Demonstrators in New York City gathered on Sunday, 9 October to stand in solidarity with Palestine Action and build the campaign to #ShutElbitDown. The demonstration, organized by Samidoun NY/NJ, Within Our Lifetime and the Palestinian Youth Movement, gathered outside the MetLife building, which has offices of both the Bank of New York Mellon Corporation and Barclays. The two banks are major investors in Elbit Systems, the notorious Israeli arms manufacturer marketing and profiting from the death, colonization and oppression of the Palestinian people.
Elbit Systems has been targeted in a strong, successful campaign by Palestine Action, particularly in Britain. Direct actions at the company’s arms factories and offices have cost it significant amounts of damage, while preventing the factories from producing weapons for days on end. Two of Elbit’s British facilities have already been closed as a result of Palestine Action’s direct actions and advocacy.
Following these direct actions and the hit to their bottom line, the British government is collaborating with Elbit to prosecute Palestine Action activists. The “Elbit Eight” are facing felony charges, with trumped-up allegations of “blackmail” that could carry serious prison terms. Many Palestine Action activists have already faced lesser charges, with the vast majority defeating these charges in court or having them thrown out or cancelled before the hearings even begin due to lack of evidence, unlikelihood of a conviction or improper police actions.
The Elbit Eight trial was scheduled to begin on 10 October, but was postponed days before until November 2023. The New York City action not only demanded an end to the prosecution of Palestine Action activists but also emphasized why people in the U.S. — and New York in particular — will be organizing and building to #ShutElbitDown globally. The defense campaign is highlighting that in reality it is #ElbitIsGuilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, in Palestine and internationally, not Palestine Action.
After the rally outside the MetLife building, participants marched through the building on the ground floor to Grand Central Terminal as the large station echoed with chants and calls for Palestinian liberation. Demonstrators then marched to the British consulate, rallying in a courtyard in the tower’s property and demanding British officials end their ongoing prosecutions of Palestine Action activists in support of Elbit’s arms manufacturing.
Demonstrators also drew attention and expressed their solidarity and support for the 30 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, with an additional 20 joining the strike on 9 October. The hunger strikers are demanding an end to administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial, resisting the occupation from behind bars.
During the demonstration, Laila Boutros, Joe Catron and Hassan spoke on behalf of Samidoun NY/NJ.
Joe Catron provided an overview of the #ShutElbitDown campaign, Palestine Action’s activities and the power of direct action to extract a meaningful cost from occupation arms dealers.
Laila Boutros delivered the following speech:
Starting in July 2021, Palestine Action’s #ShutElbitDown campaign has utilized direct action to shut down Elbit Systems factories and headquarters throughout Britain. Elbit has taken Palestine Action to court many times over their direct action campaigns targeting the Elbit factories and headquarters, but none of these attempts have led to significant legal consequences. A number of these cases have been delayed significantly, while many activists being charged have walked free after charges being dropped due to “unrealistic prospects of conviction” and Elbit’s continuous failure to provide adequate evidence to the courts. Just last month, five activists had all of their charges dropped following action taken in July at Elbit subsidiary ‘UAV Engines’, where combat drone parts and engines are manufactured.
The latest development in the #ElbitIsGuilty campaign has been spurred by the #Elbit8 case, in which 8 Palestine Action activists were set to face trial on October 10th for charges of burglary, criminal damage and blackmail. The 3 activists facing blackmail charges could face up to 14 years imprisonment each. Last week, the activists were informed that their trial has been postponed to next year, November 2023.
The #ElbitIsGuilty campaign is a campaign that encompasses all of Palestine Action’s legal battles. This campaign seeks to expose Elbit’s violent crimes against the Palestinian people and expose the truth that Elbit is guilty. Elbit would like to hold the Palestine Action activists accountable for their acts of resistance against Elbit, but they are hypocrites. Elbit advertises their products as battle-tested in Gaza, battle-tested on Palestinian people in Gaza, they are proud of the crimes they have committed. They say the Palestine Action activists are the criminals, but they are the real criminals.
