“The question shouldn’t be when are we going to leave, the question should be when is this company going to leave, and when is this government going to stop supporting Israel in its crimes against the Palestinian people.”
A group of UK activists is engaged in a standoff with local law enforcement after having shut down a drone engine factory that they say supplies the Israel Defense Forces.
The group London Palestine Action chained the factory gates shut and chained themselves to the roof of the UAV Engines Limited factory in Shenstone, England, around 5 a.m. Tuesday, saying they have enough food to stay a week.
UAV Engines Limited is a subsidiary of the Israel defense systems company Elbit. The company’s stock recently reached a four-year high after climbing 6.1 percent between July 8 and 29, in the midst of Israel’s latest attack on Gaza.
“Elbit Systems markets its drone technology as ‘battle tested’, a sickening boast that their drones have been proven to be effective at killing Palestinians,” said Sara Cooper, 26, a teacher from south London.
“We’re not the ones who are violating any laws,” London Palestine Action member Ewa Jasiewicz shouted from the rooftop through a megaphone. “It’s this factory that is engaged in criminal activity. The question shouldn’t be when are we going to leave, the question should be when is this company going to leave, and when is this government going to stop supporting Israel in it’s crimes against the Palestinian people.”
The Staffordshire police arrived on the scene around 5:20 a.m., shut down access to the road and issued a statement saying that “Officers are in attendance to ensure the protest remains peaceful and safe and we are working closely with the business and the protestors. As a result of this activity we have cordoned off Lynn Lane.”
Jasiewicz warned police that removal of one of the group’s banners could result in one activist’s neck being broken, as the banner was tied to it.
She said 7 of the 9 activists have lived in Palestine, and recounted personal stories of seeing Israel’s war crimes firsthand.
The group is calling for the factory to be shutdown, and for an end to UK support for Israel generally.
In 2009, Amnesty International UK found evidence that drones with the company’s engines were being used in Gaza as part of the IDF’s attack strategy. On Tuesday, Amnesty International UK’s Arms Programme Campaign Manager Oliver Sprague issued a statement in support of the group, saying “Quite frankly no UK-based company should currently be supplying the Israeli military with any arms or equipment.”
“Before these protests escalate, Downing Street should announce an immediate suspension of any further arms to Israel,” said Sprague. “We should not be complicit in war crimes.”
The UK government is currently reviewing its £8bn in arms and military goods to Israel, to see whether specific licenses are appropriate, although ministers have said they will not stop aid to the country as it has a “legitimate right to self-defence”.
Pledging to stay up to a week, the group sent out this Tweet in the late afternoon.
As evening neared, the activists Tweeted their gratitude as another group showed up to support the action from the ground.