Activists Disrupt Drone Conference to Protest Thales’ Involvement in Israeli Arms Production
Activists from Palestine Action, a network of individuals and groups dedicated to taking direct action against properties owned by Israel’s largest arms firm, Elbit Systems, made headlines yesterday as they disrupted the DroneX Trade Show & Conference at ExCel London. The interruption came during a keynote speech by Dave Drewitt, Head of Sales and Business Development at Thales’ Flight Avionics, a leading global arms company, and was intended to highlight the company’s involvement in manufacturing drones used by Israel against the Palestinian people.
Thales and Its Involvement in Arms Production
Thales is among the world’s largest arms companies, producing a wide range of military equipment including drones, armoured vehicles, and missile systems. The company has a partnership with Elbit Systems, Israel’s biggest weapons manufacturer, and together they co-own UAV Tactical Systems (U-TacS). U-TacS operates a military drone factory in Leicester, predominantly producing the Watchkeeper drone, a model based on Elbit’s Hermes 450 drone, widely used in surveillance and attacks on the Palestinian people. The Leicester factory also holds several licenses to export military drone weaponry directly to Israel.
Conference Attendees: A Mix of NHS, Weapons Companies, and the British Army
A diverse range of representatives attended the conference, including individuals from the National Health Service (NHS), senior members of weapons companies, and the British Army. Notably, Craig Palmer, a senior British army officer who works with Elbit Systems and Thales on the Watchkeeper programme, was present. Other attendees represented organisations such as Airbus Military UK Ltd, Maritime and Coastguard Agency Aviation Evolution, and the UK Civil Aviation Authority, all of which are known to work with Elbit.
Palestine Action’s Previous Campaigns Against Thales
Palestine Action has a history of targeting Thales for its role in aiding Elbit Systems. Last year, activists occupied Thales’s roof at their Glasgow factory twice and more recently, targeted their headquarters in Doncaster. The group has asserted that any business collaborating with or facilitating Elbit Systems’ actions will be targeted.
Activists Continue to Challenge Arms Trade and Manufacturing
The incident at the DroneX Trade Show & Conference marks another chapter in the ongoing activism against arms trade and manufacturing, particularly as it involves the Israel-Palestine conflict. As activists continue to challenge companies like Thales and Elbit Systems, their actions highlight the complex and controversial nature of international arms trade, drawing attention to the ethical considerations surrounding the production and use of weapons technology, particularly in the context of ongoing conflicts.
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