Over a thousand workers have simultaneously blocked four arms factories across the UK that provide components for arms used by Israel in its bombardment of Gaza.
The workers, under the banner “Workers for a Free Palestine,” include teachers, health workers, hospitality workers, and others who are members of a wide range of trade unions, including Unite, UNISON, GMB, the National Education Union (NEU), the British Medical Association (BMA), the University and College Union (UCU), the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (BECTU), and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).
The blockades have been organized in coordination with workers in France, Denmark, and the Netherlands, who also blockaded arms factories yesterday.
Yesterday’s action is the third organized by Workers for a Free Palestine. On October 26, over 150 trade unionists under the banner “Workers for a Free Palestine” picketed an Instro Precision factory (a subsidiary of Elbit Systems) in Kent. On November 10, Workers for a Free Palestine targeted BAE Systems in Rochester, with over four hundred trade unionists taking part in the blockade.
The UK has continued to sell arms to Israel despite its illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem since 1967.
Jenny, a trade unionist from Workers for a Free Palestine, said, “British-made bombs are again raining down on Palestinian people across Gaza, who are being imprisoned in a death trap and ordered to evacuate when they have nowhere safe to go.”
One of the most significant UK arms exports to Israel is Britain’s contribution to the F-35 stealth combat aircraft, the world’s most advanced fighter jet, currently being used by Israel to bombard Gaza. The F-35 is built by Lockheed Martin in the United States, with Lockheed Martin saying, “The fingerprints of British ingenuity can be found on dozens of the aircraft’s key components.”
The UK’s leading military goods manufacturer, BAE Systems, has produced components for 13-15 percent of Israel’s F-35 orders. Over sixteen thousand Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7. Both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer still refuse calls to back a permanent cease-fire after intense bombardment resumed this week.
Mesh, a doctor speaking on behalf of Health Workers for a Free Palestine, which is taking part in the blockades, said: “As health care workers, we are tired of mourning the deaths of our colleagues — fellow nurses, doctors, dentists, medical students, and other health workers — along with all of the Palestinians massacred by the Israeli regime. We stand here ashamed that the weapons used in the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine are partly made on our own doorstep.”
“Our government could only bring itself to advocate for a temporary pause in these atrocities. Israel has now resumed its violence: turning hospitals into graveyards, using equipment manufactured in this very factory. As health workers, we have a moral responsibility to act and we will not rest until the occupation ends. We cannot simply worry about the disease when the root cause is clear. Just as smoking causes lung cancer, so the Israeli occupation of Palestine causes untold death and destruction in the region.”
Over six hundred workers are blockading Eaton Mission Systems in Bournemouth, registered as Mission Systems Wimborne. Eaton Mission Systems has an open export license to export goods for the F-35 aircraft.
Workers have also blockaded BAE Systems at Samlesbury Aerodrome in Lancashire. The rear fuselage of every F-35 fighter jet is made at the site. This year BAE Systems Samlesbury delivered its thousandth real fuselage for the ongoing F-35 program.
Brighton and Hove Action for Palestine are targeting the “L3Harris Release & Integrated Solutions Ltd” factory based in Brighton and Hove. The factory equips US-supplied F-16s and F-35s being used by the Israel Defense Forces in the current bombardment of Gaza.
And BAE Govan has been shut down by Glasgow residents. BAE Systems produces components of the F-35 aircraft and the Mk 38 Mod 2 machine gun system.
Responding to the blockades, Workers in Palestine, a coalition of Palestinian trade unions that is calling for industrial action and civil disobedience to halt the arms trade with Israel, issued the following statement: “We salute all those in the trade union movement taking a stand to disrupt the flow of arms to Israel. Shutting down four factories across the UK today, along with several simultaneous blockades in Europe, are critical acts of solidarity, refusing to conduct business as usual in the face of Israel’s relentless bombardment of Gaza and ongoing genocide. As the British government refuses to call for a cease-fire and directly supports Israel’s military attack, a rapidly growing movement of workers are clearly saying ‘not in our name.'”