Stop the Arms Fair (STAF) protesters have dropped two giant banners on a disused building opposite the ExCeL Centre, London. This is in solidarity with Palestine and to oppose all those who profit from death at the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair. Between 14-17 September, DSEI – one of the world’s largest arms fairs – hosts global delegates who buy and sell weapons and military technology. These have been used in conflicts that kill, maim and cause devastation around the world including in Yemen, Afghanistan, Palestine and Syria. Activists displayed a Palestinian flag and an Extinction Rebellion banner, as well as sounding raid sirens, while military boats were being paraded on the dock below.
One of the STAF activists taking part said:
We’re taking action to disrupt the boat display at DSEI because these machines are sold to bring violence to borders around the world. In the oceans around fortress Europe, live fire is used on migrant boats which are then abandoned at sea and whole families are left to drown. The UK Home Office is increasingly adopting this violent approach to our borders and never has the narrative been clearer – we start war, perpetuate it, then turn our backs on the victims as the disastrous last 20 years in Afghanistan has shown.
We’ve taken this action to stand in solidarity with all the people of Palestine who’ve died or lost family and friends, or who live under continued oppression and violence because of the gross imbalance of the Westernised might of the Israeli occupation. The arms trade is the peak of destructive capitalism, steeped in profiteering through violence which claims to be in the name of defence. But actually, if it was truly in the name of defence, there’d be no justification for open invitations to human rights abusers at DSEI.
War is ecocide – there’s no more destructive force than bombs and missiles that wipe out entire communities and their infrastructure. This is the pinnacle of what’s wrong with the world and human nature and we shouldn’t perpetuate it in the name of industry.
It’s not enough to be peaceful; we need to actively wage peace.
STAF is a coalition of groups and individuals who joined forces in 2011 to put an end to DSEI and all UK arms fairs. It says:
Aside from selling illegal torture weapons, DSEI brings together military buyers from human rights abusing regimes, despots from countries involved in conflict, and arms manufacturers to browse, exhibit and trade in weapons of warfare. With the support of the UK government and our taxes, arms deals made at DSEI are where war, refugee crises, genocide, and environmental devastation, begin.
Dominated by Elbit systems and including three state-owned companies (Israel Aircraft Industries, Israel Military Industries and Rafael) the Israeli arms trade is a multi-million pound industry. Delegates and major companies are present at DSEI 2021. Since 1967, Israel has faced international outcry and demands for war crimes investigations over its repeated military attacks on Gaza and the occupied territories. STAF, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), and other NGOs including Palestine Solidarity Campaign have long called for an arms embargo on Israel, as well as a halt to all UK links with the Israeli arms industry, including UK arms purchases from Israel and joint arms development projects.
Stay tuned via our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages for more live updates from the ground. We are very grateful to have received some financial support from Stop the Arms Fair in order to report the actions against DSEI from 6 to 17 September.
Featured image and images in the text by Lizzie Gilson and Rowan Farrell, used with permission