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The pro-Israel lobby sees more Palestinian activists walk free from court

Palestine Action activists occupy the balcony at the offices of Israeli arms company Elbit Systems on August 6, 2021 in London, England [Guy Smallman/Getty Images]
Palestine Action activists occupy the balcony at the offices of Israeli arms company Elbit Systems in England, UK on 6 August 2021 [Guy Smallman/Getty Images]

We all know that political lobby groups can be influential, and that those which back the occupation state of Israel are more influential than most in the West. However, it seems that such influence may be on the wane, especially as far as British courts are concerned. Justice has been seen to be done and, once again, to be done in favour of pro-Palestinian activists who targeted Israel's deadly drone factories in the UK.

In what is being viewed as yet another stunning court victory for the activists with Palestine Action, the latest case against the group has collapsed after the judge ordered the charges to be dropped. During Thursday's hearing, the prosecution offered no evidence after serious failings by the police meant that the three activists could not have a fair trial.

The trial centred on a day of action on 5 July last year when three female Palestine Action members shut down the Vine Property Management site in Birmingham as part of a wider campaign targeting the suppliers, partners and landlords of Israeli drone makers Elbit Systems Ltd. Prior to this, other activists chained the gates shut, occupied the roof and sprayed the site with red paint to signify its complicity in the murder of Palestinians. The action was successful in bringing operations to a halt, as activists demanded an end to the property company's complicity in Elbit's operations and, by extension, in Israeli war crimes.

The charges of criminal damage, aggravated trespass and resisting arrest were levelled at the three women following their occupation of the offices of Vine Property Management. The company trades under the name Fisher German and manage the property used by Elbit's weapons factory in Shenstone.

READ: 'Huge victory' for campaigners as Israel's weapons manufacturer forced to close siteĀ 

The court decision comes just a month after another three activists were also cleared of criminal damage during the blockade of another Elbit factory. In December, "not guilty" verdicts were delivered at Birmingham Magistrates Court to the so-called Elbit Three who were cleared of causing criminal damage when they blockaded Elbit's drone engines factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire, the very factory managed by Vine Property Management. Defence solicitors said during the trial that the company was complicit in Elbit's business of bloodshed, and accused the prosecution of an abuse of process.

Palestine Action members have thus effectively won both legal cases taken against them. Even the courts appear to understand the necessity, and proportionality, of taking action to undermine British complicity in Israeli war crimes.

People gather to support the 'Palestine Action' activists group in Leicester, UK on 21 May 2021 [Vudi Xhymshiti/Anadolu Agency]

People gather to support the 'Palestine Action' activists group in Leicester, UK on 21 May 2021 [Vudi Xhymshiti/Anadolu Agency]

What was different about this latest case involving Palestine Action activists is that it collapsed virtually before it began, enabling the three defendants to walk free after a second humiliating result for Elbit. The activists, represented by Lydia Dagostino at Kelly's Solicitors, didn't even have time to present their case for the necessity of taking action to end British complicity in Israeli war crimes. After the case they were jubilant. "Such activism is necessary and proportionate in light of war crimes and human rights abuses committed with Elbit products," they explained.

"If even the courts system is able to recognise this, and the CPS is unable to present a viable case, Palestine Action has called for an end to police harassment, intimidation and their causing of physical injury when arresting activists, arrests which fail consistently to end in a successful prosecution," said the group in a written statement.

Perhaps British police officers would be better employed by pursuing the real villains out there who are complicit in Israeli war crimes against the Palestinians. Elbit's Hermes and Watchkeeper drones have lethal capabilities and are deployed against Palestinian civilians in the besieged Gaza Strip. The Hermes drone is described as the "backbone" of Israel's surveillance and targeting missions.

READ: Apologies and compensation are simply not good enough for the victims of drone attacks

In a related case, campaign groups in Britain have claimed a "huge victory" against Elbit Systems, which they claim has been forced to shut one of its UK factories following an 18-month 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 the restructuring of its UK operations.

"The production of arms, drones and military technology relies on an interconnected and massive network of complicit firms," said Palestine Action. "We are committed to dismantling this network, demanding that firms cease their partnership with Elbit unless they want to be shut down along with them. The message to all other firms with Palestinian blood on their hands is simple: until you end your facilitation of Israel's brutal repression of Palestinians and sever ties with Elbit, Palestine Action will shut you down and end your contribution to genocide for you."

While this message clearly resonates in British courts, it has yet to bear fruit in the British parliament where, sadly, some politicians are still in Israel's pocket. This is despite the hard-hitting Al Jazeera expose and four-part TV investigation The Lobby, which revealed the scandalous role of an Embassy of Israel employee in the lobbying and targeting of British politicians. That the lobby feels able to "take down" an elected parliamentarian, and has the money to try, is a stain on British politics.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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