Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes Palestine Action and all the campaigners who have bravely taken direct action to confront Elbit in Oldham, who have brought about this victory and ensured that this Israeli arms factory will no longer be manufacturing weapons of death in Oldham.
This victory speaks to the successful nature of strong direct action to impose a meaningful and material cost upon the profiteers of the colonization of Palestine and Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people. Palestine Action has pledged to continue and escalate the actions to #ShutElbitDown, and this victory can and must inspire people around the world to intensify our actions to boycott Israel and shut down the merchants of death marketing weaponry “battle-tested” on Palestinians.
We are republishing the full statement of Palestine Action below:
After 18 months of sustained direct action taken at the Elbit Ferranti site in Oldham, Greater Manchester, with 36 people arrested, Elbit have now sold Ferranti technologies, with its continued operation in Oldham appearing unfeasible. Activists have occupied, blockaded, smashed, disrupted, and protested regularly at the site, ultimately succeeding in ending the factory’s production of specialist military technologies for Israel’s fleet of combat drones.
In December 2021, anonymous sources revealed to Palestine Action that mass redundancy notices had been issued to staff working at the factory, and that premises were being cleared in preparation for Elbit leaving the site. Today, it was publicised that Ferranti has indeed been sold to TT Electronics, a British electronics firm. This major restructuring – selling a subsidiary which Elbit has consistently promoted as a success and which has helped Elbit to land multi-million pound contracts with the British government – suggests that Elbit is under significant pressure to tighten its UK operations. This is most likely due to the impossibility of continuing at the often-occupied site, the massive financial impact of occupations, and an attempt to avoid more bad publicity.
Early in 2021, Elbit attempted to make the Oldham factory a viable production site by improving security. Elbit increased spending massively for round-the-clock security, and also benefitted from a rapid police response for protestor removal. Neither of these measures succeeded in keeping out activists, with the site continuing to be targetted regularly.
The first action taken in Oldham by Palestine Action, in late August 2020, involved spraying premises in blood-red paint, symbolising the Palestinian bloodshed made possible with Elbit Ferranti technologies. Following this, actions accelerated. Windows were smashed in an occupation in November 2020, while an action taken in collaboration with XR North in February 2021 caused over £20,000 in damages. In April 2021, activists not only occupied the site but gained entry to the factoy, smashing the roof, windows, air vents, and undermining future operations by covering equipment and computers in red paint – over £100,000 of damages were caused, and the site remained shut for well over a week. On July 5th, three activists gained entry to the site, allegedly causing £500,000 of damage and closing the factory for a number of weeks. More recently, in August of this year, activists blockaded the factory – blocking roads with vehcles and locking onto gates – and occupied the factory itself again. There have been a number of other actions taken at the Oldham site, with the factory forced to closed for a significant number of weeks in total due to damage caused.
The site has also been subject to regular protests called by Oldham Peace and Justice and Manchester Palestine Action, with large crowds gathering outside the factory on a weekly basis since the massive and brutal bombardments of Gaza by Israel in May. Sustained pressure, through both protests and an extended campaign of effective direct action, has generated immense challenges for Elbit, who have now sold the subsidiary and left the site.
A Palestine Action spokesperson has stated:
“The sale of Ferranti and the closure of the Oldham factory is a huge victory for the movement. So far, our actions have undermined and disrupted operations – but this news vindicates our long-term strategy. Direct action works – the brave individuals who occupied the factory over the past year can proudly say that drone technologies are no longer in production in Oldham. But its not enough that just one of these death-factories shuts down. We want to see Elbit itself shut down for good, and all of their businesses forced out of Britain – we will keep escalating our actions until that happens.”
This site had been targetted due to the crimes committed against Palestinian civilians using Elbit Ferranti products. The Oldham factory was used for the manufacture of specialist military products and technology, including the SkEyepersistent surveillance system aboard Elbit’s Hermes 450 and 900 drones. Ferranti also manufacture the SpectroXR ultra long-range imaging system for Hermes drones. Hermes drones have been used extensively by Israel in bombardments of Gaza, notably during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 in which over 2,200 Palestinians were killed, including 526 children. The site was also used for the production of IronVision helmets for use in battle tanks such as the Carmel – specficially designed for operations in densely built urban areas, such as Gaza.