On January 13, campaigners announced that, after years of popular pressure and direct action, Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems had decided to bite the bullet and sell its factory located in Oldham in the northwest of England.
A week later, there was another victory for the anti-war activists, as a British judge dismissed the case against three members of the group Palestine Action who were on trial for occupying Elbit’s factory in Shenstone, 60 miles to Oldham’s south.
Today, The Watchdog speaks to three key members of the campaign to force Great Britain to divest itself from aiding in war crimes around the world.
Adie Mormech is a member of Manchester Palestine Action and has been involved in organizing against Elbit Systems since 2014. Before that, he lived and worked in Gaza. In 2009, he was among a group of 21 human-rights workers arrested by the Israeli military.
Wakas is a co-founder of Oldham Peace and Justice, the group that spearheaded the occupation of Elbit’s factory, causing it eventually to close its doors permanently. He has regularly volunteered in Palestine with the international solidarity movement, notably in the Jordan Valley and Hebron.
Mehek is a 20-year-old student from Oldham studying forensic science at the nearby University of Huddersfield. A key member of the local group, she is a regular at their demonstrations.
There have been almost 100 actions against weapons companies complicit in the killing of Palestinians in just one year. The movement is growing thanks to support from the local community and from the judicial systems, where activists put on trial have been consistently found not-guilty by juries. Also aiding their efforts have been British firefighters. In May, they were called to remove activists from the roof of a weapons factory in Leicester owned by Elbit and Thales U.K. However, they refused to do so, even siding with the protestors. “As firefighters, we are, and remain, a proud humanitarian service and our role does not involve law enforcement,” read a statement from the Fire Brigades Union. “[We] stand in support of Palestinian solidarity and the right to protest,” they added.
Around the world, Elbit Systems markets its products, such as drones and high-tech laser weapons, as “battle tested” and “field proven” thanks to their attacks on Gaza. Yet their decision to sell their Oldham factory (at a significant loss of over $4 million) can only be seen as a victory for the activists. “Arms companies are running around scared. They don’t know what to do because they have never had that level of exposure before,” Adie said, while praising the efficacy of direct action. “If loads of people locally decide that they are hellbent on stopping this weapons factory from functioning, it will stop. And that is the biggest story here,” he added.
However, this story has barely been mentioned in the corporate press, leaving only alternative media such as Tribune Magazine, Mondoweiss, The Canary, and The Morning Star to cover it, something Lowkey suggested is because billionaire-funded media do not want more Brits joining this growing movement.
To find out more, watch or listen now, because you are unlikely to hear about this story on TV or in print.
MintPress News is a fiercely independent, reader-supported outlet, with no billionaire owners or backers. You can support us by becoming a member on Patreon, bookmarking and whitelisting us, and by subscribing to our social media channels, including Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
Also, be sure to check out the new Behind the Headlines channel on YouTube.
Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic, political campaigner, and a MintPress video and podcast host. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique, and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network, and The Peace and Justice Project founded by Jeremy Corbyn.