Activists Face the First Palestine Action Crown Court Trial

Oct 17, 2022

The Act of Lawfare

Although many know Palestine Action for the war it has waged against Elbit Systems – Israel’s largest arms company – years of tangible success has also put the group at the forefront of a fight against state-repression being levelled by the British legal system. The #ShenstoneSix are one example. 

In November this year, these six activists will face charges of ‘unlawful imprisonment’, the highest possible sentence being life behind bars, for action taken at an Israeli weapons factory, in Shenstone, Staffordshire. Activists were met with the dramatic charges after they chained the gates of Elbit-owned UAV Engines, before mounting the roof and causing more than £50,000 worth of damage in February 2021.

To justify the charges the courts will argue the activists ‘unlawfully imprisoned’ the security team and staff when they locked the gates. The activists themselves will tell you that, rather than endangering life, they acted in defence of (Palestinian) life, their action leaving the site inoperable for weeks on end, grounding the production of parts used in Israeli combat drones.

Such spurious allegations only demonstrate to what lengths Britain’s so-called justice system will go in order to supply the illegal Israeli military occupation and grease the machinery of the global weapons trade. And, as with all Palestine Action’s legal cases, the desperation of the British state to prevent people from standing with Palestine, and the fragility of Elbit Systems, is once again on display.

British Complicity Runs Deep

Acts of lawfare such as this are characteristic of the British State and its ongoing commitment to enabling Israel’s violent domination over Palestine, a process that began in 1918 with the Balfour Agreement. Today, this includes the criminalisation of British citizens should they challenge the existence of the Zionist entity. For Palestine Action this simply illustrates what was already known: concrete action and transnational solidarity are tangible threats to, and immensely feared by, the Apartheid State, because its existence relies upon international complicity.

The court proceedings for the Shenstone Six are currently set to commence on Monday 7th November, although the defendants were originally set for the stands back in January. The persistent postponement of hearings and trials is not unfamiliar to the direct action network, oftentimes owing to Elbit’s inability to prepare sufficient evidence to prosecute or refute the claims made against them.

A History of Resistance at UAV Engines

UAV Engines has been a target for Palestine Action since the campaign to #ShutElbitDown began over two years ago. Since then, the ‘Siege at Shenstone’ has represented a hotbed of resistance against Israel’s largest weapons provider; doors have been shut, tools have been downed, and the very gates that were once chained have been busted. More recently, activists set up camp in the surrounding area, embodying the enduring spirit and permanence of the movement.

After one month, however, the camp was raided; false evidence was planted, activists were arrested and bailed from the site, amounting to unlawful police conduct – yet another example of Britain’s role as collaborator. Yet, consistent actions performed by willing citizens demonstrates: a significant number are genuinely ready to stand for Palestine, despite the British state’s attempts to suppress the movement.

The ever-increasing local support and solidarity found in Shenstone has fortified resistance to Britain’s continued complicity in the ongoing Nakba. It is crucial to note the role local community played in ousting Elbit out of Oldham, in January 2022. Cumulatively, millions of pounds worth of damage, months’ worth of closures and disruption to ‘business as usual’, has hurt the business’s reputation and profits. Regardless of trumped-up charges, the fight against Elbit will continue in earnest alongside the people of Shenstone – it’s resistance until victory.

Above all, in their the almost-poetic juxtaposition, the examples of local, grassroots solidarity and outrageous state-repression reveal in the age of globalisation nothing operates in a silo. When one community stands for another, the powers that try to be will always strike. We, the People of Britain, have a duty to stand with the People of Palestine, to undermine and mitigate the threat they face of Israeli-used, British-made weapons and technology.

Join Palestine Action in our twice-weekly workshops.

Stand with the #ShenstoneSix, as they fight to prove #ElbitIsGuilty. Mobilise from 9:30AM at Stafford Crown Court, Victoria Square, Stafford, ST16 2QQ.

More information on the #ShenstoneSix: