Stop arming Israel!

The images coming out of Gaza are horrific. Each morning we wake to news of the rapidly rising number of Palestinian people murdered and maimed by the Israeli state. Israeli bombs target hospitals, ambulances, schools, bakeries and journalists. Israel is attempting genocide of the Palestinian people with the complicity of the governments of the global north, including our own.

The Albanese Labor government is firmly on the path set by the previous Coalition government to make Australia one of the top ten global arms dealers. During a recent Senate hearing, it was revealed that Australia has approved 322 defence exports to Israel over the past six years, including 49 permits for Israel-bound exports last year and 23 in the first three months of this year. Greens defence spokesperson David Shoebridge observed that Australia has “one of the most secretive and unaccountable weapons export systems in the world”.

Elbit Systems, a private Israeli-owned company, is one of many weapons manufacturers that the Australian government has engaged. With the imprimatur of former defence minister and now defence lobbyist Christopher Pyne, Elbit has gained lucrative military, surveillance, training and artificial intelligence research contracts with state and federal governments, and with universities.

Elbit is the largest weapons manufacturer in Israel, providing up to 85 percent of the land-based equipment procured by the country’s military and 85 percent of its drones. Elbit markets its military technology as “field-tested”, by which it means tested in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Gaza. Eighty percent of Elbit’s market is outside of Israel. The company has military contracts with governments in the US, the UK and Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and South America.

It manufactures most of its equipment in Israel, the US, Europe and Brazil. Elbit Systems has a presence on every continent, supplying weapons that are used to suppress democratic uprisings and in attempted genocides of Indigenous peoples. In our own neighbourhood, Elbit Systems sells to the Indonesian government weapons used in the oppression of the people of West Papua.

The Israeli Air Force announced last week that it had used a new bomb in Gaza named the “Iron Sting. This is one of the “field tested” bombs made by Elbit Systems. The announcement followed accounts from doctors and nurses in Gaza describing full thickness burns in an unusual pattern on the bodies of victims. These types of burns had not previously been encountered and it was believed that a new type of bomb was the cause. These burn injuries are even more horrific given that supplies of analgesia, anaesthesia, sterile dressings and other essential items are exhausted in overwhelmed hospitals.

In the face of these crimes against humanity, Whistleblowers, Activists and Community Alliance (WACA) and friends, in cooperation within a global network of #ShutElbitDown activists, took direct action to obstruct Elbit Systems’ operations. Within the space of a week, the Port Melbourne Elbit Systems building was twice occupied by protesters. Between the 19 and 25 October, the company removed its name from the building directory and external signage at 650 Lorimer Street. Its website lists a former address.

While it is only too happy to welcome defence ministers bearing military wish lists and security forces procuring surveillance systems, it seems less welcoming of public scrutiny.

The WACA actions occurred concurrently with protests by Palestine Action at Elbit facilities across the UK and the US. They also coincided with protests by students and staff at RMIT University against RMIT’s joint partnership with Elbit Systems and the Victorian state government. This contract involves a laboratory to research “Human-Machine Teaming” and artificial intelligence. Known as the Centre of Excellence, it is co-located in the Victorian government’s Defence Industry Precinct at Fisherman’s Bend in Port Melbourne.

RMIT has since denied that it has any research engagements with Elbit Systems—an assertion contradicted in reports of the partnership in defence journals last year. The Fisherman’s Bend precinct is being developed on the site of the former General Motors Holden Automotive factory. Rather than embedding the state more firmly in the military-industrial-complex, the Victoria government would better serve the public by establishing a Centre of Excellence for climate change solutions technology and supporting publicly owned manufacturing capacity.

WACA condemns the complicity of the Victorian government and the Australian government with Israeli crimes against humanity. The federal and state governments ought to cancel all contracts with Elbit Systems. Australia is contravening international treaties by supplying arms to war criminals in Israel and worldwide. We further demand that Australia stops arming the Zionist Israeli state.

These demands will never be met by asking politely. Union members should agitate for a union embargo on arms exports in the global arms supply chain. Union leaders should institute an embargo on arms exports to Israel. People everywhere need to join in solidarity with #FreePalestine rallies around the country. All people who are able should protest at Labor parliamentarians’ offices around the country and organise a group of like-minded people to shame the Labor Party for its egregious alliance with the US in supporting Israel’s genocidal attacks on the Palestinian people. We should flood Labor MPs phone lines and inboxes with questions about what they are doing to condemn Israel’s attempted genocide of the Palestinian people.

There are arms companies in cities and towns around the country. Find the one closest to you and organise a protest. See #ShutElbitDown hashtag on social media for inspiration. The mainstream media is using dehumanising language to portray Israel as a righteous victim and all Palestinians as terrorists deserving of punishment. Share factual information on social media, talk to family and friends, invite them to join you in taking action.

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