Thursday, January 29, 2009

Direct action against Israel -- Part 1

From Corporate Watch:

On the second big Gaza solidarity march in London on 10th January, angry protesters smashed the front of a Starbucks store on Kensington High St, near the Israeli embassy, while other activists occupied the Ahava beauty shop in central London. Other actions in protest at the Israeli massacre in Gaza this month have included occupying the offices of the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) in central London, 'decommissioning' the ITT/EDO arms factory in Brighton and university occupations across the country calling for divestment. So, who are these companies and why are they being targeted by protesters and campaigners? Corporate Watch takes a detailed look.


1. ARMS COMPANIES
Israel was the world's 6th largest arms importer between 2003 and 2007, accounting for 3.80% of world deliveries, according to the SIPRI Arms Transfers Database. During that period, the US accounted for 94% of the exports of arms to Israel. France, Germany and the UK accounted for a big proportion of the rest. In 2007 alone, EU member states authorised the export of €200m worth of items on the EU Military List to Israel. In 2007, the UK government blocked almost one-third of British military exports to Israel, citing "possible threats to regional stability" and fears that "the equipment might facilitate human rights violations." Despite Israel's continuous war crimes against the Palestinian people, however, the UK has no arms embargo on Israel and licences for the export of military 'goods' continue to be granted in accordance with the criteria set down in the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria (see, for example, this Parliamentary review). Details of the UK's military exports to Israel are outlined in the Strategic Export Controls Annual Reports, which are supposed to demonstrate, in the words of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), "the Government's commitment to transparent and responsible controls on British arms exports." (See here. Also see here for a list of Israeli military equipment.) Between 1 January and 31 March 2008, 62 Standard Individual Export Licences (SIEL) were approved at a combined value of £20.3m, including 16 SIEL for incorporation into other weapons worth £455,000. Items included air guns, components for airborne electronic equipment, combat aircraft, military communications and electronic warfare and general military aircraft components. During that same period, only seven licence applications were refused. UK arm sales to Israel in 2008 were up by £14 million on the previous year. Now these 'products' that are used to kill Palestinians are manufactured by companies that have names and addresses and, of course, managers whose sole interest is making money for their shareholders regardless of the goods they trade in. There are many websites that provide detailed information on these companies and their deals with the Israeli army, such as the Campaign Against Arms Trade. Below is some information on the biggest culprits.

BAE
BAE Systems is the UK's biggest arms company and the world's third-largest defence company, with annual sales exceeding £15.7 billion. The company made headlines last year after it was accused by the Serious Fraud Office of "concealing the truth" about its £43bn arms deals with Saudi Arabia (see here). BAE's products include assault rifles, artillery guns, missiles, torpedoes, tanks, armoured vehicles, unmanned combat aircraft, warships, nuclear submarines, nuclear weapons (via subsidiary MBDA), radar systems, and handcuffs and shackles used in Guantanamo Bay and Saudi Arabia. BAE is known to have supplied Israel with 'Head-Up Displays' (HUD) for F16 fighter aircraft, which have been used by the Israeli army to turn Lebanese and Palestinian villages and towns into rubble. The first of Israel's new order arrived in 2005 and the first 25 F16s were fitted with BAE's HUDs. The remaining 77 were to be fitted with Elbit HUDs. BAE also supply Israel with part of the 'navigation suite' and elements of the 'self-protection suite' (including a BAE Systems/Rokar flare) for all Israel's F16 jets. It has been reported that BAE's Suter airborne network attack system was used by Israel in its bombing of Syria in 2007. Suter is developed by BAE Systems and integrated into US unmanned aircraft by L-3 Communications. The technology, which allows users to invade communications networks and even take over as systems administrator, has been used by the US army, or at least tested operationally, in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last year. Recent protests against BAE in solidarity with Gaza have included a protest by a group of Warwick University students against a recruitment event run by BAE and Warwick Careers Service (see here). On 22nd January, a group of local activists blocked the entrance to BAE Systems in Newcastle in a 'die-in' protest (see here). The company's head office is located in central London (6 Carlton Gardens, SW1Y 5AD). For more information, see Corporate Watch's BAE Systems company profile. A list of BAE Systems locations in the UK can be found here.

