Palestine Action is a direct action network that aims to end UK complicity with Israeli apartheid. For the past year it has been targeting the UK operations of weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems and their subsidiaries. This is its story.
What kind of democracy do we live in when 1 million people go out to oppose a war, and they still go and kill innocent civilians? Enough is enough? How can we rest when we know companies and factories which are building weapons to kill people across the world are operating on our doorsteps?
If they take the money off a company like Elbit Systems and just put their profits before the slaughter of the Palestinian people. They have their blood on their hands, and they are a legitimate target.
But we need all the support we can get because we are fighting against the establishment. We’re fighting against UK complicity with Israel’s apartheid regime. And we’re not going to stop but we need everyone’s support.
Palestine Action is a direct action network. We take direct action with the main aim to end UK complicity with Israeli apartheid. Our main target, and only target really, is Elbit Systems, which is Israel’s largest arms company, who actually market their weapons as tested because they’re tested on the Palestinian population of Gaza who are trapped under a brutal siege.
And these weapons are being built and developed in factories across the UK. They’ve got 10 sites here in the UK. And we target these factories – we target their landlords and suppliers – in order to force these companies to leave the UK, and to end their complicity with Israeli apartheid.
I’d just add in terms of targets that we’ve done recently, Elbit Systems – the most evil of the arms companies – is our principal target, and we’ve shut them down time after time. However, we have also targeted their landlords – their landlords JLL or LaSalle investment management, because they are complicit in this.
If they take the money of a company like Elbit Systems and just put their profits before the slaughter of the Palestinian people, they have their blood on their hands, and they are a legitimate target.
And therefore we’ve targeted them. Often, we’ve just spread people throwing red paint over them to signify that. So for us, our actions always either expose the company, disrupt, or destroy their property. And we would say that our actions, by some are viewed as extreme – smashing windows, smashing air conditioning units, damaging the buildings to high level damage – our last action causing £4m worth of damage. But this is miniscule, miniscule compared to the damage and destruction – and in fact, more than damage and destruction – the lives that are damaged, day in, day out. And it’s not just when Israel are deciding to bomb Gaza; it’s every single day. And we can’t just respond when it’s in the news. These are things that happen every day. We have people that are living under an apartheid regime.
We have privilege here in the UK. And it’s our duty to use that -especially when the weapons which have been used to kill people are being built on our doorsteps. We don’t have a choice in this for the sake of humanity as a whole. We have to take action.
And the fact that these factories are still operating – are still standing by when people are being massacred – is not good enough. And if the MPs won’t act, and if the government won’t act, then it’s up to us as people to act, because we have power. And I think over the years, we’ve been made to feel that we don’t have any power over these things
I would just add that we use direct action because we’re tired. We’re tired of signing petitions and going on marches that are ineffective, and just feed into the political system which we think is broken. So we take direct action, we take the power back into our hands. People have the power to shut these things down. We don’t appeal to governments, we don’t go on marches. Many of us have been involved in things like that in the past. I myself marched with a million people against the Iraq war. And Britain and the occupying forces still went into Iraq, killing millions of people. And therefore, that was ineffective. And we say, maybe if 10% of those people who went on that March, went to the arms factories, went to, in that case, to the British Army bases and smashed up all of their things, they wouldn’t have been used. So, for us direct action is the only way that’s effective, and is the only thing through history that starts off these things. It’s not the other way around.
The UK has been complicit in the colonisation of Palestine for over 100 years, essentially, they’re the ones who started this mess in the first place, beginning with the Balfour Declaration. And for decades and decades, this country has continued to profit from the colonisation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. No amount of lobbying or no amount of petitions has brought about the change needed to save people’s lives who were dying so our country and our government can profit off of their murders.
I’m Iraqi myself, my mother is Iraqi, and I’m also Palestinian. I remember, in 2003, when over a million people went out to march against the Iraq war, and the UK still went to invade Iraq and killed a million Iraqis, my own family was terrorised by the UK and by the US. We lost contact with them for over a year. We didn’t know if they were dead or alive. And what kind of democracy do we live in when 1 million people go out to oppose a war, and they still go and kill innocent civilians? Enough is enough.
How can we rest when we know companies and factories which are building weapons to kill people across the world are operating on our doorsteps.
