The warm relationship between the UK elite and Israel’s arms industry has been on display in London this week.
Twickenham Stadium – a location normally associated with the sport of rugby – is hosting the International Armoured Vehicles fair.
Alongside high-ranking figures from the British Army and the country’s defense ministry, the event featured two of Israel’s leading weapons manufacturers, Rafael and Elbit Systems.
For Elbit, the fair was an occasion to promote technology known as Iron Fist. A range of sensors and interceptors, Iron Fist is being installed in the D9 bulldozers, with which the Israeli military often demolishes Palestinian homes.
The description of Elbit in the official brochure for this week’s fair does not mention it is Israeli owned. Instead, the emphasis is all on Elbit’s operations in Britain.
According to the brochure – see below – Elbit’s activities in the UK are now stretched across 16 sites and employ more than 600 people.
This is not the first time Elbit has attempted to portray its investments in Britain as socially and economically beneficial for the country.
Another recent attempt was made in an article published – clearly with Elbit’s assistance – by Birmingham Live, a media outlet focused on England’s second largest city.
The article was about UAV Engines, an Elbit subsidiary.
Despite being part of Israel’s weapons industry, UAV Engines is a “little company making repurposed Norton motorbike engines,” according to the article.
Based in Shenstone, a short distance from Birmingham, UAV Engines has been repeatedly targeted by Palestine Action, a group that breaks into Israeli arms factories with the intention of causing major damage.
Without examining how Elbit profits from inflicting terror on Palestinians, Birmingham Live claimed that staff at its Shenstone plant live in fear. The article even stated that the CEO of UAV Engines would not give his full name because he was so worried about “reprisals.”
Readers of the article were not informed that the CEO’s full name is David Cliff.
He was quoted – with just his first name published – alleging that Palestine Action’s volunteers “have been brainwashed and told to go there and smash the place up, you won’t end up in jail.”
The article alleged that a guard working for UAV Engines “was actually bitten” during an “altercation” with Palestine Action. The guard was then tested for hepatitis, according to the article.
Palestine Action insists that no such incident ever took place.
Instead, Palestine Action volunteers have been assaulted by security officers hired by UAV Engines. In one attack, a volunteer was punched in the back of the head.
The Birmingham Live article was based on a tour of its site that UAV Engines gave to the reporter Jamie Brassington.
The quotations attributed to David Cliff in the article were contradictory.
Cliff claimed that “we don’t make arms” but then admitted that engines produced in the factory are attached to drones.
“We make engines and we sell them to anyone who the [UK] government will allow us,” Cliff added. He stated that end users include “friendly countries” such as the US.
In reality, UAV Engines is inseparable from Elbit’s efforts to export weapons that have been tested out on Palestinians.
Martin Kelly, a former senior detective with Britain’s police, is known to have worked as a “security adviser” for UAV Engines.
Kelly has admitted that the firm makes engines for the Watchkeeper, a drone developed for the British Army.
The Watchkeeper is modeled on Elbit’s Hermes drone, which has been heavily used during Israel’s attacks on Gaza.
It is not hard to see why Elbit is trying to improve its image.
Palestine Action has succeeded in forcing Elbit to leave its London offices and to sell another plant owned by the company near Manchester.
Palestine Action has caused a major headache for Israel’s weapons industry. Planting puff pieces in media outlets may give Elbit some temporary relief for the headache but is unlikely to bring a cure.
Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist. Twitter: @KitKlarenberg.