By Sarah Wilkinson
An update from the protest camp outside Leicester’s Israeli arms factory, locally ‘unknown’ as U-TacS, makes for mixed reading. The factory is owned by Elbit Systems, the Israeli regime’s largest private arms industry, along with Thales, an equally unscrupulous French weapons firm.
“This company is a terrorist arm of Israel,” said Yael Khan, an Israeli activist protesting at the site. “Its sole existence is to destroy Palestinian life, to massacre Palestinians, to murder them, to exterminate them. That’s what Israel is doing with the help of this company, Elbit, producing this death and making its profits from Palestinian blood, and it’s doing it from the very heart of Leicester.”
I think that sums the place up perfectly. There’s nothing more to add.
One security guard, appalled by the activities of the company, informed the protestors that he was quitting after ‘becoming more enlightened’ about the site’s activities. He could see, and no doubt hear, that local residents and committed activists don’t want this hideous munitions factory on their doorstep.
Aware of the power of social media, he didn’t want to be associated with it, he said, and he certainly didn’t want his face attached to it. Elbit’s wages are blood-stained — no person of integrity wants that on their conscience.
He isn’t the first employee to have up-sticks and left. During an earlier court case, following direct action against another Elbit factory, the security guard who was on duty during the night of the incident was required to give evidence.
He heard our defense cases; they were difficult to listen to. He declared before leaving for home that he was no longer going to work there — so many stories of the dead, he said; so many killed, massacred; so many lives ruined: he’d heard enough to last him a lifetime of pain and guilt.
Recently, a local Leicester resident, ‘sick of being barked at by guard dogs’ (clearly distressed from being caged up in the back of shoddy vans owned by even shoddier ‘dog handlers’) said he felt threatened in his own street.
“I live here,” he said, “but every time I walk passed this bloody factory, I’m being treated like a criminal. The dogs snap at me. It’s like I’m under suspicion for just going to the shops to buy groceries. I have to walk past Elbit every day, and I get spoken and sworn at by low-IQ security guards like I’m public enemy number one. I used to think that the activists being here were a nuisance,” he added, “but now I’m totally on their side, and I can see what they have to put up with. I hope they shut this place down, and sooner rather than later.”
Activists at the site are frequently harassed and bullied by less-than-friendly guards who unlawfully leave their ‘place of work’ purely to threaten and verbally abuse those camping opposite the gates.
Keeping vigil on a weapons factory comes with various risks — false arrests, vehicles steering recklessly at activists, tents invaded, full drink cans lobbed out of moving car windows, and property, signs, banners and flags regularly going missing in the night.
While most of these incidents are caught on camera, and often reported, the tardy and often over-zealous Leicester police are only interested in protecting Elbit. Weapons and the business of killing come first, it seems.
The dogs, of which there are several, cooped up in cages, are kept in vans in searing heat, starved until nightfall “so they’re more vicious” according to one of the so-called handlers. They whine and bark and whimper much of the day, and most of the night.
Some of the night guards, of which there are many, walk them around the site — most of them don’t walk them at all, and have been observed by the activists blatantly goading them, and cruelly ignoring their distress. This goes on every day — but you’d have to be at the camp to know this.
At evening time, three, sometimes four, unenvironmental spotlights are shone onto the protest site. It’s like being on a football pitch during a late-night match. Occasionally, the lights are left on all day, unnecessarily releasing large amounts of CO2.
The bulbs frequently blow, which suggests they’re overloading the system and wasting massive amounts of energy, which in turn, has economic and environmental consequences.
Elbit invested in these outdoor security lights to assist their surveillance cameras after the sun goes down. What they do in reality is disrupt the predictable rhythm of day and night. Scientific evidence suggests that over-the-top artificial light at night has a negative and deadly effect on many creatures, including birds, mammals, insects, and plants.
Of course, warmongers, such as Elbit, or U-TacS, or whatever they want to call themselves, are hardly going to worry about Leicester’s wildlife, when their interests are dedicated to killing and maiming Palestinian people.
So, what can people do? Firstly, object to this monstrosity, by letter, by petition, by complaint to local councilors, community, religious and political groups. Secondly, lobby your MP to vote against the anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanction UK law in the process of going through parliament. Thirdly, make a stand, because the Palestinian people’s lives depend on it, literally.
Elbit is using Britain’s leafy and prosperous Leicester as a base to make its murderous drones — it’s a stain of shame on the city.
Most importantly, visit the protest site in Meridian East, LE19 1TP, and see for yourselves: a company that doesn’t produce weapons of mass destruction doesn’t need barbed fencing, razor wire, steel gates, multiple surveillance cameras, night vision lasers, barriers, padlocks, spotlights, a private direct line to the police, tens of dozens of security guards, overlapping van-loads of dog handlers and a steady supply of semi-starved vicious dogs.
Its crimes are hard to hide. You just have to go and take a look.
Sarah Wilkinson is a UK-based activist. She has been a supporter of Palestine for over 40 years, and a vocal campaigner for Palestinian freedom since the First Intifada.
(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV)