Opposition grows against Canada’s decision to buy drones from Israel

Citing manufacturer Elbit System’s human rights record, pro-Palestine groups say that purchase of drones from Israeli companies strengthens the occupation of Palestine. Elbit has faced numerous protests by the Palestinian BDS movement

March 18, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Representational image. Photo : Middle East Monitor

Human rights groups in Canada have asked the government led by Justin Trudeau to cancel the USD 36 million deal to purchase Israeli made civilian surveillance drones claiming the deal would be a reward for the manufacturers which has one of the worst records in human rights. They also claimed that the money used for the purchase of drones would be used for continued human rights violations of Palestinians by Israel, Middle East Eye reported.

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) launched an online campaign asking the citizens of the country to write to the Canadian government to cancel the drone deal last month. According to the group’s Twitter page more than 4,000 people had written to the government until March 17.

Supporting the call given by CJPME, calls were given by other pro-Palestine groups in Canada and northern America such as Labour for Peace.

Canada had announced last December a deal to buy Hermes 900 Starliner unmanned aircraft system apparently to monitor oil spills and other natural developments in the Arctic region. The Canadian government has clarified that the drones would not be used for military purposes.

However, activists claim that the drones were manufactured by Israel’s Elbit Systems which has supplied drones for Israeli military actions in Gaza between 2008-09 and 2014 which have killed hundreds of Palestinian citizens — over 2,200 people including 551 children — and destroyed Gaza’s health infrastructure. The Elbit system is the major provider of arms to the Israeli army which carries out numerous human rights violations against the Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Elbit’s factories in the UK have been the site of several protest actions in the last couple of months. In February this year, Palestinian Action and Extinction Rebellion protesters chained the gates of one of its factories in Oldham demanding its closure. The protests emerged after the news of the company winning contracts to supply millions of pounds worth of surveillance system to the British army. Several such agitations have been carried out in the past as well by the Palestine Action and Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

In 2012, Richard Falk, a United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in occupied Palestinian territories, asked the UN and international civil society groups to take action against Israeli and international business profiting from the occupation of Palestine. He had named several companies including G4S securities of the UK, Caterpillar Incorporator and Hewlett Packard of the USA, and the Elbit Systems of Israel. He had alleged that these companies are also involved in development and maintenance of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.