One year in, Palestine Action is hitting drone maker Elbit hard

A new short film by Real Media follows the group Palestine Action over the past year.

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.

Skyrocketing campaign

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.

After years of its activities being embarrassingly exposed, the new Israeli coalition government closed the ministry down last month.

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.”




The shyness over prosecution suggests not only that Elbit has much to hide but that the UK State colludes in keeping its secrets. So much for the rule of law. Of course, if Elbit tells the police it doesn't want to press charges, that's a difficulty; but millions of pounds of damage would normally see the CPS pushing for prosecution. Unable to operate in open court for fear of exposure of their nefarious undertakings, they are likely to engage in nasty, surreptitious actions. It's probable that at some time anti-terror legislation will be used which will assist in keeping things hidden on specious grounds of national security. The bravery of the protests is remarkable and the principle exemplary. PA treads boldly where the PSC is nervous to go. No doubt this is a winning strategy. The rapid recruitment of members indicates people are inspired by action which brings results. Given the reluctance of the authorities to prosecute perhaps the best strategy is to increase the scale of the damage, to cripple the Elbit facilities to the extent they can't operate. They are in a cleft stick, being possibly in breach of international law and afraid of scrutiny. To spavin quickly all their facilities in the UK might be the sensible approach, before they find some underhand way to stop PA. No doubt the government will be searching hard for a way to ban the organisation. That Rabb offers comfort to the Israelis over the matter is a grisly reminder of how our elected representatives don't represent us but wriggle their way to power, backed by a mendacious media in order to defend the interests of the rich. PA represents our interests: peace, justice and equality. Anathema to the tiny cabal of manipulators who rule the world.

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and co-host of our podcast.

He is author of the bestselling book Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn (OR Books, 2023).