Elbit’s Cruel Profit from Palestinian Suffering

As they often did on any given day, the al-Jarah family gathered for some tea, a time-honored Gazan tradition and valued opportunity for relaxation and catching up. They enjoyed the tranquility of being together in the protection and comfort of their courtyard. As they were sipping their tea, a deafening explosion ripped through the air, spraying rubble through the courtyard and demolishing their home. All that remained were piles of debris and the remains of six bodies. The al-Jarah family died after being hit by a missile from an unmanned drone.

 
Tragically, this attack back on January 16, 2009 is not an isolated incident. Although things have calmed down since the Israeli "Cast Lead" war on Gaza, the drone attacks remain a much-feared and ever-present part of Gazan daily life. According to the highly publicized Goldstone Report, these unpiloted aircraft have given the Israeli military complete control of the airspace above Gaza. They have also caused Gazans to live in constant fear of attack, never knowing when they could become a target—day or night. The Israeli military’s biggest supplier of drones is...Elbit Systems Ltd.
 
Israel’s largest arms manufacturer and one of the world’s largest defense electronics manufacturers, Elbit specializes in researching and manufacturing surveillance technology, unmanned aircraft and ground vehicles, and military electronic hardware. Elbit supplies the Israeli military with Hermes 450 drones, unmanned aircraft often referred to as the military’s ‘workhorse.’ The Hermes’ precise sensor capability makes it a perfect choice for patrolling Palestinian territory. Drones were involved in the killing of 29 children in Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2008-2009, as well as the ongoing bombing that has been part of the Gazan experience. 
 
Elbit Systems Ltd. is also one of the contractors building the Separation Wall which snakes its way deep through Palestinian territory in the West Bank, locking Palestinians out of Israel and significant parts of their own farm land and water sources. Elbit and its subsidiaries provide the Wall’s surveillance equipment such as unmanned ground vehicles for patrolling sections of the Wall, LORROS surveillance cameras, and the surveillance systems to centrally collect and disseminate data on activity on and near the wall. The U.N.’s International Court of Justice has declared the Wall to be illegal under international law.
 
Building on the success of their military-industrial achievements, they have expanded their business into the U.S. and other countries. Elbit has subsidiaries in New Hampshire, Florida, California, Virginia and Alabama. Through its subsidiary, Kollsman Inc., Elbit is supplying the know-how for, and participating in, the construction of the U.S.’s own separation wall being erected along the Mexico-U.S. border.
 
Can Elbit’s participation in the siege of Palestinian land and water be stopped?
 
Despite its growth over time, not all is going so well for Elbit these days. Investors and large pension funds, urged on by growing public outrage and shareholder activism, are shedding their shares in Elbit. Norway’s Minister of Finance tersely described the sentiment in September, 2009: “We will not invest in companies that, as Elbit does, have activities that are illegal according to international law.” Norway’s $400 billion dollar State Pension Fund then divested itself of $6 million dollars of Elbit stock. This move by Europe’s largest investment fund inspired similar divestment by national pension funds, institutional investors, and life insurance companies. Among the institutions that have joined the divestment movement are massive public pension funds in Sweden, Denmark and Holland as well the Danish Danske Bank and Germany’s biggest bank, Deutsche Bank. 
 
This push for divestment is part of a global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement aimed at pressuring Israel to end its illegal occupation and siege of the occupied Palestinian territories. The campaign, which also targets American corporations such as Caterpillar and Motorola, is now spreading across the U.S. 
 
As part of a larger national TIAA-CREF campaign coordinated by our ally Jewish Voice for Peace and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Grassroots International has recently launched a campaign to urge the giant pension fund TIAA-CREF to divest from Elbit. Grassroots International’s focus is on Elbit as the major contractor profiting from the construction of the Separation Wall. The Wall’s construction has already destroyed more than 13 miles of water networks, uprooted more than 100,000 olive and citrus trees, and separated Palestinian farmers from their land and livelihood.
 
Elbit Systems, Ltd. stands to make an estimated $2 million per kilometer in the construction costs of the Separation Wall. Palestinians, like the al-Jarah family, stand to lose their lives, livelihoods and land as the Wall and its military machinery gobble up resources. That’s why people are taking action.
 
Grassroots International invited individuals concerned with human and resource rights to ask TIAA-CREF to divest from Elbit. Within days, over one thousand people signed on, nearly a third of whom are TIAA-CREF participants and investors.  While that’s a good start, thousands more are needed to grab the attention of the financial services giant with the message that it’s just wrong to profit from injustice.