A new network of campaign groups, Palestine Action, has been busy over the the last month targeting the Israeli arms company Elbit Systems which manufactures drones and other equipment used against Palestinians. They say their aim is to disrupt ‘business as usual’ and they promise to keep targeting all of Elbit’s 10 factory and office sites until they close them down.
Several occupations by different groups in recent years have temporarily interrupted production at various factory sites around the UK. Real Media covered one of these at their subsidiary in Kent. On that occasion, all staff were sent home, the factory was closed down, and protesters vandalised doors and windows in front of police, who then politely told them they could leave at any time. As one of the activists commented in that film, “How can people occupy a factory that is supposedly law-abiding, and no action be taken?”.
As part of the new campaign, the Elbit HQ office in Kingsway, London has been visited four times (the latest last night), and on two of these occasions paint was thrown and slogans sprayed inside the building. Despite the building being shared by several unconnected businesses, to date no legal action has apparently been taken against the protesters.
So why is Elbit so forgiving, and why haven’t other businesses affected by the action taken legal action?
Palestine Action say this is because Elbit is complicit in war crimes and doesn’t want its UK operations to come under scrutiny. After many of the actions there were simply no arrests, but when arrests have been made, cases have always been dropped before they come to court. The campaigners think this is because their defence, which would be based on lawful excuse – committing a crime in order to prevent a greater crime – would require Elbit to disclose more about what goes on in their factories, and that any court would have to consider alleged evidence of illegal weapons sales and suchlike. They claim that Elbit would rather suffer economic loss and pay for damage rather than expose themselves to scrutiny.
Palestine Action say that they sent ‘pre-action letters’ to Discovery Park, the industrial estate in Kent where the Instro Precision Elbit subsidiary is based, and to LaSalle Asset Management in Mayfair, the landlord of the Kingsway office, prior to last night’s protest, but that they received no response.
So last night, they sprayed blood-red paint slogans about Elbit’s war crimes at the two sites and again at the Kingsway HQ. They also left letters warning that the campaign will escalate and accusing Discovery Park and LaSalle of effectively aiding war criminals.
A spokesman at LaSalle this afternoon said that the company itself has a so-called ‘no-names’ policy for any inquiries and had no statement to make about the action or allegations. Discovery Park confirmed that they had been subject to a “graffiti incident” and that police were investigating. Elbit have also been contacted for comment and we await their response.