Why we take Direct Action to Shut Elbit Down

May 30, 2021

Palestine Action have been undertaking a campaign of sustained direct action against Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries since August 2020, disrupting and forcing closure of their sites and factories across the UK so as to eventually shut Elbit down completely. What is the significance of Elbit Systems, and why is it imperitive for the anti-racist and anti-imperialist struggle to shut them down?

What does Elbit produce?

Elbit Systems, based in Haifa, is Israel’s largest private arms manufacturer and security company. Elbit’s largest customer is the Israeli Ministry of Defence, with Elbit providing up to 85% of Israel’s land-based military equipment and approximately 85% of its drones. Elbit products include computer and display systems for military helicopters and gunboats, surveillance and combat drones (including the Hermes 900, Hermes 450, and 7.5 Skylark), intelligence and surveillance systems, and – through its subsidiary IMI – weapons, munitions, military technology and small calibre ammunition. Many of these products are produced in factories across the UK, including at their UAV, Ferranti, Instro, Elite KL, and UAV Tactical Systems factories in Shenstone, Oldham, Kent, Tamworth and Leicester respectively.

Elbit’s killing, repression, and surveillance of Palestinians

Elbit products are vital for maintaining the military siege and bombardments of Gaza and the occupation and repression of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – they enable Israel’s settler-colonial expansionism and ensure the continuing brutalisation of the Palestinian population.

In Gaza, Elbit drones enable Israel to carry out indiscriminate bombings and targeted assasinations. In the 2014 ‘Operation Protective Edge’, wherein over 2200 Palestinians were killed including 500 children, Elbit drones enabled Israel to inflict the most exceptional violence and terror, with drone strikes directly accounting for at least 164 of the child deaths counted. Their MPR-500 “supersmart” bomb, produced through IMI, was employed for the first time in this 2014 assault, killing at least 28 civilians including 18 Palestinian children. That year, their Hermes drone was used to kill 4 Palestinian boys playing on a beach. Their drones were used extensively in the 2009 ‘Operation Cast Lead’, which killed 1400 Palestinians, as well as being routinely deployed for surveillance purposes on an ongoing basis.

In occupied Palestine and East Jerusalem, Elbit drones are deployed for the sake of surveillance and intelligence gathering and to enable late-night house arrests. IMI baton rounds – which claimed eyes and limbs in the waves of repression in Sheikh Jarrah in 2021 – arm the Israeli military and police, who also rely extensively on Elbit intelligence and computer systems to maintain constant control over the captive Palestinian population. Elbit were awarded $82 million in order to fortify and securitise Israeli border walls which run through Jerusalem and the occupied Golan Heights, and to fit the surveillance technology which monitors and controls the Palestinian population.

Israeli deployment of Elbit products not only works to maintain the UN-declared “uninhabitable” conditions of Gaza and to create sustained terror and devastation in occupied Palestine, but also to market their products globally. Achille Mbembe describes Israel’s war economy as effectively a “laboratory of extreme violence”, where the weapons and strategies deployed are then sold under the Israeli brand for the global market. Elbit are proud of this fact – they boast that products are “battle-tested”, “field proven” and “combat proven”, with their role in the repression of Palestinians proving a lucrative selling point. This is because Palestine exists at the epicentre of empire, with the models of settler-colonial control being reproduced across the world – facilitated by Elbit’s global presence.

Elbit and global settler-colonialism

The Israeli occupation of Palestine and repression of Palestinians is often described as “settler-colonialism”, constituting a “continuous process of land annexation, whereby native inhabitants are removed and settlers from elsewhere are brought to occupy the land”. The Israeli models of repression, repackaged and sold for profit by Elbit, are employed across the globe. This can be seen most visibly in the United States and in India’s military occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.

In the US, Elbit Systems have been contracted to develop a high-tech surveillance system on native Tohono O’Odham land, establishing what members of Tohono O’Odham nation describe as a “military occupation” and “apartheid”. This Elbit-outfitted apartheid exists roughly one mile from the heavily militarised US/Mexico border wall which Elbit has also played a key role in establishing. In 2016, Elbit marketed its surveillance equipment to the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services for use against protestors at Standing Rock. Elbit’s models of repression and surveillance – fine-tuned through testing on Palestinians – are key to the maintenance of settler colonialism in the US.