Boeing
Boeing is the world's largest aerospace and defence company, with annual sales of $61.5 billion and 150,000 employees in 70 countries. Boeing Defence UK (BDUK) is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Boeing Company, with head offices recently moved from Heathrow airport (Cardinal Point, Newall Road) to Central London (16 St James's Street, London, SW1). Boeing has had a long business history with the Israeli military. Its recently deliveries to Israel include: IAI-developed arrow missiles, Boeing AGM-114D Longbow Hellfire missiles, 18 AH-64D Apache Longbow fighter helicopters, 63 Boeing F15 Eagle fighter planes, 102 Boeing F16 Eagle fighter planes, 42 BOEING AH-64 Apache fighter helicopters, F-16 Peace Marble II & III Aircraft, 4 Boeing 777s, and Arrow II interceptors. In September last year, the US government approved the sale of 1,000 GBU-9 small diameter bombs made by Boeing to Israel, in a deal valued at up to $77 million (see here). Boeing subsidiaries with a presence in the UK include Alteon, Jeppesen, Continental Data Graphics (CDG), and Preston Aviation (see here). Boeing also works with three universities in the UK on collaborative research and technology: Cambridge, Cranfield and Sheffield (see here). Recent protests against Boeing in connection with the Israeli massacres in Gaza include an anonymous protester smashing some windows of the Boeing office in Bristol on new year's eve. The windows have been boarded up and the office has not apparently reopened since.

EDO/ITT
Brighton-based arms company EDO MBM/ITT (formerly EDO MBM), a wholly owned subsidiary of US arms multinational EDO Corp, has been the subject of a relentless direct action campaign due to the company's complicity in war crimes committed by the US, UK and Israeli armies in Iraq and Palestine. ITT/EDO produces the ERU-151 (Ejector Release Unit) and ZRFAU (Zero Retention Force Arming Unit), both of which are incorporated in bomb racks used by the F16 war planes that have been used by the Israeli Air Force to commit war crimes in Gaza. These components have been advertised for several years on EDO websites as 'actively manufactured' in Brighton, and as 'used' and 'utilized' on the F16, within its main bombrack, the VER-2. EDO MBM/ITT also has contracts with the UK Ministry of Defence and US arms giant Raytheon to build release mechanisms for the Paveway bomb system (for more details, see here). On 20 January 2009, the United States Airforce awarded ITT a contract for the manufacture of flexible cable assemblies to connect weapons to the F-15E jet fighter bomber. The equipment is to be manufactured in Brighton and may reach Israel through US exports (see here) The Smash EDO website has comprehensive information on what and how ITT/EDO supplies the Israeli army as well as on companies doing 'business' with ITT/EDO. These include The London & Brighton Plating Company Ltd, Guardian Guards, DHL, TNT, Initial City Link and Challenge Packaging Ltd. On 17 January 2009, anti-militarist activists forced entry into the EDO Brighton factory and destroyed equipment used to make weapons used in Israel's wholesale slaughter of civilians in Gaza. The company alleges that the 'decommissioning' action has cost £250,000 in lost business. Seven people now face 'burglary' and 'criminal damage' charges. Two of them also face 'breach of bail' charges (for more details, see here). Smash EDO demonstrate every Wednesday, 4-6pm, outside the EDO MBM/ITT factory on Home Farm Road, Brighton.

