Risking Prison to Shut Israel’s Elbit Down

The U.K. government wanted to brand us as criminals for occupying and defacing the Israeli weapon maker’s London headquarters and three of its  factories, writes Huda Ammori.

Elbit rockets at the London arms fair in September 2023. (Matt Kennard/DeclassifiedUK)

By Huda Ammori
Declassified UK

During Israel’s intensified genocide of the Palestinian people, I was sitting in the dock of a court facing 11 charges for disrupting the production of weapons used to murder them. 

Among the eight of us on trial, there were 35 counts on the indictment to defeat. 

Whilst I was testifying in court, the prosecutor insisted that I took such action out of choice – this was not true. Yes, I took direct action out of my own free will, but there was no other viable option. 

Here’s what led me to that conclusion. 

Elbit Systems 

For over a decade, the U.K. has been a safe haven for Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer, Elbit Systems. 

Elbit’s business model involves manufacturing bullets, drones, combat vehicles, electronic warfare systems and missiles, using the Israeli state’s criminal attacks on Gaza as opportunities to test and develop their latest lethal inventions. 

[See: Chris Hedges: Israel Shutting Down Gaza Human Lab]

The company was born out of a need to profit from and maintain Israel’s brutal occupation of the Palestinian people.

Since Oct. 7, Israel has killed over 23,000 Palestinians, 9,600 of them being children, injured more than 58,000 people, destroyed over 70 percent  of Gaza’s civil infrastructure and displaced over 1.9 million people

Israeli airstrike devastation in the El-Remal area of Gaza City on Oct. 9, 2023. (Naaman Omar, Wafa for APA Images, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Elbit’s CEO Bezhalel Machlis boasted that the company is crucial to the ongoing genocide and has been thanked by the Israeli military for its services. 

Missiles & Drones

Those services involve Elbit providing its new “Iron Sting” missiles, which leave chemical burns on killed and injured Palestinians unlike anything that doctors have seen before. 

Those missiles were first used on Palestinians during Israel’s assault on Gaza in May 2021, which Elbit said was a “pre-operational test.” 

Israeli pilots have also admitted using Elbit’s Hermes 450 drone to monitor and drop missiles during the ongoing operation in Gaza. The drone is often described as “the backbone of the Israeli air force.”

In 1992 Elbit formed UAV Engines at Lynn Lane, Shenstone, a factory previously owned by Norton Motorcycles. This expertise was transformed into manufacturing engines for Elbit’s Hermes 450 drone. 

Failure of Democratic Process

Elbit Hermes 900 & Elbit Hermes 450 unmanned aerial vehicle in formation, 2011. (Nehemia Gershuni-Aylho, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Before embarking on direct action, I believed that, with facts, reason and a popular movement behind us, we would be able to shift our government and public bodies into divesting from and imposing sanctions on Israel’s apartheid regime. 

That belief led me to starting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign at the University of Manchester, and later into researching all U.K. universities’ and councils’ investments into companies which profit from the colonisation of Palestine and mobilising the relevant groups to push for divestment.  

During my previous job as campaigns officer at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, I was involved in a lobby day of MPs, where locals would push their representatives to endorse a two way arms embargo on Israel

These efforts were in conjunction with many pushing for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to support an arms embargo, which eventually, for the first time in political history, became a 2019 manifesto pledge. 

However, all our efforts fell short of bringing about material change. 

The issue wasn’t just that our pleas were falling on deaf ears — it was that we were appealing to the very institutions which were responsible for driving the colonisation of Palestine.

With the “democratic process” failing to create change, and with Elbit continuing to manufacture Israeli weapons on British soil, I was left with two options: continue with tactics which were failing or take direct action to shut Elbit down. 

I, and many others, chose the latter option. That’s what led to the formation of Palestine Action and, ultimately, to me being in a dock for six weeks on trial in Snaresbrook Crown Court.

[See: Direct-Action Targets UK Firms Arming Israel]

The Trial

The eight of us were on trial because the state wanted to brand us as criminals for occupying and defacing Elbit’s London headquarters and its weapons factories in Kent, Oldham and Shenstone

We knew that no matter what the final result was, we’d already succeeded: Palestine Action was now a global movement posing a genuine threat to Elbit’s global expansion and manufacture of weapons for Israel. 

