Elbit lying once again: Somerset Council must evict firm fuelling genocide

Apr 30, 2024

On Tuesday, 23rd April, Councillors at Somerset Council voted to explore options for the removal of Elbit Systems from the property leased to them by the council. Somerset Council is the owner of the ‘Aztec West 600’ building which serves as Elbit’s headquarters in Bristol, from which they oversee their British operations.

The motion followed Palestine Action’s campaign of direct action, which saw meetings disrupted, offices sprayed in blood-red paint, and blockaded, all to highlight the bloodshed with which Elbit’s profits – and their rent for the Aztec West building – are paid for with Palestinian blood. Somerset residents turned out en-masse in support of the campaign, raising their voices against the Council’s relationship with Israel’s war machine, and highlighting the Council’s duty – under both domestic and international law – to evict Elbit, under the provisions of the Genocide Convention, European Convention on Human Rights and International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid [1].

Despite this legal duty and the democratic mandate for eviction, the Council’s Chief Executive reversed course only days later after legal action was threatened by Elbit itself [2]. Elbit’s lawyers claimed that it is false to suggest that they are suppliers of weaponry to the Israeli government or military, prompting an apology from Somerset Council.

These denials by Elbit must be challenged in the strongest possible terms. Palestine Action know well, and have seen it time and again in Courtrooms, that Elbit are careful to distance themselves from their ownership, their products, and the murderous results of their business, but the facts speak for themselves.

Elbit Systems UK is wholly owned by its Israeli parent company, Elbit Systems Ltd. The latter, Israel’s largest weapons company, supplies an incredible amount of weaponry to the Israeli occupation forces. According to Israeli media, Elbit provides up to 80% of the Israeli military’s land based military equipment [3] and 85% of its military drones [4]. It supplies vast numbers of munitions and missiles – including the ‘Iron Sting’ recently developed and deployed for the first time in the 2023-2024 Genocide in Gaza [5], along with wide categories of surveillance technologies, targeting systems, and innumerate other armaments.

This heinous company and its British operations are one-and-the-same. Despite the great lengths that Elbit UK has always taken to distance itself from its parent company, we know that Elbit UK is wholly owned by its Israeli counterpart. 

Elbit Ltd CEO Bezhalal Machlis, who is on the board of Elbit UK, said in the company’s latest investor conference that “Of course they are all Elbit’s people it doesn’t matter if the company in England is called Elbit UK and the British CEO is in England […] it’s 100% owned by Elbit. […] It’s not a different company, it’s a part of Elbit and when you report on manpower we have 20k employees, 13k in Israel and 7k overseas.” [6]

He also noted “we are a major supplier of armaments to many countries in the world, first and foremost to the IDF, and we are making great efforts to supply the needs of the IDF” [7]

The face that Elbit UK puts out, versus that of Elbit Israel, are therefore markedly different – Elbit Israel is proud of this relationship to Israel’s military, but Elbit UK must attempt to deny it, because it knows that Israel’s genocide in Gaza is far less popular in Britain than in Israel. And yet, when Israeli Ambassador to Britain Tzipi Hotzelvy made an appearance in July 2023 to Elbit’s new facility in Bristol, she directly praised Elbit UK as an ‘Israeli company’, and showed off a number of Elbit products known to be used by the Israeli armed forces, including Torch-X command and control technologies, radio systems, and night vision goggles [8].

Regardless of the parent company’s operations, we can also say that, domestically, Elbit Systems UK has long promoted falsehoods about its supplies to Israel. They deny that their company provides weapons to Israel, but we know that Elbit UK subsidiaries have a non-disclosure agreement in place to bar discussion of their exports made “for military end use by the State of Israel” [9]. And these exports are significant: according to the CAAT database, Elbit UK and its subsidiaries have applied for and been granted at least 95 weapons-export licenses to Israel since 2008 [10], for parts including targeting systems and drone components, the latter being made most recently in 2023 [11]. Freedom of Information requests identify a further 75 licenses not listed on the CAAT database, including 11 Direct Licenses in an ‘Extant’ state as-of March 2024. Whether they are supplied directly to the Israeli military, or to the parent company and then to the Israeli military, makes no difference – but Elbit UK appear to rely on the indirect supply chain, and the non-disclosure agreements in place, to make their denials.

Take, for instance, their Kent-based subsidiary Instro Precision. Instro has been a long-time supplier of the Israeli military regime, with 7 extant licenses alongside dozens of expired military export licenses [12] representing the depth of their collaboration with the Israeli occupation. These licenses include ML5b surveillance/target acquisition systems – namely the XACT th64 sights, which Instro have sold in quantities of thousands to Israel, likely outfitting their sniper regiments manning the Gaza border – along with components for military ground vehicles (ML6a), and other military electronic equipment (ML11). Elbit Systems has numerous such subsidiaries in Britain – Instro Precision, UAV Engines, and UAV Tactical Systems – and the Bristol site is a logistical centre which serves to co-ordinate these businesses’ operations and business and export activity.

On top of this, the ownership structure makes clear that all Elbit UK profits are returned to Elbit Israel. Abhorrently, too, Elbit UK’s procurement relationship with the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) is, itself, party to this genocide. Take Elbit’s subsidiary UAV Tactical Systems, Leicester. Not only does this factory make significant exports of drone parts to Israel, but the drone it manufactures for the MOD is based entirely upon the Israeli’s Hermes drone – meaning that it repackages it’s genocidal devices for the British market.

All of this speaks directly to the legal duty that Somerset Council has, its obligation to prevent genocide and its duties not to be complicit in the commission or facilitation of war crimes in Gaza. Elbit’s track record of lying about its exports [13], its attempts to distance itself from the Israeli occupation, and its threats of legal action, do not change the fact that it is, at its core, a criminal, genocidal enterprise. Somerset Council must obey international and domestic law, and follow the mandate set forth by the eviction motion, and force Elbit out of Aztec West.


If you would like any further information on Palestine action, please contact media@palestineaction.org

Palestine Action is a direct-action network of groups and individuals formed with the mandate of taking action against the sites of Elbit Systems and other companies complicit in Israeli genocide and apartheid, calling for all such sites to be shut down.

[1] – https://www.pilc.org.uk/news/pressure-mounts-to-evict-israels-largest-supplier-of-weapons-from-its-council-owned-headquarters/

[2] – www.bbc.co.uk/news/articles/c2len5jlzqpo

[3] – https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/business/elbit-systems-to-buy-imi-in-major-israeli-defense-merger-1.5891233

[4] – https://corporatewatch.org/elbit-systems-company-profile-2/#sdendnote2sym

[5] – https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2023/11/17/israels-weapons-industry-is-the-gaza-war-its-latest-test-lab

[6] – https://youtu.be/eEexR-3VrjI?t=4700 [1:18:20]

[7] – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2705&v=eEexR-3VrjI&embeds_referring_euri=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F&source_ve_path=Mjg2NjY&feature=emb_logo  [0:45:00]

[8] – https://caat.org.uk/news/bristol-residents-target-elbit-over-israeli-arms-exports/

[9] – https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/decision-notices/2023/4025409/ic-185371-b0y3.pdf  [Pages 1 and 5]

[10] – https://caat.org.uk/data/exports-uk/licence-list?region=Israel&company=Elbit+Systems

[11] – https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2024-04-22/22998/

[12] https://caat.org.uk/data/exports-uk/licence-list?region=Israel&company=Elbit+Systems. Data on extant licenses is derived from FOI disclosures which can be provided on request.

[13] – https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/david-cronin/arms-dealer-caught-telling-lies-over-exports-israel