Raytheon
Raytheon is one of the largest US arms manufacturers and the fifth-largest military contractor in the world, with annual revenues of around $20 billion. The company has big contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has regularly been found guilty of illegal activity (see here). Among other things, Raytheon makes Bunker Buster bombs, Tomahawk and Patriot missiles. A number of their missiles can be loaded with cluster bombs, which are banned under international law but have, nonetheless, been used by the US and Israeli armies. Raytheon is one of Israel's main suppliers of weapons used in the recent attacks on Gaza. Through its US and Israeli military relations, the company is said to advocate the expansionist notion of 'Greater Israel', which, of course, means more war business and more profits (see here). In September last year, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees major arms sales, approved the sale of three kits made by Raytheon to upgrade Israel's Patriot missile system in a deal valued at up to $164 million (see here). Like EDO, Raytheon has been recently the subject of a relentless direct action campaign. In 2006, nine activists forced entry into the Raytheon office in Derry during the Israeli bombing of Lebanon, barricaded themselves inside the office and threw computer equipment out of the windows. In June 2008, a Jury in Belfast found the defendants not guilty of criminal damage on the basis that they acted with 'reasonable excuse' (see here). More recently, three protesters occupied the roof of the company offices in Bristol for over five weeks starting on 9 December 2008 (see this report). The rooftop occupation was the third such protest to have targeted Raytheon in the last few months (see the campaign's blog for more details). A list of Raytheon locations and contacts can be found on the company's website.

Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin is the world's largest defence contractor by revenue. Most of the company's revenues came from the United States Department of Defense, other US federal government agencies, and foreign military customers. Lockheed Martin's products include the F-22, F-16, F-117, C-5, C-27J, C-130, P-3 and U-2. It also produces the Hellfire precision-guided missile system, which has reportedly been used in the recent Gaza attacks. In 2008, it reported sales of $42.7 billion. On 4 September 2001, Israel signed a contract with Lockheed Martin for 52 more F-16I fighters. The total value of the purchase was approximately $2bn, with $1.3bn of that going to Lockheed Martin. The deal then increased the Lockheed Martin's F-16 backlog to 301, with production provisionally extended to the end of 2008. This was Israel's 6th acquisition of F-16s, the world's 'most sought-after' fighter. Israel possesses the largest fleet of F-16s outside the United States, with more than 350 jets. In October 2008, Sir David Manning, a former British Ambassador to Israel and the US, joined the board of Lockheed Martin UK Holdings Ltd. as a non-executive director. Manning's other past diplomatic positions include Deputy Under Secretary for State in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for Defence and Intelligence and the UK Permanent Representative to NATO in Brussels. In 2001, he was also appointed as Foreign Policy Advisor to former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Lockheed Martin's UK head office is located in central London (22 Carlisle Place, SW1P 1JA), with other locations throughout England (see here).

UAV Engines
UAV Engines Ltd (UEL) is one of the world's leading manufacturers of engines for drones (small, unmanned aircraft) that are becoming critical frontline systems for military and civilian use around the world. The company, known as UEL, is owned by the Israel drone specialists Silver Arrow, a subsidiary of the Israeli defence contractor Elbit Systems. Amnesty has recently uncovered evidence that the specially-designed engines for drones used by Israeli forces in targeted air strikes are made in the UK by UAV Engines, which is based in Lichfield, Staffordshire (Lynn Lane, Shenstone, WS14 0DT). One of its rotary Wankel engines is used in Elbit's Hermes 450 drone. A version of the 450 drone makes up a squadron of the Israeli air force and has been seen over Gaza in the recent attacks, being used for surveillance and targeting for Israel's F-16 strike fighters (see here and here). On 19 January, around 30 people gathered outside the UVA Litchfield factory to protest against the company's link with the massacre in Gaza. The protest was heavily policed, with one over-zealous arrest (see this report).

