Protest at Israeli drone factory in Birmingham planned for July 2015 – everyone welcome!

24/06/2015

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.

Rooftop protest at Elbit Systems last year.  This year's planned even will be far more peaceful and suitable for all the family.

Rooftop protest at Elbit Systems last year. This year’s planned even will be far more peaceful and suitable for all the family.

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.

From Mondoweiss.net:

‘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.

blockthefactory.org


“Killer robots should be banned…” But I want one!

20/11/2012

Image

The Terminator – coming to a war zone near you!

 Human Rights Watch has released a 50-page report on the subject of “fully autonomous weapons” that could kill without any human interaction required – in other words, killer robots, like Arnie in The Terminator.  And surprise surprise, the report (catchily entitled Losing Humanity: the Case Against Killer Robots) says that they should be banned – now, before anyone pours too much money into such a project.

“Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield would take technology too far,” said Steve Goose, the HRW arms division director. “Human control of robotic warfare is essential to minimising civilian deaths and injuries.”  The robot would have to make ethical judgements as well as tactical and strategic decisions: for instance, are some civilian casualties acceptable weighed against the battle outcome.  At the moment these kind of decisions are made by human officers on the battle ground.  But can a computer be fully capable?

And then there’s the scenario of a malfunctioning robot soldier.  Do we really want to risk having a heavily armed killer robot running amok?

There are already basic semi-automous weapons systems already in use – for instance the drone aircraft that are famous for firing hellfire missiles at innocent Afghan wedding parties, and the Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapons System) that is used to protect ships from missiles. And in December 2010, the South Korean firm DoDAAM unveiled the Super aEgis II  an automated turret-based weapon platform that uses thermal imaging to lock onto human-sized targets up to 3km away. It is able to function during nighttime and regardless of weather conditions . No one has yet created a robot soldier, but several countries are actively looking into the subject, such as the US, China, Germany, Israel, South Korea, Russia and Britain.  The HRW report claims that experts believe operative machines could be ready in 20 years if not sooner.  And who knows what is going on in top secret defence projects?  They’re not called “top secret” for nothing.

So the report recommends that international treaties banning these kinds of weapons should be banned now, before any country gets too involved in such a project – no government wants to scrap a project that it’s already invested billions of dollars into.

“It is essential to stop the development of killer robots before they show up in national arsenals,” Steve Goose said. “As countries become more invested in this technology, it will become harder to persuade them to give it up.”

But it’s hard to see this idea stay unexplored.  Automation is invading everyday life – why shouldn’t it be used on the battlefield?  I can certainly imagine the robot soldier being sold to the public as a way to avoid seeing our boys coming home in body bags.  But what will it be like for the people who are on the front line: not just soldiers, but the people who actually live in the war zone?  Mistakes are made by human soldiers – what could a fritzed Terminator be capable of?

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“Weapons haul” found by police in Worcester, UK… but it’s all a load of crap, as usual.

08/09/2010

Wednesday, 8 September 2010.

According to the papers in the UK, especially those prone to hysteria whenever even a weak connection to “terrorists” can be inferred by dumb-ass readers, a shit-load of munitions were seized by police in a quiet respectable suburb of Worcester in the West Midlands.  Take a look at this photo from the newspaper “The Sun” (the Sun is a sensationalist UK paper whose sister paper The News of the World is under investigation for gaining unauthorized access to voicemail belonging to high-ranking politicians and business figures:

Sun photo showing police carrying weaponary from the Worcester house

Look at the pics, and the other pics available out there in the intertubes: see how clean, and new this ordnance is. To me, this makes me wonder: the army boys told the cops that the munitions were replica and harmless; and the cops decided to act like real super-cops.  The cops didn’t put the munitions in evidence bags or in any way try to avoid being photographed.  They wanted to be photographed; they probably told the photographers to turn up.  Now they’re a bunch of hard, dedicated coppers who carry military weapons with complete disregard for their own safety.  But what about the public’s safety?  Don’t worry, the bombs are only toys.  But shh don’t tell anyone.

Even before the truth came out, I was suspicious.  The nature of the weapons I saw pics of and read about was far too modern to be anything but replicas belonging to replica collectors, war re-enactors and the like; if they were real, they were something to be very concerned about.  A terrorist organization amassing a cache like that would indicate that something’s going to happen – and there are more caches like this.  The fact that all the news editors must have been pretty sure by deadline time that the munitions were fake and almost certainly legally held didn’t stop them from making it seem a terror incident.

And now the truth has come out: take a look at the Worcester News website and you’ll find this puff piece, making sure that no criminal charges have been brought against him. Graham Lane is a 65-year old collector of deactivated and replica firearms, and he’s a gun club chief.

Apart from the crazed response to this story by the sleazy “terrorism sells” tabloids, there’s another point that baffles me. According to the Worcester News of Tuesday, after listing the sensationalist list of “munitions retrieved” – “more than 30 guns , including rifles and shotguns, and a gun cabinet were removed from the house” – an Inspector John Mackay said:

“During our search we discovered some munitions. We asked the Army to come in and keep them safe for us. The only reason the Army has been called is because they have the experts to handle the munitions. I’m not qualified to say what the munitions are.”

So this presumably highly-trained army bomb disposal specialists were unable to tell the difference between real explosives and pretend stuff? Sneck, no wonder the casualty rate of innocent Afghanis being brutalized, tortured and even killed.

And we’re no safer here. Go out in the street and play with toy guns: how long before an armed response unit turns up and wastes some teenager with a water pistol. Doesn’t this make you feel safe at night?

Graham Lane, gun club chief, falsely arrested yesterday for having a garage full of toys


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