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Israeli drone company won’t release export data, so case against 9 Gaza activists is dropped

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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.”


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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12 Responses

  1. ritzl on February 1, 2015, 9:47 am

    The ICC effect, trials or no trials. Just the threat of potential prosecution hangs a big cloud over doing biz (as usual) with Israel.

    Good news.

    • justicewillprevail on February 1, 2015, 2:05 pm

      It’s good that the charges are dropped, but it’s definitely not good that the UK government and Israel gets to keep secret exactly why the UK is allowing, and to what extent, the arms trade with an illegal, occupying army which targets civilians. In a democracy, this should be public information. If it was, we would no doubt discover that the UK is breaking its own rules. Otherwise why should it be secret. I hope the activists keep up the pressure, since we now know that they daren’t prosecute in case they have to reveal the extent of their sordid trade.

      • ritzl on February 2, 2015, 3:14 pm

        I guess my glass is half full on this one, jwp.

        It seems to me that this company was cornered/cowed into letting these folks go because releasing the information required to prosecute them would implicate the compny in what are almost certainly war crimes/crimes against humanity.

        If that is a reasonable assessment, this turn of events is a tacit admission (by this company) that doing business with Israel is fraught with exposure to criminal liability. That’s a huge, unquantifiable biz and financial risk. If broadly applicable, and given that it is nearly impossible to distinguish occupation/war industry from non- occupation/war industry in Israel, this puts a damper (or at least imposes the time and/or cost of making that distnction) on doing any business in/with Israel.

        I think this exposes an exploitable theme and seam for BDS activism – including in more formal settings like shareholder fora/meetings.

  2. just on February 1, 2015, 10:03 am

    Huge thanks to Jessica Nero and her fellow activists/people with a conscience.

    “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.””


  3. CloakAndDagger on February 1, 2015, 1:04 pm

    Nice! We should take some lessons from our British brethren. I would love to see this form of activism here.

  4. amigo on February 1, 2015, 1:58 pm

    Applying Zionist defense strategy.

    As the world is full of antisemites , why bother proving innocence .They will believe what they want to.

    Normal folks will correctly see this refusal to defend against these charges as an admission of guilt.

    Too bad it is not possible to issue an arrest warrant for those officials to show up in court with their evidence and present their case.

  5. Pixel on February 1, 2015, 5:17 pm

    Looks like it’s time to go back to the roof.

    • Marnie on February 2, 2015, 6:55 am

      Let’s go up on the roof

    • Walid on February 2, 2015, 11:56 am

      About roofs and occupying them, you’re surely recalling Elbit’s roof that was occupied last August in Port Melbourne that was discussed at Mondo.

      Speaking of Elbit, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that it could be involved in the proposed 600-mile barrier to separate Saudia from its Iraqi neighbour and if it it does happen, it would be with a Saudi partner of course. Elbit in addition to killer drones has specialized in building the towers on the apartheid wall on the WB and is currently building the ones in New Mexico and Arizona to keep the Mexicans out.

      So far, only Australian and UK activistists have done something serious against Elbit. a few years back, the Norwegian Sovereign Fund divested $1 million from Elbit and for both Elbit and the Fund, that amount was a sick joke.

  6. JeffB on February 2, 2015, 6:13 am

    I don’t know UK law but assuming it is similar this sounds like the prosecutor was working with not against the protestors. Given that exporting arms for the purpose of war crimes is a crime and the entire reason the protestors was there was to assert that Elbit was breaking that law charging them with “preventing lawful activity” plays right into their hands. I agree with the protestors, a trial on those grounds would have been wonderful theater for them. The prosecutor had to know that, which is why I suspect he was on their side.

    A prosecutor who was interested in breaking up the demonstrations would have stayed way clear of the political issue. They get charged with trespass. If they used a fire exit to get to the roof, tampering with fire equipment. If there is a cigarette into the ventilation system charge them with violations of air purity. A prosecutor who wasn’t on their side wouldn’t have setup the pitch perfectly for them. “Of course you have the right to protest just not on that roof, just not using that fire door and can’t endanger the worker’s air quality”.

    I wouldn’t define Israel picking a prosecutor in the UK who was working for the enemy and wisely mucking their hand on this one trial as “running scared”. Let’s see what happens with different prosecutors.

  7. Mooser on February 3, 2015, 12:01 pm

    “I don’t know UK law but…”

    And, what do you know, it goes downhill from there! Why did you ignore the only verifiable fact in your entire comment? Well, thanks for putting it right at the start.

    • justicewillprevail on February 3, 2015, 12:42 pm

      Ignorance is never a deterrent for our dedicated zionists. Especially the humourless ones, the wannabe lawyers. But jeffy has such a brilliant idea – charge them with violating air purity! Has he never heard of the expression ‘being laughed out of court’?

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