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Listen: Inside Bristol’s ‘murder factory’ arms facility, with the activists on trial for occupying it

Palestine Action activists are on trial for smashing into an Elbit factory that ships weapons technologies to Israel. But at the heart of this case is the history and tragedy of Israel’s operations in Gaza, and how Bristol’s facility plays a role in the death and destruction.

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Stavit Sinai opens her phone to find she’s been added to a group on encrypted messaging app Signal.

The 38-year-old, a philosophy teacher at a community college in Berlin, has been asked to take part in a direct-action protest at the Bristol headquarters of Elbit Systems UK, an arms company that ships weapons to Israel.

Among the names of those added to the group chat, she recognises her comrade Ronnie Barkan, who, like her, has been campaigning for years against the actions of the Israeli state: its decades-long oppression of the Palestinian people. 

The pair are dissident Israeli citizens with personal stories of the devastation of the Israeli forces’ operations in Gaza. Elbit, the group’s target as part of a campaign run by Palestine Action, helps develop technologies for drones, tanks and other weapons used by the Israeli military.

Elbit is Israel’s largest arms manufacturer, with nine sites in the UK. Bristol is its main operational facility, and the activists say that shutting it down is key to ending Britain’s “complicity” in what they and international human rights groups describe as Israel’s “apartheid regime”.

It was an action that landed Ronnie, Stavit, and their five co-defendants in the dock at Bristol Crown Court, where they are currently standing trial accused of burglary and criminal damage.

But while it’s the protesters standing trial, at the heart of the evidence is the history, tragedy and devastation of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and how what happens inside the Bristol facility plays a role in the death and destruction ordered by the Israeli state. 

This is Bristol’s ‘Murder Factory’, part of our Cable Longreads audio series. Subscribe to The Bristol Cable wherever you get your podcasts.

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