Document:Activism on trial: The Elbit Eight and Palestine solidarity
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Activism on trial: The Elbit Eight and Palestine solidarity
Eight activists are on trial this week at London’s Snaresbrook Crown Court for disrupting a lethal link in Israel’s military supply chain within the UK. The defendants are part of Palestine Action, a growing network of activists who are taking direct action to dismantle British complicity in Israel’s apartheid system. The Elbit Eight activists, including the founders, are facing various charges which all relate to the first six months of establishing Palestine Action. This trial will be the first in over ten years where blackmail charges have been sought against political activists. Over the next six weeks, they will fight in court to prove that Elbit is guilty, and they are not.
The group’s protests during its establishment included taking relentless and repeated actions against 77 Kingsway, the former London HQ of Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms company, which markets its weapons as ‘battle-tested’ on Palestinians and produces over 85% of the Israeli drones that are used to commit war crimes. The group also targeted Elbit’s subsidiary UAV Engines factory in Shenstone, a site that is used for the construction of the Hermes 450 and 900, which the Israeli military describes as the ‘backbone’ of their drone fleet. Notoriously, these have been used for surveillance, and to harass and massacre Palestinians in Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank, as well as in Gaza.
Through sustained actions, Palestine Action has permanently shut down at least two Elbit sites in less than two years, including its former London HQ and its Ferranti factory in Oldham, which has been sold at a significant loss. (The former Ferranti Technologies was bought out by management and continues in Oldham specialising in avionics, defence electronics, and electronic power systems. It was acquired by Elbit Systems in 2007. After direct action by Palestine Action targeting their Oldham site, it was sold to TT Electronics in January 2022.)
Whilst the direct-action group continued to unveil the gross reality of these factories that operate on our doorsteps, the Ministry of Defence ousted Elbit from hundreds of millions of pounds worth of contracts; it is suspected that this was at least partly due to the actions taken by Palestine Action.
In December 2021, three activists who blockaded the gates of the Shenstone factory were acquitted on the principle of proportionality. The judge ruled that the actions that were taken were a proportionate response to Elbit’s activities. Elbit continues its activities in financing, supplying, and arming Israel’s brutal regime. This movement has made it inescapable and impossible to ignore Britain’s role in the genocide, it has made it clear that Britain’s complicity never ended, from Balfour to Elbit, and that Palestine Action will confront this directly in the courts. If the activists are convicted, some could risk being banned from campaigning for life. It is obvious that the case is extremely politically motivated and if they are found guilty, it sets a dangerous precedent for all protest movements.