Israeli arms maker closes London headquarters after sustained protest

Editor’s Note: The following press release was issued by Palestinian Action June 20, 2022. Mondoweiss occasionally issues press releases and statements from organizations in an effort to draw attention to overlooked issues.

After relentless direct action and a number of arrests, Palestine Action has rendered business in the British capital inoperative for Israel’s largest arms company, Elbit Systems. The company abandoned its office at 77 Kingsway, leaving Elbit’s London headquarters permanently closed.

Since 2020, activists have intervened on the site 15 times, disrupting business by blockading, occupying and defacing the property. The campaign resulted in 60 arrests for which activists continue to be tried. Elbit’s London exit comes just 5 months after it was forced to close Elbit Ferranti in Oldham.

“We have slammed the doors of Elbit’s head office in London as direct action has once again permanently closed an Elbit Systems site in Britain. Thanks to our brave and fiery activists, we are getting closer and closer to ending Israel’s arms trade in Britain.

Palestinian Action

Elbit leased the London site to property giant Jones Lang Lasalle (JJL), sparking a sister campaign calling on them to ‘evict Elbit’. Activists have carried out dozens of actions targeting JLL premises across the country.

Police recently told Palestine Action activists who were under arrest that Elbit was abandoning its London headquarters at 77 Kingsway. Security at the company entrance told Samantha Asumadu, a freelance journalist working for the Big Issue, that Elbit was not on site and they had never heard of them. The reception also confirmed that the Israeli arms company was not there and even denied that the company had ever been, despite being well known that Elbit had rented the sixth floor for many years. A separate security officer confirmed to another source that Elbit had indeed left the building.

This makes 77 Kingsway the second Elbit site permanently closed by Palestine Action, in less than 2 years of sustained direct action. Behind closed doors, war criminals facilitated British Elbit operations – no more! Palestine Actionists worked tirelessly, but successfully, to shut down their London site.

Three members of the activist group Palestine Action cover the gate of Elbit in red paint during a protest action outside the Israeli arms maker’s headquarters in London on May 20, 2022. Activists also locked themselves at the gate from Elbit Systems. (Photo VX/Vudi Xhymshiti)

Palestine Action’s inaugural action saw activists storm the society’s former office in central London, ransack site facilities and spray paint ‘Shut Elbit Down’ and ‘We will be back’ on the walls. As the campaign continued, tactics included disruptive entry, exterior and interior occupations, paint-throwing, and chain and lock blocking. The 15 separate actions in Kingsway and concurrent sister actions against its owners have resulted in dozens of arrests – 60 in total, for which many activists are still on trial. Elbit’s closure comes after weeks of dramatically intensified actions targeting their Kingsway headquarters.

In August 2020, a sister campaign against London-based Elbit owner Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) was also launched. He demanded that JLL “kick out Elbit”. Multiple and systematic actions have taken place against the real estate company, which knowingly rented the site to an Israeli company manufacturing weapons used to suppress captive populations. JLL sites were regularly defaced, destroyed and sprayed with Palestine Action’s iconic red paint, as activists continued to demand that the owners “evict Elbit” and stop profiting from the genocide of the Palestinian people. Three members of Palestine Action, including two co-founders, Richard Barnard and Huda Ammori, still face fictitious charges of blackmail, in response to the campaign calling for Elbit’s expulsion.

Palestine Action activists block the entrance to the office block where Elbit Systems' London headquarters were located.
Palestine Action activists block the entrance to the office block where Elbit Systems’ London headquarters were located. (Photo: Calum Ford)

In excellent fashion, Palestine Action finished what it started at 77 Kingsway, which was the first Elbit Systems site targeted by the movement when it launched. Almost two years later, Elbit has again been forced to shut down and leave another of its UK sites – and it comes just five months after the company sold its Oldham factory at a loss. Palestine Action will continue to curb the works of apartheid, military occupation and dispossession until Palestine is free.

“Elbit’s London headquarters once played an important role in coordinating the company’s bloody web of UK operations, but not anymore,” says a Palestine Action spokesperson. “After relentless direct action at 77 Kingsway and JLL, we have terminated Elbit’s London operations. Palestine Action has not yet reached its second anniversary, and we have already permanently closed two sites belonging to Israel’s largest arms company.

“We will build on the success of this closure and will not stop until the remaining eight sites follow suit. It is a victory for all those who sacrificed their freedom and for all those who supported the movement, but above all the Palestinian people. This brings us one step closer to the day when Israel’s arms trade is permanently withdrawn from Britain.

Palestinian Action
Palestine Action is a direct action network of groups and individuals formed with a mandate to act directly against UK Elbit Systems sites at the local level, calling for their closure and for the UK government to end its complicity in Israeli apartheid. .

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