Caterpillar
Caterpillar Inc, commonly referred to as CAT, is the world's largest manufacturer of construction (and destruction) equipment, with more than $30 billion in assets. Famous for their products featuring caterpillar tracks and a distinctive yellow paint scheme, Caterpillar produces a wide range of engineering vehicles, including the range of Caterpillar bulldozers. The US government buys Caterpillar bulldozers and sends them to the Israel army as part of its annual foreign military assistance package. Such sales are governed by the US Arms Export Control Act, which limits the use of US military aid to "internal security" and "legitimate self-defense" and prohibits its use against civilians. Caterpillar held the sole contract for the production of the D9 military bulldozer, specifically designed for use in invasions of built-up areas. Since 1967, Israel has used Caterpillar bulldozers to demolish tens of thousands of Palestinian homes and uproot hundreds of thousands of trees, in Israel's persistent efforts to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their land and build illegal settlements. The D9 bulldozer was extensively used by Israel in Israel during 'Operation Defensive Shield' in 2001-2, particularly during invasion of Jenin, when countless homes were destroyed by bulldozers and a disabled man was crushed to death. Caterpillar has also profited from the construction of the apartheid separation wall, which has cut off many Palestinian villages from the rest of the West Bank. The wall was built after the destruction and confiscation of large parts of Palestinian land. On 16 March 2003, American peace activist Rachel Corrie was murdered by an Israeli soldier driving a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer as she tried to stop it from destroying a Palestinian home in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza. It is, therefore, difficult to contest that CAT bulldozers are not weapons of mass destruction. Caterpillar still supply spare parts for the maintenance of Israel's D9s. Caterpillar also produces tank engines at their Caterpillar/Perkins plant in Shrewsbury. Other CAT merchandise includes shoes, clothes and accessories. A campaign against Caterpillar, known as Caterkiller, has repeatedly taken direct action against the company. A recent CAT sponsorship deal with Leicester Tigers Rugby club has met local opposition. For more details on Caterpillar and the campaign and actions against it, see the campaign's website. See also War on Want's report Caterpillar, the alternative report, which includes a list of Caterpillar premises in the UK. Other arms companies with links to Israel and its war crimes against the Palestinian people include Rolls Royce and Thales. A list of UK arms companies known to have supplied Israel can be found here.

2. ILLEGAL PRODUCE
Back in 2005, over 100 Palestinian organisations and unions called for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel "until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights" (see the call here). The boycott campaign had been gathering momentum all over the world, with dedicated campaigns and groups researching, lobbying their governments and the public, and taking direct action. Following the recent massacres in Gaza, the calls for boycotting Israeli goods have become even more powerful and mainstream, as people started to realise that Israeli and international companies investing in Israel not only contribute to an immoral and often illegal economy, but also help perpetuate a brutal and bloody occupation. Since the 1967 military occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights, Israel has built more than 135 settlements in these occupied territories and encouraged Israeli settlers and industries to move into them, often by confiscating Palestinian land and destroying the Palestinian residents' lives. The case against companies involved in constructing and/or sustaining these illegal settlements, profiting from the use of stolen Palestinian land and exploiting the captive labour force for their production, could not be stronger. Raising questions about labelling and sourcing Israeli products at supermarkets has become a feature of boycott campaigns as there is strong evidence that goods produced on illegal settlements in the West Bank are being mislabelled to deceive concerned customers (see here and here). A barcode starting with the numbers 729 generally indicates that the product has been produced in Israel. However, products from illegal settlements may simply be labelled 'West Bank'. All major UK retailers sell Israeli goods and most of them sell Israeli produce from illegal settlements in the West Bank. Many of them in the last few weeks have been targeted with pickets and direct actions in solidarity with Gaza and protest at their complicity in the Israeli occupation and war crimes. Corporate Watch will be posting detailed information on that soon. So watch out! There are many websites that provide detailed information on Israeli products, companies and links, including Who Profits?, The Boycott Israeli Goods Campaign, Stop the Wall and the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Below is some information on some of the most obvious targets.

