Across the United States, pro-Palestine activists have taken the practice of “naming and shaming” up a notch by orchestrating direct action at the facilities of military contractors and ports materially supporting the siege and bombardment of Gaza by the State of Israel.
On Monday, Oct. 30, over 200 protesters with Palestine Action U.S., a newly-formed solidarity organization modeled after a group in the United Kingdom of a similar name, rallied outside the office of Elbit Systems in Cambridge, Mass. Elbit is the largest military contractor in Israel, pulling in $5.5 billion in revenues in 2022, according to the company’s earnings report. The company also sports seven operational facilities and numerous “innovation centers” in the United States through its subsidiary, Elbit Systems of America.
The protesters, nine of whom were arrested by the Cambridge Police Department, demanded a shutdown of the company that regularly contracts with the Israeli military for equipment like artillery shells, surveillance technology and aircraft components, making tens of millions of dollars in the process. Elbit’s own website proudly displays its avionic contributions to the Israeli military’s fleet of F-15, F-16 and F-35 fighter jets, which have terrorized the skies of Gaza in an assault that has killed over 10,000 civilians.
What do we do about this? The conventional liberal instruction of “calling your legislators” outsources political action to those people who are beholden to donors in the weapons-aerospace industry, which shelled out over $21 million in political action committee donations to both Democrats and Republicans in the 2022 election cycle. Of Connecticut’s Congressional legislators, all but Sen. Chris Murphy earned thousands in PAC donations from Lockheed Martin, a weapons manufacturer that contracts with the U.S. and Israeli militaries to build F-35 jets. Lockheed spent $1,000 on Rep. Jahana Hayes’ campaign, $8,000 on Sen. Richard Blumental’s and $10,000 each on the campaigns of representatives Jim Himes, Joe Courtney and Rosa DeLauro, according to OpenSecrets.
Similarly, the tremendous clout that pro-Israel PACs like the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, also known as AIPAC, have on American electoral politics also places an upper limit on the amount of solidarity elected officials and candidates can express for Palestine without being isolated by their party caucus or massively outspent in their next primary. Of Connecticut’s Congressional legislators, all but Sen. Chris Murphy and Rep. Jahana Hayes each received sums of nearly $8,000 from AIPAC; Hayes received nearly $3,000 and Murphy received no funding.
With both the war industry and the Israel lobby deeply entrenched in electoral politics, what better way to show solidarity with Palestinians than circumventing the “call your congresspeople” approach altogether? Launching direct confrontations against war profiteers in your community not only exposes the deeply corrupt and harmful underbelly of so-called “defense” contractors; it also shows your leaders far more effectively than a phone call that supporting arms dealers and genocide are a campaign liability. Moreover, it shows the very companies arming the genocide that their actions are a liability. Numerous other protests in the U.S. have caught wind of this.
In Oakland, over 100 demonstrators rallied on Friday, Nov. 3, to prevent the departure of the Cape Orlando military ship from the Port of Oakland — three protesters even temporarily attached themselves to the vessel for hours before being removed, according to CBS News. The Arab Resource Organizing Center, which organized the rally, received an anonymous tip that Cape Orlando was carrying U.S. military aid to support Israel in the genocide taking place in Gaza. Although the attempt to prevent the ship from leaving port was unsuccessful, the amount of risk assumed by the protest’s participants and organizers is an example of what kinds of peaceful actions scratch the surface of meaningful solidarity with Palestinians facing the daily wrath of the U.S. and Zionist war machines.
In a smaller-scale demonstration in St. Charles, Mo., the morning of Monday, Nov. 6, 75 activists blocked the gates to a Boeing plant to disrupt the accelerated production and delivery of bombs and joint direct attack munitions, or JDAMs to the Israeli military. A similar protest was held in 2018 at the facility to protest Boeing’s complicity in the Saudi-U.S. coalition bombing of Yemen, to which the U.K.-based Campaign Against Arms Trade attributes over 15,000 civilian deaths. Again, the protesters were dispersed by police, as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; however, these tactics represent the embryo of direct action that pro-Palestine advocates can take up en masse to throw a wrench in the gears of the U.S. empire.
Connecticut is home to numerous military contractors, each with varying stakes in the occupation and destruction of Palestine. Lockeed Martin’s Sikorsky in Stratford produces King Stallion helicopters for the Israeli military. Raytheon’s Collins Aerospace in Windsor Locks collaborates with Elbit Systems of America to develop helmet-mounted displays for fighter jet pilots in the U.S. and Israeli air forces. General Dynamics’ Electric Boat in Groton builds missile-equipped, nuclear-powered Ohio-class submarines for the U.S. Navy, one of which currently passed through the Suez Canal en route to provide military support to the occupation. Connecticut’s darling, the Raytheon subsidiary Pratt & Whitney, is headquartered in East Hartford and has an additional campus in Middletown. Pratt develops the F100 military engine, which powers the aforementioned F-15 and F-16 fighter jets making life in Gaza a living hell.
Peace is not possible in a world where war is profitable. As a state, national and global community, we have a responsibility to be aware and spread awareness of which corporations in their state are extracting wealth from the suffering and loss of Palestinians. Furthermore, we have a responsibility to act and show the powers that be that their faithful alliance on the war industry is neither acceptable nor sustainable. In the face of an ongoing genocide supported by the Biden administration, the urgency of combating the war industry grows exponentially. More than a ceasefire — which simply gives the Zionist occupation of Palestine time to shore up its capacity to militarily dominate the people of Gaza and the West Bank — the most necessary way to be an ally to Palestine is pushing for the disarmament of the U.S. empire.