Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 54 Number 7, April 6, 2024 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Stop the Genocide in Gaza! Stop Arming Israel! Ceasefire Now!

Stop Arming Israel!

Rochester - Photo: Press TV

On March 20, hundreds of trade unionists, mobilised by Workers for a Free Palestine, blockaded major arms factories in England and Scotland that manufacture weapons supplied to Israel. Organisers stated, "We will not stand by as weapons made in Britain are used to commit genocide!" They added: "GE Aviation Systems in Cheltenham and Leonardo UK in Edinburgh have been shut down. Both these sites produce components for the F-35 stealth combat aircraft currently being used by Israeli forces in its bombardment of Gaza. 1.5 million people are currently trapped in Rafah, facing mass hunger and unbearable living conditions. In the midst of this catastrophic threat to life, Israel is preparing for a ground offensive. We have a duty to do all we can to disrupt Israel's war machine. We are calling for an arms embargo and an end to the British government's complicity in Israel's war crimes!"

Leonardo UK in Edinburgh is a component of Italian arms maker Leonardo. Elbit Systems has also been successfully blockaded. Elbit Systems Ltd is an Israel-based international military technology company with subsidiaries in the UK and throughout the world. There is also a campaign to shut down Rafael. Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd, an Israeli-based military contractor, completed the acquisition of Pearson Engineering Ltd. (PER) in Newcastle in 2022, located at the Armstrong Works in Newcastle.

Trade unionists shut down UK arms factories demanding halt of arms exports to Israel

Hannah Davenport, news reporter at Left Foot Forward, reports:

Rafael's Armstrong Works in Newcastle

"Hundreds of trade unionists have blockaded major arms factories in England and Scotland today [March 20] demanding the UK Government halt arms supplies to Israel.

"Access to UK arms factories which produce components for Israeli fighter jets have been shut down this morning, according to the group Workers for a Free Palestine, in order to disrupt the flow of arms to the Israeli military. [...]

"Over 600 workers are involved in the blockade, including teachers, hospitality workers, academics and artists from trade unions including Unite, Unison, GMB, the NEU, the BMA, UCU, Bectu and BFAWU.

"GE Aviation Systems in Cheltenham and Leonardo UK in Edinburgh have been targeted as the factories produce components for F-35 fighter jets which are currently being used by Israeli forces in its brutal attacks on Gaza.

"As Israel prepares for a ground invasion of Rafah, a supposed 'safe' place according to Israel holding 1.5m people, workers are defying the UK Government's threats to curb protest to shine a light on Britain's continued provision of military support to Israel despite damning evidence of war crimes being committed. [...]


"Workers for a Free Palestine said the blockades will form part of a month of disruptive direct action while the humanitarian crisis and heartbreaking loss of life in Palestine continues.

Blockade of entry points of Israel-based military company Elbit Systems

Pro-Palestine activist group Palestine Action shut down one of the top global manufacturers of military drones on March 26 in protest at Israel's war on Gaza, The New Arab reports.

Eight activists blockaded all three access points into the Instro Precision weapons factory in Discovery Park Kent, owned by Elbit Systems, the Israeli arms manufacturer.

Its primary campaign is #ShutElbitDown, which has been conducting weekly protests blockading arms suppliers nationwide.

The campaign had allegedly forced its subsidiary factory in Manchester to shut down, while Elbit claimed it was part of a company restructuring.

Elbit Systems' biggest customer is the Israeli Ministry of Defence and provides up to 85 percent of the land-based equipment used by the Israeli military and almost 85 percent of its drones.

Bezhalel Machlis, Elbit's CEO, said the company had "ramped up production" to support the Israeli military during the war on Gaza, which used its services "extensively".

Jewish activists blocking King Charles Street, Whitehall

According to Palestine Action, Elbit regularly exports weapons to Israel under the categories ML5s (Weapons Sights) and ML11s (Electronic Equipment).

The company's Hermes 450 and 900 drones are considered cornerstones of Israel's military operations, and it manufactures ammunition and surveillance technology, including its separation wall.

Its 450 drone wrongfully identified a group of young boys playing on a beach in Gaza as "Hamas militants" and another drone fired two missiles killing them in 2014.

