Having had the criminal charges for shutting down an Israeli arms factory against her dropped, Huda Ammori explains why this is a victory for BDS
After facing criminal charges for blocking the Israeli Drone Factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to drop the case against all activists initially charged. We closed the UAV engines factory down through mass mobilisation on Thursday 6th July and went again to blockade it and shut it on Friday 7th July. Five of us were arrested for the blockade, and while three had their cases dropped in September, two charges remained and the trial was expected to be Friday 24th November.
The July 7th blockade of the factory took place on the third anniversary of the Gaza massacre in 2014 that led to the death of over 2,200 Palestinians including 500 children. Many of these war crimes were committed by Elbit drones, including the Elbit Hermes 450 and Elbit Hermes 900. The factory manufactures engines for drones which are known to have been exported to Israel prior to major attacks on Gaza in recent years. The factory is also a fundamental part of the Watchkeeper program under which Elbit Systems is leading production of a new generation of drones for the UK military. The Watchkeeper drone is modelled on the Hermes 450, documented as being used to kill Palestinian civilians during the 2008-09 attack on Gaza. Elbit uses the murderous impact of these weapons for profit, marketing the drones as ‘field tested’ - in other words, proven to successfully slaughter Palestinians with nowhere to run.
The CPS dropped the case because the Manager of the Drone engine factory was unwilling to take the stand and be questioned about the weapons deals the company has with Israel and other war criminal states. The CPS stated: “The decision to discontinue these charges has been taken because there is not enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction”. The Elbit factory has previously been blockaded in 2014, 2015 and 2016, by activists calling for a 2 way arms embargo between the UK and Israel. The 34 arrests in that period produced no trials and no convictions as Elbit UAV chiefs baulked at the threat of revealing the extent of their weapons contracts with Israel and other regimes guilty of major human rights abuses. Israel is scared of exposure of the crimes they are committing every day against the Palestinian people, the longest running military occupation in modern history.
As a British Palestinian, I refuse to sit by and allow these injustices to be carried out on British soil and call on every supporter of Palestine to take similar action in Western countries where there is complicity in Israel's war crimes. It is a green light for more action on weapons factories that are making billions off the rivers of blood that flow through Gaza and many other areas of the Middle East, devastated by such criminal assaults on entire populations. The result that all five of us have been cleared is a vindication for all those willing to take direct action against UK based arms factories, banks, shops and institutions that are complicit in the brutal crimes of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and mass murder that the Israeli regime is continuing to commit against the Palestinian people. An immediate two-way arms embargo between the UK and Israel must be implemented. Please support Manchester Palestine Action, Birmingham Palestine Action and London Palestine Action who wish to accelerate the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Israeli State until Palestinians are allowed the same freedoms as anyone else.
Instead of the trial which was supposed to take place on Friday 24th November, we returned to the Elbit arms factory and once again shut the factory down for the day. The best message we can send to Israel and the Palestinians from the outcome of this trial is that we will not let UK-based Israeli arms factories get away with aiding and abetting Israel’s mass murder of Palestinians and we will not stop until Palestine is free.
Huda Ammori is a British student, activist and writer with Palestinian and Iraqi heritage. She is completing her studies at the University of Manchester where she founded and currently chairs the BDS Campaign UoM, which exposes and seeks to end the university's complicity with Israel's war crimes. Huda is also engaged in pro-Palestine and anti-arms trade activism on a national and global level.