In November legal action was taken in Australia by Palestinian human rights organisations Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in conjunction with the Australian Centre for International Justice to obtain information on Australia’s arms exports to Israel since October 7, 2023.
ACTIVISTS CLAIM VICTORY AS RMIT ENDS ELBIT PARTNERSHIP Activists are celebrating the announcement by RMIT that it has ceased its research partnership with Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems, which develops, tests, and provides weapons and drones to the Israeli military for use against Palestinians.
This victory comes just over a year after RMIT was targeted by BDS Australia due to its advertised partnership with Elbit Systems in the development of AI systems. In 2022, Palestine’s largest academic and tertiary union (PFUUPE), representing over 6,000 academics and staff, wrote to RMIT and urged it to suspend all collaboration with Elbit Systems. Subsequently staff and students held on-campus protests and speak-outs. RMIT did not respond to any of these representations nor to the large online petition with 2000+ signatures calling for an end to all ties with Elbit Systems.
Throughout 2023, two Melbourne activists, Shane McCartin and Mark Bradbeer, took the campaign to RMIT’s doorstep and for 8 and a half months picketed each week outside the campus. They were joined by members of Free Palestine Melbourne and Students for Palestine (Victoria) distributing information about the use of Elbit technologies in war crimes against Palestinian civilians and calling for an end to RMIT’s complicity with these crimes.
“At first, many students and staff we spoke to knew nothing about Elbit Systems or its relationship with RMIT,” said Mark Bradbeer. “It was slow work but our support grew steadily as people learned of the partnership.”
The campaign received a boost in July when high profile journalist and author Antony Loewenstein denounced the RMIT-Elbit partnership,
“If you partner, as a state or a university, with a company like Elbit, you have blood on your hands because the record of Elbit in Israel-Palestine, on the US-Mexican border and elsewhere is so damned clear”, said Lowenstein. “So RMIT needs to answer very serious questions about it, and actually feel pressure about that – a lot of pressure.”
On 19 October 80 activists associated with Students for Palestine (Victoria) marched on the RMIT campus denouncing the university for its complicity in ongoing Israeli atrocities in the Gaza Strip.
In response to this protest, RMIT released a statement that it no longer has any partnerships with Elbit Systems or Elbit Systems of Australia. When clarification was sought, RMIT confirmed that their planned partnership with Elbit Systems was terminated, and that they have no relationship with the company or any of its subsidiaries.
“This is a significant victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in Australia,” said Hilmi Dabbagh, from BDS Australia, which partnered with Free Palestine Melbourne throughout the campaign. “Australian universities have been put on notice that they will be targeted if they partner with any Israeli company or institution complicit in human rights abuses and attacks on Palestinians.”
How Israel’s occupation has gone global: Antony Loewenstein presents ‘The Palestine Laboratory’
“From Israeli spyware ending up on the phones of activists in Mexico to Israeli drones being used by the EU to “monitor” refugees struggling and often drowning in the Mediterranean, the public is recognising how the Israeli occupation is being exported, and the danger it poses.”
Award-winning investigative journalist, Antony Loewenstein will discuss his latest book, The Palestine Laboratory at this special BDS Australia event in Sydney.
What: How Israel’s occupation has gone global: Antony Loewenstein presents “The Palestine Laboratory” When: Thursday August 24 – 6.30pm – 8.30pm Where: Gumbramorra Hall, Addison Community Centre 142 Addison Road, Marrickville
“Government’s flock to Israel to buy weapons and surveillance equipment, happy to ignore that they’ve been lethally tried and tested in the ‘Palestine laboratory’”.
This book has generated huge interest worldwide as it shows just how pervasive Israel’s lethal technology is internationally. Detailing how Israel’s massive arms and security industry has been developed and exported on the back of its endless occupation of Palestine, ‘The Palestine Laboratory’ exposes how Israel’s weapons and surveillance technology has been tried and tested on Palestinians for decades and sold as ‘battle tested’ to any buyers, including equally oppressive far right regimes.
Copies of The Palestine Laboratory will be available for purchase, and the talk will be followed by a book signing.