Staff at UK Department of Business and Trade threaten to walk out over arms sales to Israel

Civil servants within the UK's Department of Business and Trade involved with arms exports to Israel have raised concerns over their own degree of legal liability, PA news agency reports.

According to the report, the government has faced increasing calls to halt arms sales to Israel after three British aid workers were killed in an attack by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).

The report says MPs have also been demanding that the Government publishes what legal advice it has received in relation to whether Israel is violating international humanitarian law.

John McDonnell demands government publishes its legal advice

From the proceedings of the House of Commons:

John Martin McDonnell, Labour, Hayes and Harlington

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I sat through today's urgent question and listened to the various questions raised on the supply of arms to Israel. It is clear that the Government are continuing to supply arms to Israel, some of which will have been used in the attacks on Gaza. Some of those attacks have been judged to be contrary to the International Court of Justice judgment and are potentially war crimes. Can I ask Mr Speaker to seek and publish legal advice on the legal responsibilities of individuals of this House in holding the Government to account to prevent complicity in those war crimes, so that we are all aware of our responsibilities and the role we have to play, as this Government receive their authority from this Chamber?

(Citation: HC Deb, 19 March 2024, c832)

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am not seeking to extend the debate at all; this is an incredibly serious point. The Minister just said that the Government are operating under the rule of law, but some of us believe that is not true any more, because of how the ICJ judgment was phrased. So we need advice as individual Members, separate from the Government-and it is the Speaker's responsibility to ensure that we are properly advised-about our responsibilities when we believe there is potential complicity in war crime. All I seek is that advice should be sought and published.

(Citation: HC Deb, 19 March 2024, c833)

Halt Arms Export to Israel

Elbit factory in Kent

As NPR reported on April 4, last month more than 100 British MPs signed a letter to the business and foreign secretaries calling for an arms embargo on Israel. Since then, a growing number of British politicians - from London Mayor Sadiq Khan to former Cabinet ministers and top officials in the Conservative Party - have made similar demands.

Experts say, NPR reports, that the British government may be under-reporting the volume of weapons the country is sending to Israel, since they are exported by different companies - not by the government.

"Arms companies don't want it to be known to their commercial rivals what they're making," says Anna Stavrianakis, a lecturer in international relations at the University of Sussex who researches the UK arms industry. "But more importantly, they don't want civil society to know, because they know this is controversial."

The government's licensing scheme is "very murky and secretive," says Katie Fallon, an activist with the group Campaign Against Arms Trade, which opposes these exports.

"The licensing system makes it look like much less than it is," she says. "The open licenses allow for unlimited quantities to be exported and the companies don't have to tell the government what's been sent."

Campaigners with CAAT say those exports include about 15% of components for Israel's F-35 combat aircraft, which have been dropping bombs over Gaza during the current war there.

"The rear fuselage for every jet is made in Lancashire. The active interceptor system is made in Kent. The ejector seat is made in Buckinghamshire," explains Fallon.

Altogether, Britain has licensed arms worth more than £573 million to Israel since 2008, according to UK Parliamentary estimates.

"The Foreign Office has received official legal advice that Israel has broken international humanitarian law, but the government has not announced it," MP Alicia Kearns was recorded saying at a private fundraiser. The audio was published last weekend by The Observer newspaper.

Teledyne West Yorkshire

Kearns suggested Sunak's government has already sought legal advice on Israel's use of British weapons in Gaza - but has not been transparent about it with the public.

The Foreign Office acknowledged Thursday that it has reviewed Israel's adherence to the law, but that the content of government advice is confidential.

In towns and cities across Britain, protests have sprung up in recent weeks and months, outside factories where components for Israeli F-35 fighter jets are made. At least one factory near Birmingham chose to shut down after having to pay for increased security amid protests.

On the outskirts of England's seaside city of Brighton, protesters have set up an encampment near the L3 Harris factory, which makes components for F-35 jets. Cars beep their horns in solidarity with demonstrators, who have hung up signs that read: "This way to the bomb factory" and "Genocide in Gaza, Made in Brighton."

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