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Workers blockade death merchants

Workers blockade death merchants

Workers for a Free Palestine have come out this morning with local residents of arms factories, using direct action to stop the flow of arms to Rafah. They call on the government to follow the example of Canada, but they do not wait for their inevitable inaction:

This morning, workers and trade unionists have shut down arms factories in England and Scotland which produce components for F-35 fighter jets – the world’s most advanced fighter jets, which are currently being used by Israeli forces in its bombardment of Gaza – to disrupt the flow of arms to Israel as it prepares a ground invasion of Rafah. 

Over 600 workers and trade unionists are blockading these arms factories under the banner “Workers for a Free Palestine” following the Canadian Government’s announcement last night that it will halt future arms sales to Israel. 

Zad, a housing support worker and union member taking part in the blockade in Cheltenham, said: 

“Israel is on the brink of invading the very area they told the people of Gaza it was safe for them to flee to. Such atrocities could not take place without the political and military support of governments like Britain. The Canadian government has just shown how easy it is to end that complicity. 

We’re demanding our government follows in Canada’s footsteps by immediately halting arms supplies to Israel before it launches this offensive in Rafah using British-made bombs. But we are not waiting for this genocide to appease the Prime Minister to act. We’re taking action ourselves to stop the flow of arms from our shores to Israel before an assault on Rafah, which the United Nations has made clear will cause catastrophic levels of death and destruction and plunge Gaza into famine.”

The health workers, teachers, hospitality workers, academics, artists, and others, who are members of a wide range of trade unions, including Unite, UNISON, GMB, the NEU, the BMA, UCU, BECTU, and BFAWU, shutting down GE Aviation Systems in Cheltenham and Leonardo UK in Edinburgh. They are demanding that the UK Government follow Canada by urgently halting arms supplies to Israel before it invades Rafah and supports an immediate and permanent ceasefire.  

In a defiant response to the government’s threats to curb rights to protest in the UK under the guise of “anti-extremism”, these blockades will form part of a month of disruptive direct action answering a call by Palestinian unionists on workers around the world to help stop their governments’ complicity in war crimes being committed by Israel. 

The UK has continued to provide military support to Israel despite its illegal occupation and widely documented war crimes. The Ministry of Defence has recently admitted that nine Israeli military aircraft have been allowed to land and take off from British bases. Nearly 50 Royal Air Force aircraft have been flown to Israel since 7 October. 

UK industry provides 15% of the components for F-35 stealth combat aircraft, and this production will be disrupted at the sites targeted today. Hundreds of politicians from 12 countries have been calling for an arms embargo on Israel as a moral and legal necessity, and the Court of Appeal in The Hague recently ordered the Netherlands to ban the export of F-35 components, citing potential complicity in ongoing Israeli human rights abuses. 

The UK Government’s arms export criteria include the same obligation as the Netherlands’ criteria relied on by the Dutch court: exports must be halted where there is a clear risk such weapons may be used in the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law. This raises questions about the UK Government’s compliance with its own legal obligations. 

Cam, a local resident taking part in the Edinburgh blockade, said:

We can’t allow arms being used to massacre Palestinians to be supplied in our name and funded by our taxes, and as local residents, we don’t want murder being manufactured on our doorstep. It makes us feel complicit. 

We don’t blame the workers at these sites. We blame the bosses who decide to sell these components to Israel so they can be used in an ongoing genocide. As Israel threatens to invade Rafah, predicted to cause an unthinkably brutal bloodbath, we couldn’t stand by silently while a factory down the road resources that massacre. We had to act.” 

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