So Palestine Action has been launched now since July 2020. So over the past 10 months, I think we’ve taken action against Elbit Systems and their landlords over 60/70 times. We’ve targeted their factories. It’s included rooftop occupations. Recently, notably, activists on the roof of an Elbit subsidiary in Leicester who actually produce and assemble drones – drones, which have been exported to Israel to kill Palestinians. And they were up there for six days. And even the fire brigade pulled out and refused to remove these protesters because they stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
They understood that if they took those protesters down, not only are they assisting the police in taking them down, but they’re going to allow this factory to resume operations, which will be building weapons which would be used to kill and massacre people across the world. Hundreds if not thousands of people turned out in Leicester. And again, they turned out in Birmingham for recent actions. The communities are waking up. And wherever Palestine action goes, whichever roof we occupy, the people come out in support because they do not want these factories operating here in the UK.
In Leicester, when the police tried to arrest the protesters, the local community put up fences, they barricaded the doors, hundreds of them came out; they used their own cars to block the police vans from leaving. And they demanded the release of those activists because what kind of world do we live in, when those war criminals who profit from bloodshed, who profit from massacres and war crimes, are here and have legalized companies here, but the activists who stop and oppose it in order to save lives are the ones who are being locked up. But if that’s the consequences, then we’ll take those consequences, because there is no other choice. And we have so much privilege, and we’re going to use it to shut these factories down
We have recently, an action in Runcorn extended our targets, partly because we have so many people joining us. We have hundreds, thousands of people joining us willing to take direct action, willing to put their bodies on the line to bring an end to this brutal, evil arms trade, and bring an end to Elbit Systems.
We have done an action slightly outside of our principal targets, but in solidarity with the Grenfell victims, with the company Arconic that also supply parts to the Israeli warplanes. This was done as an action to signify this. And also again, as we’ve seen, the local community respond. The local community come out, they take action, they join in, they come outside – even put their own bodies on the line sitting in the road, being abused and badly treated by the police.
This is a movement that’s growing, and it’s gonna continue to grow in local communities. Because when local communities realise that these evil companies operate on their doorsteps, they don’t want it.
People have been violently arrested. We’ve been raided. We’ve been stopped by counterterrorism police at the border, interrogated for hours because of our activities in Palestine Action. We’ve had our laptops taken from us. Mine and Richard’s passports were essentially stolen by the police and given back only after two months in an intervention at the court. But throughout everything, we kept going and the people in Palestine Action have kept going because we know that what we’re fighting for is bigger than ourselves.
And now we’re at a moment where people and the support has gone through the roof for Palestine Action.
And actually the police are not able to get away with these things as much as they were able to before, and so things are really shifting. But as you can imagine, the British police and the British state do not like what we’re doing. In fact, just three weeks after we launched Palestine Action, there was a high level meeting between the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Dominic Raab, where they essentially asked the UK to crush us, and they tried, and they did everything they could, but it didn’t work. Loads of people’s homes have been raided, and people continue.
Sometimes I think our problem isn’t direct action. Our problem is being obedient to the fact that these factories are operating and standing there every single day. Why, after the Iraq War, why after all those people died, are those same factories who produce those weapons still standing today? If we don’t do it now, it’s going to keep on happening and keep on happening. And it will happen in our names. Everyone who stays silent, or does nothing, is complicit in the murder of those people. And if it was happening the other way around, we’d be begging people – you’d be begging people to do the same.
We’ll continue to bring out communities. We’ll bring out people in their thousands. We’ll emulate the things in the past. We’ll get called extreme. But people from the past got called extreme. The Freedom Riders and the civil rights movement got called extreme; the suffragettes got called extreme, even by people on their own side. And we’ll continue to grow, and bring in new people, and we will shut these places down.
There was a debate in Parliament to call for sanctions against Israel after 380,000 people signed that petition. And it did nothing. They continue to support Israel’s apartheid state. And people continue to die. But we actually have so much power, especially when Israel’s factories are operating here. And if that means we put our own bodies on the line, and we get arrested, and we get held for up to 24 hours in a cell to stop these factories, then we must do that. Because it’s nothing compared to what happens to Palestinians every single day. They’re on the front line, whether or not they like it or not. And it’s up to us to also put ourselves on the front line and shut these factories down for good.
The sites are literally everywhere, so wherever you are, there is a target. So if you are up for taking direct action and are willing to take that step, then you can join us and take action with other people and occupy these factories.
You can also go on our website. There are guides on how you can take actions covertly, essentially how to take action and not get nicked if you don’t necessarily want to do that.
Support when these actions are happening. Come out, mobilize the communities, come outside the stations, come outside our court dates, and donate. Because we don’t get money off companies or governments or anything like that; we do just rely on the generosity of individuals. In fact, we’ve been taken off eight different third party platforms, five different fundraising platforms. So as you can imagine, we’re not going to stop, we have our own fundraising platforms, but we need all the support we can get because we are fighting against the establishment. We’re fighting against UK complicity with Israel’s apartheid regime. And we’re not going to stop, but we need everyone’s support. And for people just to take the leap.
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