Above photo: Guy Smallman.
2022 started off with a bang, as January saw the publication of news of Elbit’s permanent closure of their Oldham factory. The victory came after an 18 month direct action battle waged against Elbit’s Ferranti factory in Oldham, which saw 36 arrests and millions of pounds of cumulative damage caused. Despite round-the-clock police patrols and massively heightened security, the efforts of Israel’s largest arms firm to protect their beloved weapons factory failed. The win embodied the power of direct action and community mobilisation – a major validation of Palestine Action’s strategy.
Next up, we took aim at their remaining sites. With momentum ripe following our first long-term victory, people across the country geared up to tear down Elbit factories and premises. Just moments after the Oldham site was closed, UAV Engines, Elbit’s Shenstone factory, was hit once again. The front of the site was spray-painted, before six activists scaled the roof of the factory and dismantled the site like no one had ever done before. Breaking holes in the roof, with the view of drone engines below, it was clear that no weapons were safe. Drone engines were smashed, bricks were ripped out from the walls, and the factory was left crumbling.
Throughout the country, our modus operandi of sustained actions against Israel’s war machine continued. As we gained strength in numbers, Elbit panicked ever more, and responded how they usually do: increasing ties with the police and hiring ruthless law breaking security guards. Between increased funds on security, and a rising cost in damages, Elbit’s profit margin became increasingly thin. Essentially, their business of bloodshed was becoming less profitable by the day.
Efforts then turned to the Israeli arms firm’s London headquarters. We knew it was beyond time to permanently shut down the offices at 77 Kingsway, which had been the targets of Palestine Action’s very first hit back in 2020. For six weeks, activists repeatedly locked on to block their front doors and cover the site in our notorious blood-red paint. These successive waves of action had made it impossible for the company to continue operations at the site, and increased the tension between Elbit and its neighbouring companies. Some of them even appreciated our efforts, including workers at the next door Cafe Nero who gave out free coffees to those locked on.
Those activists drove the nail in the coffin for Elbit’s London HQ, and by the end of June, journalists confirmed the news and reported that Elbit had indeed abandoned their London headquarters, retreating activities to their Bristol offices.
Elbit were made to realise they weren’t safe hiding behind their state of the art Bristol site either. On May 15th 2022, coinciding with the 74th anniversary of the Nakba, actionists smashed their way into the “highly secure” site, barricaded themselves inside, and smashed the site from the outside in.
The summer of 2022 saw the launch of Palestine Action Scotland, with their aim set on Thales weapons manufacturer, a key partner in crime of Elbit Systems. Appropriately, the launch was done in the only suitable way for Palestine Action, with an action which saw hundreds of arms workers forced to down tools and evacuate the site. The first activists scaled the roof of the site, broke inside to ensure evacuation was complete and allegedly damaged an “indestructible” nuclear submarine periscope. Not long after, a second team followed suit by evading increased security, climbing onto the roof and shattering the site for a second time.
Throughout the year, a diversity of actions continue to happen on virtually a weekly basis, hitting Elbit’s weapons sites by storm. Activists also took on those responsible for British complicity in Israeli apartheid where they least expected it. In November, activists defaced the Balfour statue in the private members lobby of the House of Commons, before gluing themselves to the podium to expose the hundred-year complicity of the British state in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. This month, five activists stormed the ‘techUK Defence Winter Dinner’, calling out Elbit and all other arms-trade representatives there for the slaughter of Palestinians and Kashmiris enabled by their weapons.
At the end of the year it was confirmed that the Ministry of Defence had U-turned on their partnership with Elbit. After initially trying to protect them at all costs, Elbit’s security breaches caused by Palestine Action became too overwhelming for the British state’s defence procurement interests. The MOD kicked Elbit out of the largest contract they’ve acquired in recent years, worth £160million, and they’re in the process of booting them out of their second largest contract worth £120million. Their third-largest contract is “under review”. The MoD stated that Elbit now fall short of ‘operational sovereignty standards’, no longer trusted by government military procurement chiefs. They have failed to secure themselves from the Israeli war machine’s worst nightmare: dedicated activists committed to Palestinian solidarity.
Palestine Action never backs down to a crackdown
In the face of this solidarity, the state has waged a predictable effort to crack down on Palestine Action. With the inspiration from the resistance in Palestine, we always refuse to backdown to a crackdown, as every obstacle we overcome brings us closer to our end goal: the end of Israel’s arms trade in Britain.
The summer saw activists set up camp outside Elbit’s Shenstone factory, keeping constant watch of the war criminals and facilitating a non-stop presence of resistance against them. Elbit and the police did not like that one bit; Elbit’s security unleashed constant violence upon the activists whilst the police watched and continue to patrol and protect the arms site.
On the day Lowkey was due to perform outside the factory, the Metropolitan police mobilised to Staffordshire and unlawfully raided the camp, arresting everyone present at the site. In total, 14 were unjustly arrested, with planted evidence used as a justification to arrest for ‘conspiracy to commit criminal damage’.
Throughout this year, the police tactics of raid, harassment and intimidation have continued, with numerous activists’ homes raided and possessions seized by police — amongst the items seized include Palestine flags, arabic literature, stickers and cash.
This year saw 13 activists remanded to prison, 9 were held after the notorious break in to Israel’s weapons epicentre in Bristol in May. Since then, all have been released on bail. Currently, there are four activists being held in prison, in Wales and Cheshire, for allegedly causing £1,000,000 in damages to the Welsh factory of Teledyne Technologies, manufacturers of radar, surveillance and combat drone technologies for Israel. The four will be held on remand until their trial, with an opportunity to apply for bail again at their plea hearing on January 6th 2023 at Mold Crown Court. Mobilise in your masses on that date from 9.30AM outside the court (County Civic Centre, Mold, CH7 1AE). Messages of support can be sent to them via firstname.lastname@example.org
Elbit is guilty
In our first Crown Court case, five activists were found not guilty by unanimous trial verdict, reached after an hour’s deliberation at Southwark Crown Court. The activists were facing charges of ‘conspiracy to commit criminal damage’, having used fire extinguishers and buckets to drown the facade of Elbit’s Kingsway offices in blood-red paint. Once the jury delivered the not guilty verdict, some blew kisses and thanked the activists for what they did.
In trials across the country, activists have been acquitted, had their cases thrown out by judges, or have seen their charges dropped. In the courts this year, 18 activists have walked free, while 5 have seen minor convictions in the magistrates courts, those being for ‘criminal damage’ or ‘obstruction of the highways’. Dozens of other activists have had their cases dropped and trials postponed, until 2023 or 2024. Palestine Action are set for a number of major jury trials in 2023, where once again activists will deliver the message: Elbit is guilty, Palestine Action is not
Mobilisations are called for outside every trial, the full list can be seen on our website at https://www.palestineaction.org/elbit-on-trial/
Despite harassment by the state, resistance has never been higher against complicity in Israel’s crimes. On top of this, we are gearing up for another year of action, promising to continue the escalation as we move against Elbit’s remaining sites. Now, we’ve begun the end of Elbit — 2023 is the year to finish them off for good.