The Melbourne Palestine Action Group, a group consisting of Whistle Blowers Australian Citizens Alliance (WACA) and Renegade Activists, locked down Elbit Systems in the suburb of Port Melbourne and occupied the building’s roof for a few hours.
Arriving at the site at 5 in the morning, the activists erected a replica of Israel’s apartheid wall at the site’s entrance, locking the gates of Elbit Systems and disrupting what otherwise would have been a regular workday.
Jacob Grech from the Renegade Activists explained that the aim of the action was not to ‘warm the coldness of the politicians’ hearts, but to make Melbournians aware of what is going on in their backyard’. Judging from the extensive news coverage the action received, the mission was accomplished.
Elbit Systems is Israel’s largest military company. It markets its drones around the world as ‘field tested’, which means they have been tried on the captive and occupied Palestinian population under Israel’s illegal military occupation.
‘Most Melbournians would be shocked to learn that a company operating drones that kill women and children in hospitals and schools is operating here’ said Grech.
— WACA (@akaWACA) August 15, 2014
Elbit provides services and technology to the Israeli army including surveillance equipment and drones. There is evidence documented by various human rights group that drones are used to kill innocent civilians in Gaza. According to Al Mezan Centre, a Palestinian human rights organization, drones have killed more than 1,000 Palestinian in Gaza between 2000-2010.
With the rapid growth of the Palestinian global solidarity movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel, the pressure is increasing on governments and corporations to divest from Israeli companies, especially those that are directly linked to Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people.
In Australia, actions like these illustrate the growing frustration the people have with the Australian government’s support for Israel’s violations of human rights.
Speaking for the activists who occupied Elbit’s roof top, Grech said ‘We are calling on the Australian government to end its contracts with Elbit Systems which include all army communications and new Australian Federal Police database’.
In 2010, it was reported that the Australian Federal Police was spending $145 million on a computer policing system supplied by Elbit Australia after being tried and tested in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. The system was to be up and running by 2017.
The Melbourne Palestine Action Group think this should be of concern to all Australians not only because the Australian government is spending money on a company complicit in human rights violations, but also because this company is running command control stations on activists in Palestine and would now have the ability to spy not just on activists but on all Australian citizens.
Reaction to the Elbit Port Melbourne lock down was overwhelmingly positive. Workers from adjoining warehouses came out to watch the action and later offered to take the activists out for coffee. They told the activists that they passed by the Elbit site every day but had no idea what it is that Elbit did. They seemed moved by the action and expressed their support of the protest. ‘People were genuinely shocked this company is working in their street’ said Grech.
The non-violent action came to an end when the Australian Police intervened. The activists were charged with trespassing and some may be summoned to court at a later time.
Speaking for the activists Grech was in high spirit as he explained ‘The first step in challenging the masters of war is exposing them because they like to operate in secret. But we know it is a long way between raising awareness and taking action. As always when you do a successful action there is the adrenalin rush of the success but that is tempered with the knowledge that people are continuing to die if not of the bombs, than through the siege’.
The group vowed that they will continue to work both as a group and in their personal capacity in solidarity with the people of Palestine until Palestine is free.
Thanks to Ofer Neiman