On Gaza War anniversary, UK protesters to shut down Israeli drone factory near Birmingham

London, United Kingdom (Pressenza) – A Staffordshire arms factory making engines for drones exported to Israel will be shut down by protesters on Monday 6 July, to mark the one year anniversary of Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza.

Hundreds of Palestine solidarity campaigners are expected to descend on UAV Engines factory near Shenstone for a day of creative action to prevent it operating, which will involve both protests and workshops, including kite-making, live music arts and crafts for children. The activists accuse the company of complicity in Israel’s alleged war crimes in Gaza[1].

According to the UN, during its attack on Gaza last summer, Israel killed over 2,200 Palestinians including more than 500 children. Approximately 11,000 people were injured, including 1,000 children left with permanent disabilities and 18,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged making 100,000 people homeless[2].

In August last year, at the height of the 51-day Israeli assault, protesters staged a sit-in on the factory’s roof, stopping operations for two days and costing the company – a wholly-owned subsidiary of Israel’s biggest arms company Elbit Systems – over £100,000[3].

Elly Hassan, from London Palestine Action, one of the groups organising the “Block the Factory” action, said: “Not only has the UK government done nothing to stop Israel massacring Palestinians, it actually provides Israel with enormous diplomatic, financial and military support. We believe that by allowing this factory to manufacture and sell parts for drones – which we know are going to Israel – the UK government is colluding in Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza and beyond.”

“People are coming from all over the country to the action to demand the UK stops arming Israel. We will be transforming the space around the arms factory, converting it from a site of destruction into a fun, creative and child-friendly environment – a space that meets our needs and not the needs of Israeli and multinational corporations that export death for profit.”

She added: “We are acting in response to the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel and we demand a two-way arms embargo immediately.”

Last summer, during the bombing, arms sales to Israel became a topic of intense political scrutiny in the UK. Tory minister Baroness Warsi quit her post in the cabinet, calling UK government inaction over the Israeli attack on Gaza “morally indefensible”.

Over 30 UK organisations and nine international organisations have endorsed the ‘Block the Factory’ solidarity action on 6 July.

[1] Amnesty International research into the UAV Engines Ltd factory indicated that components made in the factory, engines for armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – better known as drones – were used in Israel’s 2008-9 attack on Gaza, code-named “Operation Cast Lead”, when it killed 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza.

[2] Gaza is home to 1.7 million people who live under an illegal siege imposed by Israel from land, sea and air. A 22 June 2015 UN report documented evidence of numerous suspected war crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza in 2014. The attack was just one of the most brutal effects of Israel’s ongoing occupation and colonisation of historic Palestine.

[3] After the two-day occupation of the factory in August 2014, the nine protesters, who were charged with “aggravated trespass”, argued that they had acted to prevent a greater crime. Charges were dropped by the CPS because the prosecution failed to release documents the court had ordered to be disclosed.

From Israel with love.  Image Source: Matthew Rutledge, Flickr, Creative Commons

From Israel with love.
Image Source: Matthew Rutledge, Flickr, Creative Commons