I will now read a passage from comrade George Habash, Al Hakim, the speech that he delivered at the Jordan International Hotel in Amman in 1970 to hostages following a resistance operation in the face of US-backed Jordanian regime attacks against the Palestinian revolution.
Al Hakim says – “After 22 years of injustice, inhumanity, living in camps with nobody caring for us, we feel that we have the very full right to protect our revolution. We have all the right to protect our revolution. Our code of morals is our revolution. What saves our revolution, what helps our revolution, what protects our revolution is right, is very right and very honorable and very noble and very beautiful, because our revolution means justice, means having back our homes, having back our country, which is a very just and noble aim.”
Al Hakim was speaking of the brave Palestinian resistance in Palestine and elsewhere in the Arab world, but we know that in order to win, we must fight back everywhere – whether it is in Palestine, New York City, London, or anywhere else in the world. We all have a right and a duty to resist the murderous Zionist entity and all institutions that support and benefit from the Zionist entity’s genocide of the Palestinian people. Our comrades in Palestine Action have taken this duty very seriously and we will not let them fight alone.
Hassan delivered the following speech:
Elbit systems essentially wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the constant siege of Gaza which is punctuated by regular full scale assaults. In the 2014 war on Gaza Elbit supplied all manner of missiles drones and surveillance technology that were crucial to the offensive. In addition, shortly thereafter in 2015, Elbit was contracted to build a new “smart wall” around Gaza that included a 130-foot deep underground wall.
Both the Bank of NY Mellon and Barclays, whose major offices in the US are right in this building, underwrite these murderous quote unquote innovations. They assure Elbit continues to profit from the genocide of Palestinians.
During the July peak of the 2014 war Elbit’s profits increased by over 6%, a huge increase for a single month. The war on Gaza is not just it’s main source of income, it’s also a primary source of marketing. Since this was the first time Elbit’s drones were used in a full-scale ground assault their drones were now marketed as ‘battle-tested’, a moniker that is deeply attractive to repressive governments the world over.
After the 2014 war the Swiss government approved a 280 million dollar deal to purchase the ‘battle-tested’ Hermes 900 drones. Shortly thereafter, the UK Ministry of Defense signed a contract for a joint venture to the tune of 1.6 billion dollars with Elbit and a French company, Thales systems, to produce drones similar to the Hermes drones. The same drones were then purchased by the Brazillian government for use against protests during the World Cup. About half of Elbit’s revenue come from these weapons exports.
Again in 2021, during the most recent assault on Gaza, Elbit saw a huge revenue boost, this time over 30% leading to record-breaking sales that year. It is this constant deluge of war that has allowed Elbit Systems to become the largest exporter of drones in the world.
The biggest threat to that market dominance and to the company as a whole is Palestine Action in the UK and that’s why we support them.
Repressive forces around the world have applauded Elbit systems for making it easier to quash protests and oppress poor and struggling people. That’s why the work of the Elbit eight is so crucial. They’re fighting not just for Palestine but so that all of us, the world over, are not subjected to these death machines for the simple crime of wanting to be free.
Is it right to rebel, Elbit Systems go to hell!
Nerdeen Kiswani, chair of Within Our Lifetime, spoke at the conclusion of the rally, emphasizing: “It is Elbit that is guilty! It is Elbit that must be shut down!” highlighting that Palestine Action’s direct actions interrupt the flow of weaponry to occupied and colonized Palestine.
Samidoun NY/NJ, Within Our Lifetime and the Palestinian Youth Movement will continue to organize to #ShutElbitDown and support Palestine Action in New York City. Please contact Samidoun NY/NJ on Twitter and/or Instagram to get involved in the campaign. Visit Palestine Action’s website to find out more about how you can support #ShutElbitDown, donate to their work and expand the pressure on Israeli arms dealers.