This trial was an opportunity to continue the fight within the courtroom and make it clear that we plead not guilty because Elbit is guilty, not those who act to stop them. 

For the prosecution, Ofer Meishar, chief of Elbit’s global security, submitted a statement on the damage we’d caused to the firm’s U.K. division. Our defence team demanded Meishar come in person so we could put our questions to him.

In response, the Israeli government wrote a letter stating Meishar was of crucial importance to the Israeli government at that time and was not allowed to leave its jurisdiction. This summed up the forces we were up against. 

Instead of Meishar, Paul Imm, Elbit U.K.’s new chief security officer, was called to give evidence in the trial. He had only been working for Elbit for nine months at this point. 

Although he claimed to have little to no knowledge of what Elbit U.K. makes, he was insistent on distancing its operations from their owners, Elbit Systems Israel. He even went so far as to claim he had never seen Elbit’s main website: elbitsystems.com

As my barrister, Audrey Mogan, put it in her closing speech, “even Elbit doesn’t want to be associated with Elbit.” 

On the Stand

Each of us took the stand to testify to why our actions against Israel’s weapons trade were justified. 

Whilst he was being interrogated by the prosecutor, Robin Licker, one of my co-defendants, pulled a rubber bullet out of his pocket. He explained how that bullet, made by Elbit subsidiary IMI systems, was shot at him during a protest in Palestine. 

That bullet missed him but another one shot 15 year old Mohammed Tamimi in the back of his head, leaving him in a coma for three days. 

Nicola Stickels, on trial for occupying the roof of UAV Engines for three days alongside myself and three others, pointed out that our being on trial was “a joke” given Elbit’s role in an ongoing genocide. 

The judge didn’t appreciate her calling out this hypocrisy and urged her to “respect the court.” 

After explaining my Palestinian and Iraqi heritage on the stand, the prosecution asked me a litany of ridiculous questions. 

Who was the governing body of Palestine? Who was supplying weapons to Hamas? Were Jewish students scared after I passed the BDS motion at University of Manchester? 

Throughout the trial, the prosecution weaponised Israeli propaganda against us, asking if we’d thought to campaign for the rights of women and homosexuals in Palestine, what “Allahu Akbar” meant, where we drew the line and if there were “bombs on the horizon” in Palestine Action’s plans for Elbit.  


Despite us all going into detail of how we were aware of our legal right to prevent a greater crime, acting to save lives and prevent the further destruction of Palestine, the judge only allowed the jury to consider our innocence based on one defence: consent. 

We argued that the owners of the buildings we targeted would agree with our actions if they were aware of the full extent of Elbit’s crimes. After five weeks of evidence, the jury deliberated for a week on the different counts we faced. 

In total, we were acquitted on 13 counts against us. 

Richard Barnard was convicted on one count of criminal damage against Elbit’s Oldham factory after he said he didn’t believe Elbit, who owned that factory, would consent. 

Shortly after delivering the guilty verdict, the jury asked if it could be changed – it could not. The jury could not come to a majority decision on the rest of the counts against us, leaving the prosecution to decide on whether they will retrial us on those charges. 

Ultimately, we walked in facing varying amounts of prison time and received none. I was told if convicted on all the charges facing me I would be looking at a four-to-five year prison sentence. 

Yet we all walked out as free people, and two of the eight were acquitted of all charges. An incredible result when facing the British state’s wrath for having stood on the right side of history. 

Ending Links

IDF networked precision fire system Iron Sting, 2021. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Whilst our state’s complicity in the occupation of Palestine left me with no other viable option than direct action, the personal sacrifice incurred pales in comparison to the consequences of Elbit’s weaponry being deployed against the Palestinian people.

Not only were our actions effective in disrupting Elbit’s weapons production and building a global movement — it allowed us to expose Elbit’s crimes in court. 

