Oldham (In Palestine Today)- Members of Palestine Action celebrated a “huge victory” on Monday after Israel’s largest privately-owned arms company of Elbit Systems sold off one of its UK factories.
After 18 months of sustained direct action taken at the Elbit Ferranti site in Oldham, Greater Manchester, with 36 people arrested, Elbit has now sold Ferranti technologies in Oldham.
The Power and Control Business of Ferranti Technologies has been sold to TT Electronics, a British electronics firm, for $12 million in a deal which the Israeli firm completed, apparently, as part of its restructuring of its UK operations.
Since August 2020, Palestine Action’s occupations of the site have caused weeks of forced factory closure, and have cost millions in damages to the company.
At the end of November 2021, Elbit began packing up their Oldham operation – now the majority of the Ferranti business has been sold off, according to the group.
Activists in Palestine Action have occupied, blockaded, smashed, disrupted, and protested regularly at the site, ultimately succeeding in ending the factory’s production of specialist military technologies for Israel’s fleet of combat drones.
In November 2021, anonymous sources revealed to Palestine Action that mass redundancy notices had been issued to staff working at the factory, and that premises were being cleared in preparation for Elbit leaving the site.
On Monday, it was publicised that Ferranti has indeed been sold to TT Electronics.
This major restructuring – selling a subsidiary which Elbit has consistently promoted as a success and which has helped Elbit to land multi-million pound contracts with the British government – suggests that Elbit is under significant pressure to tighten its UK operations, said Palestine Action.
“This is most likely due to the impossibility of continuing at the often-occupied site, the massive financial impact of occupations, and an attempt to avoid more bad publicity,” it added.
Although Elbit attempted to make the Oldham factory a viable production site by improving security, early in 2021, and increased spending massively for round-the-clock security, and also benefitted from a rapid police response for protestor removal, neither of these measures succeeded in keeping out the activists, with the site continuing to be targeted regularly.
The first action taken in Oldham by Palestine Action, in late August 2020, involved spraying premises in blood-red paint, symbolising the Palestinian bloodshed made possible with Elbit Ferranti technologies.
Following this, actions accelerated. Windows were smashed in an occupation in November 2020, while an action taken in collaboration with XR North in February 2021 caused over £20,000 in damages.
In April 2021, activists not only occupied the site but gained entry to the factory, smashing the roof, windows, air vents, and undermining future operations by covering equipment and computers in red paint – over £100,000 of damages were caused, and the site remained shut for well over a week.
On July 5th, three activists gained entry to the site, allegedly causing £500,000 of damage and closing the factory for a number of weeks. More recently, in August of this year, activists blockaded the factory – blocking roads with vehicles and locking onto gates – and occupied the factory itself again.
There have been a number of other actions taken at the Oldham site, with the factory forced to close for a significant number of weeks in total due to damage caused.
The site has also been subject to regular protests called by Oldham Peace and Justice and Manchester Palestine Action, with large crowds gathering outside the factory on a weekly basis since the massive and brutal bombardments of Gaza by ‘Israel’ in May.
Following the announcement, a Palestine Action spokesperson stated, “The sale of Ferranti and the closure of the Oldham factory is a huge victory for the movement. So far, our actions have undermined and disrupted operations – but this news vindicates our long-term strategy.”
“Direct action works – the brave individuals who occupied the factory over the past year can proudly say that drone technologies are no longer in production in Oldham.”
“But it’s not enough that just one of these death-factories shuts down. We want to see Elbit itself shut down for good, and all of their businesses forced out of Britain – we will keep escalating our actions until that happens.”
Elbit systems, Israel’s largest privately-owned arms company, provides the Israeli occupation with around 85% of its killer drones. These drones terrorise the people of Gaza and Israeli occupation uses them in daily surveillance and regular attacks.
The company’s profits skyrocketed after its equipment was used in the brutal 2014 assault on Gaza, helping ‘Israel’ to seal contracts with militaries all over the world.
In 2018, Elbit purchased IMI Systems, known for producing cluster munitions, the IOF’s sole supplier of small calibre ammunition.
So not only are the drones in the skies made by Elbit, the bullets being shot by Israeli occupation snipers are also made by Elbit.
Israeli F-16 fighter jets and Apache and Cobra attack helicopters are all made with Elbit equipment.
They have repeatedly been used to attack civilian areas, homes and refugee camps, resulting in thousands of casualties in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon.
Also, Elbit’s Hermes 450 is one of the most used drones in the world. The company markets the drone as “combat proven”, having battle-tested it on Palestinian people.
The group ‘Palestine Action’ was set up in 2020, breaking onto the activist scene by its targeting of Elbit Systems factories around Britain to end the UK complicity with Israeli apartheid.
The group has been described as using creative tactics to disrupt Elbit facilities, as well known Climate Change activist group ‘Extinction Rebellion’.
Palestine Action has pledged that the campaign of direct action taken to shut Elbit down will continue to escalate and expand – both by preventing operations and occupying Elbit sites, or by cutting off Elbit’s supply chain and halting operations as Elbit’s partners, landlords and suppliers are targeted.
Palestine Action has called on to an end to the continued facilitation of Elbit Systems and, by extension, of Israeli war crimes.
They say Elbit’s biggest single customer is the “Israeli Ministry of Defence,” the war criminals.
“The production of arms, drones, and military technology relies on an interconnected and massive network of complicit firms – Palestine Action are dismantling this network, demanding that firms cease their partnership with Elbit unless they want to be shut down along with them,” a Palestine Action spokesperson stated.
“The message to all other firms with Palestinian blood on their hands is simple: until you end your facilitation of Israel’s brutal repression of Palestinians and sever ties with Elbit, Palestine Action will shut you down and cease your contribution to genocide for you.”
Elbit Ferranti site in Oldham had been targetted due to the crimes committed against Palestinian civilians using Elbit Ferranti products. The Oldham factory was used for the manufacture of specialist military products and technology, including the SkEyepersistent surveillance system aboard Elbit’s Hermes 450 and 900 drones.
Ferranti also manufactures the SpectroXR ultra long-range imaging system for Hermes drones. Hermes drones have been used extensively by Israel in bombardments of Gaza, notably during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 in which over 2,200 Palestinians were killed, including 526 children.
The site was also used for the production of IronVision helmets for use in battle tanks such as the Carmel – specifically designed for operations in densely built urban areas, such as Gaza.