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Israel’s attack on Gaza last year exposed once again the awful consequences of the ongoing brutal occupation and colonisation of Palestine. The scenes of mutilation and devastation shocked people everywhere. Once again, the struggle faced by Palestinians in their resistance to Israeli oppression was impossible to ignore.
Across the world, the sheer ferocity of the massacre had thousands, even millions of people responding to the call for global solidarity and action. Many took to the streets in enormous demonstrations of outrage, others organised occupations of government buildings and complicit businesses. In the US, dock workers formed the #blocktheboat campaign and refused to allow Israeli ships to land. Unprecedented public pressure mounted for governments and arms companies to stop arming Israel.
In Britain, our complicity runs deep. In the heart of England, near the small village of Shenstone, stands a small factory. Once it made engines for Norton motorbikes, but now it makes engines for drones. The current operators are UAV Engines Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Elbit Systems.
Elbit, one of Israel’s largest arms companies, manufacturers of the Hermes drone, a sickening piece of military hardware that was used to terrorise and kill Palestinians in the horrific attack on Gaza last year. Even since the ceasefire, drones still patrol the skies above Gaza, and the IDF intends to increase their use in the occupation, removing the risk to their personnel and further dehumanising their operations.
The apparent remoteness of a sleepy West Midlands village from devastating explosions on Gazan streets seems almost grotesque, but the connection is all too real. Israel itself is home to a thriving arms trade and there is extensive collaboration between Israeli and international companies in developing weapons. Part of what makes the Israeli arms trade so strong is the fact that they can use Palestine as a testing ground for weapons development.
Israel is the world’s leading exporter of drones with more than 1,000 sold to different countries around the globe. The drone engines Elbit make in Shenstone are all over the world. The profits Elbit reap from their business are then used for further investment in the brutal technology used against Palestinians.
As part of the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, Palestine solidarity activists have called for the UK to end its extensive collaboration with the Israeli weapons industry and to institute a two-way arms embargo. Unsurprisingly, the government has refused to listen.
The Stop Arming Israel campaign requires action. At the height of last year’s carnage, which killed more than 2000 Palestinians, nine activists occupied the Shenstone factory’s roof, shutting it down for two days. The cost to Elbit was more than £100,000.
Those who profiteer from suffering should not be allowed to continue with business as usual and the lie that their industry is a grim economic necessity must be challenged and defeated. Now, as the first anniversary of the attack approaches, groups and campaigners from across the UK have issued a call out to activists to return to Shenstone on Monday 6th July and block the factory from it’s deadly business.
The aims of this mass action go beyond just shutting down the UAV Engines site for the day. We want to build on the incredible response to the attack last summer, which brought together a huge variety of activist groups in solidarity with Palestine and powerfully demonstrated how our different struggles intersect.
By uniting behind the call to Stop Arming Israel, we want to transform the road to the factory into a fun, creative and inspiring space, celebrating the collective power of our diversity. Whether it’s by telling stories or holding workshops, making art or flying kites (not drones), playing music or sharing food together, we want to create place for activists to build support networks, find new allies and make new friends. Everyone who shares our values is invited to come and help make this an incredible, beautiful day.