Agrexco
Agrexco Agricultural Export Company Ltd. markets most of Israel's exports of fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers, some of which are grown in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In a court case in November of 2004, the General Manager of Agrexco UK at that time, Amos Orr, testified that Agrexco markets 60-70% of the agricultural produce grown in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Agrexco is worth half a billion Shekels (nearly £78m) and employs about 500 people. 50% of the company's shares are owned by the Israeli government, although a ministerial committee last year decided to privatise it (see here). Agrexco's biggest fresh agricultural produce brand is Carmel. Other brand names include Jaffa and Jordan Plains. The company's subsidiaries include Agrexco (France), Agrexco (US), Carmexco (Italy), Eclectic, Carmel Cor, LACHS and Dalia (Germany). For more information on Agrexco, see here. British supermarkets account for 60% of Carmel-Agrexco's total exports. The company supplies Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose as well as discounters Lidl and Aldi. Carmel-Agrexco has been the focus of anti-occupation protests and actions. The company's depot Swallowfield Way in Hayes, Middlesex, has repeatedly been shut down by protesters (see here, for example).

Ahava
Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories is an Israeli cosmetic company that develops, produces and markets cosmetic products based on the Dead Sea mud and minerals and made in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the occupied West Bank. It is owned by Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem (41%), Hamashbir Holdings (which is owned by Benny Gaon's Gaon Holdings and the Livnat family, 41%), and the Kibbutz Kalya and Kibbutz Ein Gedi (18%) (see this article). On 10th January 2009, Ahava's newly opened store in Covent Garden, central London, was occupied by activists in protest at the Israeli massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and to draw public attention to Ahava's involvement in the occupation and illegal settlement business (see a report here).

Eden Springs
Eden Springs UK Ltd is entirely owned, managed and controlled by Eden Springs Ltd/Mayanot Eden, an Israeli company that uses water stolen from a spring in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Eden Springs extracts and distributes mineral water, markets coffee and espresso machines and home and office water devices. The company's main plant is located in Katzerin IZ, which is also in the Golan Heights. Eden Springs has dozens of subsidiaries throughout Europe, most of which use the Eden and Chateaud'eau brand names. It also own Pauza Coffee Services, which provides coffee for businesses and represents Lavazza Coffee, DA Technologies and Cafe Espresso Italia in Israel. Eden Springs have several local government contracts to supply water coolers to local councils and health authorities. Fore more information on Eden Springs and the campaign against it, see here.

Veolia
Veolia Environnement is a French multinational that trades in water and waste management, energy and transport services. Veolia Transport, a subsidiary of Veolia Environnement, is a leading partner in the CityPass consortium, contracted to build a light rail tramway system linking west Jerusalem to illegal Jewish settlements such as Pisgat Ze'ev, French Hill, Neve Ya'akov and Gilo in occupied East Jerusalem. Once built (due to be completed in 2020), the rail system will help to cement Israel's hold on occupied East Jerusalem and tie the settlements even more firmly into the State of Israel. Through its subsidiary Veolia Environmental Services Israel (which has bought TMM Integrated Recycling Services), Veolia also owns and operates the Tovlan Landfill in the occupied Jordan Valley, using captured Palestinian natural and land resources for the needs of Israeli settlements. Other subsidiaries include Connex Transportation Israel, Veolia Environmental Services Israel, TMM Integrated Recycling Industries, Veolia Transportation Israel, Connex Jerusalem, Veolia Water Services Israel. Veolia also holds a number of contracts for recycling and waste management across Europe. Veolia UK's head office is London (154 Pentonville Road, N1 9PE). For more information, see here). Earlier this month, Veolia lost a €3.5m contract in Sweden over its involvement with the Jerusalem light rail project (see here). In 2006, Dutch bank ASN also broke off financial relations with Veolia for the same reason, as did the Irish tram drivers union broke. In November 2008, a group of Palestinian, Israeli and international activists demonstrated in front of Bilbao City Hall in protest against the council's plans to award Veolia a contract for the cities bus transportation.

Leviev Lev Leviev is one of the world's leading diamond retailers. In 1996, Leviev bought the controlling share in the company Africa-Israel, whose subsidiary companies are involved in settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. Leviev's companies are involved in settlement construction in Mattityahu East and Modi'in Illit, close to the Palestinian village of Bil'in, as well as also Zufim, Maale Adumim and Har Homa. New York-based Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, also known as Adalah-NY, has held several demonstrations at Leviev's Manhattan store, garnering international attention. Two demonstrations were held outside Leviev's diamonds store in bond street during 2008. For more information, see here.

