Nearly 200 cyclists accompanied by coachloads of other activists blockaded the main road outside the factory of UAV Engines in Shenstone near Birmingham on Monday 8th August. The ‘mobile protest’, marking two years since Israel’s most recent sustained bombardment of the Gaza Strip, drew together cyclists from as far afield as Scotland, Bristol and London some of whom had cycled for 3 days to reach the event as part of the annual ‘Big Ride’.
UAV Engines has been a site of regular blockades and protests since it was revealed that the company is a subsidiary of Israel’s largest arms manufacturer Elbit Systems that makes parts for military drones that have been supplied to Israel. Israel has a long history of using military drones against Palestinians and in Israel’s 2014 war they played a significant role alongside F-16’s, tanks and other military hardware in the killing of more than 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza.
One of the organisers of the ‘Big Ride’, Dermot MacWard, believes that the manufacturing of parts for Israeli drones within the UK amounts to British government complicity in the massacres in Gaza:
UAV is part of the Elbit Group, Israel’s largest private arms manufacturer. It cannot be right that this trade in death is treated as business as usual. The blood of Palestinian children is surely on the hands of the British Government.
In July last year, the UAV factory at Shenstone along with two other UK-based Elbit owned factories were also closed down by activists. On the same day activists in Melbourne, Australia successfully closed down another Elbit owned factory.
Activist Dr. Mona ElFarra, herself born and raised in Gaza, was amongst the activists who joined Monday’s protest in Shenstone. Dr ElFarra, who is the Vice President of the Red Crescent in Gaza praised those involved for their solidarity with the Palestinian people:
You are breaking barriers that separate human beings who should be equal regardless of race, colour or religion. We dream of a day when we can welcome you to cycle in free Palestine to enjoy the beauty of our country that has been devastated by long decades of Israeli occupation, dispossession, and annihilation. We appreciate your solidarity; we salute you all for your humanity.