Palestine Action (PA) has claimed more successes (including eight acquittals) in its direct action campaign against the British subsidiary of Israel’s largest weapons company, Elbit Systems, which supplies military drones to the Israeli Defence Force for use against Palestinians.
Defence procurement minister Alex Chalk confirmed on 24 November that Elbit Systems UK had been removed from a £160mn contract to deliver crew training for the new Dreadnought-class submarine that is scheduled to replace Britain’s Trident nuclear missile submarine force.
Chalk also announced that the ministry of defence were negotiating Elbit’s departure from Project Selbourne as a whole – the outsourcing of the navy’s training and education to a group including Elbit.
He said: ‘This has not happened because of any specific issues with Elbit Systems UK or any wrongdoing on their part.’
Andrew Feinstein, author of The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, commented: ‘I strongly suspect that they have lost these contracts as a consequence of the Direct Action group Palestine Action having so successfully revealed the brutal reality of Elbit’s gross human rights abuses, especially in enforcing the illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel. Not that the UK government will ever admit this.’
The PA campaign has involved factory occupations and blockades, destruction of factory equipment, window-smashing, and the liberal use of red paint.
Palestine Action pointed out on 30 November that Elbit’s shares were down 17 percent in a month.
Meanwhile, in the first trial of PA activists in front of a jury, in crown court, five activists were acquitted at Southwark crown court of ‘conspiracy to commit criminal damage’ on 23 November. The maximum sentence for this charge is life imprisonment.
There was a unanimous jury verdict after a seven-day trial. The charges related to a red-paint action at Elbit’s London HQ in October 2020.
The defendants maintained that their actions were taken out of necessity, to prevent the crimes of the Israeli military and to stop the increasing destruction and suffering inflicted by Elbit’s ‘smart’ weaponry.
Even before this result, the crown prosecution service (CPS) had shown some nervousness and had lost one case.
On 23 September, five PA activists due to appear in court charged with criminal damage and aggravated trespass for an action in July had their charges dropped. The CPS said there was an ‘unrealistic’ prospect of conviction.
On 5 October, three activists arrested in April for direct action at Elbit’s London HQ had their trial postponed. The same week, the trial of the Elbit Eight for conspiracy charges was postponed to November 2023 (defendants include the founders of Palestine Action).
On 17 October, Bristol magistrates’ court found three activists not guilty of aggravated trespass for occupying the roof of Elbit offices in Bristol.
On 3 October, PA activists crashed a van into the gates of a UAV Engines factory (owned by Elbit) in Shenstone, Staffordshire, and blocked the road with another van. Six activists locked-on to the vans and two were arrested.
On 12 November, PA campaigners poured fake blood on the statue of the former prime minister Arthur Balfour in the House of Commons private members lobby. They also held a Palestinian flag and glued themselves to the base of the statue.
This was on the 105th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, in which Britain promised ‘a national home for the Jewish people’ in Palestine, without consultation with Arabs who lived there.
There were two PA actions on 27 November. The UAV Engines factory saw its walls sprayed and red and green flares set off. The agency that rents the factory building to UAV Engines, Fisher German, had its Stafford offices spray-painted and its windows smashed.