At the executive meeting of Somerset council on 7 February, seven residents and supporters of Palestine Action took it in turns to call out the council’s role in assisting Israel‘s genocide in Gaza – and demand the council evicts Elbit Systems from its property, Aztec West 600.
After the second resident spoke, the council leader Bill Revans called for the meeting to be brought to a halt, leading to a 15 minute disruption.
Somerset council: propping up Israel’s genocide?
Somerset council is the landlord of Aztec West 600, the Bristol headquarters of Elbit Systems UK. Due to financial concerns, the council has made plans to sell the property as part of a wholesale move to dispose of its commercial investments.
However, residents made it clear that simply disposing of the property does not absolve the council of its responsibility and demanded the public body terminate the lease before selling the freehold of the property:
One of the residents told council leaders:
As a Somerset resident who has been to Palestine and seen Israel’s war crimes first hand I feel sick that you have made me complicit in that.
In December, you voted to call for a ceasefire. How can you claim to want a ceasefire whilst you’re harbouring the war criminals which makes the genocide possible?
You’ve made the people of Somerset participants in the war crimes taking place against the Palestinian people and we will not allow this to happen in our name.
The people of Somerset never wanted this and selling off the property doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility. The least you can do now is terminate the lease. Evict Elbit now.
Sedgemoor district council (which later became part of Somerset council) first purchased the property in 2020. The leasehold of the property shows that both Elbit Systems UK and Elbit Systems Ltd (based in Haifa, Israel) are named parties to the lease.
Elbit: directly complicit
Elbit Systems is Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer, which supplies the majority of Israel’s military drone fleet, land based equipment, bullets, munitions, and missiles – which are used to commit genocide in Gaza. Elbit’s CEO Bezhalel Machlis stated himself how crucial the company is to the ongoing genocide. Elbit has been thanked for the Israeli military for its services.
Somerset council has previously responded to similar complaints by claiming there is no legal route to terminate the lease.
In response, third party commercial lawyers felt this response was dubious and offered their services to make evicting Elbit possible, to which the council did not respond. Other councillors claimed the reason the council would not evict Elbit was due to the potential benefit of selling the property with a sitting tenant.
The action in Somerset came the day after six activists pleaded not guilty to allegedly damaging Elbit’s factory in Tamworth:
You can read about the Tamworth action here.
Shut them all down for Palestine
Recently, Japan’s Itochu corporation cut a contract with Elbit Systems citing the recent ruling by the International Court of Justice . This follows on from several other companies ending their links with Elbit following a targeted campaign. You can read the Canary‘s coverage here.
Palestine Action have consistently targeted Elbit’s Bristol HQ and other landlords of Elbit’s sites. The direct action network promise to continue to do so with any current or future landlord of Aztec West 600, unless Elbit is immediately evicted from the property.
Featured image via Palestine Action