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Palestinian liberation and climate justice: more in common than you might think Open in fullscreen

Malia Bouattia

Palestinian liberation and climate justice: more in common than you might think

XR North and Palestine Action blockaded Elbit's Oldham factory [Vladimir Morozov via Palestine Action]

Date of publication: 11 February, 2021

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Comment: This joint action to protest Elbit sends an important message about the links between fighting colonialism, structural oppression and for climate justice, writes Malia Bouattia.
Last Monday, Palestine Action and Extinction Rebellion North joined forces to occupy the Oldham based factory of Israeli arms company, Elbit Systems. Activists called on the factory to be shut down, blocked its gates, and splattered blood-red paint on the building.

The groups were protesting the British government's most recent contract with the arms company, worth £102 million. Elbit Systems is responsible for 85 percent of the Israeli military's drone fleet, the surveillance technology used for its illegal apartheid wall, and for weaponry that has been "battle-tested" on Palestinians.

Despite the manufacturer's role in enabling human rights abuses, the UK Ministry of Defence remains uncritical and continues to extend its business.
 

During this period of financial crisis, mass unemployment and plummeting poverty brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, and after a year spent watching our political leaders fail to adequately fund and resource basic lifesaving measures, this contract demonstrates yet again the appalling priorities of this government. Better bombs instead of better hospitals. Profit before people.   

The direct action organised by Palestine Action and XR should therefore serve as a wakeup call on many grounds. As the XR spokesperson put it, "we will not accept an economy based on devastation, occupation and war. Our communities deserve and want a sustainable, fair and healthy future, for all people." 

Furthermore, the significance of the two forces joining together to take a stand sends an important message to those who refuse to see the links between fighting colonialism, structural oppression and for climate justice. "We recognise the overlapping injustice and exploitation that reinforce the struggles so many of us face. Whether it's poverty wages, obscene inequality, the destruction of our living world, or racist oppression," the XR spokesperson added. 

The collaboration between these different activist groups is putting into practice the politics, the unity, and the direct action that are all so urgently needed

As government and corporate greenwashing and empty gestures abound, such actions have in recent years increased our ability to challenge state and profit-driven co-option of climate justice and anti-racism alike, and have also strengthened our resistance against global oppression and climate change overall. 

In the past, The Wretched of the Earth - a coalition of climate justice groups led by indigenous people and people of colour - called on Extinction Rebellion to reflect on the global impacts of climate change on oppressed groups, Global South communities and migrants who have long been the primary victims of the destruction caused by a profit-driven economic system.

This state of affairs, they explained, is not a new phenomenon. It has its roots in centuries of colonial endeavours, which murdered and enslaved countless human beings, plundered their natural resources and transformed their environments to maximise their productivity.

"For centuries, racism, sexism and classism have been necessary for this system to be upheld, and have shaped the conditions we find ourselves in,' explained dozens of groups, including Black Lives Matter UK in an open letter to Extinction Rebellion led by The Wretched of the earth.

Their demands included an end to the arms trade as "W
ars have been created to serve the interests of corporations - the largest arms deals have delivered oil; while the world's largest militaries are the biggest users of petrol."

Read more: Israel to demolish 38 Palestinian homes in the West Bank village of Walaja

The collaboration between these different activist groups is putting into practice the politics, the unity, and the direct action that are all so urgently needed if we are to save our planet – and our collective future on it.

The activists who occupied Elbit show the way: this is no time to sit at home feeling powerless about the state of the world. Colonialism, exploitation, and climate catastrophe have their roots within our societies, they are the outcome of our state's actions, and of the corporations based within their borders. We can take action to frustrate their business as usual. 

In fact, the activists' harsh treatment at the hands of the state highlights all too clearly how much of an impact such united efforts are having, and how feared they are by those causing death and destruction in the name of power and profit. Eight of the people involved were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and aggravated trespass. 

Palestine Action co-founder Richard Barnard was arrested on Wednesday on grounds of "blackmail". In addition, both his home and that of Huda Ammori, another of the group's founders, were raided, during which their passports, bank cards and driving licences were seized.

"This is just another extension of harassment by the police. We will not be deterred,"
stated Ammori. They were all eventually released. This response by the police captures the deep immorality of our system starkly. It is those opposing mass murder on a global scale and the destruction of the environment that comes with it, who are treated as dangerous criminals, while their adversaries can continue, unmolested, to kill. 

Opposition is mounting - whether against HS2, Elbit systems, and climate change or against the bleeding dry of teachers, healthcare workers, and others.

The tactics of intimidation and criminalisation against dissenters is nothing new, but it has been clear for quite some time that state forces are particularly emboldened by the exceptional measures introduced since the Covid-19 outbreak. Yet, the draconian Coronavirus Act 2020 has already been uncritically extended and who knows what else will follow - or for how long it might remain in place.

The UK government has demonstrated it isn't and shouldn't be trusted to serve the interests of the people they are supposed to represent, nor of our planet. As rage towards them and the system they represent continues to build, they move ever more rapidly towards repressive measures.

But the tide cannot be stemmed. Opposition is mounting - whether against HS2, Elbit systems, and climate change or against the bleeding dry of teachers, healthcare workers, and others. While frontline workers are ignored, left to fight a pandemic without the necessary resources, our government continues to invest millions in the oppression and murder of people across the globe - from Kashmir to Palestine. They must be stopped: one occupation, one demonstration, one strike at a time.

Malia Bouattia is an activist, a former president of the National Union of Students, and co-founder of the Students not Suspects/Educators not Informants Network.

Follow her on Twitter: @MaliaBouattia

Have questions or comments? Email us at: editorial-english@alaraby.co.uk

Opinions expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer, or of The New Arab and its editorial board or staff.

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