Israel-Haters’ Latest Fake BDS Victory

Israeli defence equipment maker Elbit Systems has sold off its Ferranti Power and Control business in Manchester, and the Israel-haters are claiming victory.

After 18 months of sustained direct action taken at the Elbit Ferranti site in Oldham, Greater Manchester, with 36 people arrested, Elbit have now sold Ferranti technologies, with its continued operation in Oldham appearing unfeasible. Activists have occupied, blockaded, smashed, disrupted, and protested regularly at the site, ultimately succeeding in ending the factory’s production of specialist military technologies for Israel’s fleet of combat drones. 

In November 2021, anonymous sources revealed to Palestine Action that mass redundancy notices had been issued to staff working at the factory, and that premises were being cleared in preparation for Elbit leaving the site. Today, it was publicised that Ferranti has indeed been sold to TT Electronics, a British electronics firm.

This major restructuring – selling a subsidiary which Elbit has consistently promoted as a success and which has helped Elbit to land multi-million pound contracts with the British government – suggests that Elbit is under significant pressure to tighten its UK operations. This is most likely due to the impossibility of continuing at the often-occupied site, the massive financial impact of occupations, and an attempt to avoid more bad publicity.

Early in 2021, Elbit attempted to make the Oldham factory a viable production site by improving security. Elbit increased spending massively for round-the-clock security, and also benefitted from a rapid police response for protestor removal. Neither of these measures succeeded in keeping out activists, with the site continuing to be targetted regularly.

The first action taken in Oldham by Palestine Action, in late August 2020, involved spraying premises in blood-red paint, symbolising the Palestinian bloodshed made possible with Elbit Ferranti technologies. Following this, actions accelerated. Windows were smashed in an occupation in November 2020, while an action taken in collaboration with XR North in February 2021 caused over £20,000 in damages. In April 2021, activists not only occupied the site but gained entry to the factoy, smashing the roof, windows, air vents, and undermining future operations by covering equipment and computers in red paint – over £100,000 of damages were caused, and the site remained shut for well over a week. On July 5th, three activists gained entry to the site, allegedly causing £500,000 of damage and closing the factory for a number of weeks. More recently, in August of this year, activists blockaded the factory – blocking roads with vehcles and locking onto gates – and occupied the factory itself again. There have been a number of other actions taken at the Oldham site, with the factory forced to closed for a significant number of weeks in total due to damage caused.

The site has also been subject to regular protests called by Oldham Peace and Justice and Manchester Palestine Action, with large crowds gathering outside the factory on a weekly basis since the massive and brutal bombardments of Gaza by Israel in May. Sustained pressure, through both protests and an extended campaign of effective direct action, has generated immense challenges for Elbit, who have now sold the subsidiary and left the site.

A Palestine Action spokesperson has stated:

“The sale of Ferranti and the closure of the Oldham factory is a huge victory for the movement. So far, our actions have undermined and disrupted operations – but this news vindicates our long-term strategy. Direct action works – the brave individuals who occupied the factory over the past year can proudly say that drone technologies are no longer in production in Oldham. But its not enough that just one of these death-factories shuts down. We want to see Elbit itself shut down for good, and all of their businesses forced out of Britain – we will keep escalating our actions until that happens.”

But there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that this is anything more than a business decision totally unrelated to these boneheads’ vandalism.

Elbit is restructuring its UK business to integrate the remaining business of Ferranti Technologies, including training and simulation, avionics, display systems, aircrew survival systems, platform protection and computing, into Elbit Systems UK.

“This reorganization is part of our strategy to focus activities on certain areas in order to support the continuous expansion of our operations and collaborations in the UK,” said Martin Fausset, CEO of Elbit Systems UK.

The deal will see Ferranti P&C become part of the  UK aerospace and defence business of TT Electronics, adding to the power conversion and power management portfolio.

The UK manufacturing in Manchester provides opportunities for supply chain streamlining and consolidation for many key industry partners

Turkey’s state-owned international news channel TRT World have pushed the BDS narrative, but inadvertently show how preposterous any talk of a victory is.

While the Israeli company, which still owns other 10 factories across the UK, did not mention Palestine Action’s protests and its non-violent activism as a factor, the pro-Palestinian group believes that its actions, ranging from spraying the walls of the factory with blood-red paint to occupying its entrance, persuaded the firm to quit its Oldham company. 

These people clearly do not understand how business works if they think some red paint means a business is actually in the red. Which is not surprising, given I suspect the vast majority of them are unemployed.

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David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media