Palestine Action have marked the United Nation’s ‘World Day of Social Justice’ with an action calling out the UN’s hypocrisy: using a banner drop over Westminster Bridge, lighting smoke flares, and delivering a speech stating that UN must cease its procurement of Israeli military drones. The Activists then marched to the United Nations Green, home to the United Nations black plaque monument. Marking the UN’s day of ‘Social Justice‘, Palestine Action are exposing the injustice for the Palestinians upon whom these weapons were tested.
As part of its ‘stabilisation’ mission in Mali, the UN deployed Hermes900 drones manufactured by Israel’s Elbit Systems since at least 2016. These drones were contracted through Elbit partner Thales, a French company with whom Elbit jointly operate the Leicester-based UAV Tactical Systems drone brand. UAV Tactical Systems (U-TacS) employees were those flying these Hermes drones in Mali on behalf of the UN.
The Hermes drones are infamous in Palestine. The Hermes 900 model, used by the UN, was been debuted in Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, in which 840 Palestinians were killed by drone strikes alone, and 89 entire families were eliminated. The 900 is also used for extrajudicial killings, with Israel only recently announcing that these ‘surveillance’ drones are, in fact, armed. Its sister drone, the Hermes 450, was used in the killing of four boys playing on a beach in Gaza in 2014, as well as the killing of ambulance drivers and refugees in Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon. These drones have been openly marketed by Elbit as ‘battle tested’ or ‘combat proven’ – against Palestinians, and are the drones which the UN find it appropriate to fly in its ‘peace keeping’ missions.
At the time of signing the contract, the UAV Tactical Systems company held multiple export licenses for the sale of arms to apartheid Israel, including for unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) or components thereof, meaning that the UN contract commissioned drones from the same factory which was selling drones to the Israeli military. Furthermore, the UN contract signed in 2016 was a lifeline for the UAV Tactical Systems brand, boosting revenues at a time when its Watchkeeper drone programme failed to bring customers. UAV Tactical Systems’ parent company, Elbit Systems, additionally provided UN African operations with ‘integrated camp surveillance‘ and ‘counter UAV‘ technologies.
The contract for the UN’s Mali operation is now open for renewal, and this action has been taken to send a clear message: if the UN wants to preach ‘social justice’, then they must immediately cease their procurement of Elbit’s killer drones.
This partnership with Elbit Systems, and its subsidiary UAV Tactical Systems, surely contravenes the UN’s statements on drone technologies elsewhere. The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings has explicitly warned against the use of drones in targetted assassinations, as the Hermes has been used to do.
From the banner drop at Westminster Bridge, the activists delivered a speech:
“The UN buys drones from Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms firm. Elbit’s drones are marketed as “battle-tested”, because they develop them on the captive population of Gaza – which the UN warned would be uninhabitable by 2020 – its 2023! […]
They are buying drones from the Leicester factory, the same site which makes military equipment for Israel to use against Palestinians. By purchasing Elbit’s drones, the UN are sustaining the military occupation of Palestine […]
We’re here to call out the UN’s hypocrisy and demand they publicly announce the end of all current contracts with Elbit and ban all future ones. On the UN Social Justice Day, will the UN decide to practice what they preach?“
Image: Guy Smallman