India is the second largest importer of Israeli arms and military technologies, and India is reportedly deploying the “Israeli model” of occupation and settler-colonial control in Kashmir. Israeli arms are central to this project: India is looking to revive its “Project Cheetah”, aiming to stockpile combat drones for use in Kashmir. Elbit products are increasingly likely to be deployed in the repression of Kashmiris following the recent alliance between Elbit and India’s Adani Global. Adani is already the target of a mass movement in Australia, after constructing one of the worlds biggest coal mines on the land of aboriginal people. Elbit products, including those produced in the UK, are intimately connected to repression of indigneous populations; given the global supply chain which maintains these various iterations of settler-colonialism, the anti-imperialist struggle must be global in its scope. 

Israeli apartheid and the global racial-surveillance economy

The global anti-racist struggle must also take note of the centrality of Palestine, and of Elbit’s role in enabling racial suppression in Palestine and beyond. Israel has been involved in the global proliferation of high-tech weapons technologies, drone warfare, and neoliberal securitisations – from the UK to US, from Azerbaijan to India, as states look to expand their drone fleets, military-technological capacities, security, surveillance and bordering projects against migrants and increasingly dispossessed and racialised poor populations. 

The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency deploys Elbit drones in the English channel to monitor, surveil, and repress migrants and asylum seekers, while the UK police have also began trialling Elbit drones for its expansion of surveillance and policing in the UK. The EU has contracted Elbit drones to monitor the Mediterranean coastline of “fortress Europe” against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Elbit’s “field proven architecture”, tested on Palestinians, is used extensively by the US, particularly in the radar and surveillance towers which fortify the US’s Mexico border wall.

Elbit Systems maintains a key role in racial-capitalist expansions globally, whether in “fortress Europe” along the UK and US borders, or in the waging of brutal wars against a specific ethnic or regional population as is the case in Azerbaijan and Turkey. Global racial repression relies on the self-same “Israeli model” of surveillance and control as does global settler-colonialism and military control. 

As David LLoyd notes: “Israel is no less the laboratory for the techniques of repression and containment that neoliberalism requires, from the technologies of Elbit Systems and Hewlett Packard, to the racial profiling and racial segregation, vigilantism and extra-judicial killing, that US police forces from Ferguson to Brooklyn, Los Angeles to Chicago, have avidly studied in the name of “counter-terrorism” and homeland security” 

Anti-racists globally have a duty to oppose those who profit from the proliferation of security technology. This technology and the strategies of racial control in large part originate in the ‘laboratory’ of occupied Palestine. In 2016, the US Black Lives Matter movement endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, recognising the connections between US policing and securitisation to the same forms of repression used on Palestinians. It is imperative that we dismantle the structures of racial securitisation and control being sold globally, and the most effective method we have of doing this is direct action.

Why Direct Action?

What the above information should have made clear is that the global surveillance industry (which increasingly encroaches on rights and liberties, particularly along racial lines) and the proliferation of military and drone technologies for repression and bloodshed are all directly connected to the occupation of Palestine. The Israeli settler-colonial project is replicated by repressive regimes across the globe, who are eager to learn from their hitherto successful control and brutalisation of Palestinians. 

What should have also been made clear is that Elbit Systems plays a central role in this imperial, racist, and murderous global supply chain. Elbits products are at the forefront of the oppression of indigenous, migrant, or ethnic minority populations, and as such dismantling Elbit is an urgent step in the anti-racist and anti-imperialist cause.

Palestine Action is a direct action network, whose activists put their bodies and liberties on the line in solidarity with oppressed peoples in Palestine and beyond, so that Elbit are unable to produce their murderous machinery in the UK. Direct action is the only viable means of achieving this – appeals to governmental authority (either through campaigning, petitions, or demonstrations) are out of the question. The UK government has given its total commitment to the ongoing occupation of Palestine, and has entered into hundred-million-pound contracts with Elbit Systems. 

While Elbit proves beneficial to the UK government’s own illiberal agenda of police control and suppression of migrants, they will do their utmost to ensure Elbit’s profits aren’t hurt. The onus to act, therefore, is on all conscientious people in the UK and wherever Elbit operate – the means to do this is through direct action.