Sedgemoor District Council offices were targeted overnight by pro-Palestinian protestors as part of a National and Global campaign against investors in the Elbit Systems Company that supplies the Israeli arms Industry. Sedgemoor’s King Square offices were daubed with red paint and surrounded by tape saying ‘war crime scene’ with ‘Evict Elbit’ daubed on doors and windows. In January 2020 Sedgemoor District Council, as part of its commercial investment acquisition programme, acquired two office blocks in Aztec West in Bristol. Both office blocks were subject to existing tenancies. One of the existing tenants, Elbit Systems, is an Israeli owned defence manufacturer specialising in drones. Its portfolio also includes systems for military aircraft and helicopters, armed remote control boats, land vehicles and for command and control. The company is heavily engaged in the militarisation of borders worldwide. It has electronically controlled walls and border in the Occupied Palestinian territories since 2002 and is a self proclaimed leader in border surveillance technologies. It is the world’s 28th Largest arms-producing company with $3.5bn recorded sales in 2018 (SIPRI 2018). The opposition Labour group on Sedgemoor has condemned the investment and called for disposal at the earliest opportunity.
Opposition Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) said “Sedgemoor acquired the property as part of a general portfolio to generate income to replace the withdrawal of the Government rate support grant but the Labour Group opposed this specific investment from the outset and have regularly made the case for ‘Ethical investment of public money’. This doesn’t just apply to investments like this which actively fund the Israeli military in their operations in Gaza but across the board investments such as ecological and other moral issues. I have called once again to withdraw from this company and to dispose of this investment at the earliest opportunity. I’m not specifically challenging the policy of investing to generate income because Sedgemoor Tories are a victim yet again of the their own Governments decision to withdraw local authority grant funding and have chosen instead to go into the casino and spin the wheel as a result, but I AM saying that where there is public money involved people will want to know how their money is being invested and we have called consistently for ‘ethical’ investments . They need to immediately agree to disengage from this property and this company.”
Other Labour councillors added to the chorus of anger. Cllr Julie Cordiner (Labour, Victoria) said “I totally object to this investment which i’m sure inadvertently leads to the murder of children. Shocking! “
Town Councillor Glen Burrows (Labour, Eastover) said “ We cannot turn our backs on the continued attacks by Israel on Palestinian civilians. Elbit is one of Israel’s largest arms manufacturers, including the drones which are used in those attacks. Doing any type of business with Elbit means profiting from violence and and human rights violations. This is in contravention of international law.”
A statement from Bridgwater Branch Labour Party secretary Andrew Jeffery also condemned the investment saying “It’s important that people know about and understand the connections between investments and businesses here in the UK and what is described by many as an apartheid regime of Israel over the Palestinian people, including by the UN. This must be opposed at every turn.”
The Campaign Against the Arms Trade information about Elbit can be found here.