Press release for Thales protest, April 8th

tumblr_nfk05mCRql1qkwgrqo1_500   Protest at Thales Arms Factory in Crawley, West Sussex
“Drones Off Our Doorstep!”
Friday 8 April 2016, 11.00-13.30
Unrestricted Press Release: 5 April 2016

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Human rights campaigners from across the southeast of England will demonstrate outside the Thales arms factory in Crawley on Friday April 8th, to protest the company’s collaboration with Israeli arms giant Elbit Systems in the manufacture of drones used against the Palestinian population of Gaza.

Thales (UK) works with the Israeli arms company Elbit Systems to develop the Watchkeeper drone, modelled on Elbit’s Hermes 450 drone used extensively over Gaza. Thales therefore profits from Israeli war crimes and is a major target in the STOP ARMING ISRAEL campaign.

The protest is part of a wider campaign to achieve an end to the lucrative two-way arms trade between the UK and Israel.

Why Thales?
The UK’s Watchkeeper drone has been developed under a £1 billion joint venture contract awarded by the UK Ministry of Defence to Thales UK and Israel’s Elbit Systems, allowing the UK military to benefit from technologies that have been ‘field tested’ on the Palestinians.

The Watchkeeper drone project illustrates the collaboration between the UK government and Israel, and the joint working between private arms companies from both countries.

The Crawley factory is one of Thales’s largest facilities in the UK. Thales’s other sites have been targeted for protest by human rights protesters. For example, in September 2014 activists from Glasgow Palestine Action staged a protest at the Thales site in Govan (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-29325338). Several of Thales’s sites in France have also been targeted for protest.

The demo outside the Thales arms factory in Crawley on April 8th will be an important part of the campaign for a two-way arms embargo against Israel, as called for by the Palestinian BDS National Committee:
“A comprehensive military embargo on Israel is long overdue. It would form a crucial step towards ending Israel’s unlawful and criminal use of force against the Palestinian people and other peoples and states in the region and would constitute an effective, non-violent measure to pressure Israel to comply with its obligations under international law.”

The April 8th protest
The Crawley demonstration is organised by Sussex Stop Arming Israel (SSAI), a coalition of groups and individuals campaigning for justice for the Palestinian people by exposing companies in Sussex complicit in war crimes by the Israeli regime. SSAI is part of the wider global Stop Arming Israel movement, which in the UK campaigns for an arms embargo – an end to the deadly and lucrative arms trade between Israel and the UK (stoparmingisrael.org). This in turn is one element of the international movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel in support of the Palestinians’ liberation struggle (see bdsmovement.net).

In a linked action on Friday April 8th, activists from the West Midlands will demonstrate outside the UAV Engines factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire. UAV Engines is owned by Elbit Systems, the Israeli arms giant that collaborates with Thales in the manufacture of drones.

Ben Steele, one of the SSAI activists, said in a statement:

“We have been really heartened by the huge response we’ve had to our Call-out for the 8th of April. Over 30 groups campaigning for justice and human rights have endorsed the protest, and have pledged to join us on the day. We are calling on campaigning groups in London and the South East to endorse, publicise and come along to this demonstration to give a clear message to Thales that:

  • they are complicit in Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people through their joint enterprise with Israeli arms company Elbit Systems, and
  • arms manufacturers are not welcome in our communities.”

Notes for Editors

  1. Thales’s partnership with Israeli arms company Elbit Systems has been widely researched and reported on. See the Sussex Stop Arming Israel website for background (ssai2016.wordpress.com).
  2. The April 8th protest has been endorsed by over 30 groups campaigning for justice and human rights, including War on Want, Campaign Against Arms Trade and Palestine Solidarity Campaign. For a complete list see the SSAI website.
  3. For more information about the protest, contact Ben Steele on 07448 786444.
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