Stop arming Israel

October 31, 2023
Gaza devastation. Inset: Christopher Pyne is now a weapons lobbyist.

The images we’re seeing of Israel’s war on Gaza is graphic and horrific. The Whistleblowers, Activists and Community Alliance (WACA) group is calling on Labor to stop arming Israel.

Israel is attempting genocide of the Palestinian people with the complicity of the governments of the global north, including Australia’s Labor.

Labor is on the path set by the former Coalition to make Australia one of the top 10 global arms dealers.

It has approved 322 defence exports to Israel over the past six years, with 49 permits for Israel-bound exports last year and 23 in the first three months of this year. This information came to light at a Senate hearing in the last week of October.

Senator David Shoebridge, Greens spokesperson, commented that Australia had “one of the most secretive and unaccountable weapons export systems in the world”.

Elbit Systems, an Israeli-owned private entity, is one of many weapons companies with contracts with Australia’s government.

Christopher Pyne, a former Coalition defence minister, now weapons lobbyist, has helped Elbit develop lucrative military, surveillance, training and artificial intelligence (AI) research contracts with state and federal governments, and with Australian universities.

Elbit Systems is the largest weapons’ manufacturer in Israel: it provides up to 85% of the land-based equipment procured by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and 85% of its drones.

Elbit markets its military technology as “field-tested” — by which it means that the weapons have been tested in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Gaza.

It manufactures most of its equipment in Israel, the US, Europe and Brazil. Eighty per cent of its market is outside Israel: it has military contracts with the United States, Britain and Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and South America.

Elbit Systems has a presence on every continent: it supplies weapons and training to regimes that use them against democratic uprisings and in attempted genocides of indigenous peoples. For instance, the Indonesian government uses Elbit’s weapons to oppress West Papuans resisting the occupation.

The Israeli Air Force announced on October 22 it had used a new bomb — “Iron Sting” — in Gaza. Doctors and nurses in Gaza described an unusual burn pattern on the victims’ bodies, leading them to conclude it was caused by a new type of bomb.

These burn injuries are even more horrific given the lack of analgesia, anaesthesia, sterile dressings and other essential items as hospital supplies run out and they even become targets for Israeli bombs.

These crimes against humanity motivated WACA and friends, in cooperation with a global network of #ShutElbitDown activists, to take direct action against Elbit Systems.

Twice in a week protesters occupied the Port Melbourne Elbit Systems building. Elbit Systems then removed its name from the building directory and external signage at 650 Lorimer Sreet. (Its website now lists a former address.)

WACA’s direct actions were timed to coincide with Palestine Action protests at Elbit facilities across Britain and the US.

Students and staff at RMIT University are also protesting RMIT’s joint partnership with Elbit Systems and the Victorian government. The contract involves a laboratory to research “Human-Machine Teaming” and AI. Known as the Centre of Excellence, it is co-located in the Victorian government’s Defence Industry Precinct in Fisherman’s Bend in Port Melbourne.

RMIT is now denying it has any research engagements with Elbit Systems. This contradicts reports on the partnership in defence journals in June last year.

The Fisherman’s Bend precinct is being developed on the site of the former General Motors Holden Automotive factory. Rather than supporting the military-industrial-complex, Victorian Labor would better serve the public by setting up a “Centre of Excellence for climate change solutions technology” and supporting publicly-owned manufacturing.

Australia is contravening international treaties by supplying arms to war criminals in Israel and worldwide. WACA wants federal and state governments to cancel all contracts with Elbit Systems and for Australia to stop arming Israel.

To get this to happen, unions need to slap an embargo on arms exports to Israel; and we all need to build the #FreePalestine rallies; and organise people to protest outside Labor MPs and Senator’s offices.

Feeling overwhelmed is human, but we cannot be neutral or promote a “both sides” argument.

We must not be complicit in genocide. We take heart from the Palestinian people themselves: the resistance fighters who bulldozed the Gaza prison border fence and the young people in the West Bank, whose only weapons are words and rocks.

We find humanity in the doctors and nurses encouraging one another by singing together as they care for the injured in the worst of conditions; the journalists still reporting despite the dangers; the bakers still baking as flour supplies dwindle and their bakeries are bombed; and the little girl who tells us that when she grows up she wants to be an engineer so she can rebuild Gaza.

Act now, wherever you are, however you are able, with whatever you’ve got.

[See #ShutElbitDown on social media for inspiration. Find out more at Whistleblowers, Activists and Community Alliance on FacebookX or Instagram.]

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