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EXCLUSIVE: XR joins forces with Palestinian rights activists to shut down Israeli arms factory in Oldham


CLIMATE and Palestinian rights activists are currently occupying an Israeli-owned arms factory in Oldham to protest at the firm’s role in the “destruction of people and planet,” the Morning Star can reveal. 

Protesters from Extinction Rebellion North and Palestine Action have smashed in windows and locked onto the gates of the factory after storming the site just after 4am this morning. 

One protester is chained to the gates via a D-lock around her neck, while red paint has been hurled across the front of the five-storey factory. Workers arriving at the site were seen turning around at the gates, prevented from entering by the blockade. 

Ferranti Technologies, based in Oldham, is wholly owned by Elbit Systems — a major supplier to Israel’s military and the world’s largest exporter of drones. 

The occupation marks the first time the two direct action groups have come together. The Morning Star interviewed activists currently blockading the factory. 

Ryan, 34, a welfare benefits adviser, who is involved with Extinction Rebellion and now Palestine Action, said the causes are “interlinked.” 

“The climate and emergency disaster… is an outcome from a system that prioritises profit over the environment and people for the benefit of a very small minority,” he said. “It’s this greed that is fuelling a lot of the social and environmental issues on the planet.”

Another protester, Adam, a member of XR North, who is on the roof of the factory, said the climate direct action group has “always been about social justice not just climate justice.”

Activists on the roof of the factory
Activists on the roof of the factory

“[They are] both fighting largely for the same thing … challenging the system that allows massive loss of life, whether that be through weapons manufacture or climate breakdown,” he said. 

Adam said Elbits weapons are becoming “more advanced” and “more and more usable to kill more and more people,” so taking action now is “important to prevent more loss of life.” 

The protest comes a few weeks after the Ministry of Defence announced a new contract with Elbit Systems UK worth £100 million to supply “sensor to shoot” technology for British troops. 

The activists have accused the British government of “profiting from the colonisation of Palestine for over 100 years” and now allowing a network of Elbit factories to be established across England and Wales. 

Since 2005, Elbit Systems UK has opened 10 sites including four arms factories in Britain. 

Elbit provides the Israeli army with 85 per cent of its drone fleet, including the Hermes 450 and 900 which have been extensively used in Israel’s massacres in Gaza. 

Elbit drones were used to deliberately target civilians in the besieged strip in 2009, according to a Human Rights Watch investigation, and were involved in the killing of four children on a beach in the strip in 2014. 

The firm is also a global supplier of border surveillance technology having first developed the equipment for Israel’s illegal Apartheid Wall in the West Bank.

Israel’s war on Palestinians has driven profits for Elbit which markets its weapons as “combat proven” after their initial use in Gaza, one of the most densely populated regions in the world.

Monday’s action is the latest in a long-running battle with the arms manufacturer. 

In 2019 activists with Manchester Palestine Action and the International Solidarity Movement occupied the Oldham factory twice in the space of a month. 

Speaking to the Morning Star about why he decided to take up direct action against Elbit, Irish national and carpenter Paul, 37, said:  “I really believe that what’s going on in Elbit Systems needs to be seen by as many people as possible because human beings are compassionate people and if people knew there were children being burnt in their beds they’d be upset enough to do something about it.

“We need people to stand up to say that this isn’t right and we’re not going to tolerate it in our villages, in our neighbourhood.”

Ryan added that the crimes he may be charged with for blockading the factory “pale in comparison” to “crimes that are being committed by the people I’m taking action against.”

“I would rather put myself on the line and my future and my current security and safety by committing this act because I know it will, for at least a little bit shut down this company that is making money from selling arms to murder children in Palestine.”

Extinction Rebellion North said it hoped the collaboration with Palestine Action, which was set up last year with the aim of ending Elbit’s operations in Britain, “will help build a movement of movements, shut Elbit Systems down and be another step towards a better world.”


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