Campaign groups have claimed a "huge victory" against Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems, which they claim has been forced to shut one of its UK branches following an 18-month long sustained direct protest by Palestine Action.
Elbit sold off its Ferranti Power and Control business in Manchester to TT Electronics for $12 million in a deal which the Israeli firm completed, apparently, as part of its restructuring of its UK operations.
Campaign groups, however, maintain that sustained direct protests since summer 2020 have cost the Israeli firm millions of dollars, making it infeasible to keep its factories open in Oldham, Greater Manchester.
The first action taken in Oldham by Palestine Action was in late August 2020. Blood-red paint, symbolising Palestinian bloodshed, was sprayed across the doors and windows of the building. Direct action continued though the year with activists occupying the site and undermining the future operations of the factory by covering equipment and computers in red paint. It's said to have caused over $100,000 worth of damages. A further half a million dollars in damages were incurred, say the campaigners, which forced the closure of the factory for a number of weeks.
More recently, in August of this year, activists blockaded the factory – obstructing roads with vehicles 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 close 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. Campaign groups say that 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.
"The sale of Ferranti and the closure of the Oldham factory is a huge victory for the movement," said a spokesperson for Palestine Action. "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 it's 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."
Palestine Action maintains that the site had been targeted due to the crimes committed against Palestinian civilians using Elbit Ferranti products. The Oldham factory is said to have been 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 manufactures 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 – specifically designed for operations in densely built urban areas, such as Gaza.
MEMO contacted Elbit Systems UK over the reasons for its decision to sell its Oldham site. There has been no response to our request for comment.
Note: This page was updated at 16:45 GMT on January 12, 2022. An earlier version of this page incorrectly stated that the campaign was by 'Oldham Peace & Justice Group and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign' instead of 'Palestine Action'.