Activists standing in solidarity with Palestinians will attempt to shut down an Israeli arms
factory in England next month, on the anniversary of Israel’s military operation ‘Protective Edge’, which caused massive destruction and loss of life in the Gaza strip last summer. And to counteract the violent nature of the factory, the protest will take the form of “a creative and positive space that meets the needs of justice and solidarity, and not the needs of Israeli multinational corporations that export death for profit.”
Last year, news of the Israeli attacks on Gaza led to demonstrations such as nine activists who occupied the roof of he UAV Engines Ltd factory in Shenstone, near Birminham, which is owned by the Israeli arms company Elbit Systems. They shut down the drone engine factory for two days costing the company more than £180,000.
This year, on 6 July (the anniversary of the start of the onslaught on Gaza), a more organized demonstration at Shenstone is planned. “Block the Factory” will “be transforming the space around the arms factory, converting it from a site of destruction into a fun, creative and child-friendly environment”.
Elbit Systems makes engines for drones, surveillance equipment for the militarized USA/Mexico border and the Israeli Separation Wall, which breaches international law and stretches for hundreds of miles, dividing families and confiscating large swathes of fertile Palestinian land as it goes. Elbit Systems is just one part of the massive arms industry that makes Israel the largest per capita arms exporter in the world. Israel is the world’s second largest exporter of military drones, selling thousands all over the world. And who makes the engines for the drones? UAV Engines Ltd, whose factory is in Shenstone, near Birmingham.
‘Block the factory’ aims to turn the space around the factory into a fun, creative and inspiring place, rather than one associated with death, destruction, and injustice. Whether it’s by telling stories or holding workshops, making art or flying kites (not drones), playing music or sharing food together, it will be a space for activists to build support networks, find new allies and make new friends.
This mass action is part of the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) and the Stop Arming Israel Campaign, which call on the UK to end its extensive collaboration with the Israeli weapons industry and to institute a two-way arms embargo. Many groups are involved in the day so far, including:
Boycott Israel Network, NUS Black Students’ Campaign, West Midlands PSC, Drone Campaign Network, Coventry Friends of Palestine, Smash EDO, Manchester Palestine Action, Glasgow Palestine Action, Campaign Against Arms Trade, Stop The Arms Faircoalition, War on Want, and London Palestine Action
The organisers want to make this an inclusive and family friendly affair, believing that diversity makes us better and stronger. So, whether you have never been on a protest before or are a seasoned activist, whether you are disabled, an older person, a younger person, whether you have five children or none, you are encouraged to come and help make this the biggest, most beautiful action yet at an arms factory in the UK.
Better still, there are ways to get yourself or your group actively involved. That could be running a workshop or a creative space, playing music or organising food, or even creating an activity session for children. The organisers stress that the action is what people make it, and welcome ideas and input.
Getting to the demo
Shenstone is a small village outside Birmingham, accessible by National Rail trains. If you are coming from outside Birmingham, this generally means travelling to Birmingham New Street and changing there.
Trains run roughly every 20 minutes from Birmingham New Street, and tickets cost around £4.50. Earliest trains are at 06:01 and the last train returning to Birmingham is at 23:32.
More info at www.blockthefactory.org.