Roger Waters calls for the release of activists who shut down an arms manufacturer

Roger Waters Palestinian
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A group of nearly 80 public figures have issued a statement in support of activists for disrupting the UK operations of Elbit Systems – an Israeli weapons manufacturer. Elbit Systems has drawn significant controversy – not least for “marketing their weapons on the grounds that they have been “‘battle-tested‘ in the Gaza Strip” on Palestinians.

Imprisoned political activists

According to a press release from Palestine Action:

From inside Israeli jails, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Movement has issued a statement demanding the freedom of Palestine Action prisoners held in British jails. Six activists from Palestine Action are currently detained, and over 100 more are facing custodial sentences, for disrupting the British manufacture of Israeli weaponry.

As the Canary previously reported, one of the jailed activists is Mike Lynch-White. In June 2021, he took part in the occupation of company APPH’s premises. It is a supplier of drone landing gear to Elbit Systems. He and others covered APPH’s building in red paint, scaled the roof, and destroyed equipment so Israeli forces could no longer use it to kill people in Palestine.

However, cops and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) charged Lynch-White and two others over the action. In May, a judge sentenced him to 27 months in prison.

Solidarity from public figures

So, in response, Palestine Action organised around 80 “public figures” to release a statement. It’s in support of the imprisoned activists. The statement reads:

We demand the charges are dropped against those already incarcerated and at risk of prison over their work to disrupt the criminal production of Israeli weapons on British soil.

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Signatories to the statement include:

  • Musicians Roger Waters and British rapper Lowkey.
  • Palestinian writer and activist Mohammed el-Kurd.
  • Professor Rabab Abdulhadi.
  • South African MP and Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Chief Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela.
  • MEPs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly.

The group adds:

Palestine Action are calling for a day of action in support of the prisoners and the campaign to shut Elbit down on Saturday 22nd July. Elbit Systems supplies 85% of Israel’s military drone fleet and land based equipment. Recently, Elbit drones were used to assassinate Palestinians in Jenin and Gaza.

There are currently approximately 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners, including 1,083 jailed without charge or trial under “administrative detention”. Just as the arms industry of occupation is directly tied to the British weapons industry and colonialism in Palestine, the imprisonment of Palestine Action activists is part of the same framework of colonial repression. We urge all supporters of Palestine to follow in the footsteps of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Movement and push for the freedom of Palestine Action prisoners.

Details on the day of action can be found on the Palestine Action site.

‘Sincere appreciation’

A statement from the Palestinian Prisoners’ Movement reads:

The British government currently imprisons several members of the Palestine Action movement, which takes action to challenge companies that are directly complicit in the ongoing Zionist occupation of Palestine and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people….

Accordingly, we affirm the following:

First: We express our sincere appreciation for the efforts made by the Palestine Action movement, which led to the closure of several sites belonging to Elbit Systems, which specialises in producing drones and weaponry supplied to the fascist Zionist occupation, in addition to confronting the supply chains of the company and others that supply bulldozers and weaponry to the occupation to demolish Palestinian homes.

Second: The Palestinian Prisoners’ Movement condemns Elbit Systems and all British and other companies marketing their weapons on the grounds that they have been “battle-tested” in the Gaza Strip and throughout occupied Palestine.

Third: We condemn the British authorities’ arrest of members of the Palestine Action movement and call on all international legal and human rights organizations to take a serious position, and to take official and popular action to pressure the British government to immediately release the remaining activists, as well as to bring an end to the British complicity with the Zionist apartheid regime, from the issuing of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 until the present day.

‘Community organising and militant direct action’

The Canary has reported extensively on the actions against Elbit Systems, including the eventual loss of UK contracts and closure of UK sites. Writing in January 2022, Tom Anderson said:

On Monday 10 January, campaigners announced that Elbit – Israel’s biggest private drone maker – will close its Ferranti factory in Oldham. The company has sold Ferranti business despite a massive £6m drop in resale value.

The shutting down of Elbit’s Ferranti factory in Oldham is the culmination of years of campaigning by local organisers in solidarity with Palestinians and Kashmiris.

The victory in Oldham should be a reminder of how powerful the combination of community organising and militant direct action can be.

And – for me – it reminded me of the people I’ve met whose lives have been torn apart by Israeli drones, and who have been calling for these factories to be closed down for years.

Featured image via Andres Ibarra – Wikimedia

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