To top it off, three companies ended their links with Elbit during the trial. It took a two-year campaign for Fisher German to end their property management of UAV Engines, two months for iO associates to stop recruiting Elbit staff and a day for Naked Creativity to end their web hosting services for Elbit’s Leicester factory.

Huda Ammori is a co-founder of the direct-action network, Palestine Action, and has conducted extensive research and campaigns targeting British complicity with Israeli apartheid.

This article is from Declassified UK

Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

8 comments for “Risking Prison to Shut Israel’s Elbit Down

  1. Megan
    January 18, 2024 at 06:31

    Mad respect for the Elbit Eight. Your courage and righteousness are an inspiration. Your experience underscores the only way to end brutal campaigns like the genocide against Gaza: not through morality but by public shaming. Capitalism, at least as practiced in the UK and US, has no conscience, but it very much wants its profiting off murder and misery to stay hidden from the public. As someone who helped get divestment from South African Apartheid at my university, I know that even deep links to an immoral country can be undone if a critical mass of shame is pinned on the beneficiaries of those links. There is serious money being made off of Israel’s sadistic economy, by people and institutions around the world, but if we expose enough of it, if we put these people and institutions to more trouble than it’s worth, we can send Israel the way we sent Apartheid South Africa. Right now it looks impossible, but it also looked that way 40 years ago. I hope you, the Elbit Eight, know that you are helping bring about the eventual demise of Zionism and all the belligerence and destruction it has wrought. Thank you, thank you.

  2. Jack Lomax
    January 17, 2024 at 17:15

    I am an Australian and have been arrested numerous times and served short spells in prison for direct peaceful action against US wars against Vietnam and Iraq and US bases in Australia (Pine Gap bing the biggest and most dangerous). Some years ago I was shocked to discover that the Zionists had effective control over the the governments of the UK and the US. Many years ago along with a group of international anti war activists we went to the then war frontier in Iraq .We were rescued from there by Queen Nor of Jordan and she arranged a meeting for a few of us with the country’s chiefs of staff where we (very unsuccessfully) attempted to persuade them that direct nonviolent action would be a better tool than armed conflict with the Israelis if they invaded their country on the way to support their American allies in Iraq . We then crossed the Allenby bridge over the Jordan and unsuccessfully attempted to gain entry to Israel . Probably very lucky for us that we were refused entry for less than a year later an America female peace activist was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer.

    • Valerie
      January 18, 2024 at 04:11

      That’s quite an account Jack. Wear your arrests as a badge of honour for challenging the warmongers. I, myself have been in some “interesting” situations in the Middle East. (One of them in Jordan) but i never had to be rescued.

    • Rafael
      January 18, 2024 at 14:26

      Rachel Corrie was the American activist crushed by the Israeli bulldozer, pursuing the long standing policy of demolishing Palestinian houses as a form of collective punishment. (The same policy was followed by the British occupiers in Palestine before the Israeli occupiers took over).

  3. Will Durant
    January 17, 2024 at 16:58

    From rural Utah, U.S.A., thank you so much. Your bravery and moral courage is an example to us all. Frankly, I am surprised that you walked. With the relentless persecution of Julian Assange I was beginning to see the UK “justice” system as lost. Amazing what a difference an actual jury of sentient human beings can make. Most human beings recognize justice; our politicians, seldom; our de facto rulers, never. God bless you!

  4. JohnB
    January 17, 2024 at 14:45

    “It is’nt that rebels make trouble, it’s that troubles make rebels.”- sds

  5. susan
    January 17, 2024 at 13:32

    Here in the US, we should be doing the same to the following Weapons Producers: BAE, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrup Grumman, Raytheon, Leonardo DRS, Textron Systems, Honeywell, L3Harris Technologies, Oshkosh, Airbus, Aviation Industry Corporation, Norinco, Sierra Nevada Corporation, CACI, UTC Aerospace Systems, Colt, FLIR, Huntington Ingles Industry, Jacobs, PacStar, Pine Bluff Arsenal, and Leidos. All of these companies in one way or another are contributing to death throughout the world and making billions doing it! Somehow we need to stop the madness at its source…

  6. January 17, 2024 at 13:16

    Thank You!

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