BDS Australia calls on Victorian Premier to end support for Elbit

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In July 2021 BDS Australia wrote to the Premier of the Victorian government, Daniel Andrews calling on him to reconsider its support for the Israeli arms manufacturer, Elbit Systems. We will post any response we receive regarding this letter.

The Hon. Daniel Andrews
Premier of Victoria
Level 1/1 Treasury Place,
East Melbourne, VIC 3002                           July 22, 2021                                                                 

Dear Premier Andrews,

                                                               Re:  Victorian government funding to Elbit AI Centre

We write on behalf of BDS Australia, a coalition of ten organisations nationally which is dedicated to informing and raising awareness in the Australian community in support of a just peace for the Palestinian people.

We do this primarily by organising and implementing Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) initiatives as part of the Palestinian led, international and peaceful effort to pressure the State of Israel to adhere to international law and human rights conventions in relation to its illegal actions and denial of Palestinian rights.

BDS Australia is deeply concerned about the Victorian Government’s support of Elbit Systems of Australia and the Melbourne based AI Centre of Excellence which this company is establishing.  As you may be aware, Elbit Systems is Israel’s largest arms manufacturer and the primary supplier of the Israeli military and a key global manufacturer and exporter of drone and military surveillance technologies. Elbit Systems and its Australian subsidiary, Elbit Systems of Australia are deeply complicit in the actions of the Israeli government against civilian Palestinian populations, particularly in Gaza.

We have attached a Briefing Note prepared by one of our member organisations (CJPP), which includes information on why Australian states and the Australian federal government should not partner with this company.

We would also like to draw your attention to this comprehensive online resource on Elbit Systems by the American Friends Service Committee which is a Quaker organization that recommends Elbit for divestment and gives detailed evidence on why this conclusion has been reached.

The July 2021 edition of New Scientist reported on the use of ‘swarm drones’ in Israel’s most recent attack on Palestinians in Gaza in May this year. Local media reports indicated that these drones were supplied by Elbit and that this was the first operational use of this form of weaponry. The drone swarm gathered intelligence, carried out attacks as well as providing targeting information for guided mortar weapons according to the Israeli Defence Forces. Elbit Systems are notorious for advertising and selling their weapons as being ‘field tested’ or ‘battle proven’ and it is well documented that they are always ‘field tested’ on Palestinian civilians.

We note that the Victorian Government supports ‘high standards of ethical conduct and compliance with all applicable laws’ in its ethical procurement policy and ask whether the government applies a similar standard in relation to its support for businesses or companies especially weapons manufacturers such as Elbit Systems of Australia. 

We draw your attention to the fact that Australia is a signatory to the UN Arms Trade Treaty of 2013, which was negotiated primarily due to concerns over violations of international humanitarian law and human rights that were occurring in various conflicts around the globe. The Israeli government’s violations of international law have been thoroughly documented over many decades as has its use of weapons manufactured by Elbit Systems. Given this evidence, we believe that the Victorian governmenthas an obligation to cease supplying funds or support to Elbit Systems of Australia.

We join with the international Stop Elbit campaign calling on governments to end all ties with Elbit, and we ask that you take urgent action to cancel the Victorian Government’s association with Elbit Systems of Australia.

We look forward to your response.
BDS Convenor and Deputy Convenor

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