In a bold act of protest against what they perceive as complicity in human rights abuses, activists from Manchester Palestine Action rallied outside the new offices of iO Associates, a recruitment agency working closely with Elbit Systems UK, an Israeli weapons manufacturer. The demonstrators accused iO Associates of aiding “Elbit Murderers” and demanded an immediate cessation of their partnership with the controversial firm.
The protest unfolded on Thursday, September 7, 2023, just a day after iO Associates publicly announced their expansion into the realm of “defense recruitment” in Manchester. The activists, draped in flags and brandishing a banner bearing their message, entered the office building, where they confronted iO Associates’ staff and management.
The activists said that the director of iO Associates, Ross Markall, resorted to physical violence against several members of their group, including a 14-year-old girl who happened to be the daughter of a journalist. According to their claims, Markall smashed the teenager’s phone and attempted to prevent her from documenting the unfolding events.
With offices spanning Bristol, Reading, Newcastle, London, and now Manchester, iO Associates exclusively handles recruitment for Elbit Systems UK, the British subsidiary of the Israeli largest weapons manufacturer, Elbit Systems. Notably, Elbit Systems is responsible for producing a substantial 85% of Israel’s military drone fleet, in addition to various other weaponry and equipment employed by the Israeli occupation army during aggressions against Palestinians. The company has controversially stated that its products are “battle-tested,” often having been utilized in Gaza, where the Israeli occupation has conducted several deadly offensive operations in recent years.
War Crimes in Gaza
In Gaza, where many of these weapons are deployed, there have been accusations that the Israeli occupation may have committed war crimes against Palestinians during its military campaigns. The United Nations and various human rights organizations have expressed concerns about the disproportionate use of force and civilian casualties during these operations.
The activists argue that their targeting of iO Associates is emblematic of their complicity in the Israeli perceived crimes and transgressions of international law. They have vowed to persist in their efforts until iO Associates publicly announces the severance of all ties with Elbit Systems UK.
Ongoing Nationwide Protests
This action by Manchester Palestine Action represents just one episode in an ongoing series of protests and direct actions by Palestine Action, a nationwide network of activists committed to shutting down Elbit Systems’ operations in the UK. Their relentless efforts recently culminated in the closure of Elbit Systems’ weapons factory in Oldham after a five-year campaign marked by intense direct action. Palestine Action has similarly targeted other sites and companies collaborating with Elbit Systems across the UK.
In response to these developments, a spokesperson for Manchester Palestine Action asserted, “Manchester won’t accept a recruitment agency for Israel’s criminal weapons firm Elbit Systems. People here are disgusted iO Associates have expanded into the city. How dare they when Israel has been exposed as an apartheid state again and again? Israel continues to massacre Palestinians, steal more land, and imprison people for defending their homes from ethnic cleansing. We won’t stop until all Elbit’s recruiters are kicked out of the city, and Elbit is forced out of Britain for good.”