Please share this important event with your friends and colleagues – Facebook event
How Israel’s occupation has gone global: Antony Loewenstein presents ‘The Palestine Laboratory’
We write regarding RMIT’s partnership with the Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems.
As you will be aware, students, staff and members of the Australian public have expressed their grave concerns about this partnership.
Last week you received the attached letter from Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) which represents some 6,000 Palestinian university academics and staff at more than a dozen higher education institutions in the occupied Palestinian territory calling on RMIT to end its ties with Elbit Systems. This letter outlines the reasons why these fellow academics deplore RMIT’s association with Elbit Systems.
Partnering with institutions or companies complicit in Israel’s apartheid regime contributes to prolonging Israel’s violent rule over Palestinians and comes with serious legal and moral concerns. And partnering with a company that works closely with that regime to produce weapons and repressive surveillance systems used against not only indigenous Palestinians but other oppressed communities around the world, takes those concerns to an entirely different level. The fact that RMIT states that this partnership is for the development of AI to be used for civilian use, does not in any way absolve RMIT from partnering with the company that produces 85% of the military drones used by Israel in assaults on civilians in Gaza.
We note that Professor John Thanharajah, Professor in Artificial Intelligence and Associate Dean of Computer Science and Software Engineering at RMIT states that he has worked directly on several research contracts with the Defence Science Technology group. We have no reason to believe that his work with RMIT doesn’t relate to research that Elbit is working on to further develop its drone technology for use by the Israeli and other military against civilians.
BDS Australia is campaigning to end all military ties with Israel and the companies which support the ongoing oppression, persecution and dispossession of Palestinians.
We will continue to campaign against RMIT’s partnership with Elbit. We are available to meet with you to further discuss this issue and look forward to your response.
Letter from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) to RMIT re Elbit collaboration
(This statement was co-ordinated by PACBI – the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – https://bdsmovement.net/pacbi – which is part of the Palestinian led BDS movement. )
To the attention of:
Professor Alec Cameron, RMIT Vice Chancellor Dr Sharon Andrews, RMIT Academic Board Chair RMIT University Council Members RMIT University Student Union, c/o RUSU General Secretary Sheldon Gait Professor John Thangarajah, RMIT Associate Dean of Computer Science and Software Engineering
Subject: RMIT’s partnership with Elbit Systems
Dear Prof Cameron, Dr Andrews, Members of the University Council, RUSU, Sheldon Gait, and Prof Thangarajah,
We are writing to you as the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE), the principal faculty union in the occupied Palestinian territory. We represent 6,000 Palestinian university professors and staff at more than a dozen higher education institutions.
We were shocked to learn that the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) has partnered with apartheid Israel’s weapons producer, Elbit Systems. We urge you to suspend all collaboration with this company.
We would first like to explain our use of the term apartheid. Many of our members, and Palestinian scholars in general, have for decades studied and documented Israel’s regime of racial domination and systematic oppression of Indigenous Palestinians, concluding that it constitutes the crime against humanity of apartheid, as defined in international law. Recently prominent Israeli and international human rights organizations, includingAmnesty International, Human Rights Watch, andB’Tselem, have issued detailed reports coming to the same conclusion.
Partnering with institutions or companies complicit in Israel’s apartheid regime contributes to prolonging Israel’s violent rule over Palestinians and comes with serious legal and moral concerns.
Partnering with a company that works closely with that regime to produce weapons and repressive surveillance systems used against not only Indigenous Palestinians but other oppressed communities around the world takes those concerns to an entirely different level.
While not an international household name, Elbit Systems is certainly notorious among Palestinians, including our members.
Our faculty members in Gaza and their students have lived through repeated Israeli military assaults, including the most recent attack, which has killed at least 44 Palestinians, including 16 children, and damaged infrastructure including 1,600 homes and parts of Al Quds University. They know that Elbit Systems provides 85% of the military drones used by Israel in those assaults. They know that drones, mostly supplied by Elbit Systems, killed 164 Palestinian children in Gaza in 2014 alone. They know that during Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in May 2021, the Israeli Air Force dropped Elbit-produced MPR 500bombs on Palestinian civilians. They know the constant sound of Elbit drones buzzing in the skies of Gaza, interrupting their studies and research and exacerbating their traumas.
