Pro-Palestine protesters say Thales has no social licence

December 17, 2023
Outside the little-known office of Thales. Photo: Alex Broers

A delegation of peace builders who wanted to question Thales on its links to Israel’s genocide in Palestine was denied entry to the weapons manufacturer’s office on December 15.

Thales has a relationship with Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit, the Israeli defence electronics company.

The Thales-IAI partnership has produced the Sea Serpent, a surface-to-surface guided missile with a kill range of 200 kilometres. The Thales-Elbit partnership involves a subsidiary company UAV Tactical Systems (U-TacS), which makes killer drones.

Last year Israel was ranked 10th largest global exporter of weapons. Its technologies are often promoted as being successfully “combat-tested”. For instance, Elbit’s drones have been used for surveillance and attacks in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

“What you have to understand about weapons in the occupied territories is they’re used to control an entire people,” said Dr Sarmad Akkach. “Freedom of movement is completely controlled through technology that companies like Thales make.”

As the Palestinian death toll exceeded 18,000, Australia voted to support a United Nations ceasefire motion, after stalling for 67 days.

Israel is continuing its indiscriminate air strikes against Palestinians, with United States support.

Achieving a lasting peace will require a break in the military-industrial complex. This year Labor agreed to 52 defence export permits to Israel, while 322 such permits have been approved over the last 6 years. 

Palestinian human rights groups have launched proceedings in the Federal Court to expose all arms exports to Israel since October 7.

Justin Tutty from Top End Peace Alliance said that for weapons companies “the humanitarian crisis [in Gaza] is just a business opportunity”. They are expecting to make big profits.

The delegation reminded Thales that it has no social licence to operate.

Peace builders have previously tried to speak to Thales over its sale of Bushmaster vehicles to the Indonesian Special Forces for its repression of West Papuans.

“War crimes start in the corporate boardrooms of Thales and other harms dealers,” human rights advocate Billee McGinley said. “We show up to expose the true nature of their business and to make clear we do not accept them.”

Thales staff blockaded the door with a Christmas tree and refused to talk to the delegation or receive a letter.

The letter called on Thales to immediately release a public statement “confirming any weapons or military equipment used in Gaza”, and to “urgently recall any weapons or military equipment that are being used for war crimes in Gaza”. It also demanded Thales end its “insidious relationship with the Israeli weapons industry” and “retool or move out of Darwin”.

Tutty said the US military build-up is bringing more international weapons companies to the Northern Territory — including Raytheon, Northrup Gruman, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

“These companies are coming to feed on the error our government is making in buying into America’s plans for a war with China,” Tutty said.

The delegation left disappointed, only to find 7 police cars and approximately 15 officers waiting for them in the car park.

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