5 min read

Only Direct Action can stop Britain being complicit in a genocide.

Simply put, companies based in Britain are providing the technical and military means to prop up Israel's campaign of annihilation against the Palestinians of Gaza.
Only Direct Action can stop Britain being complicit in a genocide.

by antenna

ON WEDNESDAY 20 MARCH, Workers for a Free Palestine alongside other campaigners blockaded the GE Aviation factory in Cheltenham, creating an impassable barricade and forcing the factory to close.

There is a huge moral urgency to this action. Simply put, companies based in Britain are providing the technical and military means to prop up Israel's campaign of annihilation against the Palestinians of Gaza.

The GE Aviation factory in Cheltenham and the Leonardo UK factory in Edinburgh manufacture parts for the F35 Stealth Fighter. Described by it's manufacturers Lockheed Martin as "the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter aircraft in the world", this machine has played a key role in the ongoing violence in Gaza.

“UK industry provides 15% of the components in the F35 stealth combat aircraft that are currently being used in the bombardment of Gaza. The contract for the components is estimated by Campaign Against Arms Trade to be worth £336m since 2016.”
UK government lawyers say Israel is breaking international law, claims top Tory in leaked recording
Ex-Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence official Alicia Kearns said at a Tory fundraiser that legal advice would mean the UK has to cease all arms sales to Israel without delay

According to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT):

“The UK has consistently sold arms to Israel, in spite of its illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem since 1967. Since Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2007 there have been five major military assaults on Gaza in 2008-09, 2012, 2014, and 2021 which killed almost 4,000 Palestinians.

In the past 11 days alone at least 2,850 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombardments supported by UK arms exports, including 100 children. 
Campaigners protest outside factories against arms sales to Israel
The action under the banner Workers For A Free Palestine, follows recent similar demonstrations across the country

The Blockade

We managed to speak with an organiser from Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century (RS21) who was there on the day.

THE BLOCKADE BEGAN at around 6.30am and carried on until 11.30, ending when confirmation was received that the site had been shut down for the day. Around 250 people were present across two pickets covering each of the gates.

The blockade was organised by Workers for a Free Palestine and there was lots of union representation with flags and placards, including Unite the Union, the British Medical Association (BMA), Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB), University and College Union (UCU), GMB, UNISON and the National Education Union (NEU). Other groups such as Health Workers for a Free Palestine and the Free Palestine Coalition helped boost the action in advance.

"Most workers were arriving in cars so they just turned around and went home.

There was a team of worker liaisons as part of the action, there to explain that we weren't targetting the workers but the bosses and companies for their complicity in the genocide. They had some in-depth conversations with some of the workers who stopped.

The group wants to build relationships with workers in the industry and work together with them, and has sometimes done leafleting sessions on sites before blockades took place.

I have heard from comrades who work in the sector that things are moving within unionised workplaces in the defence sector as well, with several union branches committing to donations to Medical Aid for Palestinians. That's quite a big step forward."

RS21 Organiser

Is this part of a national campaign?

The action was mirrored in Scotland at the Leonardo UK site by the Scottish branch of Workers for a Free Palestine.

Will there be further actions?

As long as British factories continue to manufacture parts for weapons and jets used by Israeli forces actions like this will continue in one form or another.

In the short term there will be more pickets organised by Workers for a Free Palestine

What was the response like from the Police?

"There have never been any arrests at a picket organised by Workers for a Free Palestine so far. The police were there before us at the Cheltenham action, but in small numbers and they didn't try to prevent the blocking of the entrances to the site."

— RS21 Organiser

What is your message for people thinking about taking direct action to end Britain's complicity in the genocide of Palestinians?

People say "silence is complicity" a lot, but it's deeper than that. Whether you look back a hundred years to the British Mandate of Palestine or to the last 3 months, where Britain has actively bombed Yemen in defence of Israeli shipping, Britain is not an accomplice: it's a perpetrator.

Most people in Britain want a ceasefire, not more arms to Israel, but nothing will change unless we stand up and act on it. Don't look back on 2024 and say "I should have done something." Go out and do it.
— RS21 Organiser

Find out more about Workers for a Free Palestine here


Who is RS21?

RS21 stands for Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century: a marxist feminist organisation with ecosocialist, anti-racist and anti-imperialist politics. There are branches around Britain and members are active in lots of different struggles, from trade unionism to trans liberation.

RS21 is also part of the Free Palestine Coalition, and have been actively organising with them, including leading a protest this week at the Ministry of Defence.

Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century
News and analysis from socialists based in Britain