3. BANKS Lloyds TSB In early December last year, British charity Interpal Back in 2004, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, staunch defenders of Israeli crimes, accused Interpal of involvement in 'terrorism', a smear for which they later had to pay damages. Allegations against Interpal of 'supporting terrorism' have been investigated by the UK Charity Commission, which found that the charity was a "well run and committed organisation which carries out important work in a part of the world where there is great hardship and suffering.", which is dedicated to alleviating the suffering of Palestinians in need, was notified by its bank, the Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB), that Lloyds TSB, which acts as its clearing bank, has given it instructions to cease all dealings with Interpal. The decision took effect on 8th December and all transactions into or out of Interpal accounts were blocked. IBB has offered Interpal verbal support but was apparently powerless in this situation. No reason was given by Lloyds for this punitive measure. Lloyds TSB Chairman, Sir Victor Blank, is a governor of Tel Aviv University, Chair of Union of Jewish Students/Hillel, a member of the Advisory Board of the United Jewish Israel Appeal and is involved in Labour Friends of Israel. UJS/Hillel assists members of the pro-Israel Union of Jewish Students, a group that works to silence pro-Palestinian voices on British campuses. One Lloyds TSB director, Sir David Manning, is an ex-ambassador to both Israel and the USA and was Foreign Policy Adviser to Tony Blair during the planning for the invasion of Iraq. Both Blank and Manning are believed to have influenced the move against Interpal. Hitting charities that help Palestinians only serves to support Israel by shutting off the trickle of aid that organisations like Interpal manage to get into Gaza and the Occupied Territories over years of Israel's brutal siege. Since then, Lloyds TSB has been the subject of protests and pickets around the England and Scotland (see here, for example). For more information on Lloyds TSB and Interpal, see here.

4. MEDIA BICOM The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) describes itself as "an independent organisation devoted to creating a more supportive environment for Israel in the UK" through providing daily briefings and analysis for politicians, academics and journalists. In reality, however, it is a lobby group that played a key role in Israel's public relations operation during the assault on Gaza. BICOM arranged briefings, conference calls and interviews for months in preparation for the recent attack, laying the groundwork for Israel's public justifications for the onslaught (see here). On 14th January, BICOM's office on Great Portland Street in central London was occupied for a few hours to highlight the organisation's role in the Gaza massacres (see this report). A similar lobby group in the US is the Israel Project, which describes itself as "an international non-profit organization devoted to educating the press and the public about Israel while promoting security, freedom and peace."

BBC The British Broadcasting Corporation has become a target for Gaza solidarity protests following its refusal to broadcast a humanitarian appeal for Gaza by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella organisation for 13 aid charities, "leaving aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations," as a Guardian article put it. By refusing to give free airtime to the appeal, the BBC made a unique decision to breach an agreement dating back to 1963, flimsily arguing that this "may compromise public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in the context of an ongoing news story" (see here). Sky TV has also refused to broadcast the appeal, while ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have all broadcast it. On 24th January, the 4th Gaza march in London started at the BBC Broadcasting House in Portland Place, with angry speeches calling for the BBC Director-General Mark Thompson to resign and the public to burn their TV licences in protest (see here). Two days later, a few protesters entered the building and briefly occupied the lobby (see here). Similarly, over 100 people occupied BBC Scotland's headquarters in Glasgow on 25th January, and the same happened in Manchester two days later (see here). Even some of BBC's own staff have expressed their "disgust" at the decision, but have reportedly been threatened with sacking if they speak out on the issue (see here). BBC offices throughout the country had already been sites of protest as a result of the BBC's largely one-sided coverage of the Gaza massacre, allowing Israeli spokespeople endless opportunities to propagate lies and deception without challenge (see, for example, this excellent Electronic Intifada article. See also this Media Lens alert on British mainstream media's biased and distorted coverage of the recent Gaza attacks).

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