Ethnic Cleansing in Sheikh Jarrah Shows Again Why Those in UK Must Take Action

May 9, 2021

The horrific events of the past week reaffirm the need for international solidarity and to dismantle the war machine – starting with its roots in the UK. Here’s why and how we will do that.

In 1948 hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly removed from their homes in order to pave the way for the creation of the state of Israel. This is referred to as the ‘Nakba’, or the Catastrophe. 28 families settled in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood in East Jerusalem in 1956. Earlier this year a decision by the Israeli Court in East Jerusalem approved the forced eviction of these families from their homes once again, to be replaced by Israeli settlers. The Nakba can be regarded not as an event confined to 1948, but an ongoing process of violent dispossession which serves to advance the expansion and development of the Israeli settler colonial project. Sheikh Jarrah is part of a renewed Nakba, it is the next step in the unyielding process of violent dispossession that is the everyday reality of the Palestinian people. 

Alongside the removal of Palestinian families from their homes by settlers backed by the Israeli state, there has been a concerted effort by occupying forces to intimidate, harass and attack Palestinians as they worship during the month of Ramadan. This culminated in 205 injuries as the Israeli police targeted worshippers inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, using stun grenades and gas bombs on praying civilians. The IMEU confirmed on Monday morning that Israeli forces have killed a Palestinian civilian inside the Mosque. These crimes have all taken place with either implicit or explicit backing of the Western imperialist nations such as the UK, employing munitions and military technologies provided by companies such as Elbit Systems. 

The power imbalance involved is the product of this relationship between Israel and Western imperialist nations. The relationship has shaped the situation on the ground in occupied Palestine. The UK has deep historical involvement, the Balfour declaration of 1917 affirmed UK support for the establishment of Israel in Palestine, more recently there have been US unilateral moves to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, a symbolic show of support for the Israeli state and settlers’ eviction of Palestinians from the city. UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab has also met with Israeli representatives to discuss how to deal with Palestine Action and the resistance movement challenging British complicity in the continued oppression of Palestinians. 

We in the UK must recognise our moral duty to take action against the ethnic cleansing and war crimes being committed in Palestine. This duty exists not only because our government is giving its tacit support to the atrocities being committed by Israeli forces and settlers, but also because the arms and technologies being used to carry out these crimes are produced right here on UK soil. Elbit Systems – which has 10 premises including 4 factories across the UK – supply the IDF with munitions, spy tech, drones and military hardware on a massive scale, facilitating Israeli war crimes.

Elbit products play a central role in the atrocities being committed in Sheikh Jarrah.

Elbit have been awarded huge contracts to fit “intrusion detection systems” and to securitise the illegal walls running through Jerusalem, which divide the Palestinian communities into walled-in ghettos. Their Torch” surveillance system is custom-designed to spy on Palestinians in Jerusalem, monitoring civilian movements and feeding back live information to IDF ‘control centres’. The baton rounds (rubber-coated steel ammunition)  fired at civilians by the IDF – which have this week alone caused Palestinians to lose their eyes, and suffer serious head wounds and fractured bones – are likely manufactured by Elbit. Meanwhile Elbit’s drones – which comprise 85% of the Israeli drone stockpile and are largely UK-manufactured  – are used to surveil and target Palestinians, while allowing the IDF to drop their tear gas over vast numbers of civilians.

That these technologies and munitions are manufactured on UK soil – with the UK government entering into hundred-million pound military procurement contracts with Elbit Systems – should sicken and enrage all people living in the UK. The horrific events in Sheikh Jarrah are not distant, isolated events. They are part of an ongoing process, in which the UK is a contributing partner. We cannot stand idly by while our government provides this ethnic cleansing with legitimacy, or while it provides hundreds of millions of pounds to Elbit, one of the chief architects of this brutality. 

This ethnic cleansing will not be supported in our name, with our taxes, or on our soil. We are calling on the UK government to end its complicity in apartheid, to recognise the war crimes being committed in Sheikh Jarrah, and to nullify its contracts with Elbit.

We are also calling on all conscientious people in this country to recognise their moral duty to take action against apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and the manufacturers of its brutal machinery. Many people will be watching in horror from the UK, unaware of what that they can do to show their solidarity with the people of Sheikh Jarrah and to take a stand against apartheid. Palestine Action will be demonstrating at Elbit’s HQ, at 77 Kingsway, Holborn, London, from 1PM THIS TUESDAY the 11th May. Bring banners, comrades, flags and voices as we show solidarity with the Palestinians of Sheikh Jarrah and continue our fight to #ShutElbitDown.

Palestine Action will be continuing our campaign of direct action – including our first open action’ on Friday the 28th May. All conscientious people should join us on this day at 1PM to ‘Drown the Business of Bloodshed’, outside of Elbit’s HQ (again – 77 Kingsway, London) – bringing everything you’ve got to generate a critical mass of numbers, noise, action and opposition. Anyone enraged by the horrifying images emerging from Jerusalem this week should join Palestine Action today, support our movement in whatever way you can, and keep an eye out for future actions you can join – we can assure you that there will be plenty.