‘Palestine Action’ Shares Their Story Of How They Took Down ‘Elbit Systems’ Weapons Manufacturer In Oldham, UK
An interview with Huda Ammori, co-founder of Palestine Action, asking her questions about the successful campaign to shut down Elbit Systems in Oldham, UK.
“It is the beginning of the end for the rest of Elbit’s factories”, says Palestine Action’s co-founder, following a successful campaign to shut down a base of operations for Elbit Systems, a weapons manufacturing company, which supplies the Israeli occupation’s military machine.
Elbit Systems UK, a subsidiary of the Israeli-owned weapons manufacturer responsible for arming "Israel’s" occupation forces, has sold off its factory in Oldham, located in the Greater Manchester area, following a sustained 18-month-long campaign against it by pro-Palestinian activists.
The group, Palestine Action, quickly claimed victory over Elbit Systems UK, which had itself claimed that the move to sell its subsidiary in Oldham, Ferranti Technologies’ Power and Control business, to TT Electronics for 9 million pounds, was due to a reorganization strategy and did not comment on the pro-Palestinian activism taking place as being a motivation.
“We are pleased to confirm continued successful progress in implementing Elbit Systems UK’s strategy”, stated Elbit Systems UK CEO, Martin Fausset, claiming that the move would not have negative impacts on their business model. Despite Elbit now publicly refusing to acknowledge the impact of pro-Palestine activists on the weapons manufacturer, accused repeatedly of supplying weapons to "Israel" to commit war crimes, this does not seem to have affected the motivation of Palestine Action’s members.
To get to know more, I spoke to Huda Ammori, co-founder of Palestine Action, asking her the following questions about the successful campaign to shut down Elbit Systems in Oldham:
Interview with Huda Ammori, co-founder of Palestine Action
Q1- How long have you been taking action and how many operations have you had to conduct against Elbit System’s to achieve this goal?
A1- “So we launched in July 2020, in response to a growing frustration at the lack of action by the British government to sanction "Israel" for the crimes that they are committing and so Palestine action has been engaged in a campaign of sustained direct action at Elbit’s factories and offices, for the past 18 months. Particularly in Oldham, we have seen different groups of people take action against the factory; this has included blockading the factory, throwing red paint over the factory, people scaling onto roofs several times and as well people have broken in, destroying the machinery from inside the building, all of which has caused destruction and ultimately made it unfeasible for Elbit to continue its operations, at sites where activists were continually taking this type of action.
People had had enough of the factories which would be able to produce weapons, which are being used in war crimes, on their doorsteps and when you see the lack of action from politicians and those in power, then that’s the point where the people have to take the power back into their own hands.”
Q2- Do you think the targeting of specific sites, like in Oldham, is what pressured them to leave, or on the contrary is it the action taken throughout the United Kingdom?
A2- “I think it is a combination of both, but when we look back and see the variety of actions that have taken place in Oldham, it’s quite clear that all of the higher level actions have taken place there. Two separate groups broke into the premises, actually more than that, but two separate groups breaking inside the factory and causing damage to machinery and the computers inside the building and even on one occasion coming across classified documents and I think for a company, which claims to be a top security company essentially, and them not being able to secure their premises against activists is quite telling. It’s quite telling of the activists to continue to literally hammer the same sites, so I definitely think we’ve seen consistency and a high level of action. But also across the board, at different Elbit sites and their suppliers, there have been these types of actions happening and I think Elbit Oldham was the first one to fall and I believe it is the beginning of the end for the rest of Elbit’s factories as well.”
Q3- What backlash have you faced from law enforcement and are any members being punished?
A3- “Across the board, we have seen activists at just that site [in Oldham], beaten up by security, beaten up by police, homes have been frequently raided, it has become almost a guarantee that when activists are taking direct action and are arrested whilst taking action, the police use this as an opportunity to raid their homes, which is a power that they have [the police] but is not commonly seen when it comes to activism type cases. We’ve seen a few people actually charged for taking action at that site, but many more not charged, which is quite telling in itself, of the activities taking place at the Oldham site.
But I think across the board, when you are taking action against something so huge and quite daunting in some aspects, you know, it’s "Israel’s" largest arms company…there is the expectation that there are going to be some massive obstacles that are going to be put in our way to intimidate people from not taking action. But I think that this has backfired on the law enforcement, it has not put people off, if anything people are drawn to it because they want to be part and are outraged at the response by the State and also want to be part of something effective”.
Q4- So has anyone ever been imprisoned or given significant fines for their activism, as part of your group?
A4- “No one has ever been sentenced to prison, nobody has actually been successfully prosecuted for taking direct action against Elbit Systems. Four activists were remanded to prison, so they were taking action and were held in prison, to be later released before their trials. But we’ve seen consistently, that even before Palestine Action, there were actions taken against Elbit which were sporadic and less often but none-the-less not a single activist had got to trial, including against myself the cases were consistently dropped often when activists would ask for things like disclosure, which is something you can do when you’re charged when taking action against these types of companies.
But I think with the escalation and sustained manner of the actions taking place, since Palestine Action’s launch, there have been people charged. People who have gone to trial and our first trial was actually in December of last year, in a Magistrates Court, and the judge found them not guilty, despite them admitting to throwing bottles of red paint at the factory and blockading the gates of the factory. The acquittal was quite a significant victory because a Magistrate judge is often just one judge who decides the fate of the activists and so there’s not normally that much hope in that system, when it comes to these types of cases and in a Crown Court, where most of our cases if they go ahead will be in one, you are tried by 12 ordinary people from the community so there is a much higher chance of you winning. But even in a Magistrates Court with a Magistrates Judge, the judge said that, in comparison with what Elbit is doing, this is a more than proportionate response, which is quite incredible, highlighting the seriousness of the issue.”
Q5- Will you stop here or has this motivated you to continue and what is your message to others who may wish to join you?
A5- “So from the very beginning our goal has been to shut Elbit Systems down across Britain and this is the first step to full victory, this is the first step to getting rid of all Elbit sites, so there’s no plans to stop. The plans are to continue to escalate and amplify action across different Elbit sites and I’d encourage people who have been seeing these actions unfold to join us. One can join Palestine action, give us a call, attend one of our workshops, see what their role is in this movement, there are so many different roles and I’d encourage people because we can get rid of Elbit’s factories, we’ve done it in Oldham, now it's time to get rid of all of them.”