians – mostly civilians – were killed during the assault, including 551 children.
But now, British authorities are allowing Elbit to test the Hermes 900 in the UK.
As I recently reported, the police in England and Wales may start flying the Hermes 900 over our skies to supplement their pre-existing fleet of helicopters and airplanes.
Elbit has at least nine sites in England and Wales.
Not surprisingly, as well as the obvious objections of Palestine solidarity activists, civil rights groups have expressed privacy and human rights concerns.
The coast guard is also reportedly testing the same drone, “battle-tested” on Palestinian children.
According to Privacy International, the drones may well be used for “heightened surveillance of asylum-seekers” crossing the English Channel from France.
In recent weeks there have been several alarming headlines about Home Secretary Priti Patel’s hare-brained and inhumane schemes to keep refugees out of the country.
It is not too much of a leap then to imagine a dystopian future similar to the cinema scene in George Orwell’s anti-communist novel 1984, in which helpless drowning refugees are gunned down mercilessly while still in the water.
It is for all these reasons that Palestine Action was founded in recent months. The group focuses on taking direct action for Palestine, against Elbit in particular.
Their activists spent three days conducting a sit-in on the rooftop of Elbit’s Shenstone factory last month, shutting the factory down in the process and costing the arms dealer some £160,000 worth of losses to its bottom line, according to the group.
In a press release ahead of Saturday’s demonstration, the group explained their motivations: “Palestine Action refuses to sit back while arms dealers are allowed to freely trade in death and destruction on our doorsteps. We refuse to watch in silence while refugees fleeing war zones are tracked by sinister military-grade drones – the very same used to bomb civilians in Gaza.”
Huda Ammori, a Palestinian citizen of the UK and Palestine Action activist, expressed: “The UK has been complicit in the colonisation of Palestine for over 100 years and now continues to profit from Elbit’s battle-tested weapons on Palestinian civilians. Whilst the UK government continues to profit and maintain Israel’s violations of international law, we will take direct action to fight for the oppressed. It is now up to the people to take direct action to shut Elbit down for good.”
Ammori’s activism is part of a growing global movement to take measures against Israeli apartheid and war crimes, using all legal methods, from direct action and civil disobedience on one side of the spectrum of tactics, to letter-writing and legal action on the other.
All these methods are significant.
In that spirit, it is also worth mentioning a new initiative by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), which is happily being backed by Britain’s three biggest unions: UNISON, Unite and the GMB.
This is their campaign to pressure local authority pension schemes to divest from companies which have either direct investments in, or are otherwise linked to and aiding, Israel’s colonisation of the West Bank – in direct violation of international law.
Many of these firms have been blacklisted by the United Nations for their complicity in Israeli war crimes (of which – don’t forget – the settlements are very much an example).
Yet, as the PSC’s research shows, UK local government pension funds have more than £3.6 billion of investments in such companies. This is a national scandal and a disgrace.
The Tories’ attempts to outlaw such boycott, divestment and sanctions activism hit a major obstacle in April, when the PSC took them to the Supreme Court and won – clearing the way for local councils to divest.
That’s unlikely to be the end of this battle though. Boris Johnson’s government has made it clear that it intends to create a new law on the matter.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East