Next month at Snaresbrook Crown Court in north-east London, the trial of eight Palestine Action activists including the group’s two co-founders, is due to begin. They face charges of conspiracy to commit criminal damage, burglary, and for some, blackmail. The trial is scheduled to last for five or six weeks.
There is of course a chance that the Crown Prosecution Service, under pressure from Elbit, may find a way once again to postpone, but at time of writing, the 13th November marks the long-awaited day to let a jury of randomly selected citizens decide whether there is any lawful excuse in trying to shut down an Israeli arms company which manufactures military equipment including drones, used by the IDF to terrorise and target Palestinian people in the illegally occupied territories.
Although Palestine Action has waged a campaign for more than three years against Elbit and its suppliers and other service providers, the charges in next month’s trial relate to little more than a dozen protests which took place in the first few months after their launch, much of which is covered in Real Media’s 2021 documentary film. These include: sustained targeting of Elbit’s London office in Kingsway which eventually closed down; actions against La Salle/JLL, the landlords of Elbit’s office; the Discovery Park business park in Kent which harbours Elbit subsidiary Instro Precision; and two other Elbit subsidiaries – Ferranti in Oldham (which has also been forced to close down) and UAV Engines in Shenstone – the sight of several major rooftop occupations.
Had the trial gone ahead sooner, activists would have been able to argue that their actions – to halt the manufacture of drones, targeting and munitions products – were proportionate in order to prevent greater crimes. Elbit Systems manufactures more than 80% of Israel’s drones, and they are linked to assassinations and war crimes such as the bombing of children on a Gazan beach in 2014.
As reported elsewhere on Real Media, due to government and lobbyist pressure (including pressure from the Israeli government), activists are facing more and more legal constraints in court, narrowing the terms on which they can claim lawful excuse for their actions and ruling out human rights considerations. Despite this, Palestine Action has won some landmark acquittals, where juries have exercised their right to decide on their conscience.
If found guilty, these eight human rights activists may not only face long prison sentences, but under new Serious Crime Prevention Orders could also be banned from further campaigning of any kind on Palestine.
Palestine Action have called for protest mobilisation outside the Snaresbrook court throughout their trial. With the ongoing deadly escalation in the persecution of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, the jury (who in long-established British law have an absolute right to decide based on their conscience), may have a far-reaching judgement to make. Despite the restrictions in defence, and even the attempts to stifle defendants from explaining the motives for their actions – does the public really want Israeli businesses to manufacture weaponry and component parts in our country that are used to commit the most heinous of crimes around the world.
Will it be Palestine Action on trial, or will it in fact be Elbit Systems and the apartheid Israeli regime?