Scores of people staged a protest outside the International Armoured Vehicles Expo hosted at Twickenham Rugby Stadium yesterday.
The pro-Palestine protest attracted a mix of groups, including the local Quakers, the Richmond and Kingston Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Jewish Network for Palestine, and some Buddhists, all came to show their opposition to the arms companies in attendance, which regularly sell weapons to Israel.
The local PSC said that Israeli arms company Elbit Systems, and Caterpillar, a company which stands accused of selling bulldozers to the Israeli army, would be attending the event, which runs from 24-27 January.
“It’s absolutely shocking. I live about six yards away from the stadium, and every game that comes on screaming past our house. It’s a family atmosphere, it’s a carnival atmosphere; what a stadium should be about,” said Member of PSC’s Executive Iyas Al Qasem.
“We hear about all these wonderful activities that the stadium should be hosting, but we don’t hear about it when they’re hosting conferences about selling arms to the world’s most heinous human rights abusers.”
Jewish Network for Palestine activist David described the event as totally inappropriate for Twickenham stadium, and said his organisation was there to promote the pro-Palestine Jewish voice. He said: “The reason Jewish Network for Palestine is here is because it’s important that there’s a Jewish voice.”
“There’s lots of Jewish individuals and organisations that hate what’s going on in Israel. The racism, the theft of land, property, Palestinian lives and the theft of the Jewish identity.”
Esher Quakers group said the arms fair stood against their longstanding “peace testimony”, which says weapons and violent solutions to conflict are not the way.
“We were prompted by the local PSC, who organised this, and we’re fellow travellers. We [also] believe what they’re demonstrating against – the glorification of military hardware – is wrong,” says Fred.
“Sport is meant to be friendship and crossing borders. It’s meant to be inclusive, but yet military weaponry is about power and oppressing people,” fellow Quaker Mona said.
The International Armoured Vehicle fair boasts speakers from military and arms companies, and includes seminars about the benefits of armoured vehicles, keynote speeches from the British military, and the impact of climate change on the armed forces, and chances to network with potential customers.
The International Armoured Vehicle fair’s organisers did not respond to MEMO‘s request for comment.