For Justice and Freedom in this World, Palestinians Must be Free

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

As we watch in horror as Israel rains down murderous carnage and enforces a deadly siege upon Palestinian civilians in Gaza and expands the terror in the West Bank, many in the UK have been outraged by the unadulterated support given to Israel to commit war crimes by our Conservative government and main opposition party, The Labour Party. Israeli civilians were rightly mourned after the attacks in Southern Israel, but Palestinians have struggled to have their humanity even recognised by the establishment in the UK, even as thousands are slaughtered. Alongside the diplomatic, political and military cover provided to Israel by the UK, and in a much larger way by the US, production of arms for the Israeli military continues on UK soil. I joined activists this summer to pressure this to stop and highlight it to the citizenry in the UK.

On the outskirts of Leicester, a city in the heartland of England, UK, sits an innocuous-looking factory. For over a month now activists and citizens from every walk of life have proceeded to lay siege and protest against what is produced in this factory and where the end product is then used.

UAV Tactical Systems, a subsidiary of Israel-based ‘defence’ electronics company Elbit Systems, who own the factory, produce components for drones, drones which are then sold to the British army and Israel Defence Forces. These drones are used as invasive surveillance tools (and can be equipped with missiles) to terrorise Palestinians on a daily basis, specifically in the Gaza Strip which has been under an illegal and immoral siege from land, sea and air for decades by Israel. There is no way in and no way out for the overwhelming majority of Palestinian people living there.

I visited the camp last week and stayed with fellow activists to have our voices and demands heard on behalf of the Palestinian people. There were many people from the local area present, from all walks of life, people from Scotland, people from Ireland, Jewish people from Na’amod and many others who were all joined and connected together for this just cause of freedom and justice for the Palestinian people. At least hundreds of people had already visited and supported the protest throughout May. The local community has generously supported throughout the protest with food, drinks and bedding, delivered on a daily basis. We all enjoyed and appreciated the fresh pizza delivered late at night!

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(The “strip” where we were confined to, to protest the factory)

This action has been led by Palestine Action, who throughout the siege have carried out legitimate direct action against the factory, including physically blockading the entrance to the factory. Palestine Action and their activists have targeted the factory, and other Elbit owned premises across the UK numerous times over the last few years and paid the price, through dozens of arrests, criminal charges and prosecutions.

As a result of the direct action and the violent response from the police, the protest had been confined to a narrow strip opposite the factory, and this was being enforced by a section 14 order, with police present throughout to enforce the order. I.e we were not allowed to leave this narrow strip to protest in any way. The police were very quick to remind us of this whenever we dared to move freely. When asked if they were going to investigate potential activities in the factory linked to war crimes in Palestine, they laughed and simply shrugged their shoulders. The question, apparently, was not even something that would have crossed their minds. There was a threat of violence directed at us from a member of the huge amounts of security employed at the factory. When reported immediately to the police present, again, we were met with a shrug of the shoulders. None of this behaviour was surprising to us but it was a chilling reminder of how simply one’s rights can and are being disregarded in the UK under policies introduced under consecutive right wing Conservative governments.

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(The section 14 order issued by the police to repress the protest)

The Section 14 ended on the evening of 31st May, and we were able to leave our “strip” and protest freely directly outside the factory again. It felt good, we felt our spirits lift and celebrated this small victory, whilst remaining in the full knowledge that the Palestinian people do not have access to these same freedoms living under the occupation and apartheid.

Palestinians in Palestine, as for all peoples in this world, have the moral and legal right to a free life. Free from the ongoing and all-pervasive tyranny, oppression and persecution of the occupation and apartheid. The freedom to move, unhindered, and go about their daily lives as they see fit not under the threat of violence, harassment, arrest, imprisonment and death, over 100 Palestinians had already been killed by June 2023 by Israel Defence Forces. With the unfolding massacre underway we are now approaching 5000 killed with no end in sight and no accountability. Palestinians are denied the simple freedom to achieve their potential and live full lives. These freedoms are enshrined throughout international law.

This freedom and justice will only be achieved through the people of the world joining together with the Palestinians in protest actions and pushing our governments to change their radically supportive stance of the Israeli occupation and apartheid of the Palestinian people and their land. Our government must be forced to uphold what they glibly, and often, proclaim to be a cornerstone of their foreign policies, to support democracy and the human rights of all human beings.

As I left the protest, having made new friends and contacts, the protest continued. Palestine Action continue to lay siege to the factory (over 150 days now) and target those involved and complicit in the violence and dehumanisation of the Palestinian people, including the BBC. The aim remaining, always and until it is achieved, to free, free Palestine and its people.

Jonathan Woodrow Martin is a graduate of HCRI institute at The University of Manchester and can be reached at