Boris Johnson's 'clandestine' visit to Israeli arms maker Elbit proves activism can bring accountability
UK Prime Minster, Boris Johnson, paid a “special visit” to RAF Valley, a military site ran by Israel’s largest weapons company, Elbit Systems and KBR Limited. He was flown in by the £75m ‘Brexit Jet’ in time for the sixth anniversary of the Elbit-KBR “Affinity” partnership. In recent days, Elbit have boasted about this surprise visit across their social media channels.
RAF Valley is one of three Royal Air Force bases operating under the joint venture Affinity, which specialises in training British pilots to operate military aircraft. A venture which would not be possible without Israel’s apartheid regime and illegal occupation of Palestine.
Elbit Systems openly boasts RAF Valley as one of their numerous sites operating in Britain. They are notoriously known for marketing its weapons as “battle-tested” and working hand in hand with the Israeli government to conduct strikes upon the captive population of Gaza.
Israel’s experience in suppressing the political rights of the Palestinian people puts Elbit in a prime position to sell its lethal technology of domination and control. Not only does the siege of Gaza enable Israel’s continued supremacy over the indigenous people of Palestine, but it also provides a perfect breeding ground of profits for arms companies such as Elbit.
''Just weeks after the launch of Palestine Action, Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs, along with Israel’s defence minister, Benny Gantz, made their demands clear to the then foreign secretary, Dominic Raab: To crush Palestine Action.''
So long as customers are willing to turn a blind eye to Israel’s blatant human rights abuses and the British government funnels in the funds to keep Elbit’s cycle of violence turning, Israel is given the green light to further entrench its apartheid regime over the Palestinian people.
Elbit’s partner in crime, KBR Limited, also has a long rap sheet of profiting from and directly arming war crimes, winning contracts worth over $40billion to arm the invasion of Iraq, making a fortune from the murder of over a million Iraqis.
In a bizarre statement by Elbit’s media team, it has claimed that this surprise visit was “unexpected”, and Boris just turned up unannounced to the anniversary. How many other organisations or corporations could say Boris just turned up to celebrate their birthday?
Of course, it seems much more likely that this secret celebration was kept under wraps to avoid Palestine Action turning up to disrupt their criminal festivities. The launch of Palestine Action in July 2020 saw the birth of a relentless direct action movement taking aim at Elbit’s numerous sites in the UK. In the first year of the group’s actions, it was reported that Elbit suffered over £15million in losses, due to activists consistently blockading, climbing up and destroying their factories and offices.
It comes as no surprise that Israel is now turning once again to the British government to protect what is left of Elbit’s rapidly declining reputation. Just weeks after the launch of Palestine Action, Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs, along with Israel’s defence minister, Benny Gantz, made their demands clear to the then foreign secretary, Dominic Raab: To crush Palestine Action.
Of course, Britain played along with Israel’s demands and waged a campaign of police intimidation tactics. One which saw numerous raids, extensive interrogation, fictitious arrests, and temporarily illegally seizing both mine and Palestine Action’s co-founder, Richard Barnard’s, passports. But with the growing numbers of activists joining the movement, popularity soaring for the campaign against Elbit, and the courts refusing to convict a single activist, their campaign of intimidation hasn’t wavered the determination of activists to shut Elbit down.
And it’s not only senior government ministers waging in the campaign to protects Elbit’s presence in Britain, both MP Craig Mackinlay and MP Michael Fabricant have joined in the attempt to protect Israel’s arms trade.
Craig Mackinlay, MP for South Thanet, has frequently visited and taken tours of Elbit’s weapons manufacturing plant, Instro Precision, in Kent. His alliance to Israel’s apartheid regime was once again reinforced when he tweeted to defend the company’s actions, whilst activists blockaded and occupied the site, disrupting Israel’s weapons production. His tweet described a company which openly markets its weapons used against the Palestinian people as a “respectful” business, and insinuated that because Palestine Action was behind the protest, there was a “stench” of antisemitism. Of course, he was attempting to disguise the long list of crimes against humanity Elbit is involved in.
Michael Fabricant, Conservative MP for Lichfield and well-known supporter and ally of Israeli apartheid, lashed out at activists, including myself, when we occupied the Elbit factory in Shenstone, which produces engines for Israel’s military drones. In a blatant racist statement from the MP, Michael took it upon himself to issue press comments insinuating that Palestinians were to blame for their own oppression as they were unable “to establish a Western democracy”.
Usual protestors disrupting a respected @DiscoveryPark_ business. Hope Instro/ @ElbitSystemsLtd use full opportunity to take civil action against them for criminal damage & business interruption. The stench of #Antisemitism hangs in the air when you look who’s behind the protest. https://t.co/kgJskpIluH— Craig Mackinlay MP (@cmackinlay) October 4, 2021
The immorality and illegality of Elbit’s business model is commonly known, and their reputation has been increasingly demised following the sustained direct-action campaign by Palestine Action. Norwegian’s pension fund, Australia’s future fund and even HSBC refuse to invest in Elbit Systems. And let’s face it, HSBC aren’t exactly known for making ethical choices. But the way Elbit operates, and their production of illegal cluster munitions is a red line that many corporations aren’t willing to cross. However, it doesn’t seem an issue for the British government, who aren’t only willing to host numerous Elbit factories in Britain, they’re also working with them in a bid to legitimise their actions.
Once we realise that appealing to the oppressors to dismantle their relationship with the military-industrial complex is pointless, as they are one of the same systems, then we can channel our activism into more productive means. It’s clear the establishment are running scared of the reality that the number of activists willing to put their liberty on the line to shut down the operations of Elbit Systems is growing.
As the British governments blatant commitment to Israel’s arms trade and imperialist projects remains steadfast, then the necessity of the grassroots to take direct action to stop the operations of Elbit Systems grows stronger than ever. Israel’s arms trade may seek favours from the top of the British establishment, but our strength and the winning formula lies in the power of the grassroots to tear down the manifestations of Israel’s apartheid regime on our doorsteps.
Huda Ammori is a co-founder of the direct action network, Palestine Action and has conducted extensive research and campaigns targeting British complicity with Israeli apartheid.
Follow her on Twitter: @HudaAmmori
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