No to the DSEI arms fair! – Palestine Solidarity Campaign


“Palestinian civil society has long called for an immediate military embargo to be placed on Israel, meaning a comprehensive end to all military and security trade and cooperation.”

By Lewis Backon, Palestine Solidarity Campaign

This September, DSEI, one of the world’s largest arms fairs, is scheduled to return to the Excel Centre in Newham, London. For four days, arms companies which produce weapons used to target marginalised groups across the world will meet and trade with officials from states responsible for violence and oppression, including officials from apartheid Israel.

In the early hours of 3rd July, the Israeli military began yet another invasion of Jenin refugee camp. Throughout the next 48 hours, hundreds of heavily armed Israeli soldiers poured into the camp, as Apache attack helicopters were used to fire missiles at Palestinians from above. The attack, the largest in the occupied West Bank in 20 years, saw armoured bulldozers rip apart roads, homes and other infrastructure. Water, electricity, and telecommunications were also cut off, while entrances and exits were closed, leaving Jenin blockaded.

At least 13 Palestinians, including 5 children, were killed in the attack, with over 100 injured, and hundreds more displaced from their homes.

While shocking in its scale and brutality, the attack was not anomalous. In 2023 alone, Israeli forces have killed over 200 Palestinians in military raids, invasions, assassinations, and bombing campaigns.

The weapons and military technology used in these attacks are produced by many of the international arms companies that will attend DSEI. This includes Boeing, which produces the Apache attack helicopter used by Israel to fire missiles during its assault on Jenin. Or L3Harris, which manufacturers components for the fighter jets used by Israel in its aerial bombardments of the besieged Gaza Strip.

Israeli arms companies will also attend. Their weapons are manufactured and tested through Israel’s apartheid regime against Palestinians. This includes Elbit Systems, which produces a range of weaponry used by Israeli forces, including armoured drones likely to have been used during the invasion of Jenin. Its drones and other weaponry are also used frequently in Israel’s bombing campaigns of the besieged Gaza Strip.

The consequences of Israel’s attacks are heartbreaking and long-lasting; from those grieving loved ones to those living with life changing injuries, to those facing homelessness due to the damage to their property.

But despite the devastation, Palestinians remain defiant. Our comrades in Palestine remind us that Israel’s attempts to enforce hopelessness through barbaric violence have failed, with Palestinians meeting its regime of oppression with over 75 years of resilient and inspiring popular resistance.

DSEI won’t just aid the transfer of weapons and military technology for Israel’s violent attacks on Palestinians. Arms companies exhibiting at the fair facilitate assaults against indigenous and racialised communities across the world, producing weapons used to attack land defenders in occupied Western Sahara, strengthen the violent European border regime, and arm militarised police forces in the United States and Britain.

Neither is DSEI just complicit in violence perpetrated by other states; attendees will include companies providing equipment and services for racist border enforcement, like Serco, which is contracted to provide services for the Home Office’s Immigration Removal Centres, where migrants are detained and subject to abuse and forced deportation.

DSEI is only possible because of the support it receives from the British government. Both the Ministry of Defence, and UK Defence and Security Exports (UK DSE), part of the Department for Business and Trade, help organise the fair.

Not only does the government help organise arms fairs like DSEI, but it also continues to grant licenses for the export of weapons and military technology to be used in repression, including to Israel. From 2015-2020, the government approved at least £400 million worth of military technology and arms exports to Israel. During that period Israel killed nearly 800 Palestinians.

Palestinian civil society has long called for an immediate military embargo to be placed on Israel, meaning a comprehensive end to all military and security trade and cooperation.

DSEI is a key opportunity for us to respond to that call, and demand the government end its role as an accomplice of Israeli apartheid.

On 5 September, as the fair is setting up, PSC has organised a vigil opposite the Excel Centre. Join us to show solidarity with Palestinians, and all communities resisting racist state violence, as we’re led by artists and activists in opposing DSEI though speeches, readings and spoken word.

At the vigil, our demands won’t just be directed at the government. While Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has previously put on record his opposition to the fair, we believe he must take decisive action to stop DSEI coming to the city again.

The Stop the Arms Fair coalition is asking the mayor to put stopping the fair at the top of his agenda, including by telling the Excel Centre that no further London assembly or mayoral events will be held there while it continues to host DSEI.

We must all come together to help make sure the arms fair is stopped – that would be a starting point in ending Britain’s longstanding complicity in Israeli apartheid. 

  • Lewis Backon is Campaigns Officer at Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the largest organisation in Britain working in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Find out more about the Stop the DSEI Arms Fair Vigil being held on Tuesday, 5th September and assembling at Cundy Park, Prince Regents Lane, London, E13 8RY.
  • You can sign the Open Letter to Sadiq Khan, calling for the arms fair not to be held in London, here.
Featured image: War Starts Here banner held by activists outside the DSEI Arms Fair on September 14th, 2021. Photo credit: Alisdare Hickson under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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