XR North & Palestine Action shut down Israeli arms factory

Feb 1, 2021

  • Activists from Extinction Rebellion and Palestine Action have come together for the first time to shut down an arms factory owned by Israel’s largest private arms company, Elbit Systems
  • In the early hours of Monday activists scaled the Elbit-Ferranti factory in Oldham, blockaded the gates and splattered the building in blood-red paint, smashed the windows
  • The groups plan to continue their actions against Elbit Systems until it is shut down for good

Activists from Palestine Action and Extinction Rebellion are occupying an Israeli-owned arms factory in Oldham, forcing the site to halt its production of deadly weapons. Several have blocked the entrance of the Elbit Ferranti factory by chaining the gates shut after storming the site in the early hours of Monday morning. Two have climbed onto a ledge on the front of the factory, pouring blood-red paint down the front and spray-painting the words “Shut Elbit Down”. As of yet no arrests have been made and activists continue to shut down the factory, preventing all access to the building.

The action marks the first time the two direct action groups have joined forces. The groups say the new union sends a strong message to Israel’s largest arms firm Elbit that resistance in the UK to its crimes against Palestinians is growing. Extinction Rebellion North and Palestine Action plan to escalate their direct action against Elbit until it is shut down for good. 

The groups also condemn the British Government’s deepening relationship with Elbit Systems, which produces surveillance technology for Israel’s illegal Apartheid wall and 85% of the Israeli military’s drone fleet. The protest comes after the Ministry of Defence handed Elbit a £102 million contract for new “sensor to shoot” systems, earlier this month. Since 2018, the British government has bought £45m worth of military equipment from the arms firm, despite its role in aiding Israel’s war crimes and the occupation of the Palestinian people. Extinction Rebellion and Palestine Action demand the UK government to end its relationship with Elbit and complicity in Israeli apartheid. 

Commenting on the first collaboration between the two groups, a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion North said:

 “We stand resolutely against the apartheid and genocide of the Palestinian people, we will not accept an economy based on devastation, occupation and war. Our communities deserve and want a sustainable, fair and healthy future, for all people.

We recognise the overlapping injustice and exploitation that reinforce the struggles so many of us face. Whether it’s poverty wages, obscene inequality, the destruction of our living world, or racist oppression.

There is a great need to join our voices together, to lift and strengthen our movements for root and branch change.

We hope our collaboration with Palestine Action will help build a movement of movements, shut Elbit Systems down and be another step towards a better world.”

 A member of Palestine Action said about the two groups’ intersecting demands:

“The UK Government has profited from the colonisation of Palestine for over 100 years. Now, they’re allowing Elbit to manufacturer weapons here in the UK which have been “battle-tested” on Palestinian civilians. 

Evidence of Israel’s war crimes, aided by Elbit’s deadly weaponry, has done nothing to stop the British Government from prioritising profits over people and the planet. The change must come from the people, to uphold human rights where our ‘leaders’ refuse to do so. 

This action is the first of its kind, and the first of many more to come – ordinary people coming together to build a movement of movements. We will continue to take direct action until we shut Elbit down and end all complicity in systematic injustice. “

Elbit Systems UK has established a massive presence in the UK  over the last 16 years opening 10 sites in England and Wales, including four weapons factories. Elbit Ferranti in Oldham was bought by Elbit Systems in 2007 for £15 million. Weapons parts produced by Elbit Ferranti include intelligence gathering systems for drones. 

Palestine Action aims to shut down Elbit’s UK operation and has hit the firm’s sites, and those of their landlord LaSalle Investment Management, around 40 times since launching in August 2020. These actions include shutting down UAV Engines in Shenstone on three occasions (the most notorious of which allegedly cost the company £145,000), and a series of occupations and public protests at Elbit’s London HQ.

Extinction Rebellion North’s overall mission is to mobilise 3.5% of the population to achieve system change. The group connects and builds resilient communities by working and supporting one another across the region, aiming to create a world that is fit for generations to come.


Notes to editors 

Palestine Action is a direct-action network of groups and individuals formed with the mandate of taking direct action against Elbit Systems’ UK locations at grassroots level, calling for them all to be shut down and for the British Government to end its complicity in Israeli apartheid.

Extinction Rebellion is an international apolitical network using non-violent direct action to persuade governments to act justly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency. 

Ministry of Defence signs £102 million contract with Elbit Systems UK for “sensor-to-shoot” system: https://www.army-technology.com/news/uk-mod-orders-elbit-detect-and-destroy-system/

Ministry of Defence has bought £46 million worth of military equipment from Elbit Systems since 2018-2020: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-10-08-ties-that-bind-britain-buys-46m-of-israeli-military-equipment-and-stations-troops-in-israel/

Human Rights Watch investigation into 2009 Israeli drones attacks on civilians in Gaza: https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/iopt0609webwcover_0.pdf

Amnesty calls on UK government to halt Israeli arms sales over evidence killer drone parts made in UK factory: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/amnesty-urges-suspension-uk-arms-sales-israel-evidence-revealed-israel-military

Elbit surveillance technology for Israel’s aparthied wall: https://www.facing-finance.org/en/database/cases/elbit-systems-surveillance-system-torch-for-the-separation-barrier-in-israelpalestine/

Role of Elbit drone in murder of four children playing on Gaza beach in 2014: https://theintercept.com/2018/08/11/israel-palestine-drone-strike-operation-protective-edge/

More on Elbit’s drones in Gaza: https://corporatewatch.org/elbit-systems-company-profile-2/

Elbit’s military-grade drones trialled for use in English Channel against refugee crossings:: https://privacyinternational.org/news-analysis/4124/dear-home-secretary-channel-crossings-are-already-inviable-asylum-seekers-and

Previous Elbit Systems factory shutdowns

3-day rooftop occupation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyhxhNuaGZ0 &https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uk-israel-drone-elbit-factory-palestine-occupation

Balfour day synchronised actions:https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2020/11/04/campaigners-take-direct-action-as-palestinians-remember-balfours-shameful-declaration/

Protesters shut down Israeli drones factory for a third time in under six months: https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/w/protesters-shut-down-israeli-drones-factory-third-time-under-six-months