U.K. activists and unions target three weapons factories to block Israeli arms shipments
Palestine Action activists and supporters blockade both entrances to the Israeli-owned Elbit weapons factory in Kent, U.K., Oct. 26, 2023 | Photo: Palestine Action

LONDON—Palestinian rights campaigners targeted three weapons factories in Britain Thursday to disrupt their production of arms for Israel’s war on Gaza.

The simultaneous actions saw more than 100 people, including trade unionists, descend on the Instro Precision factory in Sandwich, Kent, blocking both entrances. Protesters carried banners reading: “Workers for a free Palestine” and “U.K., stop arming Israel.”

The site, which has faced protests for years and has previously been occupied by Palestine Action, was forced to close for the day. Instro Precision is owned by Israel’s largest weapons firm, Elbit Systems, and specializes in military-grade electro-optical equipment for target locations.

Those involved in the action included union members from Unite, Unison, the National Education Union, the University and College Union, the British Medical Association, and the bakers’ union,  the BFAWU, as part of a new “Workers For A Free Palestine” group.

In Leicester, an activist attached themselves to the only entrance of UAV Tactical Systems, which is co-owned by Elbit and French arms firm Thales. And just a few miles away, another group of activists scaled and occupied the roof of Howmet Fastening Systems.

Activists then began attacking the factory with sledgehammers.

One of those on the roof said the company “produces parts for the F-35 bombers used across the world to kill innocent people,” including by Israel.

At least three protesters in Leicester were arrested, with one chanting “Free free, Palestine” as they were led away by officers.

A Palestine Action statement said:

“Today, we’ve shut down three weapons factories which supply apartheid Israel’s ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people.

“By shutting down the death merchants, [the activists] prevented crucial parts for Israel’s warplanes being used in the genocide of Gaza.

“Weaponry made in Britain is setting Gaza ablaze. We have the power and an obligation to shut down every weapons producer supplying Israel.”

The actions followed a call by a coalition of Palestinian trade unions for the international labor movement to end “all forms of complicity with Israel’s crimes” by immediately stopping the trade in arms with the country, along with military funding and research.

Members of Unite, which represents workers in arms factories, have signed an open letter calling on the union to heed the request from Workers in Palestine.

The letter calls on Unite’s leadership to pledge support to members who refuse to build or handle weapons for Israel, educate members in such factories, and issue a public statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Morning Star

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Ceren Sagir
Ceren Sagir

Ceren Sagir is a reporter and deputy news editor for Morning Star, the English-language socialist daily newspaper from Britain, and the UK representative for Halk TV, a Turkish nationwide TV channel.