Last August at the height of Israel’s assault on Gaza, nine activists occupied the roof of a Staffordshire factory that supplied engines to Israeli drones and shut down the factory for two days. Now the British government has dropped a case against the nine, evidently because the Israeli arms company was unwilling to produce evidence of its arms exports.
A report from London Palestine Action says the government and the company Elbit Systems, a manufacturer of drones, are “running scared”:
Activists have accused the UK government and Israeli arms company Elbit Systems of running scared from a court case that would have put their collusion with Israeli war crimes on trial.
This follows the announcement that all charges have been dropped against nine campaigners who occupied the roof of an Elbit Systems factory in Staffordshire during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza. This means that the UK government will no longer be required to reveal details of the arms trade with Israel, and Elbit will avoid having to testify about the use of its drones during Israel’s massacre in Gaza last summer….
The activists pleaded not guilty to charges of “preventing lawful activity” on the basis that the operations at the Staffordshire factory were aiding and abetting war crimes and therefore illegal.
Lawyers for the defendants say it appears the case collapsed either because the prosecution had been told either that Elbit Systems were unwilling to testify in court about their activities or because the UK government was unwilling to comply with the court’s order to disclose information it holds about licenses for arms exports to Israel, or both.
The Independent says it is the company that refused to hand over information. The company is UAV Engines Limited (UEL), a subsidiary of Elbit:
Lawyers for the protesters criticised the failure to obtain the export data, saying the information would have cast crucial light on whether weaponry produced in the UK was deployed by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in Operation Protective Edge – the assault on Gaza which cost more than 2,000 Palestinian and 73 Israeli lives.
The protesters from London Palestine Action had been granted permission by a district judge to obtain disclosure from the [the Crown Prosecutor] of “any and all” material held by public bodies, including the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), about export licences granted to UEL [UAV and Elbit Systems since 2003. It is understood that the CPS itself made no effort to obtain the data from the Whitehall department.
Mike Schwarz, a partner with law firm Bindmans, said: “The information would have shed light on the links between UK arms companies and Israel’s assault on Gaza. With no court date, there’s no public scrutiny. Indeed, that seems to be what the affected business desperately wants and the Government is more than content to let happen.”
At the London action site, Jessica Nero, one of the defendants, said the end of the prosecution was not all that welcome, but that her group will keep up the pressure:
“This news is bitter-sweet for us, as Elbit and the UK government have run scared from having their role in Israeli war crimes put on trial…
“Elbit’s drones played a key role in Israel’s massacre of more than 2,300 Palestinians in Gaza this summer. UN bodies and international human rights organisations have accused Israel of war crimes during its recent Gaza massacre. What will it take for the UK government to impose a two way military embargo on Israel and hold it accountable for its crimes against humanity?..
“When I visited Gaza at the end of 2013 I talked to people who had lost loved ones to drone attacks. They all made it very clear that they don’t have any faith in governments to hold Israel to account. But what they did have faith in was the power of people around the world to organise in solidarity and increase the pressure on arms dealers and politicians, and that is what we will continue to do.”