Palestine activists declare victory as Israeli arms firm leaves Oldham

Pic: @Pal_action

An Israeli weapons manufacturer which produces drone parts for Tel Aviv has sold off its factory site in Oldham after a lengthy protest campaign by pro-Palestine activists.

Around 70 activists were in jubilant mood yesterday in Oldham following the news that Elbit Systems had sold its site in the area.

The Palestine Action group has organised protests outside the facility for the past 18 months. The site has been targeted numerous times by volunteers who have blocked entrances, sprayed blood red paint and damaged the business’s property, allegedly costing Elbit millions.

Elbit hasn’t confirmed their reason for abandoning the site but has said that their sale was part of a “restructuring strategy.”

Following the news, Palestine Action said this is proof that direct action works.

“After 18 months of sustained direct action taken at the Elbit Ferranti site in Oldham, Greater Manchester, with 36 people arrested, Elbit have now sold Ferranti technologies, with its continued operation in Oldham appearing unfeasible. Activists 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…

“Today, it was publicised that Ferranti has indeed been sold to TT Electronics, a British electronics firm. 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. 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.

“Early in 2021, Elbit attempted to make the Oldham factory a viable production site by improving security. Elbit 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 activists, with the site continuing to be targetted regularly.”

Pic: Pal_action

The first action taken in Oldham by Palestine Action, in late August 2020, involved spraying premises in blood-red paint, symbolising “Palestinian bloodshed.”

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, according to Palestine Action.

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, causing the site to remain 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.

In August, 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 closed 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 crowds gathering outside the factory on a weekly basis since the bombardments of Gaza by Israel in May.

A Palestine Action spokesperson said: “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.”

Meanwhile, Elbit Systems said that its UK subsidiary, Elbit Systems UK Ltd, has sold the Power and Control Business of its subsidiary Ferranti Technologies Ltd. to TT Electronics for approximately $12 million in cash, subject to customary post-completion working capital adjustments.

The remaining business of Ferranti, including training and simulation, avionics, display systems, aircrew survival systems, platform protection and computing, are planned to be integrated into Elbit Systems UK.

Martin Fausset, CEO of Elbit Systems UK, said: “This reorganisation is part of our strategy to focus activities on certain areas in order to support the continuous expansion of our operations and collaborations in the UK.”

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