As those suffering under a purely man-made disaster, including an Israeli-imposed 15-year land, sea and air blockade made possible by Elbit technology, please understand that it will be of little interest to our members in Gaza that your particular project with Elbit Systems is reportedly for civilian use during natural disasters. This does nothing to alleviate the moral and legal concerns.
Our members know that the Israeli military chose Elbit Systems to produce its artillery cannons despite a German company winning the tender, over concerns that Germany would forbid the cannons from being used to fire cluster munitions. Our members know that Elbit Systems has no such concerns. In fact, Australia’s sovereign wealth fundexcluded Elbit Systems from its investment portfolio over allegations of involvement in the production of cluster munitions.
Our members stuck at crowded military checkpoints while trying to get to their university, or driving for hours to get around Israel’s apartheid wall that cuts through and annexes large swaths of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, know that Elbit Systems produces the surveillance technology used on that oppressive infrastructure to keep Palestinians caged in ever diminishing Bantustans.
Our members also know that Elbit Systems markets its weapons around the world, including to other oppressive regimes, as “battle-proven” and “field-tested.” Our members know that they are the subjects of those tests.
Our members know that Elbit Systems provides surveillance technology for the US wall on the border of Mexico backed by former president Donald Trump and specifically-built surveillance towers that violate the privacy and sovereign rights of the Tohono O’odhamNation. Our members know that cyber weapons produced by Elbit Systems and sold to Ethiopia were used to spy on opposition members.
In short, our members, and Palestinians as a whole, know that Elbit Systems provides the deadly technology enabling Israel’s apartheid rule and supports oppressive regimes around the world.
RMIT’s website includes a land acknowledgement statement and emphasizes its respect for Indigenous peoples of Australia.
We ask that you also show respect for Indigenous Palestinians living under Israel’s Elbit-powered regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid by ending RMIT’s collaboration with Elbit Systems. It is the only option if RMIT intends to uphold its commitment to “making a difference both locally and globally.”
Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees
BDS Australia condemns Melbourne’s RMIT University partnering with the Israeli arms company, Elbit Systems
Elbit Systems of Australia’s (ELSA) Centre of Excellence has teamed up with RMIT University and the Victorian Government to develop drone technology for civilian use.
This two-year partnership will undertake two joint research projects using drones to assist with mass evacuations during natural disasters and other emergencies.
BDS Australia maintains that partnering with Elbit for such projects is unconscionable given Israel’s use of Elbit drones and other weapons over many years against Palestinian civilians creating ongoing manmade disasters in Gaza and in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Elbit’s weapons have all been developed and ‘field tested’ for use against Palestinians – who are being progressively dispossessed from their lands and property by the apartheid Israeli government. Israeli forces use arms manufactured by Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries to commit serious violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.
In 2018 both HSBC and AXA Investment Managers divested from Elbit due to its involvement in the production and commercialization of cluster munitions and white phosphorus shells. In 2020, the City of Liverpool in the UK cancelled the Elbit-sponsored Electronic Warfare Europe arms fair on ethical grounds after a campaign of 40,000 emails protesting at the city’s involvement. More information here. In March 2022, Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Future Fund excluded Israeli arms manufacturer, Elbit Systems Limited from its investment portfolio because of allegations of its involvement in the production of cluster munitions.
BDS Australia calls on the Victorian state government, RMIT and the Australian federal government to abandon any association with Elbit.
Rejecting the Victorian Government’s and RMIT University’s support of the Israeli weapons manufacturer, Elbit Systems and Elbit Systems of Australia and demanding that all financial and other support and collaboration with this company and its Australian subsidiary, is withdrawn.
We are calling on the following people to reject Elbit due to its ongoing collaboration with the Israeli state’s illegal and violent oppression of Palestinians.
PAT CONROY MP, FEDERAL MINISTER FOR DEFENSE INDUSTRY DANIEL ANDREWS, PREMIER OF VICTORIA RMIT Academic Board Chair – Dr Sharon Andrews RMIT Professor John Thangarajah
This website is maintained by BDS Australia, which is affiliated with the coalition of Palestinian organisations that leads and supports the BDS movement and by the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a BNC member organisation.