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Part of the blockade of the General Dynamics factory in Sidney Little Road, 29 February 2024. Photo: Hastings Online Times

Peaceful protestors arrested at anti-genocide demo in Hastings

Three local residents were arrested last week during a peaceful protest outside an arms factory in St Leonards. Gabriel Carlyle reports.

At 7am Thursday 29 February 2024, around 30 local residents took part in a peaceful blockade of General Dynamics’ factory in Sidney Little Road, St Leonards, to highlight the companies’ ongoing role in Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

The protest was timed to coincide with workers arriving at the plant. Demonstrators held placards, sang songs of peace and handed out leaflets which informed workers of their right to refuse to take part in handling components used in breach of international law.

Police ignored protestors’ claims that they were acting to prevent the crime of genocide and arrested three people – one of whom is a pensioner – for ‘aggravated trespass’.

The three were held for nearly 14 hours before being charged and released. They have been bailed to appear at Hastings Magistrates court on 3 April.

Photo: Hastings Online Times

A broad coalition

Hastings & District Palestine Solidarity Campaign (HDPSC) brought together a broad coalition of community groups for Thursday’s protest, including representatives of Jewish, climate justice and parent groups, trade union bodies, the Quakers and political parties.

This was HDPSC’s fourth protest at General Dynamics’ sites in Hastings (there are two) since the beginning of the current Israeli assault on Gaza.

Over the last five months protests have been mounted outside arms factories all over the country – including in Kent, Leicester, Bristol, Bournemouth, Glasgow, Cambridge, Brighton, London, Lancashire, Belfast and Monmouthshire – to demand an end to the UK’s ongoing complicity and enabling of genocide.

A suspension of arms sales to Israel is supported by a wide range of civil society groups including Amnesty International UK, Christian Aid, Human Rights Watch, War on Want and Quakers in Britain.

A sign from the protest. Photo: Hastings Online Times

‘Genocide Dynamics’

A flier given out at Thursday’s protest noted that: ‘Almost all of the MK80 bombs being dropped on Gaza are made by General Dynamics which is the fifth biggest arms company in the world. Their site in Hastings provides leading avionic systems for fighter planes and tactical communications equipment for ground vehicles.’

In January the International Court of Justice ruled that there was a plausible case that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza.

On 12 February a Dutch court ordered a halt to the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel, ruling there was a ‘clear risk’ that the parts would be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law, as ‘there are many indications that Israel has violated the humanitarian law of war in a not insignificant number of cases’.

And on 23 February a group of UN experts issued a statement that ‘Any transfer of weapons or ammunition to Israel that would be used in Gaza is likely to violate international humanitarian law and must cease immediately’.

Police arrest one of the peaceful protestors at General Dynamics’ factory in St Leonards, 29 February 2024. Photo: Hastings Online Times

‘We are not the criminals here’

Laurie Holden, 71, a retired train driver from Burwash, was one of those arrested at the demonstration. He told HOT: ‘It is outrageous that the police are treating us as criminals. We are not the criminals here – we are highlighting the criminal complicity of our government and arms companies in continuing to supply arms to Israel which is in the dock for genocide in Gaza. We will always stand on the side of the people of Palestine.’

HDPSC Chair Katy Colley added: ‘Our government has refused to halt export licenses to Israel so it is our duty as citizens to stand up for peace, international law and human rights. We will not stand by as the UK continues to arm this genocide of the Palestinian people. It must end now.’

The blockade of General Dynamics factory in Sidney Little Road, 29 February 2024. Photo: Hastings Online Times

Not in our name

At the demo, Leah Levane of Jewish Voice for Labour said that Israel could no longer ‘act with impunity’: ‘It is shocking that the UK government is granting arms licences to Israel,’ she said. ‘This makes the UK partners in the occupation and the genocide in Gaza. As a Jewish organisation, we are one of several Jewish groups in the UK and the many more across the world who are protesting loud and clear – NOT IN OUR NAME.’

Jen Rouse, representing Parents for Future Hastings & St Leonards, said: ‘The thought of our own kids having to live through even a fraction of the terror and trauma that Israel inflicts on Gazan children every day is unbearable. So the only right thing for all UK parents to do is to be here today, demanding an immediate end to the bloodshed. We will never give up until we see a free Palestine.’

HDPSC is planning to return for another protest outside the factory 8pm – 5pm on Wednesday 13 March.

Those arrested were released from Hastings police station around 11pm. Photo: Hastings Online Times

UK arms to Israel

‘Between 2018–2022, the UK government approved single export licences to Israel to the value of £146m. This included many highly pertinent pieces of equipment such as “components for combat aircraft” and “components for military head-up/down displays”. However, this probably represents only a minority of UK arms sales to Israel, as it excludes equipment supplied under what are known as “open” licences, which have no limits on the quantity or value of exports.

‘In particular, it does not include the UK arms industry’s contribution to the US F-35 stealth fighter jet programme, for which Israel is a customer. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Israel has ordered 50 F-35 aircraft, of which 36 had been delivered by the end of 2022. The Israeli military has confirmed that these planes are being used, alongside earlier US-made F-16s, in the bombing of Gaza.

‘As the only “Tier 1 partner” in the F-35 programme, the UK produces around 15% of the value of every F-35, including those sold to Israel. These exports to the US, for inclusion in the complete planes – and directly to Israel for spare parts – are covered by an Open General Export Licence (OGEL), which allows registered companies to export unlimited quantities of equipment for the F-35 to partner and customer countries, including Israel.

‘Based on the $80m production cost of the F-35, the UK’s 15% share of Israel’s 50 aircraft would represent about $600m, which is around £475m.’

Source: CAAT News, Spring 2024, p. 7


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Posted 21:16 Sunday, Mar 3, 2024 In: Campaigns

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