Pro-Palestine activists blockade JCB site in UK to protest Israeli home demolitions

Pro-Palestine activists blockade JCB site in UK to protest Israeli home demolitions
Pro-Palestine activists on Thursday blockaded a JCB site in the UK to protest the Israeli military's use of the firm's bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes.
4 min read
07 March, 2019
Police said four of the activists were arrested

Activists on Thursday blockaded a JCB site in the UK to protest the Israeli military's use of the company's bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

A number of activists arrived at JCB's Global Logistics Headquarters in Stoke-on-Trent at 6:30am and lay on the road outside the depot, locking themselves together using "reinforced arm-tubes" and protecting themselves from the rain with waterproof covers.

"The company was unable to get deliveries in and out of the depot," they said.

Four of the protesters were arrested, reported StokeonTrentLive.

JCB has been a prominent target of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists who say the company is complicit in "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" for selling bulldozers to the Israeli military.

"Demolitions carried out with JCB machinery resulted in at least 130 Palestinians being made homeless, including 31 children," said Tom Anderson, one of the protesters and a member of the Shoal Collective, an activist group which has documented demolitions in Palestine.

"JCB should take steps to ensure that its equipment cannot be used in Israel's home demolitions. If the company does nothing, then they are complicit in Israel's war crimes," Anderson said.

The Israeli military on Thursday demolished the family home of a Palestinian accused of killing two soldiers and an Israeli newborn.

Read more: British BDS campaigners plan for the future after 'significant' wins

Israel has a policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinians accused of deadly attacks against Israelis, which it says acts as a deterrent. Israeli forces also demolish homes built without near-impossible-to-obtain permits, often to make way for illegal settlements.

The destruction of property in an occupied territory is prohibited under international law.

Critics denounce it as a form of collective punishment that makes families homeless and can provoke further violence.

Israel halted the policy in 2005 but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that demolitions would resume after a wave of attacks in 2014.

Israel carried out at least 461 demolitions of Palestinian property in 2018, according to the group which says 130 of those incidents, including the demolition of two schools, involved JCB machinery.

"If JCB were serious about preventing cruelty to children, they would stop their machinery from being used to demolish schools in Palestine," said protester Michelle Noor.

The activists pointed to the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, which was continually threatened with complete demolition last year to make way for a settlement. JCB bulldozers were used in the initial preparations for the demolition, which was halted by severe international condemnation.

The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor, Amnesty International and Israeli human rights group B'tselem all called the proposed demolition and displacement of 173 people a "war crime".

Activists blockaded a JCB facility in Derby last year in protest.

"Popular struggle and international solidarity have defended Khan al-Ahmar until today from expulsion, and have stopped the bulldozers manufactured by international corporations from inflicting destruction," the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) said last year.

"It is the role of the BDS movement to mobilise global pressure against Israel's impunity in perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity and against corporate complicity in these crimes."

The BNC called on people worldwide to organise protests at the offices of companies such as JCB, Caterpillar and Volvo, among others, whose equipment it said was implicated in "activities that violate [the] fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people".

Netanyahu said last month that "it would certainly help" if Khan al-Ahmar was evacuated and demolished before April's national elections.