Palestine Action was founded a year ago by activists in the UK to focus on taking direct action against Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems.
Elbit is Israel’s largest private arms manufacturer. It makes the vast majority of Israel’s drone fleet and, as the film explains, markets its weapons as “combat proven” – tested on Palestinians.
The company has 10 factories and offices in Britain, which the group has been targeting.
You can watch the full film in the video above. I am one of several people in the film giving context and analysis. I argue that, with persistence, Palestine Action could ultimately be successful in its goal of expelling Elbit from the UK.
Activists have carried out sit-ins and sabotage against Elbit premises, shutting factories down, smashing windows, damaging equipment, graffiting and splashing walls with red paint to symbolize Palestinian blood.
According to the film, Palestine Action have carried out more than 70 actions against Elbit in their first year, including 20 high-profile occupations of sites and factories.
According to police estimates, the group’s actions have cost Elbit and complicit companies more than $22 million and more than 100 days of weapons manufacturing, the film says.
A day in court?
Yet despite an estimated 100 arrests and systematic repression by the British police and government, not a single trial has taken place and some activists who destroyed machinery have not even been charged.
A trial set for May was pushed back for more than a year. The trial date had happened to coincide with the most recent major Israeli bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip. Activists suspect the delay was an attempt by the police to stack the trial against them.
They are eager for the case to come to court.
Like many other direct action campaigners, Palestine Action’s legal strategy is to argue in open court that Elbit’s business activities are illegal under international law, since their weapons are used to help Israel carry out war crimes against Palestinians.
Their non-violent direct actions against the company are therefore proportionate and lawful and not in fact “criminal damage,” they argue.
A similar case collapsed in January last year when prosecutors dropped it after Elbit declined to make disclosures about its activities in the UK.
Elbit is not so keen to go to court, as it doesn’t want its activities being exposed to scrutiny, activists say.
During the bombing in May, British sympathy with Palestine Action skyrocketed and local people began spontaneously forming protests in solidarity with activists as they were taking action on Elbit factory rooftops.
Founder Huda Ammori says in the film that at one point, they were getting three new volunteers join them every minute.
UK government repression of Palestine Action has included home raids, confiscation of devices and passports and even threats to use draconian anti-terror laws against the group.
Soon after Palestine Action was founded in August last year, British foreign minister Dominic Raab was meeting with Israeli ministers in Jerusalem.
Orit Farkash-Hacohen, then “Strategic Affairs” minister, complained that the “campaign against Israel has become widespread throughout Europe and the world, including in England… Only last weekend, the offices of an Israeli security company were vandalized, for the fourth time in the last month.”
She was making a reference to interventions such as Palestine Action’s first ever direct action, against Elbit’s London office.
According to Israeli media, “Raab replied he and the British government were committed to stopping such events.”Using a dirty tricks campaign and “black ops,” the Ministry of Strategic Affairs was a semi-covert Israeli agency dedicated to fighting the BDS movement, the Palestinian-led global campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
But the prime minister’s office announced that the ministry’s work would continue with “the transfer of their areas